Brazil is a land of incredible beauty mingled amongst pain of the deepest kind. In many places, it is a tropical paradise, but underneath the lush palms are barracos (shacks) nailed together with the trash the more wealthy throw away. Beside the banana trees are water wholes filled with mosqitos dug out for that little lady to wash her clothes. Looking up in the city of Recife, you can enjoy a beautiful skyline and respect the creativity of the architecture, but once your eyes lower, you’ll be staggered at the street kids, wanting to sell you fruit and wash your windows so that they can eat or buy some glue to huff. Brazil is poverty and riches!

But in some ways, I feel that in their poverty that they are more rich than us in our prosperity. They have a calm life. They don’t have the rush and anxiety. There isn’t the constant call of cell phones and email. (I’m speaking of the poorer areas). They have real community. They know each other. They know their neighbors.  They speak to one another on the street. They seem to be truly human. They have joy!

This year I traveled with a friend from my church, Justin Shutlz, whose parents were missionaries in Brazil for 34 years. So, Brazil was his home before moving to the states. One night after a day filled with ministering to a slum community outside of the city of Salvador, he said to me, “Why would anyone leave this?” This lifestyle he meant, this poverty. This coming from someone who had experienced both cultures.

I don’t know if I’ll ever forget that question, but I do know that I understood what he was saying. In the business of life, sometimes we miss life altogether. When we pull into our garage and our neighbors never even see us. When in our rush, we miss an opportunity to enjoy the company of someone created in God’s image. Thinking our agenda is more important, we sidestep a chance to share the hope and healing of the gospel with a lost person.

There are more important things, “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing (Matthew 6:25)?” In the true community-the kingdom of God, Jesus’ instruction for us is not to be anxious with the things of life, the things he mentions. The reason is there is more to life than worrying about these things and when we do we really miss out on life and show that his kingdom is not what are hearts are fixed on.  We can learn a lesson from our brothers and sisters in Brazil. Let’s not miss true prosperity by chasing after poverty!  

[Justin Shultz and a Brazilian baby stroller]