News Articles

Student vols impart hope in Christ among Brazil’s ‘last hope’ orphans

LOUISVILLE, Ky.(BP)–At this Brazilian orphanage, they’re known as “last hope” children: Some are orphans; some have parents who could not afford food; some are problem adolescents assigned by the government; some are even criminals.

Now because of efforts by three students from Boyce College, many of these “last hope” kids at the Alpha/Omega orphanage in Garca, Brazil, have gained hope in Christ.

Boyce is the undergraduate program of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

“They’re just people like us,” said Rachel Condon, a B.S. student from Warner Robins, Ga. “They have the same desires, the same hurts, the same wants. And Jesus is the only way to fill those.”

Boyce students Condon, Jason Cummings and Tiffany Halbin joined 28 other Christians from six states for a late semester trip to Garca — a city of 50,000 in southwest Brazil.

The 12-day mission trip, coordinated by Boyce dean of students David Adams and sponsored by Adams’ organization, Youth Ministry Development, aided Alpha/Omega and Central Baptist Church in both humanitarian and spiritual outreach. The April 14-25 trip also provided the students with an eye-opening experience in hands-on missions efforts.

“There’s a lot of difference from being a GA and reading out of a magazine about so-and-so who’s in China ministering and actually going to China and seeing the people,” said Condon of the opportunity to go overseas.

The 28 students ministered in a variety of settings, including public school assemblies, open-air meetings and church services. A total of 586 decisions were made as a result God’s work through the ministry of the various teams, Adams said.

The students perhaps saw the greatest impact in the schools they visited.

“It was really interesting that we could go to the public schools, whereas here [in the United States] Christianity is so taboo,” Condon said. “They were really excited to have us.”

In two schools, drama and vocal teams presented the gospel in both English and Portuguese. The response overwhelmed the student missionaries.

“Once the gospel was given and they asked who would like to respond … hands everywhere went up,” Condon said.

The majority of the 586 decisions, Adams said, were made during these assemblies. And this immediate impact paved the way for future inroads for the gospel proclamation with the children and also their families.

“The principal was so overwhelmed with the response that we had that she decided to give us all the names and addresses of the entire student body,” Condon recounted.

“So not only had they heard the gospel once and been able to respond to that, but the church — Central Baptist in Garca — now will be able to go out and visit those people and do follow-up work with not only that student but that entire family.”

The group also helped in many ways in the orphanage, which served as the team’s temporary home during their stay.

Alpha/Omega provides services for children from 10 different cities, some up to 3,000 miles away. Led by missionaries Odali Barros and Alex Hensley, the home has grown from nine youths to nearly 100 in less than two years.

While at the orphanage, the teams helped Barros and Hensley with many projects. Hundreds of man-hours were spent pouring concrete, painting classrooms and remodeling a church room, Adams said.

“They got dirty for God,” he added. “It was wonderful. These kids learned a trade.”

But the team mostly helped touch the orphans’ spiritual needs. The students stayed with and ate with the children every day. And each team of students “adopted” a group of orphans.

“We literally became a family,” Adams said.

“To be able to give them that eternal hope is really something amazing,” Condon said. “I just fell in love with the people and the kids and especially the work.”

On the last day, the students gave their adopted children a “goody” bag — complete with clothing, crayons and other commodities taken for granted in the states. Team members had packed only one bag per person, allowing them to carry an extra 70 pounds per person for the orphans.

Leaving the orphanage proved emotional for both the team and the children.

“I didn’t think the kids would be as affected as we would be,” said Condon, who expected the children would be accustomed to short-term missions visits.

“Some of the little boys from the orphanage were running around bawling,” Condon said. “Their eyes were just so red. They would come up to you and give you these bear hugs because they didn’t want you to leave.”

But in their departure, the team members left knowing the children of Garca had been eternally changed.

“From the physical labor, to the orphans, to the souls who were on their way to hell and are now on their way to heaven, to also leaving vision,” an amazing impact was made, Adams said.

“Eternal decisions were made, and lives were changed forever — not only in the people who were saved, but also in the group that went,” Condon said.

This change extended to Condon as well. For her, the trip solidified her calling to the mission field.

“I came to Boyce to study missions,” Condon said. “I was ready to go before I got here.”

However, increased knowledge about missions and the accompanying hardships had placed some doubts in Condon’s mind.

“I got here and started studying missions, and I’m thinking, ‘I can’t do that,'” Condon said.

But the trip showed her that mission work is not done through her own strength but through a higher power.

Now, Condon can “absolutely” see herself in full-time mission work. In fact, she will return to Garca July 7-14 along with Adams, her youth group from her home church and several other Boyce students. She wants to go back next spring break as well.

“It helped me to realize that we don’t do any of it ourselves,” Condon said. “Through this trip, God opened my eyes to see that he doesn’t need me, but he chooses to use me. Nothing in me is even worthy or even capable to be used by him. But only when I surrender does he receive glory.”

And the other Boyce students were affected similarly, Adams said. “I would say we brought back three Boyce students different than when they left,” he said.

    About the Author

  • Bryan Cribb