Brazil is known worldwide for many things: talented soccer players, the Amazon River and Jungle, and the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro. However, nothing is a famous to tourists as “Carnaval”. This annual event started out a long time ago as a religious holiday that focused on spiritual discipline and abstinence from the pleasures of the flesh. Nevertheless, over time it was transformed by the world into a huge “party of the flesh” that takes place on the streets and goes on for several days.
During Carnaval, hundreds of thousands of people go out on to the streets to dance, drink, and revel in immorality. The largest party in the world takes place during carnival in our city (as noted by the Guinness Book). Carnival accounts for 80% of the annual beer consumption, 70% of annual tourist visitors, and massive distributions of free condoms.
Since the whole country stops during these days, congregations throughout Brazil organize spiritual retreats and camps in order to enjoy fellowship far from the reveling in the cities. I had the blessing of spending this time in the outskirts of a town called Cajazeiras, a seven hour drive northwest of Recife. There is a small but vibrant church that is growing and reaching that city. They are focused on working with the youth, being involved in their schools, and getting to know their families.
It was great to spend several days in nature and in fellowship with brothers and sisters who I don’t get to see often. Two of missionaries from other cities came to teach the adults on the subject of spiritual gifts, while I gave classes to the youth. We were challenged to ask ourselves if we are using our gifts and talents in service of His Kingdom.
We also had soccer tournaments, and various games. One of our activities was called “crazy circuit” where the kids ran around trying to accomplish some crazy tasks. They loved it. We also went for walks into the wilderness, where some of us went for a swim in lakes or took showers in the rain (the public school we were using to camp in ran out of water).
The most striking thing to me during Carnaval season is the difference between the life of those in the world and the life of those accepting the call to be like Jesus. This sharp contrast of morals and values becomes obvious during the “Feast of the Flesh” that is broadcasted on TV and the Internet. Maybe this is one of the reasons Brazil has been such a fruitful mission field: people realize that such things do not eternally satisfy as does the abundant life found only in Jesus.