One of VFC’s “core values” is raising up teams and preparing them for mission trips involving one of our three primary ministries: (1) Kid’s Place, (2) Community Bible Church in Abreu do Una (aka “Fishing Village”), and (3) Rancho Pitanga. We typically meet every other week for three months (6 meetings) to prepare our mission teams, so they come together as a group. We require anyone going on a mission trip to raise their individual support by writing letters to friends and family, which we cover and explain in our pre-trip meetings.
This “write a letter, not a check” approach is because we operate under “expectant faith,’ meaning we believe those who God calls, He will provide. We also want each team member to have a community behind them, who not only participate financially, but also provide prayer support. This is a humbling experience, but when you are sent by others, as opposed to simply writing a check, we believe it makes you more accountable to those who sacrificed to send you, instead of only relying only on yourself. The rest of our meetings are focused on preparing your heart and minds for truly serving, introducing you to the ministry and missionaries you will be working with, obtaining passports and visas, teaching you evangelism tools for working with children and families, learning some basic Portuguese words/phrases, collecting materials for the programs you will be leading, crafting and sharing your personal testimony, addressing your fears and concerns, and bonding as a team.
Every mission trip is different, depending on the ministry you will be serving with, but the one consistent factor in all of them is we are “going to serve and not be served.” This means we want to be a blessing and not a burden to our missionaries and staff, which requires everyone to be flexible, selfless, understanding, and quick to grant grace. We do not speak the language, we do not know the culture, the foods are different, we want to sleep in air conditioned rooms, and, overall, we create a lot of extra work for those who are hosting us, so the last thing we want to do is complain or make more demands. That said, our trips are very well organized and you will know what is expected of you every day. We like to say, we run “Mission Trips For Dummies” because we take care of all the details, so all you have to do is concentrate on serving and loving on others.
What to Expect
Typically, our mission trips last a week and they are very “hands on,” meaning you will be busy from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and sometimes later. VFC handles all the details - airfares, Brazil visas, transportation, lodging, meals, logistics, programs, and translators. You will be given a Daily Schedule in advance of departure, so you will know what is going on and where to be at all times. You will also be assigned specific jobs and/or responsibilities on the trip in order to assist our leadership in making sure nothing is forgotten and no one is left behind. Things do not always go as planned and we may have to alter our schedule, but that is why we emphasize being “flexible” on these trips. Our ways are not God’s ways and His timing is always perfect, so we embrace these changes as divine opportunities to see where He may be leading us.
We eat all of our meals together as a team. Breakfast will be at the hotel and it is usually a very nice buffet with plenty of healthy choices. Afterwards, we like to spend some time singing, praying, and someone on the team will deliver a short “daily devotional,” so we are ready to take on the day. What that day looks like will depend on where you are serving. If you are at Rancho Pitanga, you will be helping in all aspects of putting on a Christian camping experience - singing, dancing, skits/dramas, decorating, cleaning, cooking, small group discussions, sports (soccer, basketball, frisbee golf, zipline, obstacle course, rock climbing, swimming, etc.), taking part in Bible studies, sharing your testimony, evangelizing the young campers, and just about anything else that can happen at camp.
If you are going to Kid’s Place, we usually prepare a week long VBS program with crafts, games, and group activities to do with the 60-80 kids who come in the morning. Afterwards, we help serve the kids lunch/clean-up, eat our lunch with staff/translators, and then, in the afternoon, we take part in some evangelism programs out in the Coque favela, sharing our testimony and using the Evangecube. We have also hosted eye glass clinics, dental clinics, movie nights, soccer tournaments, and a mother’s dinner. Each evening, we gather for debriefing to go over our day, share the highs and lows, talk about our God sightings, and prepare for the next day’s activities.
Abreu do Una is the name of the small fishing village about two hours south of Recife, where Pastor Josué has established Community Bible Church. We have a great Church facility and lots of outdoor spaces in the fishing village, where we have hosted large VBS programs (150-200 children), put on sports camps, community outreach projects, medical/dental clinics, home evangelism visits, “extreme home make overs,” art and craft projects, movie nights, scavenger hunts, soccer tournaments, and anything else our missionary hosts ask us to do. Similar daily schedule to Kid’s Place with breakfast and daily devotionals in the mornings, all day with the children and their families, and dinner/debriefing in the evenings. Some of our Men’s and Women’s teams have also held discipleship training for the adults, which is a growing emphasis for VFC. We want to identify the need and then try to do our best to devise a trip to meet that need.
As far as what to expect on one of our trips, expect to be challenged, pushed out of your comfort zone, used up, tired, sweaty, and unbelievably fulfilled! You will get as much out of it as you put into the trip. Our goal is to prepare your heart and mind for the good works God has established for us to do, so that when you actually get to Brazil, you are ready to serve and love on everyone you come in contact with.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Will I need a passport?
Yes, everyone must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after the return date from Brazil. If you do not have a passport, please do not go apply for one without talking to us first since there are some do’s and don’ts.
2. Does Brazil require a visa?
Yes, we will assist everyone in getting a Brazil tourist visa, which is usually valid for ten years.
3. Do I need any shots or special vaccinations?
There are no required shots or vaccinations for the areas we will be traveling in Brazil, but you can check the recommendations for Brazil on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (www.cdc.gov), as well as contact your personal physician to confirm you are up to date on all routine vaccinations.
4. What is the food like?
The food is awesome and you probably will gain weight! Lots of starches (potatoes and rice), beans, fruits, vegetables, and protein (chicken and beef). However, it is a good idea to also pack some healthy snacks/energy bars, along with any comfort foods/candy you like, in case you get hungry or simply want a reminder of home.
5. Where do we sleep?
All teams stay in safe, secure hotels (pousadas) with air conditioned rooms.
6. Are there any age limits or restrictions?
We like to say our trips are open to anyone from ages 8 to 80, but any children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent/family member. Of course, there are always some exceptions, but our trips are very active, all day affairs, so if your child needs a nap or tires easily, then he/she should probably wait until they can better tolerate the physical and emotional aspects of the trip. Same holds true for older participants, but any adult should be able to judge themselves and their ability to participate. Ultimately, the decision on whether anyone will be allowed to go on a trip is up to the sole discretion and judgment of the trip leader.
7. What do women wear on a typical day?
Ladies may wear comfortable shorts and t-shirts during the day with athletic shoes or flip flops/sandals. For evening services or special events, dresses or skirts/blouses are suggested. It will be hot, but you must dress conservatively. No bare midriffs, short shorts, tiny tops, or baggy shirts that are easy to look down. Cotton fabrics and sports/jog bras are suggested.
8. What do men wear on a typical day?
Men may wear shorts or long pants, but a shirt must be worn at all times. Good idea to bring a hat to shade the sun and be careful what your t-shirts say (no beer/liquor ads or inappropriate language). Flip flops and athletic shoes are suggested.
9. What about bringing jewelry and other valuables?
General rule is do not bring the “bling.” If it is something you would be upset if you lost, then do not bring it. Jewelry, with the exception of simple watches, wedding bands, and small earrings need to be left at home. Electronics and mobile devices can be used at the hotel and it is fine to take pictures with your phone, but you will be unable to connect to the internet, unless you are at the hotel. If we see any gaming devices or mobile devices out during the day, you will be asked to put them away immediately. We don’t want to stereotype the image of rich Americans.
10. Will there be time to shop for souvenirs/gifts?
We try to have an afternoon to shop at the end of the trip, so you can pick-up a memento or gifts for supporters, but there are no guarantees. Take a little cash and we will help you get it exchanged for realis, the national currency used in Brazil.
11. How much money should I bring?
Our trips are designed, so you should never need your wallet, unless you want to do some souvenir shopping or charge a snack to your hotel. All meals, water bottles, tips, and in-country expenses are covered by VFC. How much you want to spend on shopping, assuming we find time, is up to you.
12. What do I need to pack?
You are allowed two 70 lb. checked bags, which we typically use to carry necessary supplies and you are asked to pack your personal items in with our supplies. You also get 1 carry-on bag and a personal bag/purse or backpack, which should be enough to cover what you cannot pack in the checked bags.
13. How can I prepare myself physically for the trip?
It is always hot and humid, no matter what time of year we are in Brazil, so any exercising in the heat of the day is a good idea and packing all cotton or dri-fit clothing is recommended.
14. How can I prepare myself spiritually for the trip?
Pray, pray, pray! We will also cover this in our pre-trip meetings and you will be assigned a Prayer Partner on the team. Finally, the team will do a 40 Day Devotional together leading up to our departure.
15. How can I prepare myself mentally for the trip?
The key words on any mission trip are FLEXIBILITY and PATIENCE! From the time we begin pre-trip meetings until we return home, plans and schedules seem to change at every turn. If you know this ahead of time and are prepared to “accept” these changes, you will have a much better time and not allow the delays/changes to steal your joy. God is an control of our plans and when He changes things around, you should be excited to see what He has in store for us.