I did not need to travel to Brazil to learn this lesson, but having traveled there I re-learned it:
I first visited Brazil in 2007. I have returned every year since that time. Over the years God has blessed me with the friendships of my brothers pictured above (Ricardo, Renato, Fabrini, Leo, Ricardo, Gustavo), as well as so many others.
Since that time we have:
Walked the streets of their cities together.
Wrestled over challenges in life and ministry.
Shared many a meal around a common table.
Navigated the challenges of my minimal Portuguese
Laughed and probably cried together.
Shannan and I have:
Met family, including children, parents, grandparents, and siblings.
Been welcomed into homes.
Been cared for while sick.
Received counsel and given counsel.
Been showered with gifts and kindness too numerous to mention.
There have been times when our hosts have vacated their master bedroom, insisting we use it in order to rest more comfortably.
With Paul, we can say, “you have become very dear to us.” In fact, we could easily write our own Romans 16 chapter of gratitude for the multiple ways we have been befriended by our brothers and sisters in Brazil.
None of that happened overnight. As with all friendships, it has grown over the years — 12 years to be precise.
We almost did not go to Brazil this year. The pace of life and ministry this side of the equator made us seriously consider holding off. We would have been the poorer for that decision. I think our church would have been as well.
There are some things that only come with time — friendships may be first on that list. Reflecting on these relationship makes me say, “Thank you God” and re-double my efforts to be a better friend here and there.
Do you have a “12-year friend, a 20-year friend, a fifty-year friend?” Thank God.