By Amanda Boston
Many Floridian teens devote their long-awaited spring break to amusement parks and beaches—but not the mission-minded teens from Bell Shoals Baptist Church. The group of 42 dedicated their week of spring break to sharing the gospel with a mission trip to Curitiba, Brazil.
After six months of preparation, the tentative teens boarded an airplane where they temporarily stepped out of their tidy suburban lives and into the favelas (slums) of Brazil. The population of Curitiba is approximately 1.8 million with about 10 percent of its inhabitants living in corrugated tin and wood shanties.
Mark Hutchinson from Bell Shoals prepared and led the youth mission trip. With 22 mission trips completed, Hutchinson’s expertise and heart for Christ guided and supported the novice group.
The teens journeyed into the favelas where they encountered the poorest of the poor. “The people were kind and thankful for us coming and sharing God’s love and truth…We did face painting on children. We cut hair, provided blood pressure checks and personal counseling. Many were saved and encouraged. Many responded as we spent time caring for them. It was truly humbling. Our students were bold and fearless as they served the needy there,” said Hutchison.
The Bell Shoals teens also joined forces with Project Vida, a group of traveling missionaries. “The great thing about Brazil is that we get to go into the schools and preach the gospel. The students line up to see us, and the teachers are so happy for us to be there. We share cultural things, but also share why we are there, which is to glorify God and make His name known throughout the world,” said Hutchison.
Acts of violence, substance abuse, and sexual offenses permeate Brazil with the reverberations felt by its adolescent population. In response, the Bell Shoals group performed dramas in the schools to address these topics and offer better alternatives. Following the dramas, the teens shared the gospel with Bible tracts and relayed personal testimonies.
“For 15 years, we have enjoyed the life-transforming opportunities of ministering in Brazil. The harvest is plentiful and the doors open to share “the Way, the Truth and the Life in Jesus Christ,” said Hutchison. More than 4,000 souls heard the gospel while 200 homeless were fed and encouraged. Project Vida and local churches will follow up on the youth’s mission. For info, visit bellshoals.com.