3:45am – Land in Rio
415am – Discover all 3 of my bags had not made it on plane in Panama
4:20am – Through customs
4:30am – Waiting for Pastor Ronaldo to pick me up
5:51am – Still waiting
6:16am – Still waiting
7:02am – Read a letter my brother and his wife wrote for me. Thank you! Still waiting
7:47am – Still waiting
8:57am – Rio Airport looks a lot like Newark Airport…. Still waiting
9:32am – Still waiting
10:02am – Roberto, a friendly tour guide/cab driver who had been checking on me every hour took me to a hotel in Copacabana to wait and try and contact my team.
11:30am – At Atlantis Copacabana Hotel. Start emailing home to try and find out if the home team can find my team.
3:00pm – Pastor Ronaldo called Roberto and comes to my hotel to pick me up.
3:00pm and 1 second – Screamed and jumped on Pastor Ronaldo.
3:32pm – Meet the team at our apartment near the favela
6:45pm – Go to church in the favela where Pastor Ronaldo preaches and tells the community about the project and invites us to go up and be introduced to the congregation. Pastor Ronaldo tells the whole church that he left me at the airport and that he’s sure I hate him.
8:30pm – We meet with a few of the women we will be teaching.
9:45pm – Home
There is the timeline. Now for the details…..
Thank God I still had Cliff bars in my backpack left over from Kenya because all they sell in the baggage claim is water and Fanta! From 4:30 to 10:02 I went from excitement to irritated to bored to sad to complete confusion. Not exactly the first day I had hoped for. There was no coincidence that the letter VJ and Ashley wrote me was supposed to be read when I was alone in an airport alone in a country where I am the foreigner. If you get a chance, read Psalm 91.
Pastor Ronaldo (pronounced “Honaldo”) runs 8 churches that he planted in and around the fa velas. On top of that he has a 9 to 5 job because he receives no salary from his churches, he is helping find the location for the salon to be built, and he is making sure the team is being taken care of. Whitney gave me his cell number before we left. He had his phone off until he woke up at 10:00am, just about the time my new friend Roberto was taking me to Copacabana where along the way we saw Ipanema and I had an unbelievable view of Christ the Redeemer. I had no clothes and no sleep. Bad combo for being all-alone in the universe. I was in one of the most famous beaches in the world and couldn’t enjoy any of it.
It was 11:00am Rio time, 7:00am California time. I went to Ipanema to get clothes and came back to continue emailing people in the states to help try and find the team. I emailed a stylist and will be meeting with us in October to call headquarters and have them contact Whitney. I even emailed my roommate and BFF Stephanie and lied to her to get her to call the hair stylist to check her emails. Sorry, Steph! I didn’t want to cause a commotion 7,000 miles away, but I wasn’t lying when I said it was beautiful!!!
Pastor Ronaldo had been over worked and stressed out with so many things happening that he overslept and turned his phone off. When we woke up and turned his phone on, he went into panic mode. The rest of my team thought that I was already at Pastor Ronaldo’s home resting from the flight. Pastor got the messages my cab driver left and went to the airport to find him. Roberto told him where I was and he came to get me. I was so happy to see him! I was asking him what happened, but he speaks no English. I finally got the story on the way to our apartment.
One of the elders of the church we attended is going to Haiti to do military work and is letting us stay in his apartment where Operation: Beauty Kit is in full effect! The team I went to work with have been working tirelessly to get 20 kits made for our beauty school students. They have been out getting products, tools, and books for the women. I have a lot of the tools for the kits….. oh, yeah… they are still in Panama! The airline said they will be coming in on the next flight and they’ll deliver them…. Tomorrow. I have 3 suitcases. One of my things and the other two are tools. The kits will be ready to give as soon as the suitcases get here!
After sharing my travel stories with the team, we got ready for church in the favela. Music is a very important part of Brazilian culture. Music tells their story. Even during the pastors sermon there was a pianist playing the whole time. Pastor Ronaldo said they had an answer to prayer. The church has been praying for a project like The Trade to come to the fa vela. A project where the people of the community could learn a trade and be able to make a respectable and moral living for their families that won’t put their lives in danger. We where invited up for a blessing from the church and the childrens choir sang a special song for us that would melt anyone’s heart.
We will finalize the salon location tomorrow and hopefully our bags will be here to finish the kits. We are meeting with the all women we’ll be teaching on Tuesday. Looking forward to the days to come….