Students from London arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night along with millions of people lucky enough to be a part of this unique Christian celebration. Though what we experience here would not be the same if not for our participation in the Missionary Week, which has predated main events in the capital of Brazil.
Our Missionary Week started on July 15th with a very special 3-day stay in the village inhabited by the Pataxo tribe. It is an indigenous tribe, which was the first one to make the contact with Portuguese explorers. Their village is located 4 hours drive north-east from Belo Horizonte in breathtaking mountainous scenery. It remains closed for the influence of the modern world, old rituals are still being practiced there and life runs according to indigenous tradition. In fact we were the second group to visit the tribe apart from the village festivals and the first foreigners they had contact with.
It was genuinely amazing to observe how free the lives of Pataxo people are of the factors that enchain us. They know not of striving for success, they feel no urge for the rat race. Instead the relationship with each other and with the environment they live in is truly important. They are one family where every child is everyone’s child and every person , everyone’s brother and sister. Their daily routine is very peaceful and sustainable. Even though a bit suspicious at the beginning, they were very welcoming, willing to share their culture and way of life. They have noticed that we were there not to impose on them our worldview, what they have struggled against for ages, but to learn from them.
It was extremely difficult to part with Pataxo and tears were shed on both sides. We were moved as we saw the life unbelievably enchanting in its simplicity, while Pataxo people were probably just thankful for our interest and lack of prejudice against them, which is unfortunately still common in Brazil.
The second part of missionary week took place in Vespasiano near Belo Horizonte, where we have stayed in the loving host families. We had a chance to participate in the activities prepared for us by local religious communities and to observe different realities of life in the town. We have felt that our presence was a true celebration for people from Vespasiano and it is impossible to express how thankful we were for all the amazing masses and festivities dedicated for us and for the glory of God. The event which we found especially jolly was traditional Festa Junina – a very important celebration for the culture of Minas Gerais district. We were able to see the folk clothes, listen to typical Minas’ music and join the locals in the joyful dance called quadrilha. It was sad to leave Vespasiano but luckily we will see many of our friends again as they are coming to Rio to participate in the Vigil with the pope.
The whole missionary week was a unique experience full of intensive cultural and social exploration. Importantly it made us truly aware of the importance of the community in our lives. Hopefully this beautiful lesson shall never be forgotten.