A Missionary Kid
A little girl, five years old, stepped outside the airport terminal, clinging to her mother’s hand. The hot sun and humid air enveloped her as she looked around at the strange new surroundings. Suddenly a vivacious lady ran up and hugged the girl’s mom and dad, talking rapidly in a strange language. Mother bent down and whispered, “Julianna, that’s your Auntie Vânia.” Auntie Vânia said something to the little girl, then picked her up and twirled her around. The girl laughed as she spun around in the Amazonian breeze.
As a child moving from California to Brazil, my father’s homeland, I little comprehended how much my life had just changed. Looking back, I now understand what a great mission God gave my family, and what an honor it is! Being a missionary kid isn’t always easy, but it is always exciting. In the past ten years of serving God in Brazil, I have learned a lot!
For a while after we first moved, we went to church in an indigenous community. With my mom, I would help teach songs to the kids in my Sabbath School, and in turn they would teach us songs in their own tribal tongue. They always loved it when Mom told Bible stories with felts, so on Friday night I would compile the felts for next day’s lesson. I soon learned the ways and customs of the natives. Unfortunately, we did have inconveniences, such as the absence of bathrooms and the presence of fleas!
In addition to sharing with the natives, we would go around to different Seventh-day Adventist churches where my dad would preach about prophecy and Jesus’ soon return. My dad held regular Bible studies and prophecy meetings, and we enjoyed his stories about people’s lives being changed. Once we held an evangelistic series in our town of Rio Preto da Eva, and Cody Francis came as the guest speaker. After he made an appeal to the hundreds gathered in the town square, I sang “Não Esqueci de Ti” (“I Haven’t Forgotten You”). I was only nine, but singing in front of that large audience gave me a desire to continue sharing God’s love through music.
When we are on furlough in the United States, our family goes to different churches sharing about our ministry. My siblings and I usually do special music and sometimes tell the children’s story. I have been singing in churches in English and Portuguese since I was seven, both in Brazil and in the United States. Music has given me a closer relationship with God and a way to minister. I am so thankful that He gave me a voice that I can use to glorify Him and reach out to others!
Eight years ago, my mom and Aunt Vânia started Noah’s Ark Christian School. Although we began small, we now have over a hundred students! From the start, you could always find me in the kindergarten and preschool classrooms, helping however I could, even if it just meant playing with the kids, tying their shoelaces or filling their water bottles. As I got older, my responsibilities increased, until in 2015 I became a teacher’s aide for the preschool class, a coordinator for special events and a part-time religion teacher to grades one and four. Being around the kids makes me happy. I am so thankful for opportunities I’ve had to learn and serve.
Many people ask me if I experienced culture shock upon moving to Brazil. I have to say no, because I’ve practically grown up in this culture. I do love visiting California on furlough, seeing my family and friends and indulging in extra luxuries, such as throwing wet clothes in the dryer, going to the library and having a wide array of vegan options available. It’s also nice to be able to talk in English, not just Portuguese. Don’t get me wrong, though. I consider myself both Brazilian and American and I never regret my family becoming missionaries. I think God brought us here to teach us patience, perseverance and total dependence on Him.
Countless times, my family and I have had to let God take over. We trust Him to take care of us financially, and He has proved faithful time and time again. He takes care of us in other ways, too, like the time our car broke down at night, and a mechanic stopped and helped us right after we prayed. When my brother was sick with terrible stomach pains that even the specialists couldn’t diagnose, God healed him completely. Many times, He’s protected us from snakes that sneaked into our house. Whenever we have needed His help, God has responded in ways that seemed impossible!
For seven years, I’ve had a dream for my high school years: to go to British Columbia, Canada, and attend Fountainview Academy, a small Seventh-day Adventist boarding school. Along with a strong academic basis, Fountainview focuses on God and music and seeks to prepares teens for Christ’s second coming. Shortly after we moved to Brazil, a friend gave us one of Fountainview’s music DVDs. I watched it over and over, impressed with the music, the joy of the students and the emphasis on evangelism. I wanted to experience that.
As we have collected more Fountainview DVDs, my dream of attending has continued to grow. Yet it seemed impossible with my family’s missionary wages! Still, we prayed that if it was God’s will, He would open the way for me to attend. In 2015, when we were on furlough, God provided a way for us to visit Fountainview. Everything I experienced there solidified my conviction that this was the place God wanted me.
While there, I learned of Fountainview’s Scripture Singer smartphone app that helps people memorize Scripture through song. From the time I was born, my parents have stressed the importance of learning Scripture songs, and I have memorized many verses and chapters this way. Now my dream has grown: I want to work with Fountainview to create Scripture songs in Portuguese. I’ve already started! After furlough, the Lord helped me write many songs to send to the team. Their positive response really encouraged me. I saw that even while away at school, I can serve my Brazilian brothers and sisters in Christ!
After I applied for school, Fountainview offered me financial aid plus an opportunity to earn part of my tuition by working during summer breaks. This was definitely an answer to prayer! When several friends offered to partially defray the remaining costs, we stepped out in faith that the Lord will provide the rest. I have enough for the initial fees and my first semester, but I do still need more donors! I trust the Lord to provide. I have seen throughout my life that when He leads me, He will not leave me.
The little girl who stepped off the plane ten years ago is not the same as she used to be. Mission service has transformed my life! As I start a new chapter, may God give me courage, strength and determination to follow Him in whatever tasks He gives.
By Julianna De Senna, age 15, of Noah’s Ark Christian School in Brazil. If God touches your heart to donate toward her education, contact Sandy De Senna at firstname.lastname@example.org.