When I moved to Brazil last September, I was embarking on an exciting new journey. I’d just graduated from university and got engaged to my now-husband, who’s from São Paulo. I planned to work with a charity fighting sexual exploitation for seven months, then move to São Paulo to volunteer with a then unknown charity.

However my plans were quickly derailed when I had to leave the charity I’d started work with. I ended up moving to São Paulo six months earlier than originally planned. Within weeks of arriving in Brazil, I was thrown into another beginning except this time I didn’t have a plan. I was forced to slow down to a complete stop and ask God: what now?

Looking for direction

Before moving to Brazil, I reflected a lot on Matthew 14:22-33. Peter steps out the boat and walks on water, only to begin sinking once he sees the wind. Before his doubt completely sinks him, he takes Jesus’ hand and returns to the boat. Any new start or life-change can feel a bit like stepping out of the boat. That’s certainly how I felt moving out to Brazil. But little did I know, that I too would start to sink. As plans slipped out of my hands, I felt I stepped out the boat only to be engulfed by waves.

Eventually doors opened at a charity called Compassiva in São Paulo, which is where I met my husband. When I first started volunteering there I thought my focus would be communications. However the two volunteers coordinating the women’s project had to leave as I arrived. I ended up working on the ground with women from the local area, which is known for drugs trafficking and violence. I now have big dreams for new ways to serve these women. God’s timing was perfect – it was His new beginning. 

The ultimate journey planner

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’ (Jeremiah 29:11)

This is one of those verses we repeatedly find on postcards, bookmarks and Instagram posts. It’s one of those verses I’ve constantly been referred to in different seasons of life, particularly during crises of faith like this one. Believing it when I couldn’t see what the plan ahead was a challenge and exercise in faith. I didn’t feel I had enough spiritual muscle to flex, but by seeking to understand I grew. Now I’m able to look back, I can see that this unexpected change was indeed part of God’s plan for me.

As I return to Brazil after six months in the UK, which included getting married (another exciting new journey!) my prayer is that God continues to shape me into a person who can accept the beauty of the unknown. I pray I become a person who truly knows that the illusion of being in control, is far inferior to believing that He is in control. I’ve learnt that any new start or plan, whether it’s moving to a new country or town, starting a new job or launching a new project, is not mine – it’s God’s.

If you’re inspired by Elisa’s story and interested in volunteering overseas, check out Tearfund Go for more information.