The unlikely friendship of a UK volunteer and a Brazilian family

Continuing our theme of unlikely friendships in the lead up to International Day of Friendship (30 July), Elisa Pike unpacks how one Brazilian family made her stay in Brazil a memory she’ll always treasure.

Last May I arrived in Brazil with a Tearfund volunteering team, ready to spend two months living in a host family and serving Tearfund partners in Rio. 

I was living with a family of four, with three other girls from the team.

From the moment we set foot over the threshold, they treated us like part of the family, even verbally affirming that we were their daughters now. Over the next two months, they set an amazing example of real friendship.

A couple of days into our stay, Tom and Deise (the parents) ordered pizza to celebrate their wedding anniversary, inviting us, four as yet pretty unknown girls, to join them and their daughters in celebration.

One day in the first week, we got home to find that they’d bought extra storage for us so that we could unpack properly and really feel at home. They’d even put up a hook for one of the girls’ guitar!

The welcome they gave us, as strangers in a new culture, was above and beyond anything we could have expected or hoped for.

The gestures they made in the first few days proved to be a true indication of what was ahead. Tom could take one look at any of us as we walked through the door and know if something was wrong, and he always showed us compassion and had a Bible verse at his fingertips. One I’ll never forget,

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1:

This was relevant not only in terms of my own struggles, but also in terms of the work we were doing, helping to combat human trafficking and modern slavery. Facing such tough circumstances, which often brought out our own vulnerabilities, meant that support and friendship from our host families was invaluable.

Deise was also incredibly supportive, offering advice and raw truth where it was needed, always radiating love. From making us herbal tea infusions when we were ill, to taking us on an early morning trip to the beach to watch the sunrise, she offered us authentic friendship – not just in words but also in actions.

She inspired us as women, rejecting stereotypes by working as a carpenter and embodying the idea of a strong woman. 

Their home was a place where God was welcome.

God is omnipresent, but they specifically welcomed Him in, and it made a noticeable difference. They made studying the Bible a daily priority, and constructive, respectful debate around the table was a regular occurrence. They not only offered us real friendship, but also inspired and developed us as Christians.

C.S. Lewis once said: “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”

Throughout the Bible, wisdom and counsel are referred to as things to look for in the people we surround ourselves with, as important elements of friendship. They were certainly things offered to us by our host family.

Many tears were shed when we left, and we still message each other. We took a family photo near the end of the trip, and it’s there on my wall, a reminder of friendship, the incredible global family we have in the body of Christ.

Find out today how you can volunteer overseas with Tearfund