Photo courtesy of Christine Martins

IVEPer (International Volunteer Exchange Program) Jhonas dos Santos from Brazil (middle), skating with host brother Greydon Martin and friend Easton (last name unknown).

Today, I can say with all certainty that I am at home. In the last few months, I have met amazing people who made me feel at home. I went through changes that I never imagined before. In one of my favorite Shawn Mendes songs, he says:

You can't hold on to the old you

Or the old this, or the old that

Because you change

And not changing in a bad way

Just changing because that's what happens in life

You grow up

Everyone moves on

You're just learning

You stay true to yourself

Changing isn't a bad thing, it never was

But at the end of the day, you know

You're the same person

And where your heart is

That doesn't change

This photo (pictured above) is one of my favorites of all time. Right after I came back from the IVEP (International Volunteer Exchange Program) mid-year conference in the U.S., I was feeling strange, because I had moments during the conference that made me feel far from home, but at the same time, I felt at home with all those friends around me.

I spent Family Day with my host brothers, The Martins Boys. I was very excited because Greydon Martin was finally going to teach me how to ice skate. Ice skating was free that day, so the arena was full. I was feeling scared and insecure. I don't know how to ice skate. When I finally entered the arena, I found myself in a place that made me nervous. I was barely able to stand, so I was holding the wall. Everyone looked happy skating on the ice. How?

In addition to my brothers, some of their friends were with us. I decided that I would leave the arena and watch the boys from the seats. Greydon and the others didn't let me leave the arena. They took my hand and said that they were going with me everywhere, that I didn’t need to be afraid because they were there. Greydon and his friends took turns during the whole time we were in the arena to help me. My feelings of fear turned into feelings of comfort because I knew that even if I fell, someone would help me up. I was impressed because the boys could have left me sitting there and had fun without me, but they all decided that I was going to skate with them. Back to the song, Shawn Mendes also says:

I really need to make a confession

I hate to say that I'm a little bit scared

The other day Nolan had a very important game. The game was very intense, and everyone who watched it went through a lot of emotions. But in the end, he won. I asked him, "what is the feeling when you are in the middle of the game and you know you are going to win, do you feel like ‘I need to stop now and feel the thrill of victory?'"

"No," he said, "I just want to play more and more."

"What if you know you're going to lose?" I asked.

He responded, "It is then that it makes me want to play more. I know we are losing, but I also know that my friends and I can still do something, like at least one goal. Who knows?"

I feel that God speaks to me through people and “things,” like music and movies. I feel much closer to God because of my family. If I'm afraid of falling, I know that God will be there to help me get up. At this moment I feel at home. But I know that when I return to Brazil, I will also feel at home, again.

Fear made me feel alone. But God said, "Put the skates on, and go."