An Invitation to Wonder: The Harbor of Rio de Janeiro


Welcome to the last stop on our journey this summer exploring the 7 natural wonders of the world. Thanks for coming along with me.

This last place has captured my attention and tugged at my heart strings. And it's about to take center stage with the whole world as the audience.

The harbor of Rio de Janeiro.

"Marvelous City of 1,000 Graces".

The idea of ending this journey at a harbor feels like a comforting and fitting idea;


verb (used with object) 4. to give shelter to; offer refuge to:

noun 1. a part of a body of water along the shore deep enough for anchoring a ship and so situated with respect to coastal features, whether natural or artificial, as to provide protection from winds, waves, and currents.

Especially after visiting (well, imagining and learning about) places of extremes; the miles of vibrant coral reefs,  the site of a volcano that destroyed and covered two surrounding villages, the roaring and mighty Victoria Falls, the top of Mount Everest with below freezing temps and little oxygen, the depths of the Grand Canyon in the blazing Arizona heat, and the elusive Northern Lights seen from up north in far off places like Alaska.

I have been exploring the unknown and the unfamiliar (to me), and I was not sure how this mini-series would evolve. So, I was looking forward to the end, after a journey of vulnerability (in my writing) the idea of the series ending in a safe harbor with the statue of "Christ the Redeemer", his open arms extended to me. Grace, love , and beauty waiting to welcome me was a comforting thought.

This image of a harbor represents such hope; and though it still does,

sadly as I took a closer look at Rio it revealed quite the opposite.

"... its decay more tragic because of its promise" -Juliana Barabassa, Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink

As I was reading about the harbor I came upon this description;

"From the airplane, Rio was ethereal; a smear of white separating sky and water, anchored by great granite mountains blanketed with emerald green. There were no noises, no smells, no people, just water and mountains, possibility, and light." -Juliana Barabassa, Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink

But upon entering the city the author then describes the "real Rio". She describes it as "an immediate assault on the senses." The neglected infrastructure and lack of proper sewage systems has resulted in the bay basically becoming a large toilet bowl.

As I read more about this place, I learned of the overwhelming violence and gangs, the poverty, the inequality of rich and poor, the trash found in heaps floating in the water or scattered along the edges of the beaches. I read about the legal prostitution of the area. It all seemed such a shame, since this place holds so much potential for beauty.

But there was a glimmer of hope for the harbor.

Since Rio was chosen for the destination of the World Cup in 2014 and for the destination of the summer Olympics starting in a few weeks, there was reason and extra motivation to get reorganized, to make the city safer, and to clean up the harbor.

And honestly I don't know if the attempts made will be successful or not or if the improvements that do occur will last. But I hope they help this city and I hope they last.

I also learned about a Brazilian expression the people there use when describing something that's only a facade: para ingles ver, or "for the English to see."

The author asks this question of the recent transformations "Would the changes of the next few years be para ingles ver, or were we looking at a transformation that would go to the core, reforming the violence and inequality that had historically hobbled the city?"

It all reminded me of the scripture in Matthew 23:25-28; and how this same type of scenario can play out in our hearts.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

It seems the different natural wonders of the world have all brought to my mind reminders of God's word. And so this week I am reminded how God is concerned about the attitude and the state of our hearts/souls, not just the appearance of righteousness.

And I am also reminded by the statue of "Christ the Redeemer" standing tall over the beautiful but corrupted, polluted city, as a reminder that God knows us fully and still welcomes us. He welcomes us "with a 1000 graces", with His arms open even while knowing the full extent of our hearts and our sin.


"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalms 51:10

Thank you again for joining me on this Summer journey;An Invitation to Wonder. I just want to let you know how much I appreciate each reader!

hope and love to you.

Praying God continues to lead you in spirit and in truth with the wonders of His love.

-melissa a. hirshburg