As a team we decided that it would be fun to introduce each of us here on the blog. But instead of each of us introducing ourselves, we are each introducing another member of the team. So this is me, Brian, here to introduce our fearless leader, Dr. Kevin Neuhouser. Be on the lookout for more introductions in the days and weeks to come!
-Team Brasil (Bekah, Brian, Emmanuel, Heather, Mary Claire, and Kevin)
Kevin Neuhouser is the faculty member traveling with and leading our team to Brazil this summer. This will be Kevin’s seventh Sprint trip to Recife, Brazil, having led a group of SPU students every other year since 2001. Kevin’s Brazil story does not start with Sprint, though, but with an exchange trip he took in high school.
Kevin grew up in Indiana, and for his junior year of high school decided to take a Rotary exchange opportunity. He spent that entire year in studying in southern Brazil, but says that his most profound experience took place for a mere fifteen seconds while traveling on a bus. Taking a night bus into São Paulo, Kevin caught a short glimpse of a favela, a slum. He says that it was a “glimpse of a world I had not even imagined existed” and that after returning to his school he couldn’t stop thinking about what he had seen. A week later Kevin traveled back to São Paulo and the favela had been bulldozed.
An entire community, there one week and gone the next. Kevin continued to wonder about these squatter settlements and felt “drawn to the favelas.” Returning home to Indiana, Kevin completed his undergraduate education at Taylor University, studying political science and sociology. Immediately after graduation, Kevin traveled back to Brazil, this time to Recife, the poorest city in the country. Through the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Kevin spent the next three years living in a favela. Kevin says that life in the favela “felt right, but was extremely hard.” “I was right where God wanted me to be.”
Over the course of his three years in Brazil, Kevin met and married his wife, Marian, who was also working through the MCC. After returning to the US, Kevin earned his PhD in sociology at Indiana University. Now a professor of sociology at Seattle Pacific, Kevin says, “teaching is what gives me energy and joy.” As a teacher to many, Kevin strives to act as a bridge, linking students to worlds and people they wouldn’t otherwise know.
Brazil continues to hold a special place in Kevin’s heart. Learning in the classroom can be powerful, but “taking students to the thing that they’re studying” offers a much deeper experience. “I love introducing students to Brazil,” says Kevin, and the bright smile that appears on his face whenever Brazil is brought up shows these words to be very, very true.