West African native enjoys community spirit of MidlandMarch 07, 2024

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Sara Lydia Carvalho Da Costa standing in the Allison Fine Arts Building.

Sara Lidia Carvalho Da Costa speaks four languages—three of them fluently.  She spent eight years studying in Senegal, West Africa, and two years teaching in Brazil. Today she attends Midland College where she plans to graduate in 2025 with an Associate of Arts in Teaching degree and will then continue her studies toward a bachelor’s degree in education.

“My mother Misia Carvalho da Costa is Brazilian, and she met my father Nelson Da Costa in Guinea-Bissau while she worked there as a single missionary,” Sara explained. The couple got married in Brazil and then were sent as missionaries to Mozambique. Because healthcare was not very good in Mozambique at the time and my mother had complications with her pregnancy, I was born in Zimbabwe.  About three months later, we traveled back to Mozambique, and my parents established missions in Guiné-Bissau, West Africa. Their mission started with the Bijagô people who live on the country’s islands.  Through God, my parents have established churches and schools in both the Bijagô archipelago and the continent part of the country.”

Portuguese is the official language of Guiné-Bissau, and Da Costa said that since her mother is Brazilian and her father also spoke Portuguese, she first learned Portuguese.  

“Portuguese is the language of instruction in schools, the language of literary production, the written press, legislation and administration in Guiné-Bissau,” Carvalho Da Costa said.  “However, less than 25 percent of the population speaks Portuguese, and this percentage is mainly concentrated in the capital, Bissau.  The local lingua franca, spoken by more than 90 percent of the population is a Creole language based on Portuguese.  It is officially called Guinea-Bissau Creole, but we just call it Creole.  It is my second language.  

“I didn’t start speaking English until I moved to Senegal when I was 11 to attend boarding school at Bourofaye Christian School.  At the time, the school was run by a British curriculum, and we were required to only speak English.  Because Guiné-Bissau is surrounded by French-speaking countries, and French is the official language of Senegal, I can also communicate some French.”

Carvalho Da Costa graduated from Dakar Academy when she was 17, and in the spring of 2019, she moved to the United States to attend Asbury University, a private, Christian, liberal arts institution in Wilmore, KY, about 20 minutes southwest of Lexington.  She was there for about a year, and then the spring of 2020 hit, and the world shut down due to the COVID pandemic.  She moved back to her parents’ home in Guiné-Bissau.

“My best friend Larissa Adas, whom I have known since childhood, had moved to Midland and was taking classes at Midland College,” Da Costa said. “During the pandemic, Midland College converted their classes to virtual online offerings, and because of Larissa’s experience, I was led to continue my studies by taking online courses through Midland College.  I took one or two courses each semester for about a year and a half while I was involved with my parents' mission work.

“I then moved to Brazil and worked as a teaching assistant and substitute teacher for the Network of International Christian Schools.  I also did some private English teaching and kept taking online classes through Midland College as a part-time student.  It was during this time that I dove deeper into my passion for teaching young children. The Lord presented me with so many wonderful experiences and people. I realized then that the Lord had led me to this point in my life for a purpose.  

“Since I was already taking online classes at Midland College, I did some research and discovered that I could get both an associate degree in teaching and a bachelor’s degree in education in Midland.  This past August, I moved to Midland and am now enrolled full-time at Midland College.”

Carvalho Da Costa quickly became involved in campus life at Midland College.  She lives in Daniel Hall, one of three residence halls on the Midland College campus.  Shortly after moving on campus, the hall manager Jason Reeves took notice of her and offered her a job as a hall ambassador.  As such, she serves as Reeves’ residence aid, plans events, is available to hall residents for information, decorates the hall and helps to promote residence life and campus activities to other students and prospective students. 

In the short time that Carvalho Da Costa has been on campus, she has also connected to the International Club at Midland College and now serves as the club’s president.  She is a member of Midland College’s Honors Program as well as Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.  She is also involved with the Baptist Student Ministry on campus, and she is the film manager for the Lady Chaps Basketball team.

“As the film manager, I receive a scholarship,” Da Costa said.  “However, I also love being with the players, and the coaches are good to me.  In fact, all of the Midland College staff are awesome.  I try to connect with them as much as possible.

“The Lord has led my life to this point, and I want to reflect Him in everything I do. His grace and strength allow me to carry out so many activities and to be engaged in campus life.” 

Carvalho Da Costa said that since moving to Midland, not only the Midland College campus community, but also Midland residents have embraced her.

“The Christian faith has always been strong in my life, and when I moved to Midland, I wanted to attend church,” she explained.  “I don’t have a car yet, but I knew that there was a bus route that went through the campus, and I discovered I could take the bus to Renew Life Church near downtown Midland.  What I didn’t know was that the buses don’t operate on Sundays!

“So, after waiting on the bus for about 30 minutes and not wanting to be late, I ended up taking an Uber.  The church was amazing, and I sat next to a couple, Marla & Russ Rogers, who were so friendly.  After church, they asked me if there was anything they could do for me.  I replied, ‘Would you mind giving me a ride back to Midland College?’  As it turns out, they live really close to the College, but knowing them, I now know they would have given me a ride regardless of where they live.  

“We immediately struck up a friendship, and although I miss my parents and brother Caleb every day, Marla and Russ have become my Midland family.  I spend holidays with them, and when I was staying at their house during the Christmas holidays this past year, I came down with the flu.  They were so thoughtful and understanding and took very good care of me even through New Year's Day.”

She imagines eventually working with children academically in either Brazil or the United States and said that she would consider staying in Midland, but her future depends entirely on God’s will for her.  This summer she is looking forward to exploring the southeastern region of the U.S. when she travels to the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Georgia to spend time with her childhood friend Larissa. 

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