February 6, 2010

Hi everyone!
I think it’s coming up on two weeks since our last update. When I left you all, it was a Monday morning, and Lori and I were about to head out on the city streets looking for Rafael. He’s one of the boys living on the street who had asked for help at the drug rehab. We had given him the weekend to get his affairs in order, and had arranged to pick him up first thing Monday morning.
We arrived at his city corner, but he was nowhere to be found. We talked to some of his companions and they agreed to show us where they thought he might be. We followed them down one of the city’s side streets and up to what looked like an abandoned building. I looked through holes in the walls hoping I could pick him out amongst the rubble. He was in the middle of washing a little white puppy in his window washing bucket, and looked up as he heard us calling out his name. He dropped the dog and came to open a makeshift gate, and welcomed us into, what was for the moment, his home. There were piles of broken cement, building material, and trash throughout. In the middle of it all was a six foot piece of cardboard that he was using as his bed. I saw some rags, hanging from an improvised clothes line, and assumed it was laundry day and that was the extent of his wardrobe. I saw two bricks claimed from the rubble, sitting on end, with two pipes across the top and a pile of ashes below, and assumed that was his stove.
“I had no luck finding a place for my dogs,” he said, “I won’t be able to to go with you today.” He was talking about a large pit-bull and her little offspring that had just been washed in the bucket. Mom was a scary looking bull of a dog lying in the corner, and she came running when we all looked her way. Lori’s white shirt was looking more grey by the time the big, very dirty, dog was done greeting us.
“I’ve had her since she was a puppy,” he said, “she’s the closest thing I have to a loyal friend; I can’t leave her.”
Lori was on the phone immediately talking to Berg- pronounced Baggie – (admissions person at the rehab) asking if the dogs could come.
“We have seen God at work on these streets,” he said. “If God brought this boy to you for help, then I have no authority to say differently, who am I to oppose God’s direction? Bring the dogs, we’ll figure out what to do.”
Having taken care of that hurtle, Rafael then presented us with the next one.
“I’ve had lots of trouble with the police,” he said. “I’m not allowed to leave this corner, without informing an officer of my whereabouts. He left us to rifle through his belongings, returning with a phone number.
“This is the contact person I’m responsible to,” he said. One call after another was made and he was passed from one department to another. He learned that he needed to appear at the federal police building with his documents in hand before he would be allowed to go anywhere. While these calls were being made, Lori pointed towards the boy’s feet. I looked down to see his scarred, bare feet, with open wounds, crawling with what looked like thousands of little black bugs. How desperately this boy needed a bar of soap, a bath tub, clean clothes, and the Saviour who alone can offer him hope of a better life.
“We’ll be back tomorrow, Lord willing,” Lori said. “Get this taken care of in the morning, and we’ll come get you in the afternoon”. We were back at his corner Tuesday afternoon, only to find out he had done nothing in getting the necessary permission to leave. I was upset, thinking that Satan had been successful in holding tightly to this soul, and annoyed at what seemed to be a lost day.
We sat and chatted with him and the other boys working that corner for a while. In conversation they told us a wild story about the events of the previous night that involved another one of our boys.
“He owes money to drug dealers,” they said, “and they caught up with him last night”.
Six guys drove up in a car, got out, and surrounded João. They all had guns, which they attempted to shoot, but the guns misfired. No bullets came out. Seizing that moment of confusion, João bolted, but not before one of the men struck him in the face with his gun. Running away as fast as he could, he heard the guns again, but this time they were functioning, and the bullets were whizzing past him. He was wounded from being pistol whipped, but miraculously none of the bullets hit him, and he was able to get away.
We left the boys and were driving down the city street when Lori shouted, “There he is! Stop.” João had seen us drive past him, and had started to run behind the truck for all he was worth. We pulled to the side, found a place to park, and gave him a chance to catch up. The minute he saw us, he put his head down and started to weep. His whole body trembled as he told us that this was his second brush with death. Lori quoted this verse, “God speaks once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not…” We asked him if he recognized God speaking to him, and if so, what was he going to do about it.
“I have to get out of here,” he said. “They’re going to kill me; will you please help me?”
We offered the rehab, and he begged us to take him first thing Wednesday morning. He sat on the tailgate of our truck while Lori treated his wounds, then we all bowed together while Lori’s Dad prayed to God that this boy’s life would be spared, and his soul saved.
He was waiting for us on Wednesday morning, with his belongings packed in a backpack. He jumped in the truck asking if we would take him to say goodbye to his family. We found his mom, sisters, and brother coming down the street to meet us. João was out of the truck the moment he saw them. The three of us watched as he held his family close, weeping while he said farewell. Dad was with us again, so we asked if he would commend, this situation and this family, to God. We stood in a circle on the side of the road as he prayed for the spiritual and physical well-being of João and his family. While driving to the rehab we found out in conversation that fifty Reais ( roughly thirty American dollars) was the amount he owed to these dealers. Because he was unable to pay, João almost lost his life.
He wasn’t out of the truck long before one of the boys at the rehab recognized him as a sports figure he once looked up to. We found out that João was once a Brazilian surf champion. He had competed throughout Brazil and in Europe, too. He had had several sponsors and had earned decent money. How could anyone look at this boy now, living on the streets, beaten and running for his life and think that anything good comes from a life given to the desires of the flesh and the whims of the wicked one? Satan’s only interest in this boy is to ensure a ruined life, and guarantee, through the helpless captivity of his many vices, eternal destruction. How thrilling it is to see how persistent God is. How life-changing to realize the battle that is fought over one soul. And how reassuring to know that God is always at work, always present, and-this is the best part- always the victor! Yes! We are on the winning side.
We arrived at one of our stops on Thursday to be met by a soft-spoken boy; he came up to us both, wanting us to see how well his wounds were healing. Manoel had been involved in a street fight two weeks previous, that had left him with knife wounds. Lori had taken him aside and spent some time cleaning the wounds, putting some antibiotic ointment on them and bandaging them. Since then things had healed nicely. He too asked for help and said he wanted to go to the rehab. I took some time to make sure he understood that the only hope for him was God’s help.
“Think about it,” Lori said. “We’ll be back on Monday morning, Lord willing, and if you’re serious than we’ll be glad to take you.”
Manoel hung his head and quietly asked if there was any way we would be willing to take him right away. Lori looked my way and I said, “Let’s go.”
Thursday is a long and exhausting day, and by the time we reach that last stop at Igapó, the heat of the day has always gotten the best of us. I really didn’t want to make the ninety minute trip each way to the rehab. I opened the back door of the truck, pointed him towards the seat, and affirmed the promise we had made to God-to respond when any one of these kids asks for help. It would be a long night and we wouldn’t get back to the house ’till very late, but this boy asked God for help.
We have taken six boys off the street so far and I wish I could tell you they all received Christ and are going on well. Some lasted a few weeks, others just a few days, the point is that presently there’s only two of the six still going through the program. Drugs have an incredible hold on these boys. They will all tell you that they know the drugs will kill them. They will all say that they want nothing more than to be free of its power. But even those taken off the street, to a place where help is available, often can’t live without a fix and soon are found back living in the gutter of the street. Our hearts go out to these kids. We find ourselves on an emotional roller coaster, we want so much to help them, but we haven’t a clue what they’re going through. We feed them, hug those who need a hug, listen to their life of sorrow, pray with them that they recognize their need of God’s intervening power, remind them that God is their only hope and their only salvation, close the truck’s tailgate, and move on to the next stop. Please remember these kids in your prayers. They are infinitely lovable.
Dad rode with us all day and was a great help as we fed all the kids. Lori and I were a little worried that the heat of the day would be too much, but he was a real trooper. He had the opportunity (with Lori’s help) to speak to many of the boys, and we were able to gather all the kids, who respectfully bowed their heads, and listened while he prayed for theirs souls. It was fun watching him pass out the gospel papers. When all the kids at the stop had received a paper, he would turn to anyone else who was in walking distance of the truck. At one point, I saw him walking down a line of buses waiting for the light, passing up the papers to all the passengers. He loves the Gospel, and is amazed by the demand for the Word. What a pleasure it is to hand a gospel paper to someone here and they actually stop and thank you for it.
With a bank account now open, we were able to get started on the projects planned, Lord willing, for Aningas. I’ve been in the village pretty much all week working on the building we’ve been given permission to use. I hired a mason to do some work needed on the structure, and I’ve been building the units needed for a wood shop. I’ve designed some basic, simple furniture pieces that will be cheap and easy to build. I plan to teach anyone in Aningas who wants to learn a trade. Doing this, I’ll have a chance to work with the folks side by side. I also aim to start each lesson with a very short Gospel message and prayer. Please pray for this effort as the structure takes shape, the tools get set up, and I start to work with, and get to know, the people of Aningas better.
It has to be over one hundred degrees in that building every day, with absolutely no air movement of any kind. And the moment I’m through the door the sweating begins. William was laughing at the sight of me the other day. Within five minuets of work my shirt was soaked with sweat, and all the sawdust kicked up by the tools was sticking, making me look like a sawdust snow man. I bring a cooler with ice and water bottles, hoping the liquid will help me give the work a full day. But that heat saps your strength so fast that six hours is about all the gas I have. I hope my stamina increases as my body gets used to the heat, but right now I’m finding it very difficult for this forty-eight year old body to last eight hours.
Continue praying for the orphanage. We’re not sure of what to do, and when, so we know that we need to take that first step. We’ll start the procedure to purchase the land and see if the door is opened for this. God is faithful. We seem to waver an awful lot, but deep down, we know He’s faithful.
We’re all doing fine here, and all seems to be going well. We have so much to be thankful for; we daily enjoy the undeserved blessings given by a Father whose love is unconditional. Thank you all again for your daily prayers, and we ask that you continue to call on God for blessings in the north of Brazil.
The kids are doing fine, and every day William seems to show up with a new found friend. Last Sunday night he ran past his grandparents with a flashlight in hand, exclaiming as he ran that he was meeting his buddies on the beach to hunt crabs. I came down a while later asking where he was and was given the information he had passed on while he made his way out the gate onto the beach. I got a bit concerned and walked out on the beach to see if he was at least close by. There was no sign of him, so I came back. I grabbed one of the kids’ four wheelers, and made my way back out into the night looking for him. I hit the beach, took a left, and headed towards the river with the high beams cutting the fog that rolls onto the beach each night. I was scanning the sand as far as I could see looking for the bouncing light beam of William’s flashlight.
It happened so fast, I never saw it coming. I knew the river was close, but thought I had a few minutes worth of drive time. Surely the quad’s lights would give me fair warning and lots of time to make the left turn. Within a split second, I had left the river bank and launched into about four feet of water. For those of you who don’t know, quads float, and in this case, the river’s current was strongly influencing it to float out to sea. I broke the water surface in shock, and as soon as my brain processed what had just happened, I prayed, “God help me!” I started to fight the current pushing towards shore for all I was worth, constantly losing my footing as the sand slipped out from under my feet. The quad by this time had stalled, the lights went out plunging me into darkness, and I was alone in the pitch black. I could hardly see the shoreline that made up the river bank, but I pushed, kicked, and dragged the quad, in what I thought was the right direction.
I finally was able to get the machine back to shore, pulled it up onto the river bank, flopped down on the sand, and just lay there trying to catch my breath. I thanked God for His help. The bike wouldn’t start, so I had to leave it and I walked the mile back to the house, trying my best to blame this all on my son. He was waiting at home when I called him to the gate, shocked to see me coming back on foot.
“Get your quad and come help me! Caroline’s won’t start!” I said.
No words were spoken as we made the trek back to the river. He knew as soon as he saw the bike what had happened. Quietly he helped me latch the two quads together and we made our way back home. I pulled the plugs, drained the water from places it didn’t belong, washed off all the salt, and was so thankful when I heard the sweet sound of a gas engine when it fired up.
I want you all to know that William is still alive, he just got a lot of sleep that night! Thus the joys of raising a boy, as many of you know. He does, however, feel that I should shoulder some of blame for that evening’s events. I just keep repeating something my father always told me when I had him backed into a corner: “When I’m right, I’m right. When I’m wrong, I’m still right.” I had to listen in silence as Dad made that foolish statement, now I get to use it without William responding, and the day may come when William can use it as well.
I will end this now and bid you all farewell,
Love in Christ,
Mark, Lori, Caroline, and William,

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