January 25, 2010

Hi Everyone!
It’s been a while since I punched these keys, in an attempt to update you all on what God is doing here in Natal. I was quick to take advantage of the young people who came to help us in the work here, knowing that you all would enjoy hearing from them, as they described from their perspective, God’s work that they were exposed to in Natal. Unfortunately, they have all returned home, so once again it’s up to me to keep you all posted. Lori’s folks have arrived safely, and will spend some time with us. We were all so happy to see them, and the kids were thrilled to, once again, be with Papa and Nona.
It’s Monday morning and Lori and I are about to go out looking for one of the street kids, who asked last week if we would take him off the street, and give him an opportunity at the drug rehab. Before leaving I will attempt to at least get started on the past week’s events.
His name is Rafael. Our first exposure to this boy came in the form of a street fight. Rafael and Dennis were both rolling in the middle of a busy intersection, so I jumped in to break them up. I pushed one boy across the street and back to his window washing post. Rafael was pointed in the direction of our car, and as he approached the car, saw Lori and Caroline crying. He felt so bad that he had caused them to be so upset, and attempted to comfort them. “You scared us and broke our heart” Lori said, “and if we were heartbroken, imagine how the Saviour felt.” He left that day very bothered, and God spoke to him in a way that shook him to realize how desperate his life of drugs had become. “I live in an abandoned building with no electricity or water,” he said. “So, I spend the evenings reading the papers you leave each week by the light of a street lamp.”
He told us that as a result of the message contained in those papers, and the kindness we have shown to him, God convicted him and he asked Jesus into his heart. Pray for Rafael, that his words are sincere, and that in fact God has reached his heart. Pray that his rehab experience will be the beginning of a God transformed life. Would it not be awesome if he were used by God to reach his peers caught in Satan’s snares.
The rehab called us a week ago last Sunday to inform us that Bruno had checked himself out, determined that he was healed and had no need to stay in the program. He still had three months left, but pride and a rebellious spirit caused him to leave. We didn’t pursue him, but heard that he had gone to his Dad’s house in the Planalto. This Friday, we got a call from his stepmom saying that he had to return to the rehab, and could no longer stay at the house. We drove the hour trip through the city and arrived at his father’s house. We were ushered into a very humble home, and invited to sit around the kitchen table. His Dad poured his heart out as he told us that Bruno needed to go back where he would be under the influence of God’s power. “He can’t stay here, he’s not able to do this on his own, I can’t help him, his only hope of survival is God, please take him, he has to go back.”
For three hours we sought to reach him with the gospel. Again we explained why we had sought to help him. I said, “Bruno, we didn’t come to Brazil to get kids off drugs, we came to introduce you to the Lord Jesus Christ. You’re at a crossroads tonight and you will make a choice. Choose God and He’ll possess you, giving you the strength needed to defeat Satan and the addiction you battle. Choose your own way, and we can’t help you. We’ll commend you to God and go home. You have no hope without God, and you will fall to Satan’s power. The day will come when we hear that the police have gathered your remains off the street, and as your family grieves, you’ll begin your first day in eternity”.
His Dad was supporting our no-nonsense appeal, so Lori turned to ask if he was a child of God. You could imagine our surprise as he told us how God had reach and saved his soul. He told us that his mom was a Christian, and he was raised to hear the gospel, and as a young man he trusted Jesus as his Saviour.
It was a very proud boy that we returned to the rehab, who only went because he had no place else to go. We don’t believe that this boy is saved, and would ask that you pray that God breaks his spirit and saves his soul. I had visited the food warehouse that afternoon, and had filled the back of our rented truck with food for the pantry in Aningas, as well as food for the rehab. We arrived and I called, some of the boys standing around, to unload the truck, as Lori and I went inside to plead Bruno’s case. They told us that they had over seventy boys there and only a few of those were able to pay their way. They had promised God that they would never turn anyone away, who came to them for help. Food supplies were getting low this week, and nothing was coming in. While we were there, the cook came in the office to say that after supper had been served, and the boys had been fed, all the food was gone, and there was nothing for the next day. And then, we had arrived. They told us that they have had this happen so many times before, but they never get used to the ways by which God provides for those who seek to serve Him. They thanked us for being willing to let God use us.
The holidays were such a busy time that we never had a chance to go through our belongings and unpack the things we could use. Leaving the goods in cardboard boxes means exposing them to severe moisture and mold. There is so much moisture in the air that every morning I wipe up a puddle of water sitting at the base of our bedroom fan ( no AC here). I cleaned out three stores-of the plastic tubs with locking lids-so we could store the stuff not being used, and protect it from the extreme humidity. I took one whole wall of our car port and built cubbies that would accommodate the tubs so they could be neatly stored and protected.
I have a primitive wood shop in Aningas where I’ve been building whatever is needed, so I headed up there to build my shelf units. On the way I stopped and picked up ten bags of cement. The purchase was for a family in the village who had severe health issues. Nildete was walking with us one day, as Lori carried her little medical box, and we visited door to door. Nildete is employed by the government as their health official in the village. Her job is to visit each home and report their needs back to her superiors. Nothing comes of this, except for the fact that she has her finger on the pulse of the town folks. She took us to a home made up of Dad, Mom, and five children, all of whom have severe respiratory problems. She picked up the baby and held him close to us so we could hear his labored breathing. She explained that this is caused by living in a house that has dirt for a floor. The fix is simple, but they don’t have the resources, so they live with this condition. I thought how wrong and unfair this is, how unbalanced and upside down our world is, that a family should have to suffer for years when $120.00 American dollars, a quick stop, and a willingness to add this to the day’s agenda, and this family could be healthy again.
Pretty much all of the donated clothes sent by those who gave to the work here have been given out. We went through all the boxes and categorized the clothes and shoes by age groups. We supplied the orphanage, took clothes to the kids on the street, and brought a truck load into the village. It’s funny seeing the kids walking around with crocs, because no one else has them here. We showed up one day in the village and picked up Nildete, who took us to the families who were in dire need. Word quickly traveled through the village that we were there, and soon the truck bed was mobbed with people wanting what they really didn’t need.
Nildete closed up the boxes and said, “Let’s go, this is getting out of hand and the people who need this are not going to get it.” We took the clothes to the Galpão (the building we have been allowed to use) and locked everything inside. She let some time pass and allowed the town to settle down. Then, she invited one family in at a time to go through and pick out what they could use. Everybody wants everything you have, and will take it whether they need it or not. It’s been an active learning experience on how to work with extremely poor people. Please pray that God teaches us how to handle what He gives us and gives us wisdom and fairness, so that our effectiveness is not thwarted or our testimony stifled.
The street work in the city is a constant encouragement, as the numbers grow and the kids, who are reluctant to trust anyone, are beginning to really believe we care. It’s been six months of being out there every week. At first, they doubted us and wondered what our alternative motive was; now they are accepting us as servants of God and God only. In addition to feeding them each week, Lori carries her medical box and treats cuts, infections, skin rashes, tooth aches, and last week infected stab wounds on a boy brought to her who had been fighting.
God has handled all the hurdles that have stood between us and being able to stay here. The latest was opening a bank account. It took three banks, six months and an unbelievable list of required documents to prove that we didn’t come just to launder money (a real problem among those moving to Brazil). The bank account was a government requirement in order to receive a permanent visa. Also, it’s necessary for transferring moneys from the US to us here. Thank God, finally this has been accomplished. Also, we heard today that our visa application is progressing quickly and were given a link to track its progress online. When the lawyers and accountant originally explained the list of requirements for a visa, I remember being overwhelmed and wanting to quit, but we have watched God take on each requirement, one by one, and now the visa is all that’s left to be resolved.
I’ll end now thanking you all again for your support and faithfulness in prayer before the Father. We would like to be an encouragement to you all by assuring you that God is listening and answering, and wonderful things continue to develop, before our very eyes, as God works in a mighty way among souls here in the north of Brazil.
I’ll say bye for now with much Love in Christ,
Mark, Lori, Caroline, William, Dad and Mom.


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