January 4, 2010 – Alex Lawson

Dear Family and Family in Christ,
It’s Wednesday afternoon and we just returned home from the airport. There were tears as we dropped off the last of our holiday visitors, whose time had come to make their way back to the US. My nephew Alex made his way back to Boston, and his girlfriend, Lydia, headed back to Chicago. Lori thought it might cheer them both up this morning to mention the present temperature at home as they gobbled up the last rays of sun here before leaving.
It really was tremendous to have them both with us. They truly shared with us the burden for lost souls. They were both able to experience the work and get a taste of all that God is doing. They were more than willing to get their hands dirty, as together we labored to reach out to these poor souls and bring them the glorious message of the Gospel.
Alex has been a big part in God’s enabling us to be here. Lori and I cannot put into words how much we appreciate all that he has taken care of at home, and the peace we have here, knowing that he’s on the case, caring for all the responsibilities there. It was a real joy getting to know Lydia and I can only hope that my constant sarcasm and teasing didn’t scare her away, because we would love for them both to come back. I know that as a result of being here they will both return home with a fresh perspective on their God and the work He’s accomplished here since we arrived. Alex spent time yesterday putting into words all he and Lydia experienced, and so I’m going to close this by bidding you all farewell, and encouraging you all to read their update.
We’re all doing just great and things seem to be going along smoothly for the moment, as God continues to bless our efforts, and be a blessing in our lives.
Goodbye for now, with love in Christ
Mark, Lori, Caroline and William.
Well, time travels quickly, and it is almost time for Lydia and I to leave Brazil and travel back home to Chicago and Boston respectively. I can’t believe that it has been over two weeks since we first arrived here in Brazil. Since that time we have seen so much, that will affect both of our lives in so many ways.
You already heard of many of our earlier activities in the reports written by Mike and Shelby Procopio, but work did not cease after their departure. It only takes a quick glance around the streets of Natal, the village of Aningas, or the orphanage in Ponta Negra to realize how much work there is to do. You have read in weeks past of the hunger for food (both physical and spiritual) in these locations. Seeing this hunger never loses its effect, and it shows that God is working daily in this area.
After Mike and Shelby left, we began planning the events for the next week. Mark and Lori were exhausted after weeks of preparation for the holiday festivities on the streets and in the village of Aningas. The weather was considerably cloudy on Sunday (a rarity here), so time was spent sorting through the boxes of donations. There was a strong exercise to get clothing up to the little village of Santa Fe; so much of the sorting time was utilized for determining what clothing would fit those in that village.
Monday was sort of a hodge-podge day of activity. Clessio needed to get to the dentist, and Lori was going to bring him. While at the rehab, I did not have an opportunity to meet Bruno or Levi. Bruno was visiting his father for the week for the New Year and Levi had taken one last sabbatical with his wife for a day or two. It gave Lydia and I both a chance to tour the rehabilitation center. I was impressed with the concept of this facility. While the structures themselves or the surrounding land would not grace the cover of any magazine, it was clear that this was a place where people could come to get clean, but only with the help, and by the grace of God.
We spent the afternoon in the orphanage run by Cleide. She was not there that afternoon, but the women who were helping were grateful for our presence. Our being there allowed for them to complete necessary tasks, while we took the time to color with the kids and attempt to show them the concept of baseball. A few bumps on the head, and many broken crayons later we were on our way. Mark and I went to the Plan Alto to pick up two sewing machines for the Aningas co-op that had been in storage there. When we returned to the house we spent some time preparing more clothes for Santa Fe, which we planned on visiting the next morning.
We arrived in Aningas mid-morning on Tuesday and dropped of the sewing machines at the Gampau, the building used for the co-op. We picked up Preta and Nildete and traveled down the road a little ways toward Santa Fe. No one was visible as we approached the gate to this little community of seven homes, but as Mark honked the horn, the distinct sound of children could be heard behind the homes. Within moments children came running to the gate, opening it for our entrance.
We stayed for a few hours, passing out a truck full of clothes and shoes to families that were destitute. I played baseball and football with them for a while, as Lori and Nildete talked with the families to see what else was needed. As we headed back toward Aningas, we saw a woman and her children who were in dire need of clothing. We noted their sizes and told the woman (Maria) that we would be back the next day with some clothing for her and her family. Nildete told us of some other families in Aningas that were in need, and immediately our plan for Wednesday was born.
Twice a week, what would be considered in the US, a public health nurse visits Aningas. We wanted to talk with her and see if there was any pressing medical needs for anyone in the village, as well as ask her permission to visit people with medical issues on Monday. Early on Wednesday we were on our way to Aningas to meet with the nurse at 8AM. The nurse did not anticipate any problems with visiting people, testing their blood pressure, and seeing if they could use any antibiotic creams or ointments. We learned that the doctor rarely ever visits the community, and when he does it is only for an hour or two per month.
We distributed clothes throughout the morning, bringing them to a family in the center of Aningas and to Maria’s house on the outskirts of town. Before leaving town we noted additional families with a need for clothing. That afternoon, we visited a medical supply store to stock up on some needed items, such as saline, gauze, blood pressure cuff, and blood glucose tester. We also visited the supermarket in preparation for the Thursday feeding of the street kids.
This event was something that touched both Lydia and myself in a way that is difficult to explain in words. After hearing Mark, Mike, Shelby, Katie and Jeremy expound on this event, all of you probably understand the concept and exactly what happens. We woke up early on Thursday to prepare the sandwiches, 472 of them to be exact. Caroline and William were staying home, allowing the four of us to fit comfortably into the truck for the day. After loading all the sandwiches, 50 liters of juice, supplies, tracts, the remainder of the Bibles, and clothes for distribution, we were on our way.
Our first stop went along as normal, but we received some news on our second stop regarding one of the “regulars”. The night before, he was sleeping on the side of the road when someone drove by and shot him ten times. According to the source, he was killed instantly. The week before, the same man had received a pair of sandals and a Bible, along with his Christmas meal. It was sobering to think about his situation, and we can only hope and pray that his spiritual condition had changed over the past week.
The rest of the day went on as normal, with all of the juice containers and sandwich boxes empty on our drive back to the house. Before leaving our second to last stop we were spoken to by a man named Rafael. He was so grateful for the sandwiches, but he also told us something else. Months before, Mark and Lori had witnessed a violent altercation between Rafael and another man. Mark had broken up the fight at the time just prior to the police arriving. Rafael had left the street corner that day strung out, but still with a gospel paper in hand. He knew that his life had to change. Since then, he was living in a little place without any water or electricity. There is not much for him to do there, so he has spent the time reading the papers that he had been given over and over again. He told Lori that he knows that drugs cannot satisfy him anymore and that he realized that the Lord Jesus Christ was all that could fill him. He told us that he has trusted in Christ and what was done for him, and that now for the first time ever, he feels truly satisfied.
Rafael’s story really spoke to me as we drove to the final stop in Zona Norte. I kept wondering where I would be if I had never been saved. Would I be in a similar situation to Rafael? Even as a Christian, I find it hard to be satisfied many times. When you listen to someone like Rafael, who has next to nothing and is completely satisfied, you realize that because of Christ we all have the ability to have this feeling day in and day out.
We welcomed in the New Year that evening on the beach. It was a New Years celebration personally unrivaled in my opinion. Fireworks illuminated the skyline the entire length of the beach, about four miles in each direction (and probably further). Fireworks could be seen from Ponta Negra in the south to the fishing villages to the north, as Natal and its surrounding cities, towns and villages welcomed in 2010, two hours before those in Times Square.
Because of the holidays, we spent the weekend at the house. The last unsorted boxes of donations were unpacked and categorized, ready for distribution. Boxes for Aningas were packed. Nildete knew of the families who were in need there, and we were going to leave them in the Gaupau for distribution. On Monday morning we loaded the medical supplies and made our way back to Aningas one last time. We spent a little time talking to people in the Health Post, a small community clinic open two mornings per week. We met with a woman named Jose, who told us about a strange painful rash that comes and goes that no doctor seemed to know the cause of.
Nildete brought us to see an old woman named Donna Iracema. She was lying on a bed in one of the houses in Aningas, unable to see, talk or move much. She wouldn’t drink, and a brief evaluation of her skin indicated that she was severely dehydrated. We prayed with her, for her soul as well as for her to have the physical strength and desire to drink some water. We left her daughter, who was caring for the woman with instructions on preventing skin breakdown and ulcers, and made our way next door to meet with Donna Francisca.
This woman had a skin disorder so severe, that it made both of her lower extremities appear to have scales. Nildete told us that the mother of the twins in town died of a similar appearing disorder, which frightened Donna Francisca. Nildete gave Lori the name of an antibiotic cream that was used sometimes for similar cases, and Lori made note so she could swing by the pharmacy and get some for the woman. After we left Donna Francisca we spent some time teaching Nildete how to use the blood glucose testing kit and the blood pressure cuff.
Now, the sun has long since gone down, and it is only 6:45. Lori and Lydia have taken the kids to their dentist appointments in the city. It seems darker than usual tonight, but it is still relaxing as I lie here in a hammock and write this report. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore continues as it has since I arrived. I am not looking forward to leaving Brazil. It has been a much-needed experience. I leave with additions to my prayer list, and I trust that this report will leave you with additions to yours as well. It feels wonderful to be used by God, and I have felt used over the past two weeks. I can’t wait to return and see the physical blessings and growth in Aningas, the orphanage and the work on the streets in Natal. Thank you all for your prayers.
Warmest Christian Love,
Alex Lawson

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