Northeast Brazil, Rio Grande do Norte. About one hour north of the capital city of Natal.

Aningas is the poorest village in the interior of Ceara-Mirim. Daily life for the people here is bare bones simiplicity: go out to gather wood for a fire to cook food, wash clothes in the river, sweep the dirt from the porch. Education is limited and the school in the center of town only goes to fifth grade. Medical support is essentially non-existent. There are no doctors and no medical help closer than an hour away.

This simple lifestyle makes their need more obvious. Working in Aningas is a day to day meeting of that need. Some days it may involve visiting with simple first aid, bringing a sick person to a public hospital in the city, or going door to door to keep in touch.

The galpão (pavilion) is the central spot for the work in Aningas. One side houses Mark’s workshop and the other, the sewing co-op. The workshop is a place where Mark has been able to work with some of the young guys in Aningas to teach them a practical trade. They’ve made benches, beds, tables, cabinets, etc. but more importantly through this we’ve been able to develop relationships with the boys and their families.

The sewing co-op, on the other side of the galpão, is a place for the women in the village to earn money for their families. They are given pre-cut cloth that they then sew together. The hope is that they will eventually get a contract of sorts with a larger clothing distributor for a more reliable source of work and income.

Most importantly, on sunday nights the galpão is used for the preaching of the gospel. After working and getting to know these people for about a year, they began to show an interest in the gospel. They wanted to hear. Now two years later we have a faithful group of between 60 and 75 kids that come for an informal lesson at 7 pm sunday nights. We open with singing hymns and then prayer before the lesson.  The messages are simple, the lessons centered entirely around scripture. Each week a new verse is presented to the kids, which they take home on a printed coloring page to learn and bring back the following week. Everyone who remembers and recites the verse without help gets to choose a prize. If they can’t quite remember the whole thing and need some help, the kids are still given a small prize of a pencil or candy for trying. There are also a handful of adults that come regularly. After closing the lesson in prayer, we give thanks for the snacks we’ve brought for the kids to enjoy, usually juice and crackers or cookies.

Here are a few of the people of Aningas with whom we’ve built relationships over the past three years:

Nildete is one of the first contacts we made in Aningas. She professes to be saved and knows everyone in the village and what their needs are. Because of this she has been an invaluable help in pointing us in the right direction, helping us to pinpoint where we can most help.

Van and Leandro: These are the two guys that Mark is currently working with. We have made deep inroads into their families as they’ve come to know and trust us. Leandro is an orphan who was raised by his older siblings. He has a very large family that makes up a large portion of Aningas.Van, extremely loyal and well-liked by everyone, has a wife and four children who come every sunday night to hear the gospel.

Valda (Van’s wife) and Edileusa(Leandro’s sister): Two of the toughest women in Aningas. The fact that both of these women come nearly every sunday night speaks volumes to the rest of the people in the village.

Fatima: she has recently started attending faithfully with her daughter Kathleen. Kathleen came alone one night to make a special prayer request for her mom while she was in the hospital. This opened the door to visit the family. Fatima is searching. She is unhappy. She wants peace.

Rita, Layane, Nadine and Natalia: these four girls (all around age 17) have become a great help to us in many ways. They’ve taken an interest in the gospel and help with keeping track of the kids who learn their memory verses. They also come with us during the week to help with the street work and the work in the favelas. Mark has also made contact with Nadine’s father, in charge of the village water supply, who has stopped by the galpao to borrow tools. These types of friendships are valuable as they allow us to get to know more about the families in Aningas and show in a practical way that we are here to help them.