Clessio: A Prisoner Set Free

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” John 8:36 ESV

My first interaction with Clessio was at Christmas time, in 2009. We rolled up the rehab center excited to meet the the two young men who Mark & Lori had brought there. Bruno came out first, and what I saw was troubled and combative young man, unable to keep eye contact, who seemed to be really struggling with self. Then we met Clessio. What a difference. Clessio’s appearance and demeanor radiated one thing – peace. Complete and absolute peace. He walked toward us, his dog-eared bible in his hands, and and embraced Mark & Lori. He was quick to rattle off the newest scripture he had memorized, and as he showed us around, he talked genuinely about his struggles and sobriety. We wandered through the kitchen and the bunk room, and ambled over to workout area with its brake-drum free weights and antique exercise bike. We stopped in at the garden, and checked out the recycling center, all the while Clessio bubbled on about what he was discovering in God’s word.

Clessio and his Bible in the Garden with Mark

My time with Clessio was short. It was time spent observing more with my eyes than with my ears, as we spoke brokenly, only through translators. I had this one overarching thought however, that summed up this genuine young man – this is a man who has found Christ.
What else could explain it? How else could the prisoner be set so free? Surely not by the rehab – it was full of other men who were still consumed by sin and addiction. Still prisoners. Still captive. No, this boy had found Christ, and in him, not only life, but life more abundantly.


December 29, 2009 – Mike and Shelby Procopio

I was not pleased as we made our way back to the airport. It seemed as if we had just come from there, and I have no idea where the two weeks went that were in between. But like it or not, the time came for Mike and Shelby to return back home. We were thrilled to have had their help, as they labored beside us in God’s work. There was so much to do leading up to the Christmas holiday, and we so appreciated all the help that they offered. Before leaving they both agreed to write one more update which I’m forwarding to all my family at home.
In addition to all the work you will read about in their report below, there are a few extra things that you should know about. Thanks to all of you at home who so generously gave clothing and toys and shoes, we were able to sort through the boxes of things that had arrived the week before, and put together three gifts for each of the children at the orphanage. We have a list of each child and their age, and with that list we worked late into Monday night going through the boxes of donations. We found suitable gifts for each child, wrapped each gift, and tagged them with the children’s names.
We delivered the gifts to the orphanage, along with turkey and all the fixings for a Christmas feast (their dessert of choice was ice cream). We were also able to deliver turkeys, along with the fixings, to the rehab, so they would have a Christmas dinner.
We also took two large boxes of clothing and shoes with us on the street Tuesday, and distributed them to many of the kids whom we work with weekly.
I will now turn you over to Mike and Shelby wishing you all a Happy New Year full of God’s Blessings. As we come to the close of 2009, I can not begin to list the blessings that God has lavishly poured out on me and my family this past year. Having given it thought, I borrow the words of another and exclaim that once again I am surprised at what the Lord has done. When I think of the blessing that a child often enjoys simply because of the family they were born into, I honestly bow before my awesome God and with a full heart say over and over again, “Thank you Father for making me your child!”
From my family to yours with love in Christ,
Mark, Lori, Caroline and William.
Hi Everyone!
Well this starts my last update – we were so thankful to be able to be with Mark and Lori and the kids for 2 weeks – it was a tremendous experience, and we returned home more convicted than ever that God is working in a tremendous way in the North of Brazil, and we are excited to not only have been able to go down and be a part of it, but to be able be a part of it from home as well.
I was reminded again this week of David’s men after they went up against the Amalekites after they burned Ziklag – when they returned with the spoils, some of the men wanted to hoard it, and distribute it only among the warriors who had gone down to the battle, and give nothing to those that had faithfully remained behind with “the stuff”. David’s response however gives us a beautiful picture of the heart of God, when he tells his men that “those who went down to battle, and those that remained with the stuff…they shall partake alike”. Not all of us can be out in the mission fields full time – for whatever reasons – but God views us as equal partners in this work, had given us a tremendous privilege and an awesome responsibility at home to faithfully support those that are at the point of the spear, and to throw ourselves whole-heartedly into his work, to the furtherance of the gospel and his purposes in these mission fields.
In the middle of the night on Sunday (or really, Monday morning) Alex Lawson and Lydia Perkins arrived at the airport in Natal – thats one thing i learned about Brazilian airports/airlines – they go 24hrs… no big deal to have a flight land or takeoff at 2 or 3 in the morning….UGH! But it was exciting to see them, and we were really excited that out trips overlapped by a week, so we could not only spend time together, but so that we could share with them what we had seen and done the previous week.
Monday morning started out with the fantastic news that Levi, the addict who we had dropped off at the rehab center on Thursday evening had gotten saved. While this was great news, it actually presented a bit of a problem for the rehab facility, although it all worked out. Levi was so excited about getting saved that he immediately wanted to leave the rehab for a day, so that he could share the gospel with his family – he was very conscious of the fact that he was to be in rehab for 9 months, and if something happened to his girlfriend or children during that time, they would never have a chance to hear the good news of the gospel. Finally the rehab director decided that Levi could go for a day to see his family and tell them about salvation, but he had to return the next day, which he did. Another tangible result of God’s work among these street kids for which we were tremendously thankful, and which was a direct answer to prayer for this young man. Please pray that he will be given the strength needed as he continues his rehab, and that he will begin to grow as a Christian. Also remember his girlfriend and children, that having seen the change in his life and having heard from him the gospel, that they will see the reality of salvation, and be convicted of their need as well.
Monday was spent preparing for the next day’s meal. With the number of “events” that we were juggling around the holiday, the meal for the street kids was moved to Tuesday, as Thursday was to be the dinner in Aningas. The difference this week was that we did a hot meal for the kids, and they were all to receive a bible with the meal. Most of the day was spent getting the food, and picking up the bibles from the christian book store – more on this later.
Tuesday started early with cooking what had to be finished for the street meal, and setting up the cars for the day. Since it wasn’t sandwich’s it was going to be a little more complicated to distribute, but we finally got it all squared away and were ready to go. We had the juice station all set-up in the back of the one remaining Amazing Fiat, and the food, bibles and clothes in the back of the pickup. We had picked up 1000 bibles the day before, so with those loaded in as well, we set off for the day around 11:30. It went very well throughout the day – since it was a hot meal, the kids sat down to eat and listen to the gospel message. Natal is very Christmas oriented, as Natal actually means “Christmas” – however in all the statues of wise-men and nativity scenes throughout the city, it all seems to focus on just the fact that “Christ was Born” – so in the gospel we tried to link what they knew of Jesus as the “Christmas Baby”, to the fact that he actually came as their Savior, and went to the cross for their sins!
It took all day for the food distribution over the stops, and by the time we got to the last stop we were as tired as we could possibly be! At the last stop, William and I gave out over 900 bibles. The thirst for the word of God is incredible, and to meet it will require God’s hand in providing the resources. The Portuguese bibles we were distributing cost R$5.50, or about $3.50 US each, so the resources that are needed to simply purchase and distribute bibles is enormous. One young man walked over to us from an appliance store and asked if he could have one – we gave him one, and he walked back over to the store, sat down and began to read it right there – as soon as his co workers saw it they all wanted bibles, and came over in pairs, to politely ask if they too could have a free bible! Even the few people who initially refused a bible, came back within minutes and got them – they had thought there was some sort of a “catch”, and just couldn’t fathom that it really was a free bible! This speaks volumes to the mindset that is so ingrained here – the church is out to extract from you, never to give you something for free – so the concept of a God that does not want anything from them, is totally foreign, and very sad. Pray that God blesses and uses bibles that were distributed – we know he will, as he has guaranteed that “it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper”, but your prayers are needed nonetheless.
Wednesday we spent preparing for the dinner in Aningas the following day. While the girls went to the wholesale food distributor to pick up the remaining supplies, Mark, William, Alex and I headed up to Aningas to buy the supplies and build a massive charcoal grill to cook the meat on. The primary building staple here is this odd-little fired-clay block-like thing. It’s not really a brick, and not really a cement block, but they build everything out of it. They are not very strong – i figure that if a crow built up a good head of steam he could blast right through a wall – but it works, so we loaded up 300 of them and brought them all into the back courtyard of the school where we built a big grill to cook on. With that all ready for the next day, we headed over to measure the land that is under agreement for the orphanage.
The site that is being considered is about 1/2 mile from the center of Aningas, right next to a little village called Santa Fe. It’s 7 acres, and has almost unlimited expansion possibilities, as all the land around it is also available. It’s has a road on it’s front side that goes to Aningas and to the BR-101, the main highway, as well as a road on the back boundary of the land that also goes direct to the BR-101. It’s in an excellent location, and we needed to get some accurate measurements so that we can start getting some of the conceptual construction drawings done.
Thursday was the dinner in Aningas, and as usual, we had to make one final supply run before going up to the village. We pulled into Aningas around lunchtime and they were already busy with getting the meal going. The 2 cows that had been bought and butchered yielded about 500 pounds of beef, which along with some sausages, was the main course. It was served with rice, and beans, and a variety of soda, and was, for obvious reasons, a big hit. We figure just under 2000 were fed, with some sticking around for conversations, and some heading off to home.
Friday was a low-key day spent around the house for Christmas. With Mark & Lori’s family, Alex and Lydia, and us it was alot of fun, and it was nice to be able to relax a little before heading home in the wee-hours of the morning on Saturday.
We made it home in about 22-hours door to door – considerably better than the 31hrs going down – although there were 4 connections, which just makes for a brutally tiring trip! We’re home safe and sound, and very thankful for the opportunity we had to go and help with this work, and to see the progress and the blessing that is being seen. God’s evident working was a tremendous encouragement to us, and we hope that even through these updates, others will be encouraged, and be able to feel apart of the work in Brazil.
Lots of Love,
Mike and Shelby

December 22, 2009 – Mike and Shelby Procopio

Hi everyone!
It has been hectic here as we plan all the activities for this holiday season. We promise to keep you all posted as these activities evolve, Lord Willing.
Our family was very sad to bid farewell to Jeremy and Katie, but took advantage of the following week to address any pressing matters before more guests arrived. The week was spent working on our visa and getting the final requirements to the port authorities, after our Visa protocol number arrived, so they would release our personal goods as well as all the donations that were sent along with us.We had been calling out to God asking that He would see to it that we would have all these goods by Christmas. So many of the kids desperately need the goods that were sitting in the port of Natal. It took all week and a fair amount of funds because of storage fees, but finally the day came when we met the truck at the port gate and escorted the driver and his helpers to the little town of Jenipabu. We were so thankful to God that finally we had been able to claim all the clothing and toys sent, and immediately began unpacking boxes and categorizing the goods so they all could be distributed to the needy folks we have been working with.
We also dove into boxes of our own goods and began moving some of the things into the house that we now call our home.
On Sunday, Mike and Shelby Procopio, from Saugus, arrived; they immediately went to work, helping us with all the preparations for the planned activities among the street kids, at the rehab, orphanage, and the village of Aningas. We are so happy to have them here with us.
I asked them both if they would be willing to write this week’s update to you and was very glad that they were willing. It’s great to read their update and know the effect that God has had on them this past week.
Having said that I’ll sign off and pass you all off to this young couple as they tell you the story through their eyes. Once again I say good night to all, thanking you all from my heart for your faithfulness in commending my family and our work to the throne of God.
Love in Christ,
Mark, Lori, Caroline, and William.
Well the week started with just about the longest flight of our lives – we left our house in Saugus at about 4:30 on Saturday morning, and arrived at Mark and Lori’s at 11:30 on Sunday morning – about 31 hours of planes and airports – to say the trip was tiring doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface!
Since we got in on Sunday it worked out nice, as that is a low-key day around here – we spent the day catching up and enjoying a beautiful day in a beautiful creation.
Monday morning we headed to Aningas to check in with the folks there and to have a little meeting with some of the women there to better plan for the Christmas dinner, which is planned for next Thursday. Our plan Lord willing is to feed the entire village, so we’re planning on a couple of thousand people – they exist daily on basically rice, beans and whatever they can grow in their gardens. This goes along way toward the credibility of the gospel – they have been abandoned by their government and their church, so even with something as simple as a free meal, it becomes remarkably apparent to them that God not only exists, but is interested in their wellbeing.
The plan is to have the big meal, perhaps play some games with the kids, and have a gospel message. The dinner will be served in and around the local school, which is located right in a small square in the center of the village, so Sonia the headmaster of the school and Nildete, one of the Christians in Aningas are very involved, and worked out the menu and logistics for the “feeding”!
When we first arrived in the center of the village we were talking to several of them and getting the scoop on what was new – one older guy was very upset because the sun hurt his eyes so badly that he could barely keep them open – a simple pair of sunglasses fixed what to him was a major issue, and again, proved to him that God cares.
Before we left the village for the day we drove the Amazing Fiats waaaaay out in the boonies near the village, and then walked out even further into the bush to a farm where we chose the 2 cows that will be killed and butchered for the dinner – they’ll yield about 450-500lbs of meat combined, which will be enough so that everyone can eat until they are full – a very rare thing in these poverty-stricken villages.
Monday night we got a call from the staff at the rehab center, with the news that Clessio had some sort of tooth infection, and needed to see a dentist, so first thing Tuesday morning we headed off to the rehab to pick him up and get his tooth checked. When we arrived a the rehab I was impressed immediately by the demeanor of the guys – Both Bruno and Clessio, former drug addicts from the streets were clean, sober and cheerful – Bruno was working in the kitchen, and Clessio came out to meet us holding his bible! From street addict to an amazingly satisfied Christian – the change in both Bruno and Clessio is tremendous, and a great encouragement to Mark and Lori in this work with the street kids.
Lori took Clessio off to find a dentist, and the rest of us headed off to the orphanage to get a handle on the kids needs prior to Christmas. Since the Port Authorities finally released the shipping container last week, we wanted to get the kids updated sizes and needs, so clothing outfits could be put together from the donations, and be wrapped for Christmas. Words cannot really explain what goes through your mind when you see these kids – heavy on my mind was the importance that the Lord put on children and his anger at those that would turn them away, or harm them. The conditions in the orphanage are such that they are surviving, but not much beyond that. Pray that God will give guidance as the work with these orphans continues, and plans are worked out to get the kids into a better environment with more education, structure and discipline. The resources that will be needed for this are tremendous, and your prayers for these young boys and girls, as well as the older women that care for them are needed!
After bringing Clessio back to the rehab that night, we headed back to the house, to begin the work for the next day. The girls set about making mango jam in an effort to show the ladies in Aningas how something they have in abundance – mangos – could be turned into a marketable item to provide for their families.
Wednesday was spent opening the boxes from the container and organizing the contents. Tons of clothes, toys, shoes and other items that people donated had to be sorted by size, type etc, so that distribution would be easier. This proved to be a daunting task as the donation boxes seemed endless (a good thing) and it was about 90 degrees in the garage while we were working (definitely a bad thing).
Thursday we started early making the sandwiches and juice for the street kids. 25lbs of meat, 25lbs of cheese, 500 rolls, 20 gallons of juice and hundreds of tracts. It takes all morning to make the sandwiches, so you can get out on the streets at lunchtime. Mark has the coolers mounted in the back of one of the Amazing Fiats, so we could just pull up to a spot, pop the hatch and start serving. Jeremy gave an excellent overview of this last week so I won’t belabor it, however it does bear repeating that this is a very active work, and God’s hand is very visible in it. About 8 or 10 stops throughout the center of the city, with a whole group of young people at each stop – they are fed, get a tract, and listen to an open air message, before going back to their “work” washing peoples windshields and begging. They range from 10 years old to 35, with a few mothers and little kids in the mix. The mood at several of the stops was subdued and somber, due to the fact that on Tuesday one of the regular girls from the first stop, a cute 13year old, was shot and killed while she slept, by her 13yr old boyfriend. This news had spread rapidly, and impacted several of the guys at another stop, so that they were attentive and interested in the gospel. Pray for these kids, that God will preserve them on the streets, and that he’ll work in their hearts to bring about salvation, sobriety and the purposes he has for each of them.
Next week Lord willing they will get a hot meal instead of the sandwiches, and bibles instead of tracts. Pray for this.
The last stop is a little more hectic than the rest as it is much larger and very busy – it started with a bang however as 2 young guys that had been on “the radar” for some time, and were mentioned in Mark’s earlier emails immediately came up and began earnest conversations about getting clean and getting saved.
Levi (pronounced Lev-ee) had been a regular sidekick of Clessio’s, and had wanted to go to rehab and get clean with him, but had a girlfriend and children at home, and couldn’t leave for the 9-month program. Since then however, his girlfriend kicked him out because of his drug use, and he has come to an end of himself, and desperately wants to be clean, and get right with God. In the past week he sold absolutely everything in the house, including food, and his children’s crackers for drugs – he was openly weeping on the street talking to us, and he realizes how out of control his life is…
Junior is also a familiar name – he was the crazy man that came up randomly to Mark and Lori jumping around and yelling that he wanted “what Clessio has” – don’t ask me how these guys hear about these things, but he knew that Clessio was a changed man, and he desperately wanted it…
So finally, with the food cleaned out after this stop, we loaded up Junior and Levi and brought them to the rehab center, where they will detox and begin a 9-month rehab program based on this simple foundation – without God you have no power over Satan and your addiction – with God, you are born again, a changed person, with his power to be victorious over your addiction. In addition to the counseling and rehab activities, they hear the gospel 5 times a day from men who are living testimonies to the life-changing power of salvation.
The day ended with that unplanned, but very exciting event, and we headed home. Remember these guys in your prayers – they are in for a very tough time as they detox and commit to this rehab. No doubt Bruno and Clessio will be great helps to them, but pray that God will continue to work in their hearts, and that they’ll realize the need for salvation, so that they can experience the same life-change that Bruno and Clessio have.
One final word on the street-work; The word has spread through the city about this – the street kids, of which there are thousands, all know about it, and want to be a part of it. They want the tracts, and will ask for them if you forget to give them one. They are impressed with the fact that God loves them – at one stop one of the guys looked sheepishly up at us after hearing the message and said, “You mean Jesus loves me?” Yes. Yes he does.
Friday we had to turn in one of the Amazing Fiats to the rental place and get a pickup to handle the large amounts of food for the various dinners at the orphanage, rehab, Aningas, and the street kids’ hot Christmas meal. Mark, William and I then took the truck to the wholesale food store and loaded up on what was needed – in the parking lot, a boy approached us and started helping Mark haul one of the 3 flatbed carts, which had several hundred bottles of soda on it – Mark asked him who he was and he replied “you feed me on the street” – he then helped us load the truck and refused the few Reais Mark offered, which impressed me greatly as to just how much these kids appreciate and love Mark and Lori for the work they do among them, and the love they have shown to them.
While we were at the food wholesale shop, Lori, Caroline and Shelby stopped by the orphanage to drop off the ingredients for their Christmas dinner, and were met with an interesting situation. The day before, Nicholas, a 13 year old, had fallen out of a tree and broken his wrist – the doctors at the public hospital put a cast on his arm from the wrist to the mid bicep. The problem was that the cast was much too tight and was cutting off circulation to his hand, which was incredibly swollen, and causing extreme pain. Realizing what was causing the swelling and pain, the girls took him to a private clinic where the doctor removed the cast and examined his arm. The doctor was weeping after his exam and said, “they are people just like us, there is no need to treat them like animals”, referring to the orphans. He said that the cast had been cutting off the main veins in the elbow and wrist, and it wouldn’t have taken too much more time before they would have had to amputate the arm. After some new x-rays, and some blood tests to test the oxygen levels, they re-casted the arm, and pronounced him good to go, and after dropping him back off at the orphanage, the girls got home at 2am.
We’re starting our second week here and are very excited for what lies ahead. The week will be busy, but our hope and prayer is that through the dinners and food and activities, God’s care and love will be shown to these poor people, and that through this, they can be pointed to Christ – the ultimate display of God’s love for them. The opportunities for God to work are endless, and I have been impressed at how he directs and opens doors to accomplish his purposes each day.
I’ll wrap up with that – I thought no one would write longer epistles than Mark, but I may have succeeded, so I apologize for the length – chalk it up to my enthusiasm for the subject matter!
Mike & Shelby