Grace and Truth

Some things were just meant to go together, like peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, Bonnie and Clyde, and Batman and Robin. Alone they are okay, but when they are combined…wow…the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. While in Brazil last week God showed me that the same principle is true (and necessary) for any gospel outreach to be successful. What possibly could go hand in hand, be so intimately associated, that when combined the gospel becomes so attractive and people of all ages reach out for it? Grace and Truth.

John 1:14 tells us, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” How was it that the Savior reached so many needy souls while here? Grace and Truth. How was it that you and I were saved? Grace and Truth. How then should we be presenting the gospel to others? Grace and Truth. “Grace” being kindness bestowed which one does not deserve, that which affords joy, pleasure and good-will. “And,” herenot meaning just that which connects things, but implying equivalence and balance. “Truth,” here being not just fact, but specifically, that which the gospel is.

I’m not sure why it took a 6500 mile trip to Natal, Brazil to teach me this lesson, but it did. I’d like to think it was a just change of scenery or perhaps the 10 days away from the magnetic pull of my Blackberry that was all God needed to speak to me…but I would only be deceiving myself if I allowed myself to think that. Rather, it was the removal from an environment of self-sufficiency and self-dependence (that I seem to cherish so much) that was necessary to break through my unyielding heart.


While in Brazil I saw firsthand the synergy that occurs when Grace and Truth are employed together. I saw it everyday, in many different forms. While dropping off Christmas dinner at the orphanage in Pium I witnessed complete strangers stopping by unannounced to drop off bags of cement to be used for the completion of a new building. Cleide, who runs the orphanage, told us she had no idea who they were and that they were from another country and didn’t even speak Portuguese! While at the Rodoviária (bus station) street stop handing out rice, beans and juice I witnessed bus drivers pulling over (holding up traffic) and opening their doors to ask for the tracts and calendars, while those riding the bus reached out of their windows and banged the sides of the bus to get our attention so they could get the tracts themselves! While at the rehab center delivering turkeys and rice for Christmas dinner I watched as a church group sang hymns and opened the Bible during one of the three sessions a day the men receiving treatment there are required to listen to the gospel. While in the favela infamously called Mosquito, I witnessed over 100 men, woman and children pour out of their makeshift homes with various pots and pans and patiently stand in line in 100 °F temperatures to receive rice, beans, juice and a tract. While in Aningas, at the Sunday night gospel meeting, I witnessed children of all ages who likely never heard the gospel four years ago, recite and reference verses perfectly while happily answering questions about the Bible, God and salvation.

I can’t list all the accounts I saw firsthand where misfortune was met with Grace and Truth during my visit to Brazil. All I can attest to is that Grace and Truth works. Perhaps not in the timeframe that we here in the US would like to see results, but working according to God’s timing. People here have been saved by God’s grace because they have been afforded Grace and Truth. Time and effort has been taken to build relationships and in doing so doors have been opened (literally), providing an environment for God to come in and save. Sure, summer tents could be set up here, tracts could be delivered door to door and weekly gospel meetings could be held in various local towns, but they likely would be lacking the Grace and Truth that our Savior Himself prescribed. He could have healed the leper by simply saying the words, but instead He took the time to touch him. He could have healed Jarius’s daughter where He was, but instead He went to her home and taking her hand raised her from the dead. Sure, He could have sent the 5000 away with an eloquent message, but instead He fed them with a few loaves and fishes. In fact, He could have come from heaven and gone directly to the cross, but He came and “dwelt among us” for 30+ years in order to minister unto us. Why? Grace and Truth – they are inseparable, always together and they are the means of setting people free through Christ. John 8:36 tells us “if the Son (full of grace and truth) sets you free, you will be free indeed.”


Here at home in the States we have gospel outreaches too. We reach out to our communities in a number of ways; tent meetings, vacation Bible schools, Sunday School, Sunday night gospel meetings, mall and fair kiosks, mailings, billboards and newspaper advertisements, rehab, prison and nursing home visits also mark our calendars. We see some interest; a few even respond and are saved by the grace of God. But why only a few? Are we not preaching the same gospel as our Savior and the Apostles? Yes, we are…but for the most part, these opportunities are sporadic, often annual occurrences, or provide only limited prospect for building relationships. We ask people to come to where we are, rarely follow-up with them, and almost never do anything for them without preaching at them first. For the most part our testimonies in our neighborhoods and workplaces, where relationships could be cultured and forged, are restricted to simple greetings and occasional invitations to hall functions. We like to think we “live the Truth” before them, in the hope that they will someday want to have what we portray we have. Would it be too bold to suggest that while we commendably profess the Truth we, generally speaking, are lacking in showing Grace… I know that I do. How about you?

Grace and Truth doesn’t only work in impoverished places like we find in Brazil. Take a moment to think of the relationships you have been a part of that have brought spiritual blessings. Perhaps a Sunday School student who after years of learning verses and Bible stories came to understand their personal need of a Savior. Maybe a friend at school, who over lunch time you have been telling them about Jesus and how He has changed your life, and this then led to them coming to hear the gospel and being saved. Perhaps a fellow worker, who after years of working side by side with you and showing yourself friendly, came to you in a time of crisis, and this then opened the door to speak a word in the gospel. How did these things come to be? Grace and Truth. Not all of us will have the opportunity to travel to Brazil and experience what I and others have experienced alongside Mark and Lori and Vá Livre. But all of us have the opportunity to exercise Grace and Truth amongst the many needy and unsaved where we live, within our own sphere of influence. May God give us the desire to do so today.


“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

Mark Williamson

Healing Sorrow

Ana Ester, a two- year- old at Cleide’s (the orphanage we’ve helped since 2007) died this week. She drowned in the river near the orphanage property. Her sister, Elaine, was right with her when she fell in. Ana was pulled into a deep hole by a very strong current/whirlpool thing that is common here. Her little body was recovered many feet into this hole. She leaves three sisters at the orphanage: Elaine (14), Aline (10), and Alissa (5).


The very next day, I sorrowed for another kind of loss, as I spent the day with a 14- year- old girl. She was rescued during a police raid on the house she was living in. At eight-years-old, her mother sent her to live with a 65-year-old man; he used and abused her. Her mother gave her crack so she could bear it. Her name is Tália. She doesn’t talk.


This kind of sorrow is like an anger that HATES sin and ruin and evil. My tears stay deep inside me and they don’t surface. The Lord Jesus Christ draws very near; He is the Man of Sorrows. My prayer to Him has no words; it’s just a longing for His return, because, then, there will be no more sin, no more sorrow, no more tears, and children like Tália will not remember their suffering.


I love His answer to me, which I heard when I came home and shut the door and opened His Word: Into the hovels of the poor, into the dark streets where the homeless groan, God speaks, “I’ve had enough; I’m on my way to heal the ache in the heart of the wretched.”   Psalm 12:5

Clearing the Orphanage Property

Property being cleared – all by hand…
Will tries his hand at the ax
Village kids look on with interest
This is easy diggin’!
Delivery of rocks, sand and cement
There is as much playing going on as working!
Any of the kids who want to, can help work!
Cutting a new handle for the axe, from a tree branch
Will tries his hand at milking!
Fence and the Orphanage Property

My boys…

Pictures and More!

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Dad praying with the street kids.

Dad with city workers, we feed them also

Dad giving the street kids a Gospel message

Our mobile canteen

Some of the circus kids

To-To lives on this skate board, begging on the street

John should be dead, however God spared him.
Drug dealers guns misfired, allowing him enough time to run.

Up to 550 sandwiches every Thursday.

Lori treating some of their wounds

Street kid washing a trucks windshield

Two young boys who live on the street

This boy can’t read, so Lori’s reading the gospel paper to him

Adriano road his bike fifteen miles to find us and tell us about his salvation,

This picture was taken on thursday – by sunday frank had been shot and killed.
(franks the middle kid)

The circus people’s trailers

The trucks that God provided us

The road to Aningas

William working on the Galpao

Paulo, one of my guys

Mateus, one of my guys

Leandro, one of my guys

Loved having my brother, was a great help

William with an Aningas creature

The finished sewing room in Galpao

Building completed

Luiz and his family were to be killed on Monday, because of a debt to drug dealers.
At the last minute, he was able to borrow $75.00 and his life for the moment was spared.
He has wife and two children.

Lori praying for his salvation and preservation


Aningas property owners, land for orphanage, outside town hall, father and son

Praying before going in to make land purchase

Inside town hall buying the land

Official documentation for proof of ownership, thank God another answered prayer

Moving one of the christians

Kids having fun on the beach, not all about work

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,

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