The Truth Sets You Free

I’m so thankful for this day and all it represents, in the United States. Here, it is a celebration for me, too. It’s not a national holiday in Brazil. But three years ago today, we brought Renato to the rehab. He lived on the streets, addicted to crack cocaine. He went to the rehab with one pair of shorts; he was wearing them.
Today, he’s still living at the rehab. He has a job in Ponta Negra, that he goes to every day. He’s a help to Murilo at the rehab. He’s recently started dating a really sweet Christian girl.

Renato has been set free. He knows, and tells everyone, that only God can truly free us from sin and from ourselves. I’m so thankful for the living proof of Renato’s life, that Jesus Christ is still saving souls and redeeming lives.

Happy Three Years Free, Renato!


And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.
So if the Son liberates you [makes you free men], then you are really and unquestionably free. (‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭32, 36‬ AMP)


20130819_untitled_0108kaitlyn, renato and eric

The stories, sometimes, are sad ones. Stories of men who have come hoping for freedom, praying for strength, that leave and fall back into drugs and drink and life on the street. Those stories can pile up and make us wonder if there’s any hope for any of them and then along comes a Clessio.

And our eyes are opened again to the greatness of our God and the wonder of a life completely transformed by the Gospel of Grace. When he’s taken home to heaven, we think too early, but we do not know the end from the beginning. So we wait again, lead these broken men to the door of the rehab and pray long and hard that they will make it.

And Renato does.

We visit him at work. He’s smiling when he sees us, genuine joy as he watches us make our way across the street to the shop. He’s wearing a bright orange shirt and he shyly shows off his sweet smile, teeth all fixed after his visit to the dentist.

When Lori took him, he sat outside in the waiting room with Stephanie. A little girl, bored and waiting too, started pestering, asking questions:

“Why are you here?”

“To get my teeth fixed.”

“Who brought you?”

“My mom.”

He’s 25, an addict with teeth rotted from crack, and the people that love him, the lady who brought him to the dentist, he calls her mom because that’s who she is to him.

Renato works for a christian family who owns a clothing and accessories store. Taking care of the pet store, complete with guinea pig and dog food, was Renato’s first job. They closed the pet store, expanded the other half of their business, and decided to keep Renato on. He’s a hard worker and they want to help him as he puts his life back together. Having a boss who lives for Christ keeps him accountable. It means he’s got someone there who can help, can keep an eye on him– someone who doesn’t mind seeing Renato’s bible sitting on the counter where he reads when business is slow.


He stands under bags and shirts hanging for sale in front of the store and talks to us about his struggle to get to this point in the war against his addictions.

What can he do now? How can it be more than just a constant struggle on his own?

He’s not alone and it’s not just him– he’s got a family, he’s got a Savior who will never leave him or forsake him. And there’s a lot of other men struggling right beside him.


Do you think you can be a help?

He looks at us and nods. Yes. “I can, I can help. I can give them the Word.”

The Word that is life. That can cure. That’s real victory. No one’s telling them it’ll be easy. This isn’t a one and done, come and go and your cured. It’ll be an all your life, all the time kind of battle, but isn’t that the flesh? We all fight. Only Christ wins.

Renato says it plain: “The first time you come you’re not going to want it. You have to want it. Not for your family, but for yourself. You have to really want it. Not to show anyone else.”

And there we are, all of us sinners, tripping and falling so long on how to get past the loving our sin, trying so hard to live Christian-like without the Light and it never works. We have to really want it, His free gift, or we’ll never get it.

Renato smiles again, peaceful. This crack-addicted, shell of man has been set free.

And he knows this: “It wasn’t by my own strength, it was from Him.”

For by grace.


Murilo Update

Here’s the news about Murilo:
He did have a stroke, but he’s doing OK, thank God.
He had been driving, when he passed out. The car hit the median and his wife stopped it with the emergency brake. He got to the hospital quickly and they were able to stabilize him.
He’s in pretty good spirits; he’s shaken up, but trusting God through this. He’s going to have to rest and take it easy for a while and that won’t be easy for him. During this time, his son Marcos will be in charge at the rehab.
The best news of his day was to hear that many of you are praying for him. We were very thankful to be able to tell him that, and so relieved to know he’s on the mend.
Thank you so much for your prayer.

While you also cooperate by your prayers for us [helping and laboring together with us]. Thus [the lips of] many persons [turned toward God will eventually] give thanks on our behalf for the grace (the blessing of deliverance) granted us at the request of the many who have prayed.
(2 Corinthians 1:11 AMP)


My son William is 15 years old. His life is about school and friends and his dirt bike.

Evanilson was 15. His life was about living on the streets, drugs, crime and running away from danger. This week he was killed, when all of those things that made up his life caught up with him.


I remember the first time that we took him to the rehab. They asked him what drugs he did and his response was, “Anything and everything anyone puts in front of me.”

The last time I saw him was on the street corner in Petropolis. I gave him a bag full of sandwiches and filled a bottle with juice and watched him walk away and around the corner.

God help me to love more and go after the lost, like today might be the last time I see them. Because it might be.


Jesus said: We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. (John 9:4 HCSB)

Nova Aliança Rehabilitation Center

It’s a place where God can come in to break the chains of their addictions and break the chains that bind them in sin.

Mark speaks about discovering Murillo’s rehab center and helping those with drug addictions.



Renato at Work

Renato helps a customer at the pet shop where he works. He bikes there at 5:30am and gets back to the rehab around 6:30pm. He keeps his Bible on the counter and reads when business is slow.

photo 1


photo 2


photo 3


Let Freedom Ring and Reign!

Last year on the Fourth of July, we picked up Renato on the street corner and took him to the rehab. He was the biggest mess you ever saw, with an eye swollen shut and open sores on his face. Someone had smashed his face with a cement block, as he was sleeping on the sidewalk. He was wearing a pair of raggedy shorts. That’s all.

Renato had two surgeries, for broken bones in his face and eye. Slowly he cleaned up and cheered up. He professed to be saved. He asked if he could call us Mom and Dad, because he doesn’t remember his parents and he’s never had anyone just for him.

Two months ago, the doctor that visits and helps at the rehab, hired him to work in his family’s pet store. Renato leaves the rehab at 5:00 a.m. and bicycles to work, about 5 miles away. He gets back to the rehab at 7:00 p.m.



Monday we stayed at the rehab till he got back from work. After hugs he asked us, “Do you know what this Thursday is?”

“Yes, filho, we know,” we said.

“It’s my one year anniversary! he said.

Renato is the reason why we are here. For one more soul like this, we pray every day. And go after them all like there is no such thing as failure.

I’m so thankful today for the absolute freedom found in Jesus Christ. Let freedom reign in our hearts and in our souls.

Nova Aliança Rehab Center – Murillo’s Story

Murillo asked to be locked in the church. Thirty days. A desperate crack addict, he knew he needed help and his mother’s priest said nothing could be done. But Pastor Solomon agreed to try.

“He said, ‘I know nothing about drugs, but I’ll help you. I can lock you up, and I’ll try to find out everything I can to help you,’” Murillo says, remembering. Knowing it was his best chance of getting clean, Murillo agreed. One month later, he was ready to leave, ready to pursue a new dream of opening a rehab center for men just as broken and bound by addictions.



During his stay at the church he heard God’s call on his life. “I was resistant to the Word at first. In the middle of treatment someone was preaching and it was love that they showed me. I felt this love and I felt like I had a bigger family by my side that was always worried about me. I thank God for the brothers and sisters who were there.”

He realized his testimony could be used to help others battling the same problems. “I was sweating and shaking and I started dreaming. I started to dream and write down my dreams and you’re sitting in my dream now,” he says, pointing at the walls of his office at the Nova Aliança Rehab Center.


Murillo’s new rehab center is down the road from his original location. He built up a beautiful facility on rented land, but when the man who owned the property decided he wanted Murillo off, the guys packed up what they could and started over in a new place.

The new spot is beautiful, an old farm with a sprawling view of green fields and cattle grazing behind what now serves as the main office building. “I looked for a place that would be comfortable and pleasant because you have to have something that replaces the drug,” Murillo says. Before opening his own, he visited different rehab centers, taking notes of things he saw, what worked, what he wanted to recreate. “I went to bible study, took Christian life courses and as many bible study courses as I could. This, what we have here,” he says speaking of Nova Alianca, “it’s a missionary project.”

In the eight years since he’s been running the rehab, over 4,000 men have come. Of those 4,000, one to two hundred are clean at max. “Only the ones that truly submit to the process succeed. The ones that last are the ones that truly got to know God.” Currently, there are about 70 guys in the program. They eat, sleep, work, and study the Word of God. They wake up at 5:45 and have devotional time until 6:30. From eight to eleven they do whatever work they have been assigned, taking care of animals, cooking, cleaning, laundry. They rest at eleven, followed by lunch at noon. After a midday nap, the 1:45 wake-up horn sounds and they have bible study from two to three or four.

“Many of the guys here are from Christian families,” Murillo says. “They grow up and are curious and they think they want to experience something…like the prodigal son. I remember him when I see these kids. They are at the point of eating pig’s food and they want to come back. Thank God He goes after them.” Murillo used drugs for fifteen years. He started with drinking and soon experimented with inhalants. “I had sniffed Lolo (a strong inhalant) and the next step was easy, so I tried it. I never thought it would trap me.” That thinking traps so many of these guys that find themselves at Nova Aliança. They cannot fix themselves. “I’m the proof of that,” Murillo says, “I had tried before.” Only 200 hundred of 4,000 are clean today. Murillo has seen them fall. “I suffered so much when I saw these guys go back. But I understand that what I’m called to do is to go and preach the gospel. Sometimes they confess, but God is the one who saves. We suffer because we believe in certain people but then it’s wasted, the world suffocates the Word. The bible says who is born of God overcomes the world.”

Murillo gives a tour of the center, points out the work being done on the kitchen, the fields they’ve rented to people who want to graze cattle, the new rubber floor mats that were donated for the outdoor gym. He talks about his plans to clean up the pond down the hill to raise fish to help feed the guys. They’re working on a place upstairs in the office building for a doctor. All of these projects, all of these drug addicts needing support, and yet Murillo knows he isn’t doing this alone. “God meets our needs. I never feel like I need to turn anyone away because of funds. Sometimes they arrive with only the clothes on their body. The just will live by faith. Without faith it’s impossible to please God, so we have to rest in Him. It makes Him happy.” The work here is never done. “It’s a constant battle with the enemy, Murillo says, we need spiritual courage. Pray that He saves and brings light and strength. The prayer of a righteous man availeth much, how much more will the prayer of many. I have no doubt that I’m on my feet here because of so many people praying for this work.”

Outside the office the guys gather for bible study, taking their places on the donated blue airport benches. It’s warm and sunny, but they rub away grog from their naps and open their bibles. Murillo is off to run another errand, his phone ringing again as he waves goodbye. Nova Aliança, this rehab center Murillo dreamed and started, it’s a refuge. “It’s by grace,” Murillo says, “It doesn’t come from me. I don’t want to glory in it.” It’s a place for street kids, men broken and bound, it’s a place where God can come in to break the chains of their addictions and break the chains that bind them in sin. For by grace. One of the best ways to keep their mind off addictions is to keep these guys busy. That’s easy enough considering Murillo just moved to this new location and there’s plenty of work to do. One of the guys, Luciano, is an alcoholic. But before that he was a mason. Now, one of his primary jobs at the rehab is to renovate the kitchen. One half of it, the food prep area, is pretty well finished. In accordance with the Board of Health regulations, white ceramic tiles cover the floors and six feet up the walls. It’s spotless, washed clean after every meal. On the other side of the wall, the unfinished half of the kitchen still needs work. The floor, crushed up pieces of cement and broken tile, will need to be leveled, cement poured, and then tiled. By our next visit, less than a week later, the floor is already level and cemented.

Unlike most places in this part of Brazil, Murillo doesn’t waste time getting things accomplished. Things are organized, scheduled, and when something needs doing, it gets done. Outside the kitchen area, the guys show us their soap-making room. Bottles of green, purple, and white disinfectant soaps are stacked in neat rows, filling plastic crates ready for sale. They recycle two-liter soda bottles, scrubbing and washing them outside and then organizing them to be filled inside. There are two cement washing sinks filled with bottles caps ready for use. The guys are eager to show us their finished product. They smell fresh, clean, lavender, citrus. Ricardo is one of the guys who takes the soaps to sell in the city. The two-liter bottles sell for five reais (about $2.50). They go door to door in the mornings, and then sell at the street lights in the afternoons. The guys responsible for producing and selling the soap, like Ricardo, get a cut of the profits to save for when they are ready to leave the rehab. Jobs like these give them a sense of purpose. Saving money helps them prepare for the future. And as they work together to provide for the rehab, and to work to make it more functional, they take pride in their responsibilities.

Without Strength

I hate crack. I hate what it does to lives. I hate the power it has to strip a soul of everything but the desperate, pathetic craving for more and more of its poison. I ache with the longing to annihilate every trace of it from every street and alley and favela. The smell of it makes me sick and the sight of a hand cupped around a match, head lowered to smoke it, makes my stomach drop right to my feet with despair.

Yesterday, Manoel wanted to go to the rehab. He said he would go, so we went to pick him up. He is sick, beyond thin, and weak. He has no money, no food, and he has sold everything but the shorts he was wearing.

Manoel is the brother of our sister in Christ, Inaçia. He was living on the street in Brasilia, and desperately needed help, so in December we bought him a bus ticket and brought him here. He lived with us through February, professed to be saved, and was doing great. He got a job at a hotel in the city, went to live in the city, and was working full time. But he says that crack has never stopped calling to him. He says that he is saved, but he is afraid that he won’t be able to resist this despicable drug. He sat in the office at the rehab and cried. I felt helpless and very tired and weak.

I know that the God I serve is greater than the enemy. But today I’m feeling the enormous burden of the fight. And I’m asking God why the victories are so few. I can’t stop thinking of Manoel crying at the rehab. I’m praying that he doesn’t leave. I’m praying that God takes over and gives Manoel His peace, His love and His victorious power over sin.

I don’t like feeling broken and helpless in this huge battle. But I am asking God to keep breaking my heart for His service. In this place of brokenness I am better aligned with His heart and better suited to His work. And in my helplessness He comes in and takes charge.


He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. (Isaiah 40:29 NKJV)

Rehab Visit

The girls from Aningas–Nadine, Natalia, Layane and Rita–have been missing the weekly trips with us to the favelas and on the streets. We haven’t taken them since all the street killings started.  So, we spent a day visiting the rehab and the Lar Bom Jesus. I love driving along with these girls. It’s non-stop chatter and giggles and singing at the top of their (our!) lungs. Then, when there’s a lull in all that, they start asking God-questions and questions about their walk with Him. This is the good stuff. I love, love, love these girls!




That you may walk (live and conduct yourselves) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God [with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, acquaintance, and recognition]. (Colossians 1:10 AMP)