Lydia Remembers Clessio

Lydia Perkins remembers meeting Clessio:

Clessio. I only met him once, in December of 2009. I had heard a lot about Clessio from Mark and Lori, and had been praying for him before I met him. When we stopped by the rehab one day, Clessio was there. In a rehab facility, you meet different kinds of people. Many have a familiar look of absolute hopelessness deep in their soul and you know they are in rehab because of a desperate search for something better. It took one look at Clessio to realize he found “something better”. I don’t speak a word of Portuguese, but it was crystal clear that Clessio had true peace. He was enthusiastic about Christ. It was evident in the tone of his voice, the look on his face. He had incredible joy. The impression that he made was strong, because of the contentment and joy he exhibited. I am so thankful that Clessio was ready to go home to heaven. He leaves big shoes to fill. I think of the verse that speaks of the joy in heaven over one sinner that repents, and I can hardly imagine the joy in heaven over Clessio’s welcome home.


Let My Heart Be After You

Driving home from UConn the other day, I had my iPod on shuffle. The song “Garden,” by Needtobreathe came on and made me think of Clessio: “If tomorrow means my death/ Pray you’ll save their souls with it./ Let the songs I sing bring joy to you/ Let the words I say confess my love/ Let the notes I choose be your favorite tune/ Father let my heart be after you.”

The thing that stood out the most about Clessio was just that: his heart was after Christ. For being saved only sixteen months, he radiated with peace and a passion to share it with others. You didn’t need to spend more than ten minutes with him for this to become obvious.

Lori and Clessio at the smaller rehab facility

I met Clessio in the summer of 2009 when we went to the rehab center to bring him some food staples and toiletries. He was very excited to show us around the center, the small garden, the workout area and the pool. More than those things, he wanted to show us his bedroom. Nothing grandiose, of course; just a small room with double bunkbeds and some furniture. But it was his.

One of his friends was in the room at the time. As Clessio was talking to Lori and my dad about how changed his life was, his friend made some interjection. And with that, Clessio began explaining to him how he too could have this peace. I don’t remember exactly what Clessio said but his confidence in Christ struck me. He was seizing even the smallest opportunity and proclaiming the good news, as we all should be.

Walking with a smile

The last time I saw him, he was 8 months drug-free, looking healthier and happier than ever. He was at a smaller branch of the same rehab center, just down the road from the old place. He was pleased that there were fewer people there and said it was easier to foster friendships at the smaller facility. Kate and I listened while he chatted with Lori, sharing with her scripture he had been enjoying recently.

Before leaving that day, we gave him one of the bracelets we had made for distribution on the streets. It was a thin piece of twine with six colored beads. The attached paper was a gospel message in Portuguese that explained the bracelet. Clessio nodded his head in agreement while he read the paper, all the while smiling. He thanked us for the gift and thanked Christ for saving him. He told us that if the Lord hadn’t saved him when He did, he doubted he would still be alive.

Clessio’s salvation was an awesome testimony to God’s power and he knew it. Truly, he had become a new creature, transformed from a homeless, helpless, sinful drug addict to a confident and peaceful man who had an eternal home in Heaven. He strongly desired for his friends to be saved and their lives to be changed like his had been. Even in the final moments of his life, Clessio was telling others of Christ’s love.

Since the moment of his salvation, Clessio’s life was a confession of the love of God. He didn’t hide it under a bushel, no! He let it shine in all its glory and shared it with everyone. His testimony should be a challenge to our every heart. He only had sixteen months. How long has it been since Christ saved you? How much of that time has been lived for Him? Like Clessio, may our hearts be after Christ and may we share the joy of our salvation with the world.

Clessio: A Life Poured Out

The first time I met Clessio he was rubbing sleep from his eyes after an afternoon nap. He’d heard Mark and Lori had come to visit and came to meet us in the office. He was happy to give us a tour, showing us around the rehab center, all the while explaining the different ways Christ was working in his life through this place. He showed us the makeshift kitchen, the workout area, his neatly made bunk, and the areas outside under the trees where they read and prayed and studied the Bible. He spoke of the grace of God in saving him from the darkness of his addictions and giving him new life. Watching him there, peace so evident in his eyes, I was amazed.

During our month there, Stephanie and I went with Lori to visit Clessio a number of times. Every time he would come out to meet us as we pulled in, a smile on his face and something new to share about his love for Christ. One night while were busy running errands in the city, Clessio called about seven times trying to get a hold of Lori. The next day she called to talk to him. He had simply wanted to share what he’d been reading and learning in the scriptures. Clessio had a passion for reading and sharing the Word that inspired me.


Steph and me with Clessio at the rehab center

The last time we saw him, he’d moved to the smaller rehab facility. He showed us the hammock he’d been sleeping in and smiled, telling us how he liked the quietness of this place because it gave him more time alone with God. He held the bracelet we gave him in his hands, running the thread through his fingers as Lori told the significance of the colors- red for His blood that washes us pure and white.

I’ll never forget Clessio, his dark eyes bright with love for Christ. Those few times I met him changed me in the ways that they challenged me. Here was a young man who had spent most of his life trapped in darkness, living on the street. The moment he trusted Christ he was forever changed and it was evident to everyone who met him. He’s gone now and we’re left wondering why. The Lord took him home and we wonder why so soon. Why Clessio? But He promises that even when we don’t understand He has the perfect plan for each life (Jeremiah 29:11). While we wait and wonder here, let’s follow Clessio’s passionate example in living a poured out life of service and love for our Savior.

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.


Meeting Clessio

I met Clessio only once. It was during a visit to the rehab center where he had been an example to the other recovering addicts. He was sitting in the office with Murillo upon our arrival, waiting for Lori to arrive and take him to the dentist. He shook my hand with a smile on his face. There was no hiding the joy that was in this young man’s soul. That was the extent of our meeting. Before he climbed into Lori’s car, he spoke with Mark. With Lori translating he told him of something he had enjoyed in his reading of scripture.

After hearing about his homecall yesterday, I sat in disbelief. I thanked God that he had found Christ, his Savior. I also thanked God for the incredible testimony he was for the Gospel, and the amazing example he had been to others struggling with the battle of drug addiction. I wondered why God would allow the life of one to be taken, one who had tremendous zeal. Then there is me, one who should be more zealous, one who should have more fire for the Kingdom of God. I’m still here. Clessio is not. Though I met him only once, his life, his recovery, his zeal, and his desire to live for Christ continue to speak to me, especially now that he has gone home to Heaven. It is my prayer, and it is an expectant one, that Clessio’s death will bring eternal life to the many that knew him who are still lost in their sins. Clessio will be missed, but not forgotten, and it is only a matter of time before our next meeting. This one will not be a brief few minutes, such as the one over a year ago at the rehab, but it will be an eternal meeting with Christ in our midst when we finally get home to Heaven.



Home Call of Clessio

Clessio giving a tour of the rehabilitation center

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15

Enio opened the door of the truck for me, as soon as the truck stopped today, in Igapó. “Clessio was killed,” he said.
“He came home from work, took off his hat and started to sit down when three kids broke into the house carrying huge guns. They told my wife to take the children out and said they had come for Clessio. Clessio did not recognize them, but told them that they did not want to do this. He said, ‘I am saved; I have Jesus in my heart. You need to be saved. He will change your life.’ They started to shoot and they kept shooting until he fell to the ground. He was dead.”

Clessio was saved in October 2009. He came off the streets, got saved and spent one year in rehab. He memorized scripture continually while there. The rehab director, Murillo, once told me, “That boy of yours, Clessio, he is something special.”

Clessio by his bunk

Clessio was burdened about his friends still on the streets. The last thing he said to me was, “Mae, (he called me mom) when I go to see them, I think of where I was and I feel so sad for them that they’re still there.”

A large group gathered around us tonight. No one can figure out why this happened. Clessio was working full time, his life was changed, and he was trying to help others. Enio said it best: “Clessio was ready to die and he died telling his killers about Jesus.”

So, we asked the group, “If this had been you that died, where would you be?”

Clessio telling us about his Savior

Pray for Clessio’s friends that are still on the streets. Pray for Clessio’s mom who is not saved, his two unsaved brothers-Cleberton and Clayton-and for his grandmother who is saved. Lord Willing, we will visit them on Saturday or Monday in João Camara, about two hours from Natal.

Clessio is Home with our Savior. And we are left feeling so very Homesick.

A smile and at peace

How Do I Love Thee

We’re winding down here, before our trip home on Thursday, but today and tomorrow are packed with lists that are Brazil-defying. We have thrown the gauntlet at the Northeastern Brazil culture and are ramping up for another whirlwind of activity today and tomorrow.
Mark and I have been thinking about the blessings that we have seen, in what will be one year’s time on 8 July.
Here are some things for which to give thanks:
1. Cleide and 20 kids flourishing….Spent hours there yesterday making salvation bracelets with the kids-to take to the streets with us tomorrow-and playing,  and singing S.S. choruses! The farm is immaculate, organized…..Pinch me, God is real! A new baby arrived while we were there; 2 days old, no name.
2. Clessio, at the rehab., is now preaching to me. He calls me to quote scripture and tell me what it says in the Bible.
3. The cleaning of the Orphanage-site is starting! The land looks beautiful.
4. The kids on the street truly see God in us and really know it’s love that constrains us. To God only be all the Glory.
5. We have had TWO Sunday night Gospel efforts at the newly remodeled Galpão. The girls estimated 100 people at the second, this past Sunday night! We sang our first hymn with everyone this second week. It was really pathetic; OK, worse than pathetic, but you have to start somewhere! One of the teenage girls who has been in the lessons Steph. and Katie have had for the past month, asked me to study the Bible with her and a group of interested teenage girls!
6. Sunday School lessons have been established on Tuesdays and Fridays at 1:00 p.m. in Aningas. A steady 30 kids have been attending for one month now.
7. You have been so faithful in prayer and support for God’s work here.
To quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning-with God in mind:

“How Do I Love THEE
Let me count the ways….”

They really are innumerable.
We’re sorry that we won’t be able to see many of you during the 2 short weeks that we’ll be home, but we love and appreciate your e-mails and thought, and we covet your prayer.

Mark and Lori

Brazil Update for 4/24/2010

Someone flipped a switch.

The “on” position referred to rain, and it wasted no time in getting started. March was an incredibly hot month with clear blue skies every day; then April came, and with it, rain. The skies are now filled with clouds, the sun is desperately trying to peak through, and the humidity is hanging like a weight on your shoulders; the heat is oppressive-sapping you of all your energy and strength. The constant wind that we have counted on for comfort is often nowhere to be found and things have become very uncomfortable.

Our house has many openings that are impossible to close off to the outside, so this morning I had to navigate large puddles in attempting to make the breakfast table. William did his usual boing-ing out of bed and running for the stairs like Christmas morning, only to find himself flat out on his back, lying in one of the many indoor lakes. The roads here have no drainage whatsoever so, often the streets are flooded with huge puddles. Last year we were driving small Fiats with very little road clearance. I would drive up to the water’s edge, kick off my shoes, roll up my pant legs, and wade into the center, making sure we could pass before attempting the ocean crossing. Thank God He’s provided us two vehicles that are capable of rough roads as well as water crossings.

What an answer to prayer and another hurdle that God has helped us over: finding us vehicles perfect for the work He’s called us to, here in Brazil. Cars are so expensive here, used vehicles are a real gamble, corrosion is a huge problem because of the ocean air, and the roads are awful, taking their toll on any of the vehicles used around Natal. Some of the speed bumps are so high you’ll hang up and drag if you don’t cross them on the diagonal.

One night, Lori and I were desperately looking online for a car in the Natal area when we saw what looked like a nice little SUV. It was two years old, had low mileage, and was seemingly well-maintained. The contact person’s name was Nildo. When we contacted Nildo, we found out the vehicle was nowhere near Natal, but rather about twenty hours inland in the city of Brasilia. Brasilia is a fairly brand-new city, built to be the capital and pride and joy of Brazil. It is flawlessly designed with perfect roads, no speed bumps, and is far from salt-saturated air. Nildo willingly drove the twenty hours to Natal just so we could look at his truck. As soon as we saw it, we were re-affirmed that God was answering prayer, meeting our needs, and working far outside our pre-conceived boundaries. It was a black truck (Lori’s preferred color) with black leather interior (Lori’s preferred choice) and it was perfect, as if never driven. Nildo was an obvious fanatic-the kind I often made fun of!- but just the guy you’re not making fun of when you need to buy a used car. It was a five week process before the truck was in our possession. At times, it looked as if it might never happen. The constant complications were mind boggling, but she has it now, loves it, and it serves our need perfectly.

I was still in search of a pickup for myself, over and over again coming up empty. The trucks were beat, the mileage high, and the prices out of this world. I found one truck at a dealership and he accepted my offer. When Lori went to transfer funds, he informed her that there was a small lien on the vehicle. “No problem,” he said. “Give me the money, I’ll pay off the lien, and in a few weeks the truck will be yours.”

Hmm. What would you do? We walked away from that deal. Only days later, Nildo called from Brasilia. He had found me a truck. It was perfect, it had low miles, it was the model and color I wanted and thought I would never find, and it was priced considerably less than anything we had been pricing here. It was a close friend of his that was selling. If we were still looking, he said that he would put it on a truck and ship it to Natal for us to inspect. We both thanked God, and agreed to buy the truck on Nildo’s word, sight unseen. I picked it up a week later and it was all he he claimed it was. It’s perfect; it has been meticulously maintained. I’m sure that only since it’s been in my possession, has it ever been used as a truck. We are so thankful that again God has proven to be a kind and reliable master, who provides abundantly for His servants. What a huge blessing to have that behind us, and no longer have to pay ridiculous rental fees that added up to a small fortune over the last eight months.

We bumped the number to five hundred and fifty, because we kept running out. I would close the bin at the second-to-last stop, knowing there wasn’t enough sandwiches to cover the multitude waiting at the last stop.  While we would have been so excited to see God multiply the bread and mozzarella-mortadella, we arrived at the last stop, opened the bin, and realized that God just wanted us to use commonsense and order more.  I wasn’t expecting to open and see a full bin, but every time I reached in I wanted to come up with another sandwich.

Two weeks ago, we arrived at one of our stops to be greeted by a young man who had ridden his bike about fifteen miles from his home, waiting the day at our last stop, hoping to see us. I didn’t recognize him, but immediately Lori knew who he was-Adriano. Clean cut and dressed in nice clothes, he had a big smile on his face. He had come and waited for us-to tell us that God has saved his soul! He was living with his family now, far from the Ponta Negra stop, where he once washed car windows and waited with his buddies for our arrival on Thursdays. He wanted us to know what it was that made God become real to him, made him realize that a new life was possible, and convicted and convinced him of God’s personal love for him: the distance we travelled to bring him the Gospel!

What a thrill it is, to be passing out sandwiches and juice and God’s Word, while seeing fruit from your labor standing right before your eyes. We had the chance to talk with him after the hungry were fed, and you could see on his face the joy that God had now placed deep within his heart. Staying in touch with these kids is very difficult with no means of contact, but he promised to find us, once in a while on Thursdays.

The circus is in town. We saw the big tent being set up when we arrived at our Machadão stop, right in the center of Natal. Surrounding the filthy dirty tent, were twenty little camping trailers, hardly fit as shelter for a pet, and hardly road-worthy. There was one larger wreck-of-a-trailer that I guessed was the communal showers and bathroom because it had a large drain pipe that exited the trailer’s back and dumped into a large hole that had been dug in the ground.

This happy environment was cordoned off with a dilapidated, rust-ridden, steel fence. I imagine that the fence’s purpose was not only to keep non-payers out, but also to keep their acquired attractions in. I went to the fence and yelled for the people to come. I wish I could aptly describe the little faces that came from every corner, lining up along the fence like little prisoners. Their hands reached between the bars, excitedly grasping whatever we gave them. I know your heart, like ours, would have been melted. Filthy, dirty children-boys and girls wearing only underpants that may once have been a color, but now all matched the color of the dirt they were living in. Many of the children were deformed, and their deformities were being used as a means of profit. All their faces showed the hard lives they have already lived, even though the oldest was fifteen. When we asked how long they would be in town, their response was, “As long as people come and pay to see us, we’ll be here.”

It’s been four weeks now, and they’re still entertaining the people of the city. I find comfort in knowing that while they are here, we’ve been able to feed them sandwiches for their hunger, cold juice for their thirst, and-best of all!-tell them the old, old story; the Lord Jesus Christ satisfies both the hunger and the thirst of their precious souls.

Last week we met a young man named Enrique. He was sent to us by a concerned citizen, who had heard about the work that God was doing. He had told him that he could get some food for his starving body, and maybe some help with his life.

Enrique was a professional chef who had once worked in all the big hotels in the city. He was a father, with children and a wife who loved him, but couldn’t take his addiction any longer. He was living under the soccer stadium, sleeping in the dirt, and had had no shower or change of clothes for three weeks. He was begging us for help. We made arrangements to pick him up Friday morning at ten o’clock. If he was serious, and was there when we arrived, then we would take him to the rehab., where he would hear the Gospel and hear that God can help him overcome the sin of drug abuse.

Friday morning I loaded the truck with about eight hundred dollars worth of food, purchased for the rehab, and made my way to Enrique’s stop. He was there waiting, happy to see us, and quick to get in the truck and make the trip to the rehab. You can imagine our disappointment when the admissions person took one look at him, then informed us that this was his third time there. “He comes for clothes, a shower, and a hot meal,” he said. “Then he’s off looking for his next fix.” So, it came as no surprise when we heard he had only lasted the weekend. Once again, he turned his back on God’s offer and chose his life of drugs, filth, and vile sin.

While at the rehab. I asked Clesso if he wanted us to take him home to visit his family, a break he had earned for exemplary behavior. His face lit up, he looked towards his counselor who gave him the nod, then ran off to collect the few belongings he had. While he was gone, they again took the opportunity to tell us about the amazing transformation that God has accomplished in his life, and how wonderful he’d been to all the other men, helping in any way he could, in an effort to put the love of God on display.

He left with us, full of excitement at the thought of seeing the grandmother that he hadn’t seen since checking in at the rehab six months ago, and the rest of his family-some of whom he hadn’t seen in two years.

It was at least two hours of driving due west. We headed well into the interior before arriving at his small, humble village. It was a nice ride, and we saw landscape and lush foliage-so different from the sand dunes we’ve been surrounded with the last nine months.

Everyone was home, all sitting around the front door of the little house, and all eyes followed the truck as we pulled up. This was the most exciting thing they had seen all day, and they had no idea who we were or why we were there. That is, until Clessio jumped out with the huge smile that seems to consume his whole face. Looking back now, I remember yelps of excitement, looks of unbelief, overwhelming joy, and happiness. He ran and threw his arms around his Mom, grandmother, little brother, and sister in-law, and they looked into the eyes of  a transformed son that had come back home to be with his family for Easter.

We dropped him off Friday reminding him as we left that we had promised the rehab to have him back by Monday evening.

The grandmother apologized for the disheveled condition of the house as we returned Monday evening. She explained that Clessio’s brother, who is a husband and father of three, had been drinking all weekend and had wreaked havoc on the home where they all lived. They asked me to pray and it was a bittersweet prayer meeting-filled with thanksgiving for one miracle and begging God for another. We stood in a circle and I prayed for this family as one mother thanked God for sparing her son, and another wife wept outloud, as I asked God to liberate her husband from the power of Satan and save his soul. When I said amen, she slumped to a nearby chair with her face buried in her hands, shoulders shaking, and repeating over and over again, “Please God, only You, please do what only You can do.”

They had all seen the transformation in Clesso and openly acknowledged it as a God miracle. This wife of a troubled husband professes to be saved, but confessed that her faith in God had been shaken by her circumstances. Now, faith had been renewed as she looked at Clessio and was reminded that God still spares lives and saves souls. Please pray for this boy, Cleberson and Clessio’s mother who is not saved, but plainly acknowledges that God spared the life of her son. Clessio happily jumped back in the truck and talked our ears off the whole two hour trip back to the rehab.

Lori and Caroline have been spending a fair bit of time at the orphanage, and the visits have been very encouraging. Cleide has been feeling much better and has been spending her days back with the kids. We dropped by Easter weekend with some candy and small toys for the kids, arriving to find the house unusually quiet. We learned that Cleide had the kids at a special Easter Sunday School service.

The lease is up on the home they are using, and the landlord wants them out; he’s unwilling to renew the lease. Thank God for a temporary home He has provided, a little south of the city. Cleide and Lori went to check out the property and then accompanied two women from the minors judge’s office, who gave their approval for the site. The best thing about it is the huge piece of land that the house sits on. The kids will finally have room to run around and, hopefully, exhaust a bit of the boundless energy they have!

Most likely we’ll all be there to help pack and move the few belongings they have when the moment of moving arrives. Lori’s been helping with pre-moving organization and cleaning, although she’s having flash-backs of our own hectic, whirlwind move of last July!

Now that we have received confirmation that our Permanent Visa is waiting for us in Boston, we will be able to purchase the property that we believe God has chosen for the orphanage. Please make this a fervent matter of prayer as we move forward. We are very aware that destruction will be the result of moving independent of God’s will and purpose.

The women of Aningas are so pleased with the renovation of the Galpão, and it’s exciting to see them in there working every day. There’s an experienced seamstress who has been spending time with the women each day training them on the machines. They presently have six sewing machines that were given to them by a company who has contracted them to sew for them. Five more machines are promised to them, from another vendor who has guaranteed work. The building is quickly becoming a center of activity in Aningas, with mothers working inside, while the kids congregate and play around the outside grounds.

I have four boys from Aningas that are helping me work. We’re still working on the exterior of the building, but soon hope to introduce them to the craft of woodworking, and begin to teach them a trade. I sat them all down one afternoon and explained again why my family was working in their village. I gave them a simple Gospel message and told them to expect this every week. Please pray for them; they all seem very receptive to a message that they seemingly had never heard before. Vaughn is in his late twenties, married, and a dad of four children, all sick with respiratory problems. Paulo is about seventeen, a great worker who is eager to learn. Leandro, 17, is the boy who lost his eyesight suddenly, so we took him into Natal for treatment… Nego is his younger brother. They were both orphaned as children when they lost their parents to alcohol abuse.  Nildete took Nego in and raised him as her own. Others in the community stepped forward to raise the other children, who are grown up now.

Leandro lives with his older sister who has no husband, but three children. She depends on Leandro to support them all.

Teaching them will be very difficult, seeing that presently they know nothing, and seem to be afraid of almost anything that plugs in. Pray that while getting involved in the project of teaching them we never lose sight of the motive: their spiritual need and the well-being of their souls, as well as the souls of their families.

Many of you have heard me talk about Eliel, whom we’ve known since our first trip here in 2007. He and his family have become good friends to us, and many times have been a great help to our family. Eliel teaches English in Natal and he offered to spend time with me and help me with the Portugues language. I took him up on his offer and pick him up every Tuesday morning. He spends the day with me in Aningas, and I deliver him back home at night. This way, I can be close to the boys, while committing the day to studying the language. What a blessing it is to have this gifted language professor available to work with me at my convenience, teaching me what I so desperately need to communicate God’s message to the lost!

We’re all doing great and the weeks fly by with so many things to occupy our time. The kids are doing very well at school. I  believe that this report will bring everyone up to date on what’s going on here in Natal, Brazil.

We continue to ask for, and covet, the prayers of the saints as we take the daily steps that God lays out on our pathway. We can look back over the last nine months and see God acting as only He can-flawlessly!-and it gives us the confidence to move forward knowing that, right now, we are exactly where God wants us to be. That assurance causes us great joy and a true spirit of thankfulness.

Good night, and good bye, for now.

With Christian love Mark, Lori, Caroline, 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

November 11, 2009

Hi Everyone!
It’s Sunday afternoon, an absolutely perfect day, and I’m sitting looking out over our back yard. When I look to the right, I see the rock reef, which tells me it’s low tide; looking to the left I can watch the waves roll in, waves large enough to surf on. Whenever I view my surroundings, I’m so thankful to God for the little city of refuge He gave us to come home to every night. It even has walls around it with someone at the gate who has to agree before you get in.
Last Sunday was visit day at the rehab. center, and the boys asked if we would be coming to see them. As hard as it was to leave the refuge, we did make a point of getting there before visiting hours were over. They are both doing great and both have professed to be saved. I think, in their case, the fruits of salvation will be very obvious. There has been such a transformation in Bruno’s life, that the head of the rehab. asked that he give his testimony to a large group of people in the city. The rehab called to tell us about this event on Friday afternoon. They told us that it’s a privilege that only a few are given the opportunity to participate in. You earn this privilege by your behavior and the tangible evidences of salvation that the counselors see on a day to day basis. They asked us to bring some pictures of Bruno when we first met him on the street, (you would hardly recognize him as the same person) and a testimonial from us in the form of a letter that they would read to the audience before he spoke. They also asked that we bring a few candy treats as a gift to present to him afterwords. So, on Saturday, we went to the rehab., bringing the letter to Bruno that we had written and some chocolates for Bruno, for after he gave his testimony. (Seemed kind of like a Sunday School treat!)
While visiting the rehab., last Sunday night, Clessio had given us a letter that he had written to his family. He asked that we deliver it to his grandmother, Valmira. So, on Wednesday Lori and I went to find her little apartment and deliver this precious cargo. We found her with her daughter ( Clessio’s aunt) and both were so happy to see us. Once again, we found ourselves back, sitting at the same kitchen table, but this time the conversation was so different. As we spoke of Clessio and his progress, there was a constant smile on Valmira’s face. Over and over again she thanked God and gave Him the glory. I pulled the letter out that I had folded and tucked in my wallet. She handed it to her daughter and we all listened as the aunt began to read. To our surprise it was the boy’s testimony. He spoke of how Bruno and the counselors introduced him to Jesus. How he realized, for the first time, that only God could help him. He understood God’s tremendous love, in offering His Son so that help could be available to him personally. He told how he had confessed his sin, his helplessness, and asked Jesus into his heart. He spoke of how he now had God with him, and because of that he was going to overcome his addiction. He wanted very much to be the one who would reach out to his lost buddies on the street. He asked his grandmother to forgive him. He spoke to his whole family asking for their forgiveness also. He thanked God for bringing us into his life, realizing how far God went just to reach his lost soul. I was sitting across from the aunt, and could see that she was having a very difficult time reading the letter, at times she had to stop and collect her composure before going on. I believe that I witnessed, for the first time, from the same person, the great contrast between tears of heartache and tears of joy. They flowed freely down the grandmother’s cheeks as she listened to words she had been waiting all her life to hear. What a difference from the last time we sat at this table, watching Satan battle with the power of God for the rights to this precious soul. I left that little home convinced that there could be no experience on earth to rival being a part of what we just saw. I told God that if these experiences were all that make up the balance of what’s left of my life on earth, than I will leave this world a content man.
As we drove from the house, we passed Clessio’s old stomping grounds. While waiting at the light we were accosted by a young man who had seen us pull up. He jumped to his feet with a yelp and came running. He began begging us to do for him what we had done for the other two. “Please give me a chance, take me off the street, help me get off drugs. I want to know your God also”. We hadn’t told any of them about Bruno or Clessio, but evidently word was on the street. And having heard, this boy was also begging us for help. He was so excited to see us, he was laughing, and yelling, and singing, and his demeanor kinda of threw us; we weren’t sure how to respond. The others had come to us absolutely broken and desperate, speaking to us softly with tears in their eyes. This guy was bouncing like Tigger. We talked to him briefly and then left thinking it best to give him some time. We added that intersection to our Thursday route hoping we would run into him again. Sure enough, he was there, and seemingly, waiting for us. Immediately he was again asking, and this time we explained what the rehab. was all about. We told him we would be back at this location, God Willing, at 10-am Tuesday morning. If he was serious, then we would be willing to take him. Pray for Junior, that he genuinely wants to know the God who can save his soul and liberate him from Satan’s vices.
I would guess that we fed about two hundred young people on Thursday. They are now so open to hear the Gospel. And every stop has turned into an open air meeting with, in some cases, over fifty gathered around to hear the Gospel. The intersection that Junior works was a new stop for us and we had no idea how many kids worked that corner. We pulled up, opened the tail gate, and started passing out food. Man, they came out of every corner, having heard about our work (word has spread through the whole city), and hoping that we would come to visit them. They were so happy to see us, and by the time they had all been fed, we were cleaned out. I was amazed at how many kids between eight to sixteen worked that corner. I saw this location as another incredible opportunity to reach souls with the Gospel. We were finally able to pull away with an empty car and a full heart.
There is one young boy; he’s maybe about fifteen years old. God has placed this boy as a real burden on our heart. His body is a mess, his feet are full of sores. Every time we give him new sandals the older kids steal them. Someone had given him a new shirt and the kids stole that from him as well. So his present wardrobe is made up of one pair of very dirty board shorts. It doesn’t seem like he has any family. He sleeps on an old, filthy dirty mattress that he lays out on the sidewalk of the street corner that he works. He works this corner with one other boy that is maybe a few years older than him. He’s soft spoken, and so kind, and does his best to be happy when we arrive, but the pain is all over his face. He told us how much he likes us, and how he looks forward to our visits on Thursday. It seems that no one has ever shown him kindness. He seems so alone in a city that is thriving with people who don’t give him a second notice. We want so much to reach out and help this boy, but are not sure what we can do. We don’t think he has a drug problem and so don’t want to expose him to the rehab element. Pray that God gives us wisdom to do what’s right for his physical and spiritual well being.
Tuesday we spent with Cleide. We had put together a plan to help the orphanage present itself as a well-oiled machine to the judge at the next required meeting (end of this month). We spent the day going over the plan, and told Cleide how her job would become so much easer with the help of some organization and written rules of the house. We talked to her about putting a file together for each kid, with all his medical, schooling, and household responsibilities recorded and filed. We talked about the needs of the orphanage: structure, discipline, accountability, responsibilities for each child and help for each child with their schooling. We are fairly sure that these are some of the basics that the judge is looking for. We could see that she was struggling with the thought of all these tasks, but at the same time she knew it was very necessary. She has been alone and overwhelmed with this work for so long thats she’s desperate for anyone who’s willing to help. Once we knew she was on board we then made arrangements to stand by her as she explained the plan to her staff. From there, we’ll get the kids together and allow the staff to deliver the good news to them. Pray that implementing this plan goes smoothly, and so impresses the judge that he loosens his authority and allows her to continue to operate.
Pray as well for our permanent visa which is such a complicated ordeal. We met again on Wednesday with the professional people that we hired to help us with this process. It seems every time we’re with them we leave the office with a new list of requirements.
Monday was a holiday here, and so some of the Christians we know here asked if they could spend the day at our house. Sunday night we were told that twelve would be arriving in the morning, but this turned into thirty-eight on Monday. We love having them and I know that it’s a real treat for them to be on the beach and have access to the pool.
The high point of the day was a conversation that came up about headship. I was sitting with three of the elders that represented three different local churches, and they all wanted to know how I understood the subject. It was a very friendly, unassuming, relaxed, and comfortable conversation that came about very unexpectedly. They listened as I explained my understanding of scripture regarding this subject. God alone knows what will come of it, but after, when they had all gone home, and I began to think about the days events, I smiled to myself. I could see God’s fingerprints in the whole thing. As much as I have been wanting to have that discussion, I could never have arranged and brought it about the way that God did on Monday afternoon. Pray that this is the beginning of an open door, as well as open hearts, with a desire to understand and a willingness to obey God’s word.
I would say that this has pretty much covered the events of the past week. Again we ask for and covet your prayers. And with that I say to you all good night.
From my family to yours,
Love in Christ,
Mark, Lori, Caroline and William.