A Note from Rick and Noreen Lawson

One of the first things that comes to mind when walking through the favela of Cambuim are the words of the Lord Jesus, “For you will have the poor with you always” (Matthew 11:6). But just how poor is poor? I went through streets of dirt and litter. The walls of the homes that lined the streets were an assortment of trash and scraps of wood, serving as a shelter for these poor people. The river that wound its way through the village consisted of runoff waste-water with a smell that stopped me in my tracks. 

The word “poor” is defined as having little or no money, goods, or other means of support. This brief list can never describe the feelings and emotions felt when actually meeting the faces of these people that survive in these conditions. Going on about how sad the situation is would only be repeating what has all ready been reported on this website. Instead let’s focus on the positive.

In Matthew 26:6 the Lord is found in the home of Simon the Leper. A woman of Bethany is there having an alabaster box of precious ointment and has poured it on the Lord’s head to anoint him for his burial. The gospel of John tells us that He was there with Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead, and that, “…many Jews went away, believing on the Lord Jesus” (John 12:1,11).This is the goal of the effort that is taking place in Cambuim. To show these destitute people the way to the Lord so they might also believe in Him.

We also read in the gospel of Mark, “She (Mary) has done what she could” (Mark 14:8). In Cambuim, attempting to give out a few sandwiches, a little juice, first aid, and some donated clothes in order to pass on God’s Word is all we can do. God has to do the rest.

God has promised a blessing in this work. For the Lord spoke of feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and said, “inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).


Feeding Kilometer Six

More pictures from Kilometer Six

Real Reality TV!

The day we were followed by the TV crew at Kilometer Six

Kilometer Six

Here are the photographs of a new favela- Kilometer Six that one our street kids brought us to.
waiting for food and juice
main road. An old banner, advertising a mobile company’s newest deal, makes up the front wall of a house, across the “street”
livestock pen
entrance to a house
down a side street
animals roam inside, and outside, the houses
A river runs through it…it’s sewage.
one row of houses
inside the house of one of our boys from Ponta Negra. Six people live here. Four sleep on the bed, one in the hammock….
and our boy sleeps on the dirt floor
just down the lane
This one looks good to me; it’s made with better materials.
a door without a house….yet
sitting on the banks of the sewage stream
They are filthy. There is no running water. They have no shoes. They are covered with sores and rashes, they are malnourished, filled with lice and bichus in their feet.
living room
Side street

Happy at Work!

Appreciate your continued prayers. First day in the streets brought rice and beans and juice that they had prepared the night before to the street children. In the back of the pickup- Stephanie is serving rice, Andrew handles the beans and on the ground-Katie tops the dish with Farofa (think grated cheese) and distributes to the street kids.
Andrew commented on the ages of the kids getting food… thinking that they were much older than he had thought. What he discovered was they appeared to look older but most were in the their early teens…. The life they are living has added many years to their faces.

The respect for the word of God, tracts, and prayer is an encouragement. And we are praying that His word will be blessed !!!!

Tables and Benches and Eternal Siblings

Hi everyone!
I’m checking in with you, to touch base with my eternal siblings at home. I wanna let ya know we’re all fine, and spend some time updating you all on the events of the past few weeks.

Did you just shudder at that “eternal siblings” expression I used? Don’t worry, I’ll have my perfect body then, and be much easier to get along with. Don’t forget we’re going to  be together forever. Thank God He’s going to fix all the flaws, and we’ll be the person we’ve always wanted to be in life. And besides that, we won’t be occupied with each other.
I just came across that passage where the religious rulers thought they had backed the Lord Jesus into a corner by telling that story of a woman who married a whole family of brothers. He told them they were narrow-minded fools, who had no idea what heaven will be like. He told them that they thought with the typical, small mind of a human, who can’t get beyond the familiar, flawed relationships of earth. He told them that they will have a partner in heaven, towards whom they can show all their affections. This One will fill every relationship void we’ve ever had. We’ll constantly long to be in His presence, all of our affection focused on Him. It will be a perfect relationship, just the way He always intended relationships to be on earth. We will find absolute loyalty, faithfulness, pure and flawless love, and He will be the spouse we’ve fallen in love with. He will be our better half. Our marriage vows will contain words like forever, no one else, never separated, and everlasting love. I guess that’s why we’re called the Bride of Christ.

I’m finding it difficult punching these keys, with one very important finger fat with bandages. I’m slated for surgery on Wednesday, to re-attach a nerve severed this week while working in Aningas. It happened on a Monday morning and I was delegating jobs to the four boys who are now working alongside me in Aningas, learning how to work with wood and make simple furniture.

One of the jobs I gave out was very unpleasant, so being a thoughtful boss, I went out to help the boy complete it. There was a large, unsightly pile of trash, that had evolved as a result of our remodeling the Galpão, and I wanted it gone. We built a large fire pit out of cement blocks (about six feet by six feet by four feet tall). The idea is to allow the trash to accumulate throughout the week, than burn it on Friday. The present pile was a mixture of flammable and non-flammable waste. We had no gloves, so we began sifting through the pile with bare hands (very foolish). It wasn’t long before my hand came in contact with broken glass and came out of the pile with a large gash. I immediately knew serious damage was done, because I lost all feeling in that finger. I stopped the bleeding, wrapped it up, and finished off the day.

That night I met Lori in the city, and we went to the emergency room to get the cut assessed. The doctor on duty looked at the cut and told us we would need to see a hand surgeon, because he suspected that I had cut through the nerve. They cleaned the cut, bandaged it, and gave us the name of a hand surgeon to visit the next day. The following morning, Dr. Hélio looked at the cut and confirmed that the glass had gone deep and severed a nerve. “I can’t guarantee success,” he said “but the nerve needs to be re-attached.”
With that, an appointment was made at the hospital for the coming Wednesday, and I got ready to go “under the knife.”

We finished our first project, in Aningas, and the boys are so proud of their accomplishments. I decided to start with a simple 60″ trestle table with two matching benches. Considering that it’s the first thing the boys have ever built, and the first time they have ever used a table saw, power miter box, nail gun, screw gun, and a router, they did an awesome job. We made six sets and I think we have sold them all.

It is complicated here because everything is sold in the form of payments, and I mean everything. You buy a week’s worth of food at the supermarket, and the first question they ask is if you want to pay once or if you would like to make payments! The savings for those who make one payment is about ten percent, but most folks can’t go that route.

I gave one of the boys the responsibility of keeping track of these payments for me. We want to move a lot of product at a tiny profit, rather than make a huge profit on lesser volume, so the boys can stay busy, continue learning, and more boys can be given the opportunity.

Covering all expenses I can sell the table and bench set for R$278.00 or about $150.00 US. That’s a good deal, no? We had a local bar approach us after seeing the finished product and ask if we could make several round tables for them. I showed the boys our next planned project and they were all excited. I’m also thinking to create a bunk bed system that can be configured several different ways, and added to, as needed, with a selection of accessories available, as well( dressers, desks, trundles). Most of the folks in these villages sleep on the dirt floor or swing from hammocks, and I’ve been asked several times if we could make them beds. Many of the kids have health issues because their mattresses are on the dirt floor, which is rife with all kinds of unhealthy living things.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been taking my boys into the city, which to them is a real treat. Eliel, my friend and language teacher, owns a small house on the south side of the city, that for some time he has rented. The rent from this house covers the rent on the house his family presently lives in, north of the city. His tenant moved out after running up a huge water bill. He left the house trashed and a mess, and left Eliel responsible for his mess.
First and last months rent as a safety precaution, ha! Security deposit, ha, ha! Signed lease, Ha ha ha, no!

Everything here is based on verbal agreement, and people live month to month, or in many cases, day to day.
With no money coming in, no money to repair the damages, and no one to help him get back on track, I raised my hand, jumped up and down, and begged Eliel to pick me. I leave our house at about seven-thirty, drive the forty minutes to Aningas, get the boys, drive the hour and a half to the city, work till four-thirty, and get the boys home in time for school which starts at seven o’clock.

The school bus leaves the village about five-thirty, and I missed it last Wednesday night, getting the boys back about six. Paulo thought he had wiggled out of school for the night, and quickly lost the grin when I told him,  “No, no, I’ll drive you in,” insisting on the importance of education. These boys are accountable to no one here. No one makes sure they’re at school, no one calls their home if they don’t show up. If you’re not self- motivated, you’ll never get an education. Vaughn, one of my boys, is pushing thirty, with a family to support, and is unable to read or write.
So, that Wednesday night, I waited while Paulo showered and dressed, and collected him along with his pretty, sixteen-year-old wife, and headed off to their school. Forty minutes into the ride, we passed the bus he missed. It was chugging along, making stops and collecting kids as it went.

“Where is this school?” I asked. He smiled and pointed farther down the road. It was a good hour when finally we arrived at the high school that servers the surrounding communities. One hour, driving straight from the village to the school, or an hour and a half ride, on a bus that makes stops the whole way.
“What time does school get out?” I asked.
“We finish at ten o’clock,” said Paulo.
“What time do you finally get home?” I asked.
“We’re back in the village by midnight,” he said.

It was very late when my day finally ended. I made the trip home deep in thought, trying to enter into the hard life these people live just to survive. Paulo’s day starts about six in the morning, he works all day, cleans up, and heads out for school. Then, he finishes the day on a dirt floor for a few hours of rest, only to start it all over again.
I’m getting close to these boys, they look up to me and respect me, and they have even brought me to meet their families. Please pray that I honor God as I work beside them each day. I envision sitting with them someday, as together we remember the Saviour Who died for our sins. I envision the day when, by God’s power, they grow to be leaders that are shepherding the small flock that God called out of Aningas, to honor Him. Please pray that God helps us to let our light shine in Aningas, so men will see our good works and acknowledge and glorify the God of creation. What a privilege to be the ones chosen to bring them the message about a life so distinctly different than the one they’re presently living. This life I’m telling them about is eternal in nature, available to them, and they are being pursued by the great God of love.

Aningas may be an invisible village to the folks in Natal, who know nothing of its existence, but it is a village that has been singled out by a God who has great plans for these very humble people. The people in Aningas have welcomed us into their homes, and by doing so, have welcomed God. That’s the kind of folks that see God’s blessings.

God is now a property owner in Aningas! That’s kind of a funny statement considering it’s all His to begin with. With the permanent visa in place, we were now able to purchase the six and a half acre parcel of land that, God Willing, will be the site of an orphanage. So, we went back to talk to Iranilton and his dad, owners of the land. Maybe he was affected by all God has done in the village to date. Maybe his thinking was that as Americans we were rich, and thought we should be sharing the wealth with his family. Whatever the reason, when Lori approached him on that Friday afternoon, he had raised the price of the land to fifteen thousand reais, from the originally agreed-upon ten thousand reais. Lori told him we would need to pray about this and came home to tell me the news.
We spent the weekend bringing this to God and asking Him how we as His servants should proceed. By Sunday night it had become very clear to us what God wanted. If this was God, if He had a great work for us to do in Aningas, if He had in fact called us to rescue these children off the streets and provide them a home where God could care for them, then the land would be sold, to God’s work, for ten thousand reais.

We found him working in his garden Monday evening, and approached him with this answer. I did the talking and, once again, explained our reason for being in his village.

“We love the property,” I said.
“We have no doubt that it’s worth all of fifteen thousand reais and we think that you should get as much as you can for your land. But this is not our money, it is God’s. This won’t be our land, it will belong to God. We are here as representatives of the buyer, and He is able to make the land available for the original price, if it is His will. And if it is not His will, we do not want the land.”
“Antonio offered me considerably more,” Iranilton responded,  “but I don’t like him and wouldn’t even entertain his offer. Your family has brought blessing to our village since you first arrived, the plans for this property will only bless my people more. I want you to have the land and will sell it to you for ten thousand.”
The next day we received this news from one of our many co-workers at home:
“It is time to purchase the land; we will wire the funds into your account so that they’ll be there and ready to use when the moment comes. God bless you both.”

Did you ever go down a city street full of traffic lights, and time it so that all the lights turned green just as you approach? And you think that’s just the coolest thing and aren’t I lucky today? It took us five weeks to buy a car and I was dreading this process of buying the land thinking it could only be worse. Within three days and two trips to the town hall in Ceará-Mirim, the document was in our hand, and the land belonged to God. Lori did what she does so often, blowing a kiss to heaven, because she’s just been reassured that God is still with us, and He has things well in hand. I enjoyed the run down Main Street watching God turn each light green, just as I approached it.

There’s a window-washing squeegee in the garage, that now stands as a memorial to a very heart-wrenching day on the streets. Lori originally bought it for João, who had asked us for a new one. Every Thursday we made sure it was in the truck as we left to spend the day feeding the city street kids. João was never at his stop, so the squeegee rode back home with us, to be stored with all of the Thursday paraphernalia, waiting for the next week’s feeding.
Frank was good guy. He always had a big smile on his face, and was always so happy to see us. He seemed so out of place living on the streets, and in my mind and heart, I had hopes of seeing him as living evidence of a God-transformed life. We prayed for God to use him to bring the message of life to his street companions. I remember watching him one day as he pulled on this very cool shirt, that I found among the donations and saved just for him. He was so excited at the way he looked in it, and I thought how heart-warming this would be to the saints at home, who had taken the time to make sure Frank had a shirt. If we arrived at his stop and he wasn’t around I’d go find him. I knew where his piece of cardboard was, under a big tree behind a local street vendor. He would be taking his afternoon nap and he was never annoyed that I had reached down and shook him awake. With that so-happy-to-see-me smile on his face, he’d jump up and walk with me back to the truck for some lunch.

I put the squeegee into the back of the truck a few Thursdays ago, with Frank on my mind. I knew he’d be there, his window washing tool was on its last leg, and João was never around.
“I’m giving it to Frank,” I concluded.
We pulled up to the intersection, jumped the curb, parked on the median as always, and started exiting the car. Lori was met by one of the kids waiting for our arrival. I could tell by the look on her face that the news wasn’t good. She started to weep uncontrollably and I couldn’t get any information out of her. Finally, I made out what she was trying to say:
“Frank is dead.”

At eight o’clock, either at night or in the morning-we have heard both-Frank was on his corner in Petropolis, washing windows. A motorcycle drove up, with two men on it. The driver pulled a gun delivering two shots. One shot went to the head, one to the chest, and Frank slumped to the ground, breathed his last, and went out into eternity. Edivan, alias Meio-Kilo, alias Rafael, told us the story.

“I was standing right beside him, I saw it all, and ran for my life,” he said.

The kids all wanted us to believe it was random; they told us that the two men on the moto were drunk. It may have been, but most of the time these shootings are for one of the following two motives: the victim owed money, some as little as R$5, or US $2.75, or the police, on or off-duty, were “executing” a random street kid “purging.” Edivan claims that the second bullet was aimed at him and he narrowly escaped with his life.

After much time, with Frank’s body lying in the street, the polícia arrived, went through the motions, and took his body to ITEP and no one is expecting to hear anything more about this. With no Identification or documents, Frank technically never existed, his body will be buried with other unknowns and forgotten, and life will go on.

It started to pour rain as we climbed back into the truck and made our way to Igapó, the last stop. Lori pulled out her i-Phone and played some hymns and quietly we listened, as through the music, we were reminded of our only responsibility:

“Tell them, even if they won’t believe you,
Tell them, even if they won’t receive you,
Just tell them for me. Tell them that I love them,
And I came to let them know.
Tell them on the streets
And on the high ways
And tell them, even on the bi-ways
Tell them I can mend the broken heart…
And I came to let them know.
We arrived at Igapo, our last stop. It was dumping rain and we just wanted to go home and end, what had turned into, a very sad day for us. We knew we had no right to let the kids down and skip this last stop, so Lori and I stepped out into the pouring rain just wanting to get this stop over with and leave.

Adriano was waiting for us. His clean white button-down shirt was drenched and sticking to his skin. He had ridden the fifteen miles on his bike once more, wanting so much to see us again. He was so thankful that we had been sent by God, who had reached and saved his soul. He stood beside us in the rain. The kids poured out of their shelters, running for their food and drink and then dashing back to any overhang they could find. Adriano spoke to any willing to linger in the rain, telling them of God’s power and the great transformation that had taken place in his life. We stood in the rain till all the sandwiches and juice were gone, hugged him goodbye, and parted company.

As we walked back to the truck, I saw Lori kiss her hand again and raise it towards heaven. To a God who is so good that He sent Adriano to be a comfort to us. With a God this kind and this loving, we can trust Him to always do what is right and what is just.

We drove home and we went to our bedroom. Lori threw herself across the bed and I listened to the quiet sobs. Frank had seen God, in our care for him; we know that because he told us. We had put the gospel in his hands, he had heard it from our mouths many times. He was always respectful, and he bowed his head and closed his eyes as, often, we prayed for him and his street buddies. He told us, on more than one occasion that he “had Jesus in his heart.” He’s beyond help now and only God knows where his soul is. Our prayer now is for his tragic death to be the means of reaching the hearts of his companions.

I would put him in his forties, with the ruts of a very hard life carved all over his body. His hair hadn’t been cut, his face hadn’t been shaved, nor had his clothes been changed, in what looked like years. He had one tooth left, and that one was was hanging on for dear life. We had never seen him before, but that’s not unusual. He lives under the stadium and he hadn’t eaten in a very long time. What caught our attention was how quickly he recognized our being there as God speaking to him and showing him His love. It’s a busy stop, and we did our best to listen to him, while handling the crowd around the truck. He just kept thanking God over and over, and as he did, he began to weep. I turned towards him and he put his head on my shoulder, as if finally God had provided a moment of relief from the pain of what was his life. I held him as he wept, loaded him with food for later, and made sure he knew we would be back next Thursday, God Willing.

Lori and I looked at each other and and she put into words what I was thinking:
“This just isn’t right, this is not what God ever wanted, nobody should have to live this way. If the circumstances surrounding this man’s life touched our heart, how heavy the heart of the Savior must be, as He daily sees the pain and hunger and thirst and injustice, that sin has brought man.”

We were getting ready to leave the Ponta Negra stop last week, after feeding a record number of boys. I was putting everything away when I saw Lori off talking to Luiz-Eduardo. He’s a regular at this stop, along with his wife, four-year-old son, and one-year- old baby boy. When I looked again they were praying, which told me something was up. I made my way over as Lori looked my way with an expression of unbelief on her face.

“He borrowed seventy reais (US $36) from one of his buddies and was able to pay off a drug debt,” she said.
“Monday was the deadline. If he didn’t have the money, he, along with his wife Luciana, and both children would have been shot to death”.

This is a tough street kid who was now standing with tears in his eyes, well aware of how close tragedy had come to his family. The threat was real, and the death sentence would have been carried out. These heartless dealers would wipe out a family and never think twice. His heart was now open to the gospel, and he wanted nothing more than our cries to God on his behalf, and the well being of his family. It was good to see the little family this week safe and sound. We piled them all into the truck and took them to the supermarket for food and some milk for the baby.
The highs and lows of working with these kids leave us drained. Just the experiences we have with them each Thursday leave us spent. After the tragedy of Frank’s death, we are filled with a sense of urgency.  We’ve come to know many of the kids by name and they have shared so many painful stories with us about their lives. Our hearts go out to them as we do the only thing we can: show them the love of God and make sure they understand that, in a city, teaming with people who have no interest in their well-being, God cares, He sent His only Son to die on the cross for their sins, and He sent us to make sure they know.

The editor gets this next, and I know she’ll add anything I may have left out while correcting my many mistakes. I’ll close now thanking you all again for your support through prayer and e-mails. It’s such an encouragement to our family knowing of your burden for the work God has given us to do here. Our prayer is that these updates will help you see just how much you are a part of the effort here as partners in the work of God in Natal, Brazil.
We love you all in Christ and look forward to seeing many of you soon,

Caroline and William

January 4, 2010 – Alex Lawson

Dear Family and Family in Christ,
It’s Wednesday afternoon and we just returned home from the airport. There were tears as we dropped off the last of our holiday visitors, whose time had come to make their way back to the US. My nephew Alex made his way back to Boston, and his girlfriend, Lydia, headed back to Chicago. Lori thought it might cheer them both up this morning to mention the present temperature at home as they gobbled up the last rays of sun here before leaving.
It really was tremendous to have them both with us. They truly shared with us the burden for lost souls. They were both able to experience the work and get a taste of all that God is doing. They were more than willing to get their hands dirty, as together we labored to reach out to these poor souls and bring them the glorious message of the Gospel.
Alex has been a big part in God’s enabling us to be here. Lori and I cannot put into words how much we appreciate all that he has taken care of at home, and the peace we have here, knowing that he’s on the case, caring for all the responsibilities there. It was a real joy getting to know Lydia and I can only hope that my constant sarcasm and teasing didn’t scare her away, because we would love for them both to come back. I know that as a result of being here they will both return home with a fresh perspective on their God and the work He’s accomplished here since we arrived. Alex spent time yesterday putting into words all he and Lydia experienced, and so I’m going to close this by bidding you all farewell, and encouraging you all to read their update.
We’re all doing just great and things seem to be going along smoothly for the moment, as God continues to bless our efforts, and be a blessing in our lives.
Goodbye for now, with love in Christ
Mark, Lori, Caroline and William.
Well, time travels quickly, and it is almost time for Lydia and I to leave Brazil and travel back home to Chicago and Boston respectively. I can’t believe that it has been over two weeks since we first arrived here in Brazil. Since that time we have seen so much, that will affect both of our lives in so many ways.
You already heard of many of our earlier activities in the reports written by Mike and Shelby Procopio, but work did not cease after their departure. It only takes a quick glance around the streets of Natal, the village of Aningas, or the orphanage in Ponta Negra to realize how much work there is to do. You have read in weeks past of the hunger for food (both physical and spiritual) in these locations. Seeing this hunger never loses its effect, and it shows that God is working daily in this area.
After Mike and Shelby left, we began planning the events for the next week. Mark and Lori were exhausted after weeks of preparation for the holiday festivities on the streets and in the village of Aningas. The weather was considerably cloudy on Sunday (a rarity here), so time was spent sorting through the boxes of donations. There was a strong exercise to get clothing up to the little village of Santa Fe; so much of the sorting time was utilized for determining what clothing would fit those in that village.
Monday was sort of a hodge-podge day of activity. Clessio needed to get to the dentist, and Lori was going to bring him. While at the rehab, I did not have an opportunity to meet Bruno or Levi. Bruno was visiting his father for the week for the New Year and Levi had taken one last sabbatical with his wife for a day or two. It gave Lydia and I both a chance to tour the rehabilitation center. I was impressed with the concept of this facility. While the structures themselves or the surrounding land would not grace the cover of any magazine, it was clear that this was a place where people could come to get clean, but only with the help, and by the grace of God.
We spent the afternoon in the orphanage run by Cleide. She was not there that afternoon, but the women who were helping were grateful for our presence. Our being there allowed for them to complete necessary tasks, while we took the time to color with the kids and attempt to show them the concept of baseball. A few bumps on the head, and many broken crayons later we were on our way. Mark and I went to the Plan Alto to pick up two sewing machines for the Aningas co-op that had been in storage there. When we returned to the house we spent some time preparing more clothes for Santa Fe, which we planned on visiting the next morning.
We arrived in Aningas mid-morning on Tuesday and dropped of the sewing machines at the Gampau, the building used for the co-op. We picked up Preta and Nildete and traveled down the road a little ways toward Santa Fe. No one was visible as we approached the gate to this little community of seven homes, but as Mark honked the horn, the distinct sound of children could be heard behind the homes. Within moments children came running to the gate, opening it for our entrance.
We stayed for a few hours, passing out a truck full of clothes and shoes to families that were destitute. I played baseball and football with them for a while, as Lori and Nildete talked with the families to see what else was needed. As we headed back toward Aningas, we saw a woman and her children who were in dire need of clothing. We noted their sizes and told the woman (Maria) that we would be back the next day with some clothing for her and her family. Nildete told us of some other families in Aningas that were in need, and immediately our plan for Wednesday was born.
Twice a week, what would be considered in the US, a public health nurse visits Aningas. We wanted to talk with her and see if there was any pressing medical needs for anyone in the village, as well as ask her permission to visit people with medical issues on Monday. Early on Wednesday we were on our way to Aningas to meet with the nurse at 8AM. The nurse did not anticipate any problems with visiting people, testing their blood pressure, and seeing if they could use any antibiotic creams or ointments. We learned that the doctor rarely ever visits the community, and when he does it is only for an hour or two per month.
We distributed clothes throughout the morning, bringing them to a family in the center of Aningas and to Maria’s house on the outskirts of town. Before leaving town we noted additional families with a need for clothing. That afternoon, we visited a medical supply store to stock up on some needed items, such as saline, gauze, blood pressure cuff, and blood glucose tester. We also visited the supermarket in preparation for the Thursday feeding of the street kids.
This event was something that touched both Lydia and myself in a way that is difficult to explain in words. After hearing Mark, Mike, Shelby, Katie and Jeremy expound on this event, all of you probably understand the concept and exactly what happens. We woke up early on Thursday to prepare the sandwiches, 472 of them to be exact. Caroline and William were staying home, allowing the four of us to fit comfortably into the truck for the day. After loading all the sandwiches, 50 liters of juice, supplies, tracts, the remainder of the Bibles, and clothes for distribution, we were on our way.
Our first stop went along as normal, but we received some news on our second stop regarding one of the “regulars”. The night before, he was sleeping on the side of the road when someone drove by and shot him ten times. According to the source, he was killed instantly. The week before, the same man had received a pair of sandals and a Bible, along with his Christmas meal. It was sobering to think about his situation, and we can only hope and pray that his spiritual condition had changed over the past week.
The rest of the day went on as normal, with all of the juice containers and sandwich boxes empty on our drive back to the house. Before leaving our second to last stop we were spoken to by a man named Rafael. He was so grateful for the sandwiches, but he also told us something else. Months before, Mark and Lori had witnessed a violent altercation between Rafael and another man. Mark had broken up the fight at the time just prior to the police arriving. Rafael had left the street corner that day strung out, but still with a gospel paper in hand. He knew that his life had to change. Since then, he was living in a little place without any water or electricity. There is not much for him to do there, so he has spent the time reading the papers that he had been given over and over again. He told Lori that he knows that drugs cannot satisfy him anymore and that he realized that the Lord Jesus Christ was all that could fill him. He told us that he has trusted in Christ and what was done for him, and that now for the first time ever, he feels truly satisfied.
Rafael’s story really spoke to me as we drove to the final stop in Zona Norte. I kept wondering where I would be if I had never been saved. Would I be in a similar situation to Rafael? Even as a Christian, I find it hard to be satisfied many times. When you listen to someone like Rafael, who has next to nothing and is completely satisfied, you realize that because of Christ we all have the ability to have this feeling day in and day out.
We welcomed in the New Year that evening on the beach. It was a New Years celebration personally unrivaled in my opinion. Fireworks illuminated the skyline the entire length of the beach, about four miles in each direction (and probably further). Fireworks could be seen from Ponta Negra in the south to the fishing villages to the north, as Natal and its surrounding cities, towns and villages welcomed in 2010, two hours before those in Times Square.
Because of the holidays, we spent the weekend at the house. The last unsorted boxes of donations were unpacked and categorized, ready for distribution. Boxes for Aningas were packed. Nildete knew of the families who were in need there, and we were going to leave them in the Gaupau for distribution. On Monday morning we loaded the medical supplies and made our way back to Aningas one last time. We spent a little time talking to people in the Health Post, a small community clinic open two mornings per week. We met with a woman named Jose, who told us about a strange painful rash that comes and goes that no doctor seemed to know the cause of.
Nildete brought us to see an old woman named Donna Iracema. She was lying on a bed in one of the houses in Aningas, unable to see, talk or move much. She wouldn’t drink, and a brief evaluation of her skin indicated that she was severely dehydrated. We prayed with her, for her soul as well as for her to have the physical strength and desire to drink some water. We left her daughter, who was caring for the woman with instructions on preventing skin breakdown and ulcers, and made our way next door to meet with Donna Francisca.
This woman had a skin disorder so severe, that it made both of her lower extremities appear to have scales. Nildete told us that the mother of the twins in town died of a similar appearing disorder, which frightened Donna Francisca. Nildete gave Lori the name of an antibiotic cream that was used sometimes for similar cases, and Lori made note so she could swing by the pharmacy and get some for the woman. After we left Donna Francisca we spent some time teaching Nildete how to use the blood glucose testing kit and the blood pressure cuff.
Now, the sun has long since gone down, and it is only 6:45. Lori and Lydia have taken the kids to their dentist appointments in the city. It seems darker than usual tonight, but it is still relaxing as I lie here in a hammock and write this report. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore continues as it has since I arrived. I am not looking forward to leaving Brazil. It has been a much-needed experience. I leave with additions to my prayer list, and I trust that this report will leave you with additions to yours as well. It feels wonderful to be used by God, and I have felt used over the past two weeks. I can’t wait to return and see the physical blessings and growth in Aningas, the orphanage and the work on the streets in Natal. Thank you all for your prayers.
Warmest Christian Love,
Alex Lawson

December 7, 2009 – Jeremy and Katie Lusk

Hi everyone!
Did ya all think I was becoming a slacker?. Last night we dropped off a young couple at the airport, and we were all very sad to see them go. They had spent the last ten days with us, and we had a awesome time with them. We used the ten days to show them the work God had given us, and to Introduce them to the north of Brazil. I asked them both if they would be willing to write the weeks update before they left us. They were both very excited about being able to give the report. I thought it would be nice for you all to hear about the work from this couple’s perspective. I hope you all enjoy reading this, as I did, and that your able to see this work through the eyes of Jeremy and Katie, and experience the impression that God made on their heart.
I’ll be back next week, till than I’ll say good night.
Love in Christ Mark!
Oi amigos!
It’s Jeremy and Katie Lusk enjoying a quick visit with Mark and Lori. We came down for 10 days to see the work they are doing here in Brazil, and try to help out where we can. We’re almost to the end of our time here, and we feel Mark and Lori have shown us a great overview of their work. We went to Aningas a few times and visited some of the people door to door. We also went to the orphanage to see the work there and spend some time playing with the children. But the work with the street kids was where we were most useful. We helped with this twice and saw it grow from one week to the next. Because this ministry had the most impact on us, we’d like to give you a more detailed description of it.
Each week, Mark and Lori distribute sandwiches, juice and tracts to over 100 street kids all over Natal. They also spend time building a relationship with them and telling them about God and His love for them. Some have estimated that there are about 8 million of these orphaned or abandoned “disposable children” living on the streets in Brazilian cities. Most of them are teenagers, but some kids are as young as 6 or 7 years old. Some of the teenagers have children of their own living with them on the streets. These poor kids are totally destitute with virtually no possessions other than a pair of shorts, a tee shirt, and usually a pair of flip flops. I probably don’t need to mention that they are absolutely filthy. They sleep in cardboard boxes, under chairs, or just on the sidewalk and spend the day washing car windows, selling fruit or trinkets, begging, or stealing to try to eke out enough money to survive. Many of the kids are addicted to drugs or sniffing glue. They find that the high is necessary for the courage to survive in their violent environment. Mark and Lori have discovered that there is an informal network connecting all the street kids across the city. As they got to know some of the kids they learned of other intersections where even more kids live. This network of street kids has helped the ministry grow each week. We were happy to find out that the kids show the tracts to their friends that live on other intersections. One time we were stopped at a light and a street boy came up to the car window. Mark gave him 25 cents and a tract. He got very excited and said “You’re the guys that stop at Ponta Negra.” We weren’t giving out sandwiches so he must have recognized us by the tracts.
The work really started the day before with a delivery of 480 sandwich rolls from the local bakery. Next we made a trip to the supermarket to pick up about 22 pounds each of sliced mortadella and mozzarella for the sandwiches. We also picked up ice and juice mix–enough for about 15 gallons. Many of the kids are barefoot so we bought some sandals to distribute and of course made sure we were well stocked with tracts in Portuguese. As Mark and Lori get to know the kids they uncover other physical needs to meet. They noticed one young mother bathing her baby by dunking him in a bucket of dirty water that the kids were using to wash car windows. The next week we gave her a little baby bath tub. Mark and Lori often make trips to the pharmacy to get ointments for rashes and other ailments, and they always keep a little medical kit in the car just in case.
The next morning we rolled into production mode slicing the rolls, stuffing them with meat and cheese, counting and loading them into plastic tubs. We mixed up the juice and poured it into insulated containers with nozzles to dispense at each stop. Mark has rigged up a system of storing everything in his little Fiat so when we roll up to a stop we can pop open the hatchback and one back door and start serving.
We left the house by 11:30 and headed out to the first of 6 stops. The first stop is a large intersection near a tourist area called Ponta Negra. There are between 20 and 40 street kids working this intersection trying to get a coin or two for washing windows as the cars wait for a green light. There are also a few young mothers (one was pregnant), a couple of babies and some small children. These kids are often high from drugs or sniffing glue.
We drove both cars over the curb and onto the median and set up shop. We gave each kid two sandwiches, a cup of juice, and a tract to start with. Most of them came back for more sandwiches and juice. To the extent possible we didn’t limit their refills; the kids are virtually starving and almost never get enough food. Once everyone had eaten we gathered them all around while I spoke in the gospel briefly. I spoke about I Peter 5:7 and how God told us that He cares for us and also proved it by sending His Son to die for us. No one else cares for these kids so this verse seemed very poignant to me in this situation. I also explained that because they’re sinners, their sin has separated them from God and that their sin must be punished. I told them that God loves them and sent His Son, the Lord Jesus, to suffer the punishment for their sins. Lori translated the message and helped explain things that the kids didn’t understand. The kids listened intently to the whole message. They were fascinated to hear English, but they are also very interested in hearing about God and the gospel. Many of the kids thanked us for speaking to them and quite a few had questions about the message. Its obvious that God has been working in their hearts because they are so open to the gospel and want to talk about Him. The potential in the work with these kids is amazing.
No one has refused a tract yet so we took advantage of the tremendous amount of foot and motor traffic at these intersections by handing out tracts to everyone we could. When the traffic lights turned red Mark would walk among the cars, motorcycles, and buses handing tracts to everyone he could reach. Many of the kids can’t read, but they’ll keep the tract and have someone else read it to them. They collect all the tracts we give them, and they’ll tell you if they already have the one you’re trying to give them.
Once everyone had eaten and we’d spent time talking to the kids we packed up the cars and drove on to the next stop. We made 6 stops in different areas of the city. By the time we got home it was close to 6 and already dark. We had given out 480 sandwiches, 15 gallons of juice, about half a dozen pairs of sandals, and several hundred tracts.
Mark and Lori spent much of the time at each stop finding out how the kids were doing and getting to know them better. We noticed how the kids’ faces light up as soon as they see Mark and Lori and how happy and grateful they are for the sandwiches and juice. But anyone can tell that it’s not just about the food; their physical needs do need to be met, but they are really aching to learn about God. The kids have told Mark and Lori several times that they see God when they see Mark and Lori. Through the love Mark and Lori show the kids, they are able to understand God’s love for them and the gospel. Because Mark and Lori know Portuguese and can answer the questions the kids have about God, it was most helpful for us to hand out sandwiches and fill juice cups, freeing Mark and Lori to talk with the kids.
You don’t need to know the language or the kids to hand out food and tracts, so this is a great work for any visitors. Not only are you are a part of the ministry and a good testimony, but you also get to witness God working. We’ll leave Brazil greatly encouraged by the hunger for God and growth potential in the street kids ministry. There’s still much to do and even more to pray about!!
Jeremy & Katie