Feeding the Hungry


Beads of condensation roll off the plastic cling wrap as it’s peeled away from the white Styrofoam trays. Stacked high with 10 kg of mozzarella and 21 kg of mortadella, the four trays are ready to be sliced. This makes about 750 sandwiches, so some of it is refrigerated for the next day. With a firm hand, Inacia halves the mortadella rounds and quarters the mozzarella rectangles. She separates the pieces of meat and cheese into two silver bowls. Here the assembly line begins.

Inacia sets the two bowls at the head of the wooden picnic table on the back patio. Lori and Mark sit across from one another, each with a red plastic tray in front of them. Reaching for the bowls, they take one piece of mortadella and a slice of mozzarella to match. They pair them, cheese on top of meat, forming neat rows on the tray.

The girls sit next in line at the table, each with a giant green Tupperware bin to one side. They are filled with 500 fresh rolls sliced earlier that morning. Caroline grabs a roll in her left hand, and in her right, a pair of meat and cheese from off the red tray. She stuffs the roll and slides the sandwich down the table. Across from her, Katie does the same. When the sandwiches start to accumulate, I stack them into rows at the head of the table and begin to form a pyramid. We work efficiently, enjoying the morning breeze and the heat of the warm sun on our faces, while singing along to the music playing from Caroline’s iPod.



When Katie and Caroline have gone through half the rolls in their buckets, we combine what remains into a single Tupperware. I dismantle the pyramid on the table, taking sandwiches by twos and threes to form tight rows in the empty bin. At the base, only ten sandwiches fit across. As the bin widens, twelve or thirteen can fit without flattening them beyond recognition. The green bin holds six levels with four rows in each. Each level has extra space on one side for an additional nine sandwiches packed perpendicular to the four rows. Approximately 300 sandwiches fit into each green bin.

Once the bin has been completely loaded, we put the lid on, securing it with a bungee. While I package the last bin with the sandwiches, the others begin cleaning up. Mark and Lori bring the silver bowls and red trays to the kitchen while Katie sweeps the patio free of breadcrumbs and chunks of fallen mortadella. Caroline degreases the table, scrubbing vigorously with a yellow dishcloth.



We load the sandwich bins into the truck and fit the pickup bed with the juice apparatus. Each of three 20-liter water jugs is filled with 20 packets of powdered Tang mixed with fresh water. We’ll stop to buy ice at Pedro’s corner store on the way out to make sure the juice is cool and refreshing. Before leaving, we bow our heads by the truck and thank the Lord for the opportunity he has given us to prepare these simple sandwiches. We ask that He will bless the day and that the people will accept the food to fill their stomachs and more importantly, the Savior to fill their souls.

At each of the stops the people come running, their faces lighting up when they see the truck. Adults and children stand waiting for the food to fill their empty stomachs. At the back of the truck, Katie and Lori keep busy passing out juice and refilling the carafes. They hand out paperback booklets of the gospel of John to the older kids and adults. One young man tucks it into the back pocket of his shorts as he holds out his plastic cup for more juice. This will satisfy his thirst temporarily, but we pray he will reach for the word to quench the real thirst in his soul.

Caroline wraps two sandwiches in a gospel tract and places them into Isaque’s outstretched hand. His fingernails are caked with dirt and his feet infested with bichos de pé. But more than these physical ailments, in his eyes is an emptiness that only the Savior can fill. The gospel tract, titled Perdão Completo (Complete Pardon) will tell him of the Savior who loves him. It will tell him the Lord will never leave or forsake him and a peace he can have in Christ. The Lord Jesus gave his life on the cross to pay for his sins. He can be free from his life of guilt and misery if only he will accept God’s gift of salvation. We watch as he walks away and sits on the curb to eat his sandwiches. As he begins to read the tract, we silently pray that the truth will set him free.

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 !!!!

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.

August 23, 2009

Hi guys! It’s me again.
I felt in a way the distance this week when I heard about uncle Rod. Called Ma and could hear it in her voice. She wanted her family around her and that just wasn’t possible. Often I find myself annoyed with her state of mind, but really felt for her and wanted for a moment to be at home.
We kinda had a slow week with a lot of running around and really not accomplishing much. Monday and Tuesday were trips to the airport, and believe it of not by the time your done the day is pretty much shot. Lori’s folks, Steph and Hedi are all gone, we still have Lindsey.Wed and Thurs was spent with the shipping company finding out the needed documents to release the container. Thurs a young girl from the company actually went with us to the government building to help us get the info needed, and get the documents notarized as required by law. Before they will release the goods we have to prove that we have applied for a permanent visa. I guess a number is issued once you have applied and the port will accept that number as evidence that your staying.
Thurs morning we got up at 5 A.M. and headed out to the city streets again to feed the homeless. What we found out this time is that these folks live close to their jobs. At many of the main intersection where the traffic lights are long, there will be a group of men, woman, and children either begging or offering some kind of service for your pocket change. Somewhere close to that light is where they make there home. They protect that information and won’t offer it when you ask. We went to one of those intersections and began to look for what might constitute a shelter, and un-knowingly drove by it more than once. Than I saw this little girl running across the street to one of the vender’s and could tell by her looks that she would be our contact. Lori got out and went over to talk to her and soon convinced her that we were there only to help. She looked over and gave me the follow me sigh and we were all brought to this vacant lot. We yelled out that we had come with breakfast, food and milk, and out they all came. They emerged out of what they called home, a make shift shelter that you wouldn’t allow your dog to sleep in. One of the young men recognised Lori from a earlier encounter when he washed her windows and received a new testament. He said in his language, wow this is so cool! On a side note, we are able to get these paper back bibles for about 80 cents each, so have bought them in bulk, and have been giving those out instead of tracts. There must have been about fifteen people living in this lot, from the old matriarch mother to three or four year old kids. We fed then all, sandwiches and milk, gave them anything we had left over, promised them we would be back, and then had to leave when the skies opened up and dumped on us. Friday I went back to the orphanage with Lindsey and William. I built them a big cabinet full of cubbys to hold tons of their shoes that were presently piled in a closet. After going through them all we found close to half of them were for the one legged children that I guess don’t live there any more. I also built some shelf’s in the kitchen to accommodate the pile of pots and pans. These events speak for the week, sorry I don’t have more to report, but I’ll end with my thought for the day. I was reading that passage in gen where God called Abraham to act in obedience and follow with out a clear explanation, or with out more than instruction needed for the moment. I have no doubt that God saw that he get mentioned in the great chapter of hero’s in Hebrews because of that moment when without question he leaves his home and family and follows God. In that same chapter Abraham finds himself facing a famine and instead of trusting the God who called him, he takes matters into his own hands, and goes down to Egypt for food. Looks at his beautiful wife and says your to good looking to be my wife, from now on your my sister. It’s very clear that he knew exactly what he was doing. He was putting his wife on the block because his stomach was more important than his relationship. Pharaoh takes her as his wife, which is what Abraham expected would happen, and I’m assuming she became his wife as any wife would become with all the wifefy implications. Abraham benefited greatly from this and as a result became a very wealthy man. He actually seemed to like this arrangement and wasn’t in any real hurry to change things. If It wasn’t for God stepping in and making everybody in the palace sick, it probably would have gone on. I thought of that verse that promises us that our sins and iniquity he will remember no more. We are linked with a God who immediately latches on tightly to those moments in our life when we put him first, when we are willing to step out in faith, when we are willing to entrust the need of our well being to him. God documents and commits these moments to memory and is so fast to give us undeserved credit. The sin part he is also fast to respond to, and that response is forgiveness [if you confess he is obligated to forgive]. His only request is that we own up to our wrong doing so it can be done away with. He deliberately chooses to not remember, which is so much more than being willing to forget. He’s not keeping track of our failure, these acts are not tarnishing in any way the Little deed that was sincerely done for him. We are not in anyway less effective in his eyes, and can now only be used as the dull chisel saved to open up the paint can. The good deed is documented and rewarded, the sin is gone and will never come up again. No need to come to him embarrassed and timid just cause you remember, he doesn’t know what your even talking about. Funny, isn’t it, how we read that chapter of hero’s and immediately our minds go to events in their lives’s that in our estimation disqualifies them from Honorable mention. And then there is God who only remembers that act of faithfulness and says by all means they deserve that place in my book. I can’t speak for you all, but that thought fires up my jets, and when I get the tap on my shoulder, no matter how big or small the job might be, I know in my Gods eyes I’m as qualified as the next person and I’m ready to go. Sorry if my thought was more than my up date, just enjoyed thinking about it today. Bet you all thought you had finely escaped my preaching, sorry just don’t want to get to rusty. Feel free to pass over my little sermons if you like.
Well thats all I have to say for now. Once again I love you all very much and pray for you and your family’s. God bless you all good night.
Love Markie!