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.

The Gospel in Aningas

The Gospel being presented to the folks in Aningas

Neldete showing us one of the three new machines that the women were able to purchase!

42 A Minute??

He held out his hand and reached. The Alecrim marketplace was busy on Saturday morning- shops closed promptly at noon. We had prepared the juice for the coolers and loaded the truck with 2,500 Gospels of John. The month of June has a national holiday called St John’s day, which we originally thought was on the 3rd, but we found out that it is celebrated through the month and culminates on the 24th of the month. We didn’t know that when we ordered 5,000 Gospels of John, but God always has this way of arranging things!
People ran after us asking for copies of the Gospel. As the buses pulled up, Mark held out his hand and hundreds of people took a copy of John for their own. The bus stops were filled with hundreds of people and new people arrived and left every few minutes. Stephanie and Katie walked the streets and shops, and Andrew manned the juice station that the Police had given us permission to set up on the square. Lori and Caroline worked the groups of people passing thru the square.
In the center of the square, an evangelical preacher. with a microphone and large amplifiers, was preaching with fervor. I grabbed William and walked up to the preacher, waiting for him to come up for air. I handed him the gospel of John and had William tell him that we had arrived with 2,500 gospels of John – living water- and that they were FREE to anyone in the sound of his voice. I smiled and walked away. He began immediately in Brazilian Portuguese to announce that a blessing had arrived and like the gospel it was free to whosoever will. People began streaming towards us arms out! It was very hot but we barely noticed.
After 1 hour all the copies of John’s Gospel were gone. Andrew calculated we had given out 42 a minute! God’s word is living and He promised it would not return void- so we leave it there. And pray for the souls that hold that precious word in their hands.


TOP PHOTO: Andrew, Katie and Steph at the station in the square
BOTTOM PHOTO: Stephanie and Katie at the shops on the sidewalk



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

December 29, 2009 – Mike and Shelby Procopio

I was not pleased as we made our way back to the airport. It seemed as if we had just come from there, and I have no idea where the two weeks went that were in between. But like it or not, the time came for Mike and Shelby to return back home. We were thrilled to have had their help, as they labored beside us in God’s work. There was so much to do leading up to the Christmas holiday, and we so appreciated all the help that they offered. Before leaving they both agreed to write one more update which I’m forwarding to all my family at home.
In addition to all the work you will read about in their report below, there are a few extra things that you should know about. Thanks to all of you at home who so generously gave clothing and toys and shoes, we were able to sort through the boxes of things that had arrived the week before, and put together three gifts for each of the children at the orphanage. We have a list of each child and their age, and with that list we worked late into Monday night going through the boxes of donations. We found suitable gifts for each child, wrapped each gift, and tagged them with the children’s names.
We delivered the gifts to the orphanage, along with turkey and all the fixings for a Christmas feast (their dessert of choice was ice cream). We were also able to deliver turkeys, along with the fixings, to the rehab, so they would have a Christmas dinner.
We also took two large boxes of clothing and shoes with us on the street Tuesday, and distributed them to many of the kids whom we work with weekly.
I will now turn you over to Mike and Shelby wishing you all a Happy New Year full of God’s Blessings. As we come to the close of 2009, I can not begin to list the blessings that God has lavishly poured out on me and my family this past year. Having given it thought, I borrow the words of another and exclaim that once again I am surprised at what the Lord has done. When I think of the blessing that a child often enjoys simply because of the family they were born into, I honestly bow before my awesome God and with a full heart say over and over again, “Thank you Father for making me your child!”
From my family to yours with love in Christ,
Mark, Lori, Caroline and William.
Hi Everyone!
Well this starts my last update – we were so thankful to be able to be with Mark and Lori and the kids for 2 weeks – it was a tremendous experience, and we returned home more convicted than ever that God is working in a tremendous way in the North of Brazil, and we are excited to not only have been able to go down and be a part of it, but to be able be a part of it from home as well.
I was reminded again this week of David’s men after they went up against the Amalekites after they burned Ziklag – when they returned with the spoils, some of the men wanted to hoard it, and distribute it only among the warriors who had gone down to the battle, and give nothing to those that had faithfully remained behind with “the stuff”. David’s response however gives us a beautiful picture of the heart of God, when he tells his men that “those who went down to battle, and those that remained with the stuff…they shall partake alike”. Not all of us can be out in the mission fields full time – for whatever reasons – but God views us as equal partners in this work, had given us a tremendous privilege and an awesome responsibility at home to faithfully support those that are at the point of the spear, and to throw ourselves whole-heartedly into his work, to the furtherance of the gospel and his purposes in these mission fields.
In the middle of the night on Sunday (or really, Monday morning) Alex Lawson and Lydia Perkins arrived at the airport in Natal – thats one thing i learned about Brazilian airports/airlines – they go 24hrs… no big deal to have a flight land or takeoff at 2 or 3 in the morning….UGH! But it was exciting to see them, and we were really excited that out trips overlapped by a week, so we could not only spend time together, but so that we could share with them what we had seen and done the previous week.
Monday morning started out with the fantastic news that Levi, the addict who we had dropped off at the rehab center on Thursday evening had gotten saved. While this was great news, it actually presented a bit of a problem for the rehab facility, although it all worked out. Levi was so excited about getting saved that he immediately wanted to leave the rehab for a day, so that he could share the gospel with his family – he was very conscious of the fact that he was to be in rehab for 9 months, and if something happened to his girlfriend or children during that time, they would never have a chance to hear the good news of the gospel. Finally the rehab director decided that Levi could go for a day to see his family and tell them about salvation, but he had to return the next day, which he did. Another tangible result of God’s work among these street kids for which we were tremendously thankful, and which was a direct answer to prayer for this young man. Please pray that he will be given the strength needed as he continues his rehab, and that he will begin to grow as a Christian. Also remember his girlfriend and children, that having seen the change in his life and having heard from him the gospel, that they will see the reality of salvation, and be convicted of their need as well.
Monday was spent preparing for the next day’s meal. With the number of “events” that we were juggling around the holiday, the meal for the street kids was moved to Tuesday, as Thursday was to be the dinner in Aningas. The difference this week was that we did a hot meal for the kids, and they were all to receive a bible with the meal. Most of the day was spent getting the food, and picking up the bibles from the christian book store – more on this later.
Tuesday started early with cooking what had to be finished for the street meal, and setting up the cars for the day. Since it wasn’t sandwich’s it was going to be a little more complicated to distribute, but we finally got it all squared away and were ready to go. We had the juice station all set-up in the back of the one remaining Amazing Fiat, and the food, bibles and clothes in the back of the pickup. We had picked up 1000 bibles the day before, so with those loaded in as well, we set off for the day around 11:30. It went very well throughout the day – since it was a hot meal, the kids sat down to eat and listen to the gospel message. Natal is very Christmas oriented, as Natal actually means “Christmas” – however in all the statues of wise-men and nativity scenes throughout the city, it all seems to focus on just the fact that “Christ was Born” – so in the gospel we tried to link what they knew of Jesus as the “Christmas Baby”, to the fact that he actually came as their Savior, and went to the cross for their sins!
It took all day for the food distribution over the stops, and by the time we got to the last stop we were as tired as we could possibly be! At the last stop, William and I gave out over 900 bibles. The thirst for the word of God is incredible, and to meet it will require God’s hand in providing the resources. The Portuguese bibles we were distributing cost R$5.50, or about $3.50 US each, so the resources that are needed to simply purchase and distribute bibles is enormous. One young man walked over to us from an appliance store and asked if he could have one – we gave him one, and he walked back over to the store, sat down and began to read it right there – as soon as his co workers saw it they all wanted bibles, and came over in pairs, to politely ask if they too could have a free bible! Even the few people who initially refused a bible, came back within minutes and got them – they had thought there was some sort of a “catch”, and just couldn’t fathom that it really was a free bible! This speaks volumes to the mindset that is so ingrained here – the church is out to extract from you, never to give you something for free – so the concept of a God that does not want anything from them, is totally foreign, and very sad. Pray that God blesses and uses bibles that were distributed – we know he will, as he has guaranteed that “it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper”, but your prayers are needed nonetheless.
Wednesday we spent preparing for the dinner in Aningas the following day. While the girls went to the wholesale food distributor to pick up the remaining supplies, Mark, William, Alex and I headed up to Aningas to buy the supplies and build a massive charcoal grill to cook the meat on. The primary building staple here is this odd-little fired-clay block-like thing. It’s not really a brick, and not really a cement block, but they build everything out of it. They are not very strong – i figure that if a crow built up a good head of steam he could blast right through a wall – but it works, so we loaded up 300 of them and brought them all into the back courtyard of the school where we built a big grill to cook on. With that all ready for the next day, we headed over to measure the land that is under agreement for the orphanage.
The site that is being considered is about 1/2 mile from the center of Aningas, right next to a little village called Santa Fe. It’s 7 acres, and has almost unlimited expansion possibilities, as all the land around it is also available. It’s has a road on it’s front side that goes to Aningas and to the BR-101, the main highway, as well as a road on the back boundary of the land that also goes direct to the BR-101. It’s in an excellent location, and we needed to get some accurate measurements so that we can start getting some of the conceptual construction drawings done.
Thursday was the dinner in Aningas, and as usual, we had to make one final supply run before going up to the village. We pulled into Aningas around lunchtime and they were already busy with getting the meal going. The 2 cows that had been bought and butchered yielded about 500 pounds of beef, which along with some sausages, was the main course. It was served with rice, and beans, and a variety of soda, and was, for obvious reasons, a big hit. We figure just under 2000 were fed, with some sticking around for conversations, and some heading off to home.
Friday was a low-key day spent around the house for Christmas. With Mark & Lori’s family, Alex and Lydia, and us it was alot of fun, and it was nice to be able to relax a little before heading home in the wee-hours of the morning on Saturday.
We made it home in about 22-hours door to door – considerably better than the 31hrs going down – although there were 4 connections, which just makes for a brutally tiring trip! We’re home safe and sound, and very thankful for the opportunity we had to go and help with this work, and to see the progress and the blessing that is being seen. God’s evident working was a tremendous encouragement to us, and we hope that even through these updates, others will be encouraged, and be able to feel apart of the work in Brazil.
Lots of Love,
Mike and Shelby