Clessio: A Life Poured Out

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

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


Steph and me with Clessio at the rehab center

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

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

Home Call of Clessio

Clessio giving a tour of the rehabilitation center

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

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

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

Clessio by his bunk

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

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

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

Clessio telling us about his Savior

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

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

A smile and at peace


Clessio, one of the young men Mark and Lori brought to the Nova Aliança rehab center, is a testimony to the awesome power of God’s saving grace. Back in June when we first met him, he showed us around the rehab center and told us some of his story. He was addicted to crack when Mark and Lori met him on the streets. They paid the 400 reais to bring him there and continued to sponsor him during his stay. He accepted Christ shortly after arriving and became a truly shining example of a transformed life.

Nine months later he moved out of the rehab and he is now working as a mason’s apprentice near Igapó (the last street stop on Thursdays). He also has his working papers and insurance. But more than that he’s had the chance to go and witness to friends that he grew up with who are still living on the streets. Rafael asked about him one day when we gave him a ride. Lori was able to tell him how well Clessio is doing because of what the Lord Jesus has done for him. Luiz is another young guy Clessio grew up with on the streets. He’s hiding out somewhere because of a drug debt. If they find him, they’ll kill him. All for 230 reais.

Clessio has so much potential to lead more men and women to Christ. He was into drugs just as deep as many of these people on the streets still are. Now he can’t get enough of his Bible and he’s thrilled at the opportunity to tell others of his Savior. Even if he were the only life changed by this little testimony in Brazil it would be so worth it. What an awesome God we serve!

Without God I wouldn’t be here today

“I was using crack daily when Mark and Lori brought me to the Nova Aliança rehab center. Without God I wouldn’t be here today,” said Clessio.

Saturday afternoon after all the Gospels of John and tracts were passed out and the market had closed we headed to the Nova Aliança rehab center to meet with Clessio. He spoke of the love of Christ and the need to meditate daily on the cross and the love that was displayed there. How that love sets free and liberates from the bondage of sin. We talked of how the Lord Jesus holds us secure and will never leave us or take away His love. Clessio is a bright light in the rehab center and a joy to speak to. When you hear him talk of the old life and the wreckage of sin and then the glorious transformation you stand amazed at the marvelous grace of God.

There are 70 people there at the center. It costs R$400.00 (200.00 dollars) to bring someone there. If you do not have the money they will not turn you away. Once in the center it costs R$300.00 (150.00) a month to keep them there. Clessio’s family is hours away and cannot help so he has come to depend on Mark and Lori to provide for him. The rehab center provides them with a busy daily schedule that includes work- gardening, cleaning, kitchen duties, caring for the animals, or chores- and bible study, gospel messages and a new state run funded program to educate them to the 11th grade level.

He gave us a tour of the center and stood proudly beside his bed. I thought of all the “beds” I had seen by the roadsides, nothing more than a piece of cardboard or a threadbare blanket in a median along the road, but here he was in a simple center with a bunk bed yet in his right mind and praising God… what a miracle salvation truly is. I know he will appreciate your prayers for him.

BELOW: Clessio in the chicken coop…..

BELOW: Kitchen of the center
BELOW: Clessio beside his bunk

February 6, 2010

Hi everyone!
I think it’s coming up on two weeks since our last update. When I left you all, it was a Monday morning, and Lori and I were about to head out on the city streets looking for Rafael. He’s one of the boys living on the street who had asked for help at the drug rehab. We had given him the weekend to get his affairs in order, and had arranged to pick him up first thing Monday morning.
We arrived at his city corner, but he was nowhere to be found. We talked to some of his companions and they agreed to show us where they thought he might be. We followed them down one of the city’s side streets and up to what looked like an abandoned building. I looked through holes in the walls hoping I could pick him out amongst the rubble. He was in the middle of washing a little white puppy in his window washing bucket, and looked up as he heard us calling out his name. He dropped the dog and came to open a makeshift gate, and welcomed us into, what was for the moment, his home. There were piles of broken cement, building material, and trash throughout. In the middle of it all was a six foot piece of cardboard that he was using as his bed. I saw some rags, hanging from an improvised clothes line, and assumed it was laundry day and that was the extent of his wardrobe. I saw two bricks claimed from the rubble, sitting on end, with two pipes across the top and a pile of ashes below, and assumed that was his stove.
“I had no luck finding a place for my dogs,” he said, “I won’t be able to to go with you today.” He was talking about a large pit-bull and her little offspring that had just been washed in the bucket. Mom was a scary looking bull of a dog lying in the corner, and she came running when we all looked her way. Lori’s white shirt was looking more grey by the time the big, very dirty, dog was done greeting us.
“I’ve had her since she was a puppy,” he said, “she’s the closest thing I have to a loyal friend; I can’t leave her.”
Lori was on the phone immediately talking to Berg- pronounced Baggie – (admissions person at the rehab) asking if the dogs could come.
“We have seen God at work on these streets,” he said. “If God brought this boy to you for help, then I have no authority to say differently, who am I to oppose God’s direction? Bring the dogs, we’ll figure out what to do.”
Having taken care of that hurtle, Rafael then presented us with the next one.
“I’ve had lots of trouble with the police,” he said. “I’m not allowed to leave this corner, without informing an officer of my whereabouts. He left us to rifle through his belongings, returning with a phone number.
“This is the contact person I’m responsible to,” he said. One call after another was made and he was passed from one department to another. He learned that he needed to appear at the federal police building with his documents in hand before he would be allowed to go anywhere. While these calls were being made, Lori pointed towards the boy’s feet. I looked down to see his scarred, bare feet, with open wounds, crawling with what looked like thousands of little black bugs. How desperately this boy needed a bar of soap, a bath tub, clean clothes, and the Saviour who alone can offer him hope of a better life.
“We’ll be back tomorrow, Lord willing,” Lori said. “Get this taken care of in the morning, and we’ll come get you in the afternoon”. We were back at his corner Tuesday afternoon, only to find out he had done nothing in getting the necessary permission to leave. I was upset, thinking that Satan had been successful in holding tightly to this soul, and annoyed at what seemed to be a lost day.
We sat and chatted with him and the other boys working that corner for a while. In conversation they told us a wild story about the events of the previous night that involved another one of our boys.
“He owes money to drug dealers,” they said, “and they caught up with him last night”.
Six guys drove up in a car, got out, and surrounded João. They all had guns, which they attempted to shoot, but the guns misfired. No bullets came out. Seizing that moment of confusion, João bolted, but not before one of the men struck him in the face with his gun. Running away as fast as he could, he heard the guns again, but this time they were functioning, and the bullets were whizzing past him. He was wounded from being pistol whipped, but miraculously none of the bullets hit him, and he was able to get away.
We left the boys and were driving down the city street when Lori shouted, “There he is! Stop.” João had seen us drive past him, and had started to run behind the truck for all he was worth. We pulled to the side, found a place to park, and gave him a chance to catch up. The minute he saw us, he put his head down and started to weep. His whole body trembled as he told us that this was his second brush with death. Lori quoted this verse, “God speaks once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not…” We asked him if he recognized God speaking to him, and if so, what was he going to do about it.
“I have to get out of here,” he said. “They’re going to kill me; will you please help me?”
We offered the rehab, and he begged us to take him first thing Wednesday morning. He sat on the tailgate of our truck while Lori treated his wounds, then we all bowed together while Lori’s Dad prayed to God that this boy’s life would be spared, and his soul saved.
He was waiting for us on Wednesday morning, with his belongings packed in a backpack. He jumped in the truck asking if we would take him to say goodbye to his family. We found his mom, sisters, and brother coming down the street to meet us. João was out of the truck the moment he saw them. The three of us watched as he held his family close, weeping while he said farewell. Dad was with us again, so we asked if he would commend, this situation and this family, to God. We stood in a circle on the side of the road as he prayed for the spiritual and physical well-being of João and his family. While driving to the rehab we found out in conversation that fifty Reais ( roughly thirty American dollars) was the amount he owed to these dealers. Because he was unable to pay, João almost lost his life.
He wasn’t out of the truck long before one of the boys at the rehab recognized him as a sports figure he once looked up to. We found out that João was once a Brazilian surf champion. He had competed throughout Brazil and in Europe, too. He had had several sponsors and had earned decent money. How could anyone look at this boy now, living on the streets, beaten and running for his life and think that anything good comes from a life given to the desires of the flesh and the whims of the wicked one? Satan’s only interest in this boy is to ensure a ruined life, and guarantee, through the helpless captivity of his many vices, eternal destruction. How thrilling it is to see how persistent God is. How life-changing to realize the battle that is fought over one soul. And how reassuring to know that God is always at work, always present, and-this is the best part- always the victor! Yes! We are on the winning side.
We arrived at one of our stops on Thursday to be met by a soft-spoken boy; he came up to us both, wanting us to see how well his wounds were healing. Manoel had been involved in a street fight two weeks previous, that had left him with knife wounds. Lori had taken him aside and spent some time cleaning the wounds, putting some antibiotic ointment on them and bandaging them. Since then things had healed nicely. He too asked for help and said he wanted to go to the rehab. I took some time to make sure he understood that the only hope for him was God’s help.
“Think about it,” Lori said. “We’ll be back on Monday morning, Lord willing, and if you’re serious than we’ll be glad to take you.”
Manoel hung his head and quietly asked if there was any way we would be willing to take him right away. Lori looked my way and I said, “Let’s go.”
Thursday is a long and exhausting day, and by the time we reach that last stop at Igapó, the heat of the day has always gotten the best of us. I really didn’t want to make the ninety minute trip each way to the rehab. I opened the back door of the truck, pointed him towards the seat, and affirmed the promise we had made to God-to respond when any one of these kids asks for help. It would be a long night and we wouldn’t get back to the house ’till very late, but this boy asked God for help.
We have taken six boys off the street so far and I wish I could tell you they all received Christ and are going on well. Some lasted a few weeks, others just a few days, the point is that presently there’s only two of the six still going through the program. Drugs have an incredible hold on these boys. They will all tell you that they know the drugs will kill them. They will all say that they want nothing more than to be free of its power. But even those taken off the street, to a place where help is available, often can’t live without a fix and soon are found back living in the gutter of the street. Our hearts go out to these kids. We find ourselves on an emotional roller coaster, we want so much to help them, but we haven’t a clue what they’re going through. We feed them, hug those who need a hug, listen to their life of sorrow, pray with them that they recognize their need of God’s intervening power, remind them that God is their only hope and their only salvation, close the truck’s tailgate, and move on to the next stop. Please remember these kids in your prayers. They are infinitely lovable.
Dad rode with us all day and was a great help as we fed all the kids. Lori and I were a little worried that the heat of the day would be too much, but he was a real trooper. He had the opportunity (with Lori’s help) to speak to many of the boys, and we were able to gather all the kids, who respectfully bowed their heads, and listened while he prayed for theirs souls. It was fun watching him pass out the gospel papers. When all the kids at the stop had received a paper, he would turn to anyone else who was in walking distance of the truck. At one point, I saw him walking down a line of buses waiting for the light, passing up the papers to all the passengers. He loves the Gospel, and is amazed by the demand for the Word. What a pleasure it is to hand a gospel paper to someone here and they actually stop and thank you for it.
With a bank account now open, we were able to get started on the projects planned, Lord willing, for Aningas. I’ve been in the village pretty much all week working on the building we’ve been given permission to use. I hired a mason to do some work needed on the structure, and I’ve been building the units needed for a wood shop. I’ve designed some basic, simple furniture pieces that will be cheap and easy to build. I plan to teach anyone in Aningas who wants to learn a trade. Doing this, I’ll have a chance to work with the folks side by side. I also aim to start each lesson with a very short Gospel message and prayer. Please pray for this effort as the structure takes shape, the tools get set up, and I start to work with, and get to know, the people of Aningas better.
It has to be over one hundred degrees in that building every day, with absolutely no air movement of any kind. And the moment I’m through the door the sweating begins. William was laughing at the sight of me the other day. Within five minuets of work my shirt was soaked with sweat, and all the sawdust kicked up by the tools was sticking, making me look like a sawdust snow man. I bring a cooler with ice and water bottles, hoping the liquid will help me give the work a full day. But that heat saps your strength so fast that six hours is about all the gas I have. I hope my stamina increases as my body gets used to the heat, but right now I’m finding it very difficult for this forty-eight year old body to last eight hours.
Continue praying for the orphanage. We’re not sure of what to do, and when, so we know that we need to take that first step. We’ll start the procedure to purchase the land and see if the door is opened for this. God is faithful. We seem to waver an awful lot, but deep down, we know He’s faithful.
We’re all doing fine here, and all seems to be going well. We have so much to be thankful for; we daily enjoy the undeserved blessings given by a Father whose love is unconditional. Thank you all again for your daily prayers, and we ask that you continue to call on God for blessings in the north of Brazil.
The kids are doing fine, and every day William seems to show up with a new found friend. Last Sunday night he ran past his grandparents with a flashlight in hand, exclaiming as he ran that he was meeting his buddies on the beach to hunt crabs. I came down a while later asking where he was and was given the information he had passed on while he made his way out the gate onto the beach. I got a bit concerned and walked out on the beach to see if he was at least close by. There was no sign of him, so I came back. I grabbed one of the kids’ four wheelers, and made my way back out into the night looking for him. I hit the beach, took a left, and headed towards the river with the high beams cutting the fog that rolls onto the beach each night. I was scanning the sand as far as I could see looking for the bouncing light beam of William’s flashlight.
It happened so fast, I never saw it coming. I knew the river was close, but thought I had a few minutes worth of drive time. Surely the quad’s lights would give me fair warning and lots of time to make the left turn. Within a split second, I had left the river bank and launched into about four feet of water. For those of you who don’t know, quads float, and in this case, the river’s current was strongly influencing it to float out to sea. I broke the water surface in shock, and as soon as my brain processed what had just happened, I prayed, “God help me!” I started to fight the current pushing towards shore for all I was worth, constantly losing my footing as the sand slipped out from under my feet. The quad by this time had stalled, the lights went out plunging me into darkness, and I was alone in the pitch black. I could hardly see the shoreline that made up the river bank, but I pushed, kicked, and dragged the quad, in what I thought was the right direction.
I finally was able to get the machine back to shore, pulled it up onto the river bank, flopped down on the sand, and just lay there trying to catch my breath. I thanked God for His help. The bike wouldn’t start, so I had to leave it and I walked the mile back to the house, trying my best to blame this all on my son. He was waiting at home when I called him to the gate, shocked to see me coming back on foot.
“Get your quad and come help me! Caroline’s won’t start!” I said.
No words were spoken as we made the trek back to the river. He knew as soon as he saw the bike what had happened. Quietly he helped me latch the two quads together and we made our way back home. I pulled the plugs, drained the water from places it didn’t belong, washed off all the salt, and was so thankful when I heard the sweet sound of a gas engine when it fired up.
I want you all to know that William is still alive, he just got a lot of sleep that night! Thus the joys of raising a boy, as many of you know. He does, however, feel that I should shoulder some of blame for that evening’s events. I just keep repeating something my father always told me when I had him backed into a corner: “When I’m right, I’m right. When I’m wrong, I’m still right.” I had to listen in silence as Dad made that foolish statement, now I get to use it without William responding, and the day may come when William can use it as well.
I will end this now and bid you all farewell,
Love in Christ,
Mark, Lori, 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

November 11, 2009

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

September 28, 2009

Hi everyone!
I was reading this morning about the Sabbath and found myself thankful that it’s a thing of the past. If we’re expected to continue with Gods strict requirements for His day of rest, then today I would have been kicked out of the pool. I really thought today would be an easy day and went out to take my Sunday walk on the beach. I was met on my way back by Vanderlay who had come looking for me. He’s a Christian friend of ours who has generously helped us with our work here many times. He’s an electrician and a true servant of God in his heart. He’s made his services available and I’ve used him every time I need electrical work done. He had come to the house this morning with his wife and two beautiful daughters. He wanted to finish a electrical project he had started, and his family wanted to enjoy the ocean and pool. He brought his guitar and played some familiar hymns as his girls sang. Two songs into the performance and I’m called away by Lori who has a small situation on her hands….
Yesterday Bruno was taken from the re-hab to the hospital with what they thought was hepatitis. We got the call and had to respond, because right now we’re the closest thing he has to family. We drove about an hour to the hospital and found him in emergency waiting for us. Lori went in with him to talk to the doctor, and emerged with a stunned look on her face. “Behind those swinging doors is about as close to a Mash unit as I’ve ever seen in real life”. While she was talking we saw this kid come through on a wheel chair, blood pouring from his foot, he left a path of blood splashed all over the floor only stopping at those infamous swinging doors. People were walking in the blood and nobody seemed the least bit concerned. Finally, the mop lady showed up, and for a moment, at least, the floor was looking better. Yes, treatment is free; yes, anyone can walk in; no, nobody is turned down, but I gotta say you probably have a better chance of survival staying home and treating yourself. Thank God one of the staff members heard Bruno’s story about our helping him and was so taken that he promised to take the boy under his wing. Turns out what he has is anemia and will be needing many blood transfusions. They wanted to watch him overnight which in our language means being admitted, given a bed, and bothered all night by overweight nurses whose job it is to check up on us. In his case he was shown a chair and told that that’s where he would be spending the night. We left him and started the hour ride back home aware that we would be making this trip again tomorrow. We were within about eight miles of our house when I noticed this weird orange smoke in the sky. I was pointing it out to Lori when six jets made a perfect circle with their colored smoke, then broke from their formation and disappeared behind some tall buildings. Come to find out, France had sent their military team of precision flying jets to entertain the people of Natal. Everyone had known about this well in advance, that is everyone but us. I know that because every car and every person that exisiseted within a twenty mile radius had converged on this one spot that we needed to pass in order to get home. I found myself thankful for police at home who enforce traffic rules,and know how to handle crowds. Here there are lots of cops, but no rules. The accepted practice is that everybody does what’s right in their own eyes. What a mess, everybody everywhere, not the slightest semblance of order, just absolute chaos, and us stuck in the middle. I put the car in neutral, pulled the brake, and “shut ‘er down”, thinking to myself w.w.m.b.p.d. ( what would my brother Paul do) . Well, it was at least two hours before we broke loose, finally pulling into our yard well after dark. So you see I was looking forward to obeying Gods strict instructions regarding the observance of His day, but that wasn’t meant to be.
So today, the hospital called Lori to say they had released Bruno and to ask us to come back and collect him. She was under the weather with a constant cough, cold, and fever, and so Vanderlay and I went to pick him up, taking him back to the re-hab. Well, there goes Sunday, a trip to the hospital, from there to the re-hab, from the re-hab to home, and my day of rest is long gone. I will close off the day by staring at this computer screen so you all can know the stories of the week.
We lost another day this week meeting with lawyers and our accountant in regards to our visa. We also had to spend a fare bit of time with the local shipping company that’s handling the release of our personal goods. Before we left I bought William a new 100cc Honda dirt bike. It was made perfectly clear to us by the US shipping company that getting this into the country was not going to be a problem. Surprise, surprise, no way is that going to happen. On top of that the inventory list described it as a bicycle. I guess they thought no one would notice the large engine and lack of pedals. Not only can we not get the bike, but the federal police see it as us trying to sneak around their laws to get this past their borders. They don’t look favorably at these kinds of people who break the rules and then ask if they can stay in the country. At this point they have every right to send us back home for being dishonest. I know the shipping company was trying to help us, but by doing that they’ve only made things worst. Option one is pay $4000.00 in fines and taxes and be allowed to bring the $2000.00 bike into the country. Option two, completely abandon the bike at the docks and break Williams heart. Option three pay an enormous amount of money to ship it back home. Option four they get annoyed with us and send us packing. Any wisdom or brilliant suggestions on this issue would be greatly appreciated.
I spent some time in Aningas working on the school tables and benches destroyed in the lakes that make up the school floor. I was working alone on Friday afternoon when this little boy came into the galpao and stood around watching me. I could tell that it was more than curiosity that had brought him and kept him with me in that incredibly hot building. Finally he spoke and I looked up to see him rubbing his belly. “Ah moo sa, comeada por-fa-vor” he asked, will you please get me some food, lunch, the belly rubbing meant he was hungry. I know I should have put the belt sander down and walked him to the little market, but in stead I reached into my wallet and handed him a five. I don’t know how long he had gone without food, but I bet my guess would have been close, judging by the way he grabbed the money and ran out the door. I kinda smiled to myself and went back to my sanding, when out of the corner of my eye I caught his shape standing back in the doorway. I let the trigger go and looked his way about to question why he had come back, when again he spoke. “Mute-obgadda amego” he said, and then he was gone. I wondered how far he had gotten, how close to the market was he, when he realised that hunger had clouded his good manners. In spite of his hunger he turned to come back, his reason, to say mister thank you very much. I thought of the ten lepers healed by the Lord Jesus and only one of the ten realising that the least he could do, as small, as insignificant, as inadequate as it may seem, was to go back and say thank you to Jesus. I very much wanted to be sure this morning while walking the beach that God heard me say thank you. How many times God stops what He’s doing and reaches into His bountiful wallet of blessings, and me, so overwhelmed and consumed with the crises of the moment, grab His gift, as if I earned it, and run out then door. How many times, half way to the market, I realise that in my moment of extreme selfishness I never said thank you. I turn and go back only to find Him right where I left Him, as if He knew I’d return. He stops and looks up as I come through the door, a kind smile crosses His face, He gives me his undivided attention, and nods in approval, with that unconditional love, as I sheepishly say thank you.
Wow I really got lost in thought on that one. Anyway, as you know by now, Thursdays are spoken for. I affectionately think of it as the loaves and fishes day (that will ring a bell with those who have made many Bermuda trips,staying at the five star resort called Willowbank) . It seams no matter how many sandwiches we make we always run out. This week we told the local bakery to bump it up to 120 rolls, next Wednesday we’ll be bumping it to 150, D.V. There was a time we’d have to pick the bread up at her place, but now the order has reached the “we’ll deliver them to your house” status. We were at one of our stops this week when Caroline elbowed me and pointed out one of the girls. “See that little girl with the red halter top” I nodded and she continued, ” she has eaten seven sandwiches” Wow, they must be falling out the bottom of her feet. We never say no, we stay and feed them till they have had enough, then close up and head off to the next stop. At one of the stops we came across John. He’s one of the street boys we feed. He came running over, all out of breath and obviously, very concerned. He told us that he had crossed paths with another one of these street kids, who made it clear that before the day was out John would be dead. “I will find you and kill you today,” a boy named Dennis had told him. John was visibly shaken, having taken the threat very seriously. He truly believed that today his life was going to end. Lori stood with her hands on his shoulders in the midst of that busy intersection and prayed to God that his life would be spared, and his soul would be saved. I kept one eye opened and was watching as cars whizzed by. People were staring at this impromptu prayer meeting like we had lost our minds. When finished, Lori looked him in the eyes and said,” You’ll be fine now, you’re being protected by God Himself. Just remember when you wake up tomorrow realising that you have been spared, that God saved your life because He wants to save your soul.” I saw him today as we drove pass his spot, on our way to pick up Bruno. He was busy washing windows, and quickly recognised the car. “Glory to God, thank you God, I’ll see you Thursday” he yelled as we drove through his intersection. God willing, he’ll be around on Thursday and will have the chance to speak to a soul whose heart God has opened.
Pray for Maxwell who professed salvation. Soon after he professed to be saved, he left his spot to go visit his daughter, and we haven’t seen him since. With no way to reach him we can only hope that God allows us to again cross his path. Pray for Bruno’s recovery as well as his serious blood condition; Wednesday we take him back to see a blood specialist. Pray for John that his heart is open to the gospel. Pray for the many who heard or received the gospel this week. Pray for Aningas. This week we’ll meet with the Federal government on their behalf, with the hopes of helping them receive available funding to start a co-op. This will help that village support itself. Pray for the visa situation which has become very complicated. Pray as well for the container of our personal goods, that God will give us the wisdom to know what to do.
My eyes are getting heavy and I’m ready to shut this down. I have Lori sleeping on my right and William sleeping on my left, and now I’m looking to join them. I hope all is well at home and everybody’s healthy. We’ll continue to remember you all in prayer. We love you all dearly.
Yours because of Christ (and mom!)
P.S. I think there was enough in this update to forgo the separate devotion this week. I’ll save it for the next update. Please forgive me, or for some, enjoy the break.