Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our Life and Living

Today I was reflecting on life, and I thought... just one year ago, I was quite comfortable in my own little world...

Now, I can't say that I am comfortable, but I would not trade our current life here for anything. Not anything. On the contrary, I feel so thankful that the Lord kept "perturbing" our hearts until we were finally willing to step out of our comfort zone and follow his leading. There just isn't anything so satisfying as being in the center of God's will.


"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life." --Mark 10:29-30


OUR HOME HERE

Just before we came here, we found out that there was a room for us in the church! That was really exciting news for us after having stayed at Fabio's parents house for three months. The church has only been in this building for about four months, so we were glad the Lord timed it so that we would arrive after they had a facility big enough to house us!

Our little room gets more live-able and homey every day. When we got here, it was fine and clean, but very bare. It had a double bed, a single bed, and a crib (which I was extremely thankful for!), but that was it. Now, we have gotten a table and chairs, a shelf, bunk beds and a cabinet. They were all in horrendous condition when we first got them, and in the US we probably would have junked them. But here we were thankful for them and Fabio was able to saw a bit, paint a bit, put in a screw here and there and make them work. It sure makes a difference to have a place to put our things so we don't have to rummage through suitcases all the time. He also got a board, mounted it to the wall and put some nails in it for hooks so we have a place to hang some things.
About the fourth night we were here, it rained really hard. In our room, it seemed that we didnt have a roof in some places, the rain was coming in so hard! We carried out bucket after bucket of water and tried to find things to sop up the rainwater with. I was glad it let up some around 11pm so we could sleep. The next morning, there was about an inch of rainwater in a pan I had left on the stove! The holes have been patched since then, though, and last night when it rained hard again, we stayed dry and cozy in our room. Thank you, Jesus!


Our room has a bathroom off of it as well. It is getting much more homey too. :-) A shower curtain, a curtain in the window, a couple of towel racks, and a mirror cabinet have made a world of difference. But even more than those things was the shower improvements. When we arrived, our "shower" was a pipe sticking out of the wall. The only temperature was COLD (the temp we longed for in Santos!). There is no shower stall or divider of any kind, and with no shower curtain, the entire bathroom got soaked when we showered. We showered and cowered, mostly because there was no curtain in the window either! hehe. Water heaters don't exist here, but shower heads are available which heat the water as it passes through. On about the fifth day here, Fabio installed one of those and we are now able to shower far more comfortably. This is the before pic and I was SURE I had an after pic, but I can't find it for the life of me, so I will have to post it later...
"Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have." Hebrews 13:5

There is another guy who lives up here, down the hall. His name is Nelson (in the pic above with Fabio). He also has an eight-year-old daughter who is here about half of the time. We share a little kitchenette with him up here. It is pretty primitive, but I am very thankful for it. It was also rather filthy, but I got it scrubbed into shape! He didn't cook much other than ramen noodles and coffee, so it was not well stocked with much of anything, but we got a couple of boxes of kitchen things donated here to the church last week, and I scored a spatula, a ladel, a cutting board and a few other things that have made a world of difference!
This is our flashy fridge which is on its last leg - an Electrolux from about 1960 I think! It has a little freezer box on the inside which was totally frozen over. We thought the fridge was not working right because it needed to be defrosted, so I set about that task a few days ago. It did not help. Not only does the freezer box not freeze anything, but the fridge doesnt get very cold either, so things spoil really fast. I sure miss ice and ice cream and really, really cold water! Either way, God is good!

"Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble therewith." Proverbs 15:16

Downstairs live another family of leaders in the church, Claudio and Paula and their two daughters, Nicole (8) and Adriele (5). The main kitchen is down there too, where we have a community lunch every day, usually cooked by Paula. I need to get some pictures of them.

The temperature here in Cambori├║ is far more comfortable - more like summer in Chicago. A couple days it has gotten up to about 100 degrees (38 C), and that is when I realized that I have gotten somewhat acclimated to the heat, because on those days, I just thought, "Hmm, a fan would be nice", but it really didn't seem that hot compared to what we had to deal with in Santos. :-)



MIRACLE NEWS
Remember Vamilson, from other posts? He has been a big part of our lives here, especially Fabio's. He stays here every day from early in the morning until evening, to work and eat and stay clean (off drugs), and most importantly, to be discipled from the Word of God. So it is mainly Fabio who is with him all day long, working together, and having Bible studies in the morning and evening.
When he was still on drugs, he got shot in the arm once. He had lost most feeling in his arm and hand due to nerve damage from the wound. The doctor wanted to do surgery, to remove a section of nerve from his leg and replace the one in his arm which was damaged. He was scared about having surgery, and asked the church to pray for him Sunday night. Monday afternoon, Fabio and another guy went with him to the hospital, and the doctor could not believe that he had regained feeling in his arm and hand! He said he wanted to do more tests because he could not believe just his naked eyes, but we know that Jesus has healed him!



THE HOMELESS LOVE FABIO

Since we came here, we have been staying up late most nights pacing the veranda and praying for this area, this neighborhood, the people we see walking by, and the ministry of the church. More and more we are feeling that our hearts are being drawn to the streets, rather than a teaching or preaching ministry inside the church. And as we pray, suddenly many people have started to come to the church looking for help.
We can see this sign from the veranda, over the highway. This church building is right on the corner of two very busy streets, which is wonderful in so many ways.

Last Wednesday Gilberto came. Fabio wrote about him in the last post. Since then, others have come. Today, the man that "lives" next door came. There is a little plot of land on the other side of the church and there is a homeless man living there. We have been praying for him, and today he showed up here! Fabio and Claudio talked to him, gave him some food, and the guy invited Fabio to come visit him there in his cardboard shack! Fabio plans to go tomorrow.

Fabio is really excited to see God doing this work and to be a part of it. It is exciting for me too, and I love seeing how Fabio is coming alive as he fulfills what God is calling him to. He shows so much love and care to these guys that come in here, and you can see how much it touches them. No one else wants to touch them! Fabio says he doesnt mind the smell of alcohol too much, but is still asking for grace to withstand the strong smell of urine when he hugs them.... :-/

"Deliver those who are drawn toward death,
And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter." -Proverbs 24:11


This is also part of our view from the veranda, and a target for prayer. This castle-looking building is the transvestite theatre I mentioned earlier. We now know it is all of that and more... We are praying for the devil's work in this place to FALL; that the place would close down for lack of business, because those who frequent it now will come to know JESUS who will set them free from slavery to sin!! I personally am shocked at the change in my own heart, that can only be from the Lord. Previously, I was just repulsed by this particular variety of sin, but now I find myself being drawn to these people, our transvestite neighbors particularly, full of compassion for them as they are lost and dying without Jesus.

Here is another area in our view from the veranda. We are told this is one of the most dangerous areas of the city.



A MORNING OFF

This morning we had our first morning off since we came here, and a guy from the church picked us up and took us to the beach. It was really nice! Although not very far away from where we are living, it seems like a different world. It is, really. That is where the rich live, and there are high rise apartments lining the beach front. It is a growing area, with many building still going up and the city expanding on both sides of the beach front. There are a lot of foreigners investing here, because the real estate value is increasing by 20-30% every year! And there is still alot of undeveloped area both to the north and south, all along the beautiful and mountainous beaches.

The kids didnt care much about all that though. They were just glad to have a little sand to play with, even though we had to leave their beach toys in Santos. :) And they made a friend to play with too, as they do most everywhere we go. It was nice to enjoy a little coconut water too; it had been a while.


THE PETI SCHOOL

I am teaching English now at the Peti school on Friday afternoons and on Monday mornings, for two hours each day. My first class is of 7-10 year olds, and the second class is of 11-14 year olds. I have enjoyed the teaching and the children, and getting to talk to another teacher and the director. I am also able to take my kids with me, and I have been taking Joshua and Dominique, one at a time. It is a great opportunity for them to learn about a lot of things - with me right by their side to guide the learning process.
This school is not the "main" school for the children. The way school works here in Brazil, there are two shifts at school: 7am-noon and 1pm to 6pm. It may vary somewhat by school, but that is the basic schedule, and you can choose whether you want to send your children in the morning or the afternoon. Well, in the favela, during the hours that the children are not in school, they are on the streets and generally up to no good. Most of them have homes, but not very good ones. They are typically neglected and/or abused and would rather spend their time on the streets than at home. Most of their parents are drug users, drinkers, prostitutes, you name it. This is the favela:
The land in the favela is not bought. The people who live here are squatters that just try to build some kind of house with whatever materials they can find. They just build houses on top of houses at the edge of the city, into the mountain. Because these houses are without structure or foundation, they are not uncommonly washed away in landslides when it rains a lot.

So, the PETI school is a supplementary school for the children to go to during the hours they are not in school, to keep them off the streets. They can eat there, have recess, art classes and other "fun" stuff, and also receive help with their homework. Twice a week they even get surfing classes! Much of the help is volunteer.

I am praying about how these classes can get me INTO the favela - into their homes, their families, their lives. Teaching English is great, but if it stops there, what good am I really doing for them? What difference will it really make in their future?

In one of my classes, there are two boys that have declared themselves to be homosexuals - at ELEVEN years old!! There are several that are HIV positive, some have been picked up by the cops for drug usage - at seven and eight years old, and one of the girls is constantly offering herself to the boys. The teacher even saw her do the same to some men at a bar next door! She is ten years old and still has the body of a little girl. Imagine what her mother does for a living, and what she has seen at home, and cry with me. Better yet, cry out to the Lord for these children!



GUILHERME'S FLIP FLOPS

Remember our neighbor boy Guilherme from the last post? The day I took the picture of his flip-flop, he ended up forgetting them here. Joshua saw how thin they were, torn in the back, and the strap had broken and been repaired from the underneath. Joshua asked Fabio if there was some extra work he could do to earn some money to buy Guilherme a new pair of flip-flops. So, Fabio gave him some extra work, and he worked hard at it.

The next day we took him to the store and he used his hard-earned money to buy a new pair of flip-flops for Guilherme, the exact same style as his own flip-flops! Guilherme was so happy!!

One day I got home and went into the community kitchen downstairs and Guilherme was there. His face LIT UP when I walked into the room. Then he started singing (in Portuguese): "Singing, singing, singing to my Jesus! I threw away my sadness and sent it away from my heart!" I was impressed and asked him where he had learned that song? He said Joshua taught it to him. :-) They have been singing it together ever since. Joshua is taking seriously his position as a missionary and we are so thankful to see that. Here he is reading a book to Guilherme:





I know this is a long-mega-post - thanks for hanging in there with us! There is just so much going on here that I want to share with you all. Keep praying for us and thank you for your care and concern for us and the ministry here! We love you!

Fabio and Pastor Facundo:

2 comments:

Pamela Pals said...

Elizabeth!!!! thank you for this post... it made me laugh, ( at the housing ) call my family over to praise the Lord for the miracle of Vamilson's arm, and cry at the mistreatment of the children. You guys are in our prayers daily & now we will pray for Camboriu with you.
xxx Pam

Anonymous said...

DEar Girl,
So very good to have the news and to hear of the work that the Lord is doing there in you and through you. I so much want to see it and you. May finally have a good option on work here, if so gracias Dios. Tell JOshua that I am proud of him and that he continue to see what work the Lord can give him. PLease give all the kids and Fabio a hug for me. Love you so much and am thankful for your following of Christ to the ends of the world.
dad