God called us to the northeast of Brazil. It all began in Boston where we worked with Brazilians, teaching English for free in our home. The contacts we made told us of the poverty and inhumane conditions their people in Brazil faced each day.
We began to visit Brazil and spent the summer of 2007 and 2008 in Natal. In July 2009, we moved here with one desire: to follow our Savior’s example, meeting the obvious physical need of the people, then pointing to the only One able to meet their spiritual need. More than anything, it was the homeless children that captured our hearts. These children, who call the streets and favelas their home, don’t know how much God loves them. But He sees each need and He hears each cry. We moved here with confidence that God would use us to rescue them and to provide these children a home full of His love.
Soon after we moved here, we purchased a property 40 minutes north of Natal, in an interior village called Aningas. We began to pray that God would use this land for the Lar, or home for children. God clearly singled out this community as a place where He wanted our service. The needs of the people in Aningas are overwhelming, and serving God there is very simple and obvious. We show them we care in every way possible. This includes helping in the school and taking people to the medical clinics and hospital in the city. Our relationship with the villagers continues to grow, and our house-to-house visits bring us closer to the people, and allow us to share the gospel. We have worked in this village each week for over five years now. Each home has a Bible, and each soul knows that God saw their need and sent us to tell them that He loves them.
The community of Aningas gave us an abandoned building which we repaired, starting a small cabinet shop and a sewing shop. Our desire is to pass on a trade to any young person interested. In that building, we also started holding a Sunday school. God has blessed this effort with six souls professing faith in Christ. We started an adult Sunday school class to teach those that professed. They soon learned about baptism from God’s Word, and were quick to express their desire to obey. We had the privilege of baptizing them in a stream running through the center of the village.
In order to develop a relationship with the kids on the streets of Natal, we started bringing sandwiches, milk or juice, and God’s Word to the streets. At first, it was difficult to talk to the kids. They weren’t sure if they could trust us. Their need is obvious – they have no clothes and no food. They live on the streets and most are addicted to crack cocaine. Many of them are abandoned by their mothers and fathers and forced to the streets. Others have been abused at home and find life on the streets easier than their home life. These children work the major intersections of the city, providing some small services, hoping to earn a coin or two. We place God’s Word in their hands and tell them of a love they’ve never experienced.
With time, the street kids decided we could be trusted. They concluded that God had sent us, and so they invited us to the shantytowns, or favelas, they call home. Favelas are common here, but most people will go to great lengths to avoid them.”You’re risking your lives,” they say. “The police avoid them and so should you.” But we try to go to every favela we are invited to visit. We venture into these places with the boldness that comes from knowing we have been sent by God. The food that we bring only meets a temporary need, but the food for their soul that we bring meets a lifetime of need. One soul at a time, we tell them about God’s salvation.
One day, a young drug addict named Bruno begged us for help. We were so naive: we had no experience with addictions. He told us about a rehab facility, south of the city, and we took him there. Murillo, a recovering addict himself, who had come to know the power and liberty of God’s salvation, began this clinic. He learned that God’s power over Satan and sin was the only hope a drug addict has. He opened the rehab facility, believing God called him to bring this message of hope to others suffering as he once did. Five years have passed. Since then, we have taken more than 100 boys off the streets of Natal. Each day, there are over 80 present, listening to the message of hope. Some have professed Christ and gone on to live for Him.
We also help in a Lar run by a Christian woman named Cleide. We met Cleide in the summer of 2007. Cleide currently has 33 children living at the Lar Bom Jesus. God has provided a new home for these children, south of Natal, in Pium.
Be encouraged. God continues to work, in the favelas, on the streets, at the rehab facility, in Aningas, and at the Lar in Pium. He protects us in dangerous places and holds us firmly each time we are afraid. Please pray that He will continue to use us for His glory.