Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Two Window's of Poverty

Today we faced more experiences of life’s realities outside of the United States as our team ministered to children playing in a slum neighborhood just outside the city.

As the van slowly made its way through the narrow bumpy dirt roads, one of our American students mumbled aloud, “our dogs live better than these people”. Likewise in appalling poverty, most of the homes had nothing more than dirt floors, windows without glass and maybe, just maybe, running water. The wires dangling from house to house provided “borrowed” electricity from the city.

For the residents of this slum neighborhood it’s a very rare occasion to have visitors from the USA, so obviously our team was an interesting sight for them, especially when we shared dramas and music in their native language, Portuguese. And in spite of our inability to speak fluent Portuguese, our team confidently reached out with the love and encouragement of Jesus, a universal language of love that is not bound by borders or language barriers.

As I thought about this experience, I began to realize that for anyone who has never experienced this level of poverty, their first reaction would probably be a sense of hopelessness and despair. However, our experience brought us to a place of hope after meeting some of the most wonderful and warm people we’ve ever me before. It was simply amazing.

From our perspective, these people were hopelessly poor beyond imagination. But the truth is, we were amazed to learn that because of God’s love and acceptance, they were satisfied, content and filled with a level of joy that is strengthened in the face of wicked poverty.

As I looked out into a slum of more than 100,000 people, I tried to make sense of it all. “How in the world can these people live like this,” my heart asked. And just like God, He spoke very quietly to my heart, “Richard, these people need nothing you have to have all of me.” Wow! What an incredible revelation. For those residents that know and love God, their reality is simply - God is sufficient.Italic

As we left the slums, I understood very clearly that I couldn't change their living, social or economic situation. All I could give them was the dignity and respect they deserve as God’s creation.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Birthday Celebration For A Street Boy

By Adriana Ruiz - Master's Commission Brasil

When you hear about a “Birthday Celebration” what are you expecting to see? I know the first thoughts for most is cake, candles, balloons and gifts. Yet better than the decorations, is the presence of those who love you and celebrate your life. Your friends and family are there and at the end of the night you blowout your candles and make a wish. Birthday celebrations have a different meaning in the streets of Brazil; actually it has no meaning.

Kids that live on the streets know that no one today is celebrating them, instead of having a cake they have paint thinner and instead of having candles they have cigarettes. Our reality doesn’t compare to the streets reality, because it’s so different it seem that we live in different dimensions. While we think that a six year old should be at home being loved by a family and having fun as a child, there is at the same time a six year old boy who is on the streets, wanting a blanket and a bottle of paint thinner to not feel the cold. When one of our kids, Hugo who is eleven, had his birthday he said, “The gift I want is just a big hug from you Auntie.” Many of these children have no mom or dad, no real friends to celebrate with them; the truth is they have no reason to celebrate their very lives. They try to survive everyday from the pain of not being love. They don’t want to exist, since they are already dying on the inside.

The great thing is that last night we went to Andrades’ street to celebrate Tico’s birthday. We brought a big chocolate cake, we sang happy birthday and we told him how loved and precious he was to God. We reminded him that God has not forget him no matter what his reality is showing him. We believe that he felt that God was celebrating him as a son. For us it is an honor to be able to see that maybe there are two different dimensions, but in reality there is just one God!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

It Wasn't What I Expected

Arriving at the orphanage (Uganda Jesus Village) it was a striking contrast to my expectations to encounter the faces of children who had endured incredible pain to be exploding with beautiful smiles and laughter. This wasn’t what I had expected. We all know the images of African children; their faces tell the story – parentless, abandoned, without food and water; without hope. – But that’s not what we found. And as I soon learned more about these precious children, I discovered that the source of their joy was simply because, in spite of everything that had become their harsh reality, they understand the simple fact that Jesus still died on a cross and saved them from their sins. It was amazing. In spite of their living conditions being very, very difficult, they were yet grateful that Jesus gave them a new life, which gave them hope. In the midst lacking the most basic necessity’s, their hearts contained an abundance of faith and passion for God.

All of this caused me to think about my own life. Compared to these precious children, we have so much and yet we often have grumpy hearts. “Oh, God, but it isn’t fair, I want a better car, I want a bigger house, I want my boss to give me a raise, I want the sun and not rain, and then, oh, it’s too hot, send rain, etc…” In Africa, they have war, they have lack of food, they have so little medical resources, (people die of tetanus from a simple scrape on the knee, women and babies die in childbirth, people die from diarrhea. And at the Iris Ministries in Sudan (another stop on our trip), there are no showers or electricity, yet they too seem to have a lot more than most of us on this side of the planet. In the face of very difficult conditions they somehow have a grateful heart for all God has done. They start shouting and dancing when the moon comes out (in Sudan it only comes out for 15 days) to worship God who created the moon, God that provides.

I thought going to Africa meant I would offer the people there something from my abundance, but in reality I received so much more. God is moving in Africa and I am sure that one day they will be sending missionaries to all parts of the world to spread the Good News. One thing I learned for sure, the Gospel is definitely not about how much stuff we have, it’s about embracing and enjoying a new life that only Jesus can give. It’s awesome!!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Not a Street Kid any more!

STREET CHILDREN - there is a simple way to work with street kids, however it does requires somebody to make a sacrifice. Anderson "was" a street kid. Now he's not. See why!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tucking a child away to sleep - On the sidewalk

Have you ever tucked a child into bed? If you’re a parent or you’ve baby-sat or perhaps you have a younger sister or brother, you know what I’m talking about. You pull the warm blankets tightly across your little one and tuck the edges around the bed, making sure they are nice and cozy. Perhaps you read a story or sing a song to lull them gently to sleep. You kiss their forehead and bid them goodnight as you lightly close the door behind you. Right?

Today I watched as Marianne (from Norway), one of my teammates with me in Master’s Commission Brazil, tuck a sweet little girl away to sleep. However, her bed was not a warm and cozy one at all. Instead it was the hard, cold, wet sidewalk of a third world country.

Marianne did the best she could to lay the sleeping child’s head against the cold sheet metal wall of the store we all had gathered under in attempts to avoid the rain. Ah yes, the rain, not to mention the thunder and lightning. My God, I have never been in rain like that before. The wind gathers the pelting drops and mercilessly slaps them against your face and body. The thunder shakes you to the core. Yet, Marianne held the child inside her sweater as we sang “Mighty to save” together for her. She was fascinated to hear the song in English and asked us to sing it over and over again.

I tell you my friends; this was not your average lullaby moment. When it was time to go, the little girl had finally fallen asleep in Marianne’ s arms. I swallowed hard to hold back the tears as Marianne laid the sleeping girl on the cold, wet sidewalk alongside a little boy, also fast asleep. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen.

Guys, this is the world we live in! If no one will stand up and do something about things such as this, then how can we expect there to be a brighter day? – Sara Ribeiro, MCBrasil Student

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Beggars.... They want your spare change

Driving around any typical city in Brazil we’ll find an abundance of beggars practically at every intersection of significance. Today for an example, as I wound my way through town it dawned on me that at many traffic signals there were beggars working every automobile that found itself delayed by a crimson light. Their coordination seemed to be so well thought-out, I was wondering if organized labor had become involved in their efforts to collect everyone’s spare change.

Here’s where I’m begging for your help! – At what point do we not give beggars our spare change? I don’t know about you, but for me it’s necessary to exercise a considerable amount of self-restraint as I struggle to avoid analyzing and speculating (only on mere assumptions) as to what sins against society did these beggars commit for which they are now fatally appointed to their intersection. I would imagine this would present a challenge for most people as it does for me. My rational mind finds it necessary to evaluate them, or as I think more appropriate, “Size em’ up really quick!” so that I can somehow determine if they are worthy of my spare change. - We all know the drill, “He’s an ex-convict. He’s lazy. He’s an alcoholic, I'm not going to let him use my money to buy more alcohol just so he can go home and beat his wife and kids. And for sure – God forbid to buy more drugs!” – There’s a thousand questions that instantly gallop through my mind.

But, what about the children, the women and the senior adults that we frequently see dutifully assigned to the intersections? What’s their story? And more importantly, what should be our response? Every day we see equal numbers of children, women and frazzled seniors begging for us to help with life’s basic needs, or so we think. Actually we can never know the truth, other than the fact that their lives through whatever circumstances have been reduced to begging at intersections for our spare change.

So, still begging for your input, if I am going to give away my spare change, who’s the priority and at what point do I stop giving beggars my spare change? – (This beggar stuff is becoming a complicated business.) If we tell them that “we don’t have any money”, did we just lie to them when we know full well we could easily access some of it by simply driving to the nearest ATM machine? Would that be true if we were on our way to Starbucks for our designer’s cup of latte? – Or how about this one? Is it possible for our money to become “spare change” if we are only holding it to purchase our kids the latest version of the iPhone, or we’re rolling over to test-drive the 2010 Beemer that just arrived in the showroom? When does the money we use to refurnish or renovate our already palatial casa (compared to theirs), become “spare change”? Or why doesn’t the money being set aside for that next Caribbean cruise get titled, “spare change”? – Oh boy! Can you imagine the impact to a beggar’s life if the volume of our “spare change” made its way to their intersections? We’ll probably never know, will we?

All of this leads back to my original question: “At what point do we not give beggars our spare change?” – I suppose the more important question becomes “What and where is your spare change?

"Don't store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Because wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.” – Matthew 6:19-21