The highest of highs and lowest of lows have made appearances in an emotional couple of weeks here in the relentlessly intense sun of Northeast Brazil. What remains true is that God is unchanging and He will achieve his purposes on this fallen earth.
It seemed like a long time coming…the official inauguration of the Instituto Engrenar took place on the 16th September and a proud moment it was too. It was a mad dash to get everything organised and have items ready to showpiece at the open day, but, once again, God provided people to help and serve in ways we could not have imagined and somehow God pulled us through the chaos! What resulted was a really encouraging day which allowed anyone who wanted to, to come in and see what the project offers for people wanting to learn a skill in a Christian environment and what kind of practical work the team can do for all your metal needs. We even managed to raise some money through selling our branded t-shirts and refreshments.
The highlight for me was the opening service in the evening. In true Brazilian style, the order of service was decided about 2 minutes before the service began, which itself started a good 15 minutes later than advertised! We shared about the purpose of the project, the story so far and how God has had his hand on every element and used people from near and wide to allow the project to touch lives and spread the Good News. Daniel shared a message from the bible and the project was prayed over.
The mini showroom was prepared to show the team’s capabilities.
Raílson, who Daniel collects every morning from the recovery house, gave his testimony during the service very clearly and we continue to pray that it brings hope to those who listened. It was fantastic meet to his long-term girlfriend and son there. He misses them greatly and is continuing to fight his personal battles so that he might return to them and plan his wedding! Do keep this family in your prayers.
We were also treated to some excellent music. While on the hunt to buy a ‘cavaquinho’, an instrument similar to a ukelele, Daniel met a Christian saxophonist who was very interested in the project and offered to play a set for us. Here’s a wee clip. We also had a pagode (samba) band at the end, made up of friends and family. It seems nearly everyone here is a musician; natural rhythm is in the genes!
We are so grateful to everyone who came and who helped. The team at the workshop continues to work hard on a variety of tasks, now busier than ever as more folks come forward with requests! Pics will follow of the latest projects. Two of the young boys who are learning to weld have also been at church 2 weeks in a row which is great.
The weekend after the Inauguration, we were pleased to go along to a 2 day training conference for leaders in the church. The speaker had been invited from a large baptist church in Fortaleza which our church here has had links with for many years. We found the teaching helpful, practical and refreshingly honest. The speaker candidly spoke of his own failings and fears, which isn’t always the case here, at least not from the pulpit. We left encouraged.
After church the same Sunday, we received news from one of the couple’s in our small group that their son, Jessé, had been taken into hospital, having had a headache and apparent convulsion. Josué and Raquel became members of the church around the same time as us and we remember being welcomed at the front with them and their 3 sons. We later formed a new small group with them and other couples. It quickly transpired that something serious had happened that Sunday as 13 year old Jessé went into a coma, was only breathing with machines and his parents were told he had a 1% chance of waking up. Words failed us as the shock and gravity of the situation was immense. Jessé had been at our small group meeting on the Friday evening, chattering away and as lively as ever. Jessé had hydrocephalus and some learning difficulties but these were not apparent. He was very intelligent and always the life and soul of the party. Jessé liked asking us all about Scotland and had made up his mind to visit one day.
The days that followed his going in to hospital have been some of the hardest we have faced in Sao Luis, certainly in terms of emotion. Family and friends rallied around the family and prayed for a miracle but Jessé was called home to be with the Lord last Tuesday. The death of a child is a truly horrendous thing and, yet, there was much hope and gratitude at the funeral. As is customary, the funeral was held the next day, and that was with Jessé’s parents opting to donate his organs. Jessé was born with complications but had come through so much in his short life. He had been baptised as a Christian and his, and his parents’, faith made all the difference to their outlook on life. With the assured promise that Jessé is safe in heaven and they will meet him again one day, his parents have been able to give thanks for the 13 years they spent with Jessé, rather than be bitter about his apparently untimely passing. So many things have struck me in the last week or so: the fragility of life, the hope of Heaven, the grace of God, the worth and purpose of a life (much was said at the funeral about how Jessé achieved more in his short life than many do in a lifetime, such as his pursuit of joy, evangelism, meaningful friendships) and even the purpose of the Church as the family have expressed their gratitude for the care and affection they have been given. The hospital said they had never seen so many visitors to the intensive care ward, and the church was packed at the funeral. Folks served water during the service, provided refreshments for the family all week, gave lifts and decorated the church. It was impressive. The days ahead will surely be mixed for the family who are left behind but we are encouraged and challenged by their example of thankfulness and trust in the Lord. As our small group met at the family home last Friday, it is surely only by the grace of God that Josué and Raquel could smile and say that, despite their own desire to have spent more years with Jessé, they can sleep well at night because “God is Good”. Pray for the family, especially Jessé’s brothers Joao Pedro and Luca who are finding it hard. Pray we might be a support to them at this time.
The more time we work and live here, and the more we experience the effects of sin in the world, the more grateful I am for the gospel and for a sovereign God who knows what He is doing. We have lost several friends and parents of friends in the past couple of months. May God help us all to see life for what it is, a short journey of seeking obedience to God as we await eternity with Him in Heaven. For those without hope after death, think about it and read 1 Corinthians 15.