In a previous post I wrote about carnaval culture here where all is not as it seems. Music, colour and dancing mask a darker world of drinking, prostitution, drugs and everything that is “not from God”, as the Christians here would say. Carnaval itself is a national holiday that lasts roughly 5 days but in the road the project is on, the neighbours close off the road and blast out music and drink for 24 hours non-stop way before the official holiday begins. The young lads who are training with us live in the houses involved and it weighed on our hearts to do something to keep them away from that whole atmosphere. Around the same time, some of Daniel’s family and friends were thinking of getting the young people together and organising a time away. After a lot of prayer, and overcoming a number of obstacles, a last minute youth camp was organised by Daniel and his small team with the blessing of the church.
We really felt God was at work in the midst of the organisation and the way God used many people to help. A relative of someone from our small group provided a sitio (big area of land out of the city) at the last minute for free, the bus cost next to nothing, cooks stepped forward, virtually all of the food was donated by members of the church, speakers were raised up, one of whom was Márcio, someone to lead games (happened to be my fellow English teacher, Carmen), people to man the canteen appeared (courtesy of family!) musicians emerged and before we knew it nearly 40 campers had signed up within a couple of weeks’ notice!
Apart from the provision, and good weather we were blesssed with during the day (it only rained at night), there were so many encouragements over the 4 nights but one of the highlights had to be the conversion of 3 boys from the workshop, Wanderson, Vinícius and Aílton and the recommitment of a boy called Tomas. Praise God for this fruit! Sometimes when people become Christians here, it can be a bit superficial, but these guys really do know what they have accepted as they have been studying the bible at the project. The road ahead isn’t easy for them so we pray for the role of the church and their small group especially.
I also particularly noticed the commaradery at the camp. Having taken part in camps in Brazil before, I have noted the cleeks in the past and perhaps even falseness, dare I say it, more so in the teenage girls. However, this event felt different. Perhaps it was the nature of it being last minute, of it being a smaller group, of there being new faces to mix in, or, more likely, it was God at work breaking down barriers. Many noticed this important element.
Despite the food being delicious, and there being plenty to go around, the tuck shop was very popular and raised over 600 reais in aid of Instituto Engrenar. Speaking of which, back at the workshop, it has been encouraging to see some fruits of our labour, but the challenges continue. One of the trainees who became a Christian before the youth camp has sadly moved to another city, or rather was sent but his stepmum due to some family complications. It was really hard to see this as just a couple of days before, he had been saying how he had been so happy at the sitio and how he never wanted to get into drugs again. He had been smoking cannabis and some stronger drugs for some time, prior to his involvement with us. We pray God will keep him. Praying readers, do please pray for Marquinhos. One of the other trainees we currently have, Aílton has a rather interesting story. He used to work with a chap who sold us the columns for the workshop at a discount price. This chap, who lives just a few minutes up the same road as the workshop, attempted to kill his wife a few months ago with a knife and found himself in jail. He is already out again and seemingly the wife is back together with him, but that’s another story. And yes, it does often feel like we live in a an episode of Eastenders.
The other two boys, Wanderson and Vinicius, come from families which practice candomblé, the black magic, spiritist religion which is very dominant here in Northeast Brazil. It is often mixed in with Catholocism and makes for a a huge mess of rituals and supersitition. Both boys committed to Christ at the camp, and yet now have the massive challenge of marrying up their faith with their families. Pray for them, and for us, as we continue to reach our to their families.
The Kids Club continues to go well and it is impressive how much the children rememebr from week to week. The incentive of earning a sweet also helps! We are grateful for our small team of helpers and the material we have been able to buy or have had donated, including snacks and toys.
Our little English class continues on Wednesday night with the endlessly talented, multilingual, Carmen, who has shared her language material and gives of us her time for free.
The women in the community really enjoyed the craft course which Maxsianne taught, and which finished last week. We continue to pray for the ladies, who have already beenm asking what the next course will be!
Any mum with young kids will relate to how refreshing it can be to get out for an evening and it was my turn on Saturday to enjoy a service in the church which celebrated the first anniversary of the mum’s prayer group. Although I don’t tend to get along to the weekly meetings, as it clashes with other commitments, I keep up with the prayer points and join in the main purpose which is clearly prayer. The group has a key verse, the middle part of Lamentations 2.19
Arise, cry out in the night,
as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heartlike water
in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him
for the lives of your children,
who faint from hunger
at every street corner.
It was geat to sing together, pray, hear the testimonies of a couple of women and a challenging message from Noemia, Pastor Nahur’s wife.
Behind the scenes, we continue to work on fundraising for the project as well as the legal part of the paperwork to register the project is currently with the governing authorities and hopefully we should get word in a week or so if all has gone through ok. Once we are a registered charity, it will be easier to secure donations from business and other partnerships. Earlier this month we visited the El Shadday Evangelical Church as we know Pastor Franky and presented the ministry. It was well received and we even managed to sell some of the items made by the trainees!
As always, thank you so much for your support and prayers and for putting up with my ramblings!