Won for Christ, and the Battle Continues

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 Shaddaybe 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!



Kids, Crafts, Converts & Chameleons

January has been a month of exciting things at Instituto Engrenar. We are three weeks into a Saturday kids’ club and are pleased with how things have been going so far. We had 19 kids the first week and yesterday we had over 30. It has been a real encouragement to see a team of helpers emerge and give up their Saturday mornings to serve there.

We have free play time followed by a bible story, a worksheet, games and snack. It’s not re-inventing the wheel but is a tried and tested formula! In Sao Luís, there is next to nothing available for kids to do for free and, some of the time, the youngsters don’t even have school if their teachers are on strike. But we hope to be doing more than babysitting or even entertaining the children…many of these kids know something about God, and might well tell you a bit about Jesus, but their home lives are chaotic and few of them have a living faith. Sao Bernardo is a needy area of Sao Luis, an already embarrassingly underdeveloped Brazilian state capital, and children here come from families where there is unemployment, substance abuse, witchcraft, broken relationships, domestic abuse, absent fathers, etc. etc. It really feels like a privilege to spend a few hours with the kids. Some come without shoes, others without having had breakfast or a wash, but all leave having heard some key truths from the bible and having enjoyed themselves.

In our increasingly multi-functional workshop, Tuesday afternoon is now the slot for a craft course for the ladies in the area. Maxsianne is teaching ‘Biscuit’ to a group of around 10 women. We are only 2 weeks in, but it is another exciting  thing to see the women attentively hearing from the bible before the practical element of the course.

During the rest the days, the trainees continue to beaver away and learn each day.

We have had a few chaps not fulfilling their duties so while they take some time off, we have given a couple of other gents an opportunity, Marcos and Eduardo. Last week, Marcos made a profession of faith at Instituto Engrenar, something which we shared with the church on Sunday. He had heard the gospel before but had never bowed the knee. At 17 and already getting into soft drugs, we trust he has made the best decision at a critical time in his life. Praise the Lord!

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
L-R Marcio, Pastor Sérgio, Marcos & Daniel

Thanks to the addition of Márcio to the team, Daniel has a little more flexibility to get round to the some of the previously sidelined jobs, opportunities and hobbies. One of these is to get a Christian samba band together. The intention is to involve some of the guys on the fringes of church and use the band to encourage others. So far, the group has played at the church’s monthly prayer vigil and a youth service. Both nights went down well!

Some of our regular supporters might recall that Daniel’s brother José was involved with the project way back at the start, over a year and a half ago now, but he decided to choose his own path and a relationship which wasn’t good for him. It didn’t take long for him to fall into drugs and he has been up and down ever since. That is, until Friday of last week when he said he wanted help in a recovery house. Daniel and Márcio took José to the Casa de Davi and we really pray for a true transformation this time.

The rain has started to really fall this month and it brings with it all kinds of creatures, some of whom have come closer than I might like, like the time I opened the toilet lid to find a tarantula crawling up the toilet pan making his break for freedom. I was proud of myself for dealing with it (broom handle, flushing away, tartantula swims back, IMG-20180128-WA0000.jpgreflushing with soap powder). Poor Antonio found one a few days later in the same place but he wasn’t too fussed. Cockroaches and flying ants are never far away and I’ve seen rats too but a more pleasant visitor is a baby chameleon living in our back garden. We’ve named him Charlie. We think he may have fallen from the adjoining house’s mango tree. He has been around for a few weeks and I’m not sure what  he is eating…we should probably set him free somewhere. Where’s the SSPCA when you need them?!

The pics below are from a trip to a waterpark and the recent wedding of Romulo and Andrea.


Festivities in the Sun

Christmas gatherings, a whole lot of food and fun, there may not be snow and the traditions might be different, but the festive period offers lots of great opportunities in Sao Luis.

For anyone who might have missed it, our small team has been joined by Pastor Márcio and Maxsianne. Márcio just happens to be Daniel’s nephew who lives nextdoor to the workshop and Maxsianne just happens to be super talented with all kinds of arts and crafts and kids work. We are thrilled about this answer to prayer and God is already doing exciting things through this couple, not least with their massive involvement in our main Christmas event. We used our last fundraiser to raise money for a community Christmas dinner for all of the trainees (practical welders and English pupils) and their families. The evening included a quiz, a wee blurb about the project for folks who were unsure, a short message and the distribution of some Christmas hampers.


We had a Christmas themed night at the English class, and I think I learned as much as the students about where Christmas trees and the Santa phenomenon comes from. We did a “Secret Santa” style game but we had to bring gender neutral home-made presents which we could poach until the last minute!

Christmas is a family time here and people only really travel to be with the main group of family. The main event is a dinner and present exchanging on Christmas Eve which continues over midnight when fireworks are set off and music is played veeeerry loudly to ring in Christmas Day. Christmas Day itself involves eating leftovers and chilling.

It was fantastic to have a few days off over the Christmas break. We enjoyed a few trips out and about round Sao Luís. Antonio’s favourite place is the water park!

The project, Instituto Engrenar is back in full swing, with recent projects including the conversion of an old oil drum into a bench, painting a neighbour’s security gate, wooden benches and decorative items. Behaviour isn’t generally an issue with the trainees but one young man has been a bit troublesome recently so has been asked to take some time out to reflect. We have invited another young man to get involved too, which is great.

Next week sees the start of our first craft course for ladies in the area which we are looking forward to greatly. It is soon to be followed by a Saturday’s kids’ club so watch this space for new ventures in 2018. Praise God for His goodness!

The (Not So) Simple Things

As we approach the end of 2017, there is much happening to celebrate and commemorate at end of a busy season.

Instituto Engrenar is delighted to welcome Pastor Márcio and his wife, Maxsianne, to our team full-time.

Márcio and Maxsianne bring a wealth of skills, experience and enthusiasm to the project which we have so needed. What a difference it has already made just to have someone else to share the load and bring fresh input, so simple but so difficult to have found consistently! They join us with son, Cristiano, aged 6, who graduated from junior school this weekend. We were kindly invited and it was a very special occasion for all the youngsters.

You can maybe see from the photos that a big fuss was made of the kids, they had learned dance routines and songs, recited messages, there were precessions in their fancy outfits rented for the event, food, professional photographers and indoor playground rented for the night . While it was all beautiful and very adorable, I couldn’t help feeling slightly uncomfortable with some it (it resembled those US beauty pageants). Maybe we are too laid back in the UK, letting our kids go out with uncombed hair or, dare I suggest, a bow that doesn’t match the colour of the dress but that’s a debate for another day…it was a big momomet for Cristiano who participated perfectly.

Last weekend we held a second ‘Bazar’ at the workshop of Instituto Engrenar. It was a jumble sale and mini fun day with snacks on sale as well as face painting. The total after a morning and afternoon of work was a superb R$1089, with next to no outlays. Such a simple thing to do, but it was fun for all, not too much organising and a great success.

This money will be used to help cover the costs of the Christmas event we are organising next Saturday for everyone involved with the project and their families. None of it would have been possible without our many happy helpers and, of course, the supporters near and far.

Instituto Engrenar continues to be busy with welding trainees during the day and the English course on a Wednesday night. We are looking forward to some craft courses starting in January with Maxsianne.

When living in Scotland I take the quality of the roads for granted and we, as a nation, are quick to complain when the snow or ice damages the road and it is not promptly fixed. Over here in the majority world, when you have lived with an uneven, dirt track road for over 60 years, it is a big deal when the council comes along to asphalt it. There might still be no proper sewage system (septic tanks are common in many areas of São Luís), and the tropical rains might well wash away some of the shoddy workmanship and inferior materials, but for now, this simple progression means chalk painting on the road, wheelbarrow rides, strolling with a buggy, football on the street and many more simple pleasures which resulted in fireworks being set off the day the tarmac arrived.

Heading out for dinner at a beachside restaurant with small group is one of the perks of living in São Luís. It is a fairly common thing for church small groups to do for their Christmas meal out (no turkeys involved, only lots of fresh meat, fish, shellfish). We celebrated the end of the year and gave thanks for all that’s been. Our group and their families have seen a lot this year: graduations from high school, the loss of a child, the loss of a parent, the birth of a baby, new projects, new houses, operations, separations…the lot. And what can we say of it all?

“Até aqui nos ajudou o Senhor” from 1 Sam 7:12

“Thus far the Lord has helped us”

Without the Lord’s strength and the encouragement we have drawn from one another, for sure we would be wandering around like lost sheep. We pray for even greater things in 2018 as there is much to learn and much to share with each other.


Daniel and I both had our birthdays this month and we were spoiled with a few special celebrations, as below.

Antonio and Stephanie have both had colds recently, but are generally doing well. Stephanie is now enjoying solid foods on the whole, but needs a bit more convincing on veg. Papaya, banana and apple and going down easily on their own or in porridge! I am every hopeful that the more food I can stuff into her, the more she will sleep at night but it doesn’t seem to work that way!! If only it were so simple.

Hope everyone enjoys advent week!

Day to Day Differences Living in Northeast Brazil

If you have ever wondered what it’s like living in Brazil, here’s my rundown of some of the differences in the simple things, in no particular order.

  1. People take multiple showers during the day, at least 3, because of the heat and humidity to cool down. Showers are generally cold, intionally, and because it’s cheaper than installing an electric shower.
  2. milkThere is no fresh milk here (in Sao Luís anyway). People use powdered milk or long-life milk. There is a special, vitamin enriched powered milk for children, made by Nestle.
  3. Food is different, as you would expect. It’s generally much fresher and good quality. Rice and beans are the staples and the main ricemeal is at lunchtime. I confess that in the midday heat, my apetite isn’t always huge and sometimes I’d be happy with a sandwich! The rice and beans is served with meat or chicken or fish.  Sao Luís offers lots of fish and shellfish and you can buy your crab live at the market every day.
  4. Saying on the food theme, there is a real lack of quality cheese in Sao Luis, which is hard for cheese lovers. Cheese is generally a bit plasticky but if you’re willing to pay a price, you can buy a teeny pice of gorgonzola for about 10 pounds.
  5. Driving is pretty insane and one sometimes dreams of smooth roads with no horns constantly beeping. See my previous blog.Engarrafamento SLZ - Cópia
  6. The lifestyle is relaxed. Being late is not a problem. We’ll get round to things eventually.  Unexpected conversations and encounters are usually more important than being on time. Much more chilled on that front, if sometimes frustrating!
  7. Lack of law enforcement. Laws exist here but they don’t seem to come to fruition. This affects just about every aspect of life and leads to the corruption which permeates this state (see previous blogs).
  8. An unusual relationship with animals. Animals aren’t kept much as pets here and there is no RSPCA equivalent but people often have dogs for security. The dog is not usually walked and is fed whatever leftovers are kicking about. On one trip to the local market, I saw a women chatting to something inside her boot. I assumed it must have been a dog but she casually pulled out a live chicken. She had probably bought it at the market for lunch or perhaps was going to fatten it at home. The neighbour across from the workshop keeps a family of goats.  One time a goat leapt out of his bus that he parks on the street and rents out to folk. So bizarre!
  9. Everyone has a nickname. This is cultural, but also because some of the names here are very difficult. People like to make a mix of names, like a part of the mother and father’s name. We have a friend called Wilson who has 2 sons: Wanderilson (nickname Wandinho) and Iranilson (nickname Iran). Daniel has a friend who is only known as Congo (don’t worry, it’s not racist here). I remember calling him to give him change at the Bazar we organised and it seemed wrong to shout ”Congo’ in front of the pastor’s wife, but no-one actually knew his real name.
  10. An obvious difference is the weather. It is hot and humid here with roughly 6 months of pure sun and 6 months of rain, though fortunately it doesn’t rain incessantly, because when it rains, it rains.rainsao luis
  11. The culture is fairly patriarchal. Times are changing but it is still the case that fewer women work, and those that do are paid less. Women are generally less independent than in the Developed World. Even in small things like fewer women drive and there is less of a culture of women going out socially by themselves (if they have husbands). That is not to say that women stay in all day but they are unlikely to go to social events without their partners. I hear part of the reason for this could be jealousy or safety concerns…
  12. Day to day routines are different. I have written about this before too. The heat of the day means that many more things happen early morning (in terms of work) and evening (in terms of play), with a rest in the afternoon.

I am sure I could go on, but that’s enough of a flavour. We take the good and the not so good!

A Visit from Home

Perhaps only those who have spent time abroad will truly appreciate how special it is when someone from home comes to visit. We were recently really encouraged and blessed by welcoming not only 1 person, but 3 from Scotland. Our home church Pastor, Mez, his wife, Miriam, and an old friend from Niddrie, Stephen, made a flying visit to Sao Luis. Mez’s work with 20schemes means that he regularly travels and he had just been in Fortaleza doing a conference before the short hop here to Sao Luis, where he and Miriam lived and worked as missionaries for several years until 2007.

Mez, Miriam, Stephen and Matthew Spandler-Davison (who was a bonus 1 day visitor!)

Mez spoke over 2 days at another conference here in Sao Luis on Church in Hard Places, but thereafter spent time with us and at the project. The work of 20schemes and ‘Igreja em Lugares Difíceis’ is well explained here for Portuguese speakers.

We also managed to fit in a few get togethers  with some faces the McConnells hadn’t seen for 10 years. We were spoiled with a meals out and a suitcase full of goodies from home, including decent chocolate, some things we wanted for ministry and useful family items. Once again, thank you to everyone who sent their love, items, donations of money, etc. We really appreciate receiving all these things and trust the Lord will bless you for your kindness. Antonio was especially thrilled with his toys, books and being the guinea pig for Mum’s first face painting attempt. Think I’ll leave a Brazilian to do it at our next event!

It was great seeing Stephen too. Daniel knows Stephen as a teammate playing in the Niddrie football team.  Stephen might not have been very keen to try the local food but he did Scotland proud at the football match on the Saturday!


For us (or maybe me personally), it was good to speak to people who ‘just get it’ and appreciate what the struggles can be here. It can be a lonely and tiring task, especially for Daniel at times, leading the ministry and trying to look after many responsibilities. Mez and Miriam were able to encourage and advise on that front. Please come again soon!

As well as enjoying the teaching from Mez at the Church in Hard Places conference, the following weekend, I (Linsey) was treated to 3 nights at a women’s conference on trauma healing at the Primeira Igreja. The guest speakers were 2 American ladies, so I really have been spoiled recently with quality teaching in my native tongue. The ladies lead a ministry called ElevateHer which aims to empower women by finding freedom and healing in the gospel. The material was practical, which was helpful. Perhaps churches here in Brazil tend not to talk about dark subjects, and in a culture full of prosperity gospel chat, it is not so common to hear things like ‘God doesn’t always heal’ or ‘sometimes it takes a professional to help’ or ‘it’s actually ok for a Christian to say life sucks sometimes’. I think some folk would have been hearing this type of thing clearly for the first time. Personally, it was great to see so many women from Daniel’s family over the 3 days. I think I counted 13 of us at the peak.

There have been 2 more birthdays in the past couple of weeks: Daniel’s niece, Sandya, and a great nephew turned 1. First birthdays are a big deal here and Benjamim had a grand time celebrating.

The work at the project continues and we have seen great positives on the practical and spiritual side, along with the usual dose of challenges. The welding skills improve and the team contiDSC_0489nues to make metal security gates, chairs etc. It has been exciting to see the young boys from the area coming to church regularly with us too. They are now beginning to apply the bible to their own lives more, even if they are not yet saved. We pray for good relationships with the families too. Some of the boys are from really humble and complicated backgrounds. We pray we can offer stability and support.

Unfortunately, our trainee from the recovery house, Raílson decided to make a rash decision one morning and left the recovery house as he was missing his family. He was close to 5 months in recovery, and 4 of them were with us. Despite our pleadings, at the exact same time we were going to the airport to meet Mez, Raílson made his way home. As expected, he phoned a couple of days later saying how sorry he was and that he wanted another chance. Unfortunately, we can’t accept him as things stand, but we pray he makes good decisions over the next few weeks and perhaps we can re- think one day.

A new venture has started in the church here to try and get all the closeby missionaries together once every 2 weeks so that we can communicate better and promote and share about our causes better. The second meeting of its kind was held at the Instituto Engrenar yesterday.


The English class continues on a Wednesday evening with the help of Carmen.

Pics below from a trip out to a park and Antonio steering the boat that Jonah was in at church!

If you’ve got this far, you’re doing well! Imagine if I included all our news…these are just a few items! As always, feel free to get in touch and we will reply ASAP.

The Place of Useful Learning

I might have borrowed the above strapline from my former university, but it seems a good way to describe Instituto Engrenar at the moment. Our growing offering to the community now includes teaching and training in welding and soldering, mathematics, English and, of course, the bible and discipleship.

The core team learning to weld have continued to put their new found skills to great use on a variety of projects, big and small.

We have been thrilled to have a few more folk helping, as well as Pedro. Pastor Marcelo has been leading the morning devotionals a few days each week and Igor has been teaching Maths to the young trainees in the mornings, which is of great benefit as their school teachers are still on strike.  They actually had one morning of lessons this week but it seems their teachers got fed up again and the school premises returned to being a ghost town.

We are now 2 weeks into the beginners’ English class. It runs on a Wednesday evening from 7.30pm-9.30pm and we have had a positive start. Despite this being fairly new to me, and it taking time to prepare well, the classes have gone down well and it has been great to see a real mix of students coming together to learn. We are also so grateful to have a proper English teacher coming along to help now! Carmen has over 25 years teaching English here in Brazil and is a missionary so couldn’t be more suited to this if she tried. She ‘happens’ to be here in Sao Luis at the moment and is happy to give us a hand. Any nuggets of gold I can gleam from her are much appreciated! She already had the class singing a verse in English in the second week of teaching.

Last week it was the ‘Dia das Criancas’,  or Children’s Day, and it meant for lots of celebrations, presents and far too much sugar all round! Antonio’s school had some special events and a trip to a swimming pool, which was right up his street as he started swimming lessons a few weeks ago. Antonio was so thrilled with his swimming cap and goggles we bought that he insisted on wearning his goggles in the shopping centre. Aye son, as if we peely wally Scots don’t already draw enough attention to ourselves.

Antonio is a big fan of Stephanie now and is a protective big brother. Stephanie giggles away at his antics!

We are really looking forward to a pastoral visit from Mez and Miriam who arrive tomorrow. Mez is also speaking at a conference here in Sao Luis (see below). It has been a crazy busy time with lots of pastoral issues and general mayhem but we are encouraged by how things continue to progress with the project. Let’s hope we keep being useful!IMG_3340