Dedication & Inauguration Preparation 

Last weekend was an important day for the youngest Melo da Silva as baby Stephanie was dedicated to the Lord.

 

 

It was important to us to do this as it shows our desire to bring up Stephanie in the ways of the Lord. It is not a baptism and doing this doesn’t mean she is automatically a Christian, but it shows that, with God’s help, and the help of His church, we will seek to honour the Lord as we look after her and teach her. No tall order! It was lovely to have our small group at the front with us and two of the Pastors, Nahur and Marcelo, involved in that part of the service.

It has been a particularly busy 2 weeks as we set 16th September as the date for the official inauguration of the Instituto Engrenar. We are opening the workshop from 3-6pm for folk to drop in and see the workshop and the type of work we are doing, and holding a service at 7.30pm, all with live music, snacks and fun. Daniel and his team have been busy making items (table and chairs, shelves, tables etc) to show off their capabilities as well as completing finishing touches to the workshop. Behind the scenes, we have been sorting paperwork and spreading the word about the event. We have been inviting everyone who has been involved, from folk who work at construction shops, to neighbours, churches and the recovery houses. Please pray for this day if you are a praying person.

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Invitation to the Inauguration

There were 2 holiday days here this past weekend for Brazilian Independence Day and it was Sao Luis’ 405th birthday. We spent Friday at the sitio (weekend house in the countryside) of a friend from church which included a barbecue and pool for Antonio. Antonio and Daniel enjoyed a funfair in the evening with friends.

 

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A proud big brother moment

I will be posting some pics on Facebook this week of what to expect at the Inauguration so look out for that.

Have a good week!

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Wedding Bells

Last weekend, we enjoyed being part of a group wedding at the church. The church hosts these ‘community wedding’ every so often for various reasons. The basic premise is various couples all  get married at the same time in one service. People often opt for this kind of wedding when they have perhaps been living as man and wife for some time, but never been legally married, or perhaps they have only ever had a civil wedding but would like a religious ceremony, or it can obviously be a cost saver too. Whatever the motive, people put on their best clothes and get ready for the celebration. Decoration is a big deal here and the church was looking lovely. The wedding was due to start at 7pm (weddings are always at night here, when the temperature drops. Only mad folk from Scotland like to float the boat and do the opposite) but in actual fact began around 9pm- no surprises there. One of the reasons for the delay was not even the 7 brides arriving late, but rather the organisation of the mammoth procession as the bridal party came into the church.

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We had  the privilege of being ‘padrinhos’ for Daniel’s sister who was getting married. She was married in a registry office years ago but never in a church. Padrinhos are the couple the bride and goom choose to be part of the day. They don’t have bridesmaids and groomsmen as such here, but rather couples are chosen. Also in the line up, which was beginning to look like the welcoming of each country at an Olympic opening ceremony, is the arrival of the groom, who enters with his mum, or a female from the family to represent his mum, the flower girl, and the bride herself who enters with her dad, or another man from the family. Leonilia chose her nephew, Márcio.

Once everyone was semi-organised, the proceedings began. The rest of the ceremony is fairly typical, with songs, a message from the Pastor, the vows, the signing of the register, and, here, the Pastor does a ‘wine ceremony’. To be honest, I didn’t really understand what it was all about at my own wedding, but it makes a bit more sense now. Essentially there are 2 cups which represent the lives of the couple. They are poured together and can no longer be separated. The wine represents spiritual food so the wine is then consumed by the couple. There was a small reception afterwards with cake and lots of photographs.

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Stephanie’s first wedding

Daniel’s family chipped in so that Leonilia and Zé Carlos could have a night in a hotel afterwards as they never had a honeymoon the first time around and never have much time to relax. Despite the groom being unsure of the idea, he was persuaded and they were very grateful for the gift!

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There were more celebrations on Sunday evening as the church celebrated 25 years of the women’s prayer group. There were songs, testimonies and many thank yous for the faithful perseverence of the group of ladies who have blessed many people over the years with prayer, visits and practical help. Daniel told me there is a lady from the group who has been praying for him for decades now. What a lovely thing!

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Over at the workshop, the growing team has been busy beavering away as they simultaneously learn and make. The young boys who come along for the day are going strong. We weren’t sure if they would really stick it out but so far, so good. The boys go to a public school which hasn’t been functioning for 3 months. It seems the teachers are on strike…or something. As I have said before, the public education system is pretty poor and teachers regularly don’t pitch up. PE lessons are taught in a classroom and there is little or no practical element to any subject. Pupils end up being very far behind with their coursework which later affects their progression to further education. It’s a sorry state of affairs, which is maybe no surprise why these boys want to do something with their time. The  team made a security gate this week, with the help of Pedro.

It was encouraging to see Raílson, from the recovery house, teaching the young boys what he has learned. Raílson is doing very well. He is diligent, quick to learn and shows great attention to detail.

Daniel took the boys out this week for something to eat too, just to relax a bit. Speaking of relaxing…

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Cousins Vitoria and Ana Raquel share a story with Stephanie
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Antonio and Ana Raquel got too comfy in the Brazilian B and Q

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, we love to hear from everyone so please feel free to drop us a line or arrange a skype even. I might not always reply right quickly, but I will try!

 

New Trainees & More Fabrications

A couple of Saturdays ago, a lady approached us at the workshop with her son asking if he could sign up for the mechanics course.  We are not quite at  the stage of providing national recognised qualifications (though we are working on it behind the scenes with the help of some friends!) but, nevertheless, this young boy of 16 was keen to have  an opportunity to learn something useful. We are finding more and more parents who are keen to keep their kids busy in this way. With a 3 year old, I can relate to wanting to keep energetic boys in the right kind of busyness! But here, we can see the danger as children grow into teens and are all too easily strayed away from the straight and narrow and enter into the world of general nothingness, unemployment, drinking, sex, drugs and, in some cases, crime.

Junior has been coming every morning to learn with Daniel and Railson and is proving his commitment and desire to learn. He joins the bible study too.  We don’t believe he is a Christian but he is having the opportunity to hear the Word.

More and more folks in the local community are taking notice of what is happening at Instituto Engrenar and there are now two other boys also coming along to spend the day with Daniel. These boys’ story is interesting because they come from a family who have practised candomblé (a religion based on witchcraft) for many years. It is dark scary stuff (think drinking blood, worshipping animals at its more extreme) but encouragingly, these boys used to go along to an evangelistic kids’ club in the area that was run by Daniel’s family. They both have heard the truth of the bible, and apparently their behaviour was less than perfect at the club but we know God uses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). When the boys’ gran was dying a couple of years ago, on her death bed she said she didn’t want her family to follow the same path that she did as it only brought her misery. She wanted her family to close the ‘worship’ centre that she held in her house. What an opportunity to have these boys around for the day.

Daniel and Railson have been finishing off a few jobs in the workshop, including some much needed storage for tools! They have also made 2 pedastools for a community wedding at the church this weekend. I will say more about the wedding in the next post. Daniel also made a basketball hoop for a special customer…Antonio. A plastic basketball hoop here costs in the region of R$80-100, that £20-25. Daniel made it for much less, showed Raislon how to do it, and now it can be something that we can make for others who probably couldn’t afford one in the shops. The boys will even fit it for free!

We contiue to work on the legal side of thing for the project to be officially recognised and we are planning a meeting with the leadership team next month, followed by the official inauguration. There is lots to be done between now and then! The English classes will start the following week after the offical opening. Preparations are going well and I am looking forward to the challenge.

A few pics of the kids..and signing off.

Painting Party & Father’s Day Celebrations

Last weekend was really  encouraging as we invited folks to come and help paint the workshop, with a traditional Brazilian feijoada lunch as a thank you! We were thankful to have plenty of people involved from the church, recovery house, family and even the neighbours. It never ceases to impress me the way people just muck in here and don’t expect anything in return. It is somewhat to do with the fact that people here understand what it is not to have much in the way of material possessions, so when one is in need, the community steps in. People offered to donate and make food, others brought fruit and fresh juice without being asked, others put in hours of physical hard work, and all of it done with smiling faces and great camaraderie. 

The workshop was transformed in a few hours and now looks much more like the finished article. During the week Daniel and our trainee, Railson, painted the banister, the front gate and other details inside, as well as continued to weld items for the workshop as practice, such as stands for tools.

Antonio has had a cold this week but still managed to pop out to our friend, Cosme’s, birthday celebration and a trip to Tracoá, which is a nature reserve with a playpark and restaurant. There aren’t many places like that here and we enjoyed it so much we’ve been twice in week as we returned yesterday (Sunday) with Daniel’s mum.

Yesterday was Father’s Day here and, like Mother’s Day, it’s an important celebration. Schools and churches often put on events. Brazilians are big on cheese (not the edible kind) and it was sweet (and quite amusing!) to see lot of Dads and kids wearing matching t-shirts yesterday with slogans like ‘First time Daddy’ or ‘My Daddy, My Hero’ and often with printed photos. Antonio’s school organised a presentation for the Dads, some food and a mini football tournament. The church also followed the theme with kids singing at the front, a special message and momentos for all the Dads.

Onwards now to another week of work in the heat of Sao Luis. Our theme at small group on Friday night was resting in God, which does not always come naturally to me (Linsey) so it was a good study for me to prepare. Here’s my verse for the week-

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

and in Portuguese for those who wish to practice their language skills!

Filipenses 4:6
Não andem ansiosos por coisa alguma, mas em tudo, pela oração e súplicas, e com ação de graças, apresentem seus pedidos a Deus.

Signing off for now!

Multicultural Melting Pot with One Thing in Common

What could possibly unite Indian tribes, Haitians, the urban poor and upper class of São Luís and even a couple of Brits? It can only be the name of Jesus Christ. All of the above people groups, and more, joined together at the church’s missionary conference this month. There were talks and worship sessions over 5 days. We enjoyed meeting new people, hearing how the gospel is changing lives in many places and especially singing “How Great Thou Art” and “How Great is our God” in Portuguese, English and Guajajaras (language belonging to the tribe of the same name). A touching moment was when Pastor Sergio from our church announced the Sunday School had collected an offering for the youngest missionary. We were surprised to hear him call our Stephanie (at 6 weeks old)  to the front to receive the gift!

Obviously a conference like this costs money and the church did a few fundraising events to help with the costs, including a football tournament which was right up Daniel’s street.

Instituto Engrenar continues to move forwards with pace. We have another recruit with us from the “Casa de Davi” recovery house. Raílson has been a welcome volunteer with a great apt for welding, learning the bible and pitching in all round.

It’s always challenging to consider the perceptions and judgements we wrongly make of people. Ever since I first met some street kids at a drop in centre here, I was impressed by how polite and respectful they were (Mez probably had taught and warned them well, but even so!). All of the guys I meet from the recovery house are helpful, mannerly and friendly with the kids and I. They don’t hesitate to come over and carry bags or the car seat for me, are inquisitive about Scotland, play football with Antonio and get on just fine in day to day situations; the sad problem is just their vice. Drugs and alcohol destroy lives so easily, and often subtly, but we hope we can give guys like Raílson a second chance.

Raílson helped Daniel to make a table for the workshop and has helped both he and Pedro to make gates for another client and an extension to Daniel’s sister’s snack bar.

The workshop now has a staircase, has better access at the front with a proper pavement, and on Saturday we’ll have a group of people coming to paint.

We celebrated 7 years of marriage on 17th July with pizza with all the family! Our family has grown a bit over these years…

Thanks all- more news soon.

Rules for Driving in Brazil

Driving in any foreign country can be an adventure and it can often feel like you have to drive by the seat of your pants in Sao Luis! Having passed the time limit of when I (Linsey)  could use my foreign licence, we finally managed to get hold of my Brazilian driving licence and I now am fully aware of the highway code in this country. Low and behold, it´s not too dissimilar to the UK. The problem here is a lack of enforcement of those rules, which leads me to my own take on the alternative rules for driving in Sao Luis….

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  1. Overtake whenever possible
  2. Do not take red lights literally, go on through whenever it´s roughly safe
  3. Honk at road users as soon as red lights change to green (the driver in front is likely on his phone anyway so it´s good to let him know the lights have changed)
  4. Beware of dimly lit roads at night: speed bumps, holes i.e. craters in the road, cyclists, pedestrians and perhaps the odd alligator, make for unfortunate hazards
  5. When on a motorbike, be sure to zip along in any lane you like in ridiculous high speeds. Ideally wear a helmet and covered shoes (no flip flops); it is the law afterall.
  6. Use indicators minimally (it´s more exciting to randomly pull over or turn a corner without warning to other road users)
  7. If you do not have a car and need to do the nursery or school run, a motorbike will suffice. 2 children can easily, if not safely, be taken on a motorbike with 2 adults. Ideally tell everyone to hold on if they are the right age to do so
  8. In the unfortunate event that you are stopped by the police for something, talk sweetly to them and they may well let you off for any infringement, or, in addition, they will usually accept a bribe
  9. If you´re looking for an adventure, follow road signs and look for street names. These often don´t exist or are incorrect, so you can find yourself on a mystery tour
  10. Amidst the general lack of pavements, pedestrians and prams share the road with bicycles, donkey carts and motorised vehicles, so be sure to use your horn to alert all of the above to get out of your way

In order for me to obtain my Brazilian driving licence I, fortunately, did not have to take the full practical test here, but I did need to go through the process of converting my UK licence. It was fairly straightforward, if a bit of a time waster.

  • Translate UK licence with an official state recognised translator
  • Head to the Department for Transport with that translation, along with copies of a whole host documents like my visa and proof of address
  • Have fingerprints and photo taken
  • Carry out medical exam and psychological tests (!) in a specific medical test centre
  • Sit a theory test or do a theory update course at a driving school for a week (I opted for the latter as the thought of learning the Portuguese terminology for driving at 9 months pregnant was a little daunting!)
  • Pay the fees for all this

So, off I went to driving school and doing the course was an experience in itself. Those trying to obtain their licence for the first time have to do attend 15 lessons and fingerprints are taken at the start and end of the lesson to ensure attendance. Ironically, folk sometimes pitch up at the start and at the end just to have their prints taken and don´t sit in on the lesson. I know I always rant about corruption, but just another wee example: when we looked into test centres, one told me that it was not necessary for me to actually go to the classes. I could just pay the fee and give them my fingerprints. Now that was a tempting offer as I was getting uncomfortable close to due date and had plenty other things to do but, as Christians, we had to decline. Rules are rules afterall. The centre I went to were very helpful, and even on the morning their system crashed, our prints coudn´t be collected and the lesson was cancelled, the staff allowed me to come to the class in the evening so that I could finish the required number of classes in the same week. Ah, the good and bad in Brazil. The systems are flawed to say the least, but the people make up for it!

Driving, on the whole, is actually fine here, but it certainly keeps you on your toes and you really need eyes on the back of your head.

The Project Progresses

There has been a hive of activity at the workshop in the past few weeks and it has been really encouraging to see some great progress on the building. The bigger challenge is supporting the vulnerable guys coming to work with us and the ongoing need for more workers or volunteers to join with us on a permanent basis but we plough on nevertheless.

It was a blessing that two friends from the church did the electrics at the workshop. When the team from the council came to connect us to the mains supply, they were impressed by the workmanship. Here’s a link to a video of the lights being switched on at night. It’s so bright now that work can carry on beyond sundown if needed, which is 6pm here all year round. It also means evening activities can soon begin, including English classes if we can find a fluent speaker who can wing it slightly as a teacher (!).

The builders have plastered the workshop and fitted the bathroom. The council came to connect the water supply and all is operational for the shower, toilet and sink. Interestingly, the water meter was not fitted, which is required here for paying the water bill. When Daniel IMG_2670asked about it, he was told another team would come and fit it later. However, it’s common for them never to come back and people essentially have their running water for free (illegally). Daniel has requested it again and we have it on record, but it just goes to show that even when you try and live by the rules here, the corruption and general lack of accountability and professionalism  makes it difficult to keep yourself right.

We’d had a makeshift fence at the workshop until last week but now have a shiny new gate.

IMG_2732Daniel sought advice about how to go about making the entrance gate. It’s helpful to note that security concerns call for houses and business to be as secure as possible. You don’t see white picket fences here and a garden path to the front door, but rather high walls, gates and shutters. In some areas it’s still safe enough to open up the house and sit out on the pavement in the evenings but sadly these days, many people wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that. Where there will be valuable tools and machinery, we need to be all the more cautious at the workshop.

Daniel took a reliable friend, Iranilson, with him to buy the materials for the gate and within a couple of days’ work, the gate was welded and in position, with the help of fellow welder from the church, Pedro. All quite impressive, I felt! And great to be able to say to folk that it has all been done by hand and that we can take commissions for our trainees to learn to do this type of thing.

 

In another blog, I mentioned a new friend, Adailton, who is keen IMG_2649to help and partner with us where possible. As he works in a similar line of work, there are opportunities and mutual benefits available. Adailton has just been working on a spiral staircase for a client but was struggling for space in his back garden to finish it. Instituto Engrenar can allow him to use our workshop to finish the job and he will then make the staircase for our workshop. Great result all round!

We continue to have great fellowship and support from the Primeira Igreja. Daniel and Pedro, who is the church’s sound technician, have worked together on several jobs, like the gate. They, along with some other happy helpers, just finished the extension to the church’s shelter to make a larger covered area over the church’s front courtyard.

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Jean, from the recovery house, had helped with this job and had been doing well with us but, sadly, he decided to leave the house. He turned up at the workshop a few days later of his own accord. To cut a long story short, we took him in and gave him another chance but unfortunately, he is not quite ready for the opportunity with us. We will keep him in prayer and maybe he will return some day.

Nevertheless, Pastor Nahur was delighted with his new sheltered area, especially as he was keen for it to be done before the Missionary Conference which starts on the 19th July. We look forward to this conferencd to hear reports and share with missionaries from across Brazil and beyond. Daniel is also looking forward to a football tournament this Saturday which is raising funds to cover the cost of the conference.

We’ve taken a short break from leading small group while adjusting to life as a foursome but we were able to help serve when it was our group’s turn to provide the refreshments after the church service. The group which is on canteen duty also covers the car park stewarding. Antonio made a suitable helper.

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It is still holiday time here in São Luis for many, which is why we’ve been able to have Pedro and Iranilson helping but we continue to need full-time people more permanently. We keep persevering and trust that more helpers will emerge as we continue sorting the formal registration of the project and as more jobs appear for the men to be working on with Daniel. As we progress in these areas, we believe there will be greater awareness and understanding of the project. For now, it’s exciting times to see things moving along well. There’s certainly no shortage of learning opportunities for those willing!