By most accounts, Brazil got away with organising the Olympics well and putting on a good show. We didn’t manage to watch the closing ceremony but I gather it showcased Brazilian culture and a party atmosphere which was true to reality as Brazilians really do know how to enjoy themselves.
The impact of the Olympics won’t be truly known for some time but it is interesting
gauging public opinion. Much has been made of the improvements to the city of Rio de Janeiro but you only need to look at the state of some of the projects completed for the 2014 Football World Cup to see why folk are skeptical of the longer term impact. Many of the new works have never been completed or are completely in ruins for some reason.
I (Linsey) caught a bit of a TV debate about the games (filmed in Rio) and it was interesting to see the discussion about the reason for the lack of more medals. Brazil finished in 13th position in the medal table but only won 2 more medals than in London 2012. Some folk cited the reason being that PE is not encouraged enough in schools, noting that it’s not compulsory until age 14. Jings! We could all be morbidly obese by age 14. Other people were discussing the fact that, ahead of the Games, more money had to be invested in security and, latterly, in keeping the zika virus under control, rather than in the sports and athletes. Opportunities to do sport vary greatly across Brazil. Here, in the poorer Northeast of Brazil, any aspiring sportsman will likely have to accept that he will need to leave this region to pursue a career in sport as the facilities and level of competition are poor. The stereotype image of the wee boys playing football barefoot with anything that might be classed as a ball is not so far from the truth. At least at this level of investment, anyone can join in and learn a trick or two.
One of Daniel’s sister’s was working until recently in a private Christian school which has its own swimming pool. When swimming was an option for her grandson, she never let him choose it because she knew the staff were not cleaning the pool properly and were omitting to tell the parents that the water was sub-standard. If that’s the standard in the “Christian” private sector, imagine the state sector where you’re lucky if your PE teacher bothers turning up the class. We exaggerate not. Teachers in the state sector strike on a regular basis over pay disputes. The gridlock can go on for a long time and the pupils miss so many teaching hours that time has to be made up in the holidays or on Saturdays. School here is Monday-Friday, as per in the UK. Daniel’s niece and nephew have to go to school on Saturdays at the moment as they are so far behind with work because of the strikes. It’s also very common for one of their lessons to be cancelled during the day because a teacher didn’t turn up, and this is in one of the best state schools. Classrooms are overcrowded and resources are thin on the ground. Victor (Daniel’s nephew) told me once that the pupils often aren’t given their state-provided snack in schools as the teachers take the food home for themselves or to sell. The pupils are only given their proper snack when a politician or external visitor comes to the school. The level of corruption here disgusts us on a daily basis. Like most things in Brazil, if you want access to good education, you’re going to have to pay for it.
The outcome of the debate I saw was that the majority of people would rather have had investment in healthcare, education and safety rather than in the Olympics. Up in the Northeast, it’s easy to see their argument. At least with Brazil under the spotlight, one would hope that the corruption that has come to light with the previous president will make the rest of the world stop and take a closer look and what goes on in this vast country.
Visiting Márcio’s Ministry
On Sunday morning, it was good to be able to support Márcio in his work as a Pastor at the Comunidade Palavra da Fé. Márcio is Daniel’s nephew who our home church has had links with in the past. Márcio’s church, which is led by a friend of ours, Cimar, is planting a new congregation in a very needy area outside of Sao Luis called Cidade Alta where Márcio already leads a small group. Last Sunday morning was a thanksgiving and committal service for an area of land where the new church will be built. A basic structure already exists and many people from the local area came along and joined in praying for the church and hearing about the plans for the area. The church served Brazil’s national dish, ‘feijoada’, after the service. Feijoada is beans and meat stew, served with rice and often cabbage. It’s very popular and we three enjoyed ours.
Daniel has been doing some work on the land where the workshop will be built while we wait for some of the initial building requirements to be resolved. Even trying to get running water on the land is a multi-step process. The road outside the workshop has been improved by a generous neighbour passing over some old tiles he no longer needed to fill the holes, or rather craters. Daniel has roped in various neighbours and friends to help in an effort to encourage the community to take on some responsibility to improve their own surroundings themselves, and not wait for the government who tend to make a half-hearted effort to improve the roads in the run-up to elections.
The morning studies continue and different faces regularly appear to join Daniel and José. Daniel is keen to start the practical work with the men from the recovery house and, at this time, we are trying to rent a premises in the short-term so that this can begin while the workshop is built. We have found a suitable space and are praying that the owner might be willing to let us use it for a fair price.
One piece of exciting news and item for prayer is José’s relationship with a lady from his church. He and Fran have hit it off and are speaking of marriage. We are meeting up with them once a week to pray and study the bible. Fran lives nearby, but closer to what used to be a huge drug den. The local baptist church has done a lot of good work in transforming the area around the drug den and now it’s much smaller than it used to be. The church’s network of local small groups has helped people to reach out to their local area with the hope of the gospel. The police have also done some of the work in moving people along and arresting those who needed to be sentenced.
Daniel’s family is very big and, like any family, full of problems, so much so that we could easily spend all week encouraging and helping just the relatives! There are two young couples in the family who are in need of our support at the moment and we’re trying to help them out as much as we can. If you read our last blog, you will remember that Daniel’s niece’s Uncle had chosen to make a commitment of faith in Jesus in the last weeks of his life. He has now gone to be with the Lord and Luena’s family are mourning but at peace because Marcelano had a new lease of life, even in his physical weakness, as he talked about the real purpose of life and how he wished he’d made that commitment sooner.
Please pray for us on Saturday as we go out to visit some neighbours with the purpose of sharing our faith with them and letting them know we are available to pray and serve them in any way we can.
There are just a few snippets of things we’ve been up to in the past week. As always, thank you for taking the time to read our news and support us. It’s not easy starting a project like this from scratch and your prayers are really important.