Ahead of the local election which took place today in Brazil, rebel gangs have been trying to intimidate the public by setting fire to schools, buses and, in our area, a bin lorry. Daniel went out to see what was happening and, just a few streets away, the bin lorry driver told Daniel that 10 young guys jumped in the bin lorry told everyone to get out except the driver and he was asked to stop the vehicle on the bridge. Their plan was to destroy the bridge which was recently rebuilt by the council, which has improved access greatly, as I mentioned in a previous post.
It’s a national affair and various cities have been targeted. The story doesn’t seem to be appearing in western media but here is a glimpse. Apparently the intention of the gangs is not to hurt people but to make a statement to the government that they want change. When this is mixed with the drug gangs trying to claim territory, it makes for disaster. It seems some of the rebels are also ex-prisoners claiming their rights back. The gangs have been putting posters up round the city to saying not to fear and that they will look after the public…very assuring (!). At one point the election was possibly going to be postponed but here we were pleased that it went ahead, albeit with some people having to vote in other locations due to the few schools that were burned and damaged. However, people do seem to be fearful. There were fewer people out on the roads this weekend. In the Primeira Igreja, one of the small groups takes place out of the city and the folk there asked the church not send the bus to collect them as they were worried about travelling.
It’s especially sad to see this happening here in a city that already seems so far behind the rest of Brazil. In one case a school with air conditioning was set on fire, thankfully at night time when there were no lessons taking place. Public schools are generally very basic and having air conditioning is an achievement that has gone to waste.
It’s not the first time this has happened in Brazil but the law enforcers don’t seem to have a grip of this. I saw a photo of one criminal who was caught and beaten to a pulp. The public are already beginning to take matters into their own hands. Is that the answer? Police regularly abuse and kill criminals here but that tactic doesn’t seem to work as a deterrent. Unfortunately, the election result in Sao Luis was very close so there will be a second vote which is not good news as in brings uncertainty and more opportunity for the gangs to “protest”. We don’t feel any immediate danger and certainly won’t stop what we’re doing.
As I’ve said before, Brazilians like to maintain a good sense of humour and these jokes on social media have circulated.
We’ve had another busy but productive week. It was good to meet again with the leaders of the “Casa de Davi” recovery house to firm up our relationship with them. Daniel has led bible studies there a few times and will now do this more regularly to enable him to get to know the guys and see who might come and train with us or test out some work experience.
Daniel has already been asked to do some odd jobs with metalwork which is great. He’s managing to do things in the workshop area or on site where needed but it would be great to have the workshop structure organised sooner rather than later. The local engineer we found has been helping with the paperwork and there shouldn’t be too many more trips to the Registry Office before the final plans are approved and underway.
Daniel also lead the study with the family on Monday evening and we continue weekly studies with another married couple. I (Linsey) enjoyed my first ever exercise class in Brazil. There’s a hall across the road from our house where Zumba is offered twice a week. I am keen to try and get to know more women and families in the area so, although I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much in my life, it was good fun and I met some new people. I’m planning to try a few other classes so will see how it goes!
Do pray for us with these recent crimes that have been happening but we trust in God and know He is with us.