The past few weeks have been the usual crazy busy, and full of ups and downs, encouragements and challenges, but we stand firm and know that God has brought us here for a purpose, more than one actually.
The latest stage of the building work at the workshop was just about completed before the builders decided that they had spent enough time on this job and essentially headed off to do another. It´s normal here. If you thought there were a lot of cowboy builders in the UK, then it´s triple scale in Northeast Brazil. Just a minor frustration to find a reliable person to complete the rest….
Amidst the hunt for another builder, Daniel has been taking a bit of time to get various other jobs done and look at the best way forward. The basics now exist at the workshop and we are keen to keep giving opportunities to the guys from the recovery houses to get cracking on learning some skills. The finer details of the interior of the workshop can be completed along the way.
It was encouraging to meet a man who is the brother of one of our church members. He used to be a missionary in Sao Paulo and has worked with those struggling for freedom from substance abuse. Adailton has been back in Sao Luis with his family for a while and has been helping at his sister´s church in youth ministry, while using his own practical skills. These include making free-standing shelters and various structures (like the coverings you see at car parks to provide shade for cars). His line of work and experience certainly match up with our project and we are keen to spend more time with him to get to know him better and see how we can link up.
Encouraging progress has also been made on the legal side of the project. We started this process months ago and struggled to find someone with the knowledge and ability to help us move forward but we are delighted that another church member happens to be a lawyer and recommended his lawyer nephew who specializes in Third Sector community projects and the bureaucracy that surrounds this. We have met Diego a few times now and he has been extremely helpful going through the options available and offering a very reasonable price to sort the registration of “Instituto Engrenar” so that we can be officially recognized by local government. It will take a bit of paperwork but, in theory, shouldn´t be too traumatic.
There have been several admin type jobs to get on with too. I may have mentioned in a previous blog that we invested in a trailer for the project as we (i.e. Daniel) has had to transport a lot of big items and material and it was becoming essential. Daniel had to finish transferring the ownership officially to his name (which only involves a few trips to the registry office and the Department for Transport). There was also the business of taking out my Brazilian driving licence, another longish process, which is fairly straightforward if you have all of the information, but sometimes it is revealed to you in stages, just to keep you on your toes. We have now been to the Department for Transport about 5 times in recent months on this account alone, as well as into the city centre to a random back street to do a medical and psychological exam (not quite sure how I passed the latter). Then we were told I do need to do a refreshers´course on the transport laws in Brazil. This seems a little ironic as it often feels like traffic laws don´t exist here but it shall be interesting learning what is supposed to happen.
We also got round to getting hold of Antonio´s Brazilian birth certificate so he can now have a Brazilian passport if he likes. Routine medical checks have also been on the agenda. People here say if you have a doctor´s appointment scheduled, don´t plan to do anything else for the rest of the morning or afternoon. Appointments are usually between a given time, say 1pm and 4pm, and the doctor will see everyone on a first come, first served basis. It is usually a time consuming process and I will never again
moan about a 20 or 30 minute wait on the NHS to see the midwife. Midwives don’t really exist here and it´s usually a 2-3 hour wait to see the gynecologist doctor who is doing my ante-natal care. It´s the way it is here, and I am grateful for the care I am getting, but I do feel saddened that the poor service provision is the norm here. It feels like it could be such more efficient, even with a lack of resources.
All of these jobs, and many, many more I won´t bore you with, take a lot of time and Daniel has had to take time out of the project to help me with things that are tricky to resolve by myself. It is tiring for him to be dealing with so many things and we continue to pray for the right people to be involved with the project on a more regular basis to help share the load.
Our small group continues to meet weekly, now on a Friday night, which suited folk better than a Wednesday. There is a real mix of maturity and experience in our group and we need much wisdom as we try to give opportunity for all to learn and contribute.
We continue to be busy at church and there have been several celebrations in the past 2 weeks, including the Senior Pastor´s 65th birthday and Mother´s Day, which is a big deal in this culture. The Sunday School prepared a presentation for all the mums. We heard a special bible message and all the mums got a wee present at the end.
Antonio´s school also had a special presentation for the mums and we were invited to buy a souvenir t-shirt with your child´s handprints on it. It is super cheesy but I went in for it anyway. Daniel´s family celebrated mother´s day with a big lunch at home and gifts for Daniel´s mum.
There is never a shortage of celebrations here in Brazil. A new kind of celebration here is to have a party for every month of a new baby´s life and invite family to come round and eat cake and snacks. People sing happy birthday and there may well be decorations. My initial thought was that it was a bit over the top to do this but I realized that part of the reason is for the guests to bring presents, such as nappies, which are expensive here. We enjoyed popping along to Daniel´s nephew´s son´s 7 month party. It´s a way of bringing the family together and eating food so everyone´s a winner, especially baby Benjamim.
We also organized a baby shower for baby number 2 who is due within a few weeks. I dithered with the idea of doing this, but we decided it was a good way to get everyone together and allow folks to contribute to the many things needed when having a baby. Family, our small group and other friends from church all pitched in to help with food, decorations, favours, and just a few un-embarrassing games. It was still a mad dash to organize things but we got there in the end and I was very grateful to all those who helped and brought gift.
The Pastor´s birthday was this week and the whole of last Sunday´s service was effectively a thanksgiving service for his life. Pastor Nahor and his wife Noemia are humble people and we cannot fault their work effort and commitment to the life of the church. It seems that it has been several years since the couple had a proper holiday and the church presented them with tickets for a surprise week away. Apparently it was the only way to ensure Pastor Nahor took time off!
We managed to access the live link to services at Niddrie Community Church, our home church, and it was great to tune in on Sunday.
We are ever grateful for the support from folks back home and regular Skype chats, emails and messages, as well as the financial and prayer support we literally couldn´t live without. My mum is a hero for sending specific items that are either pricey or don´t exist here!
Please continue to pray for us in the busyness and ups and downs of life here. Pray, too, for a safe and speedy arrival of baby number 2 in due course. More posts coming soon!