Ali and I have made a communications change!
Since we are slow blog updaters, and tend to update Facebook more regularly, we've opened a Facebook page for regular updates on our life and ministry. Please click "like" on our page to receive our updates automatically and to see pictures, notes and videos, like the following, on our lives and ministry.
Thank you for accompanying life with us!
Okay, so it seems the blog can't upload our video... so off to Facebook we go!
We have had a lot of support and inspiration from friends as we've been working towards a major goal - the opening of a halfway house for our homeless friends who want to change their lives.
This goal has been coming to life faster than I can keep up with! As our three small households have become ready, Eric moved in with his wife Kenya and their baby daughter Lauren. They will serve as our case managers, and have been getting settled in and preparing to serve incoming residents.
Two weeks ago we took in our first resident, Samuel. Sam has been a friend of ours for a long time. We've seen him through rehab twice... but without a supportive home to come back to he ended up back on the streets and in his addiction both times. We have hoped that a long term supportive housing for Samuel might help him to stabilize in his recovery. I don't assume to speak for tomorrow, but I have been encouraged by his progress so far. Samuel is working for a friend in our church, and has been excited at his own new lifestyle. In this picture he's helping me do some baking for our church café.
Samuel has also been very supportive of our second resident, Daniel. Daniel is going through dialysis treatment and so he has had a rough start as he is learning to live with new physical and working limitations. Today we were surprised to learn that in talking between themselves, they had decided that tomorrow Samuel would accompany Daniel to his dialysis treatment, so that he could talk to the doctor and get better information to help Daniel eat right at the house. That was a pretty cool surprise- the helped becoming the helper is a tremendous step in the walk of recovery!
I give thanks to God for the great things that have taken place! And thank you for you prayers, financial support and encouragement of this process. It continues to be a great adventure!
So at the end of Camp Roots 2011, while we were still driving home on buses full of ecstatic teenagers and all their unorganized luggage, left over camp supplies, and the oh-so-recognizable blend of pure exhaustion and fulfillment … right then I was poked and asked, “What’s the theme next year?” Seriously? Let me survive the hangover of Camp Roots 2011 first, please!
But the question would not leave me alone. I, too, was curious about what God would create and inspire in 2012.
I don’t remember exactly how it happened, except that one day I realized “reconciliation” would be the theme of Camp Roots 2012. Reconciliation. Still not sure what will flourish during our 6 intense days with 100 teenagers in 2 languages, but I am waiting with eager longing the full revelation of this theme in our midst.
I have invited 10 core Camp Roots staff members to compose my dwelling group in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. The core staff is somewhere between 18 and 30 years old, most are single and going to school. Some have grown up in church, others are recent converts, but they seek the deep and want to invite teenagers deeper into this great adventure of faith. We will dwell together during our home’s Saturday morning breakfast gatherings, and each week I will present a question to guide the conversation and reflections towards our preparations for Camp. One specific aspect I am excited about shaping through this period of dwelling is our “causes” at camp. Each year we chose 5 social causes in Itu to support. Everyday at camp the students produce goods that will be donated to each cause. As I dream about this dwelling community, I pray that together we will chose social causes that connect to our hear as we are shaped by the passage.
Just as a side note, last night I went to the airport in Sao Paulo to see off one of my best friends ever! Carioca has lived with us for the past 2 years and has been an essential part of the Spirit-generated movement in Itu. Carioca and I worked closely in the development of Camp Roots in 2010 and 2011. It’s difficult to imagine building momentum for Camp Roots 2012 without him here, brainstorming and dreaming together. In some instances, I wondered if anything would spring up as I sought a word from God. So it’s a true gift from GOD that today I am able to state with conviction that we have a theme, a direction, a specific word for our upcoming summer. The LORD is faithful to His mission!
i know Mark just posted recently, but i had to write for one of my classes, and i'd like to share it with you... glad to share our life with you!
All of the sudden significant.
His name is Bruno, and he is 16 years old. He is wrapped in beautiful dark chocolate-colored skin and his white teeth practically glow when he smiles. He is short and lean, and can play a mean soccer game. Bruno is my most recent “suddenly significant” other and my life is fuller since he entered.
His story is very different than mine. I grew up in a healthy home with parents who loved each other and loved me very much. Bruno was raised among shouting fights and he is not sure which man in mom’s life is his real dad. My childhood years were spent with friends, dolls, coloring books, and bicycle. His older brother traded his bike for drugs two years ago. I had the means to travel between two countries, ride a car to school, and carry my material in nice backpacks. Bruno’s been bullied while walking to school and mocked for carrying his school material in grocery bags. My first job was teaching English to business men in town. Bruno’s first job was delivering drugs to the sons and daughters of the rich business men.
And here we are. God’s wondrous braiding kept bringing Bruno into our lives, and the more time we spent with him, the more we wanted to overlap our life and his. Three weeks ago we invited him to be a part of our home, and sudden, enormous changes followed.
You might think the sudden changes were seen in Bruno – that all of the sudden he stopped cussing, or all of the sudden he was incredibly grateful to us, or all of the sudden his music taste improved and now he jams out U2 in his bedroom. But, no. Bruno is still a 16 year old adapting to new and shocking amounts of structure in his life and testing our limits of patience and authority.
But I have changed. As I invite Bruno into a communal, intimate relationship with all the homework, the dirty clothes, the soccer practices, the lack of discipline, the stories of the past… the invitation reframes my own identity. I am, for the first time, keenly aware of how much his identity formation and transformation is dependent and watchful of my reactions and interactions with him and others.
As I am surprised by unpredictable interactions with Bruno, I have started asking myself, “How can I be a person of peace in this situation?” Never before have I been more convinced that example speaks louder than words… especially as I catch his big black eyes closely observing my reactions to him, to other friends, to my husband, to our neighbors, and to tense situations. How will I show love to Bruno? How will I discipline Bruno? How will I challenge him? How will I help him open his wings and fly high?
How do I understand salvation differently as I reflect on my relationship with Bruno? More than ever before I am challenged to consider the practical aspect of hesed in our reconstituted communal home. I remember my dad preaching about family dynamics and saying, “A family will not know what love is until the parachute is thrown out the door.” He explains that as long as families have a trump card to threaten each other with, an exit strategy up their sleeve, there will be a dysfunctional and insecure dynamic in the home. Hesed, or “steadfast love,” is not a romantic, sweet, dozen-roses kind of love. Hesed is “covenant reliability.” It does not look for a way out at the beginning of the first crisis. It won’t keep the parachute strapped on in case the engine stutters. Hesed is about the long run – good or bad. As I recognize and live in hesed with the Creator, I am called to extend this depth of commitment to the “other” in my life. I am called to extend this depth of commitment to Bruno, my suddenly significant “son.”
The phone just rang, and it was the school principal where Bruno is studying. They asked for us to come pick him up early, because he started a fight at school. What is hesed now? What does this commitment look like when his behavior is so backwards from an ideal. I think I know what it’s not… it’s not asking him to pack his stuff and leave our home because he once again failed the standards. Maybe it looks more like not protecting him from consequences with the school, then taking him on a long walk and talk, listening to his side of the story and explaining why this will not be allowed as a pattern in this family because no one in this family will be physically aggressive towards him.
I pray now for two things: One, that grace will be extended from the LORD’s throne over us as we make mistakes along the way; and two, that the LORD’s hesed will overflow in our lives onto Bruno’s beautiful self.
Keeping up with our life is beyond me, so to think that my writings will keep others up to speed, well...
To get past my bloggers block I am going to reduce the subject mater down to the the major changes within our household in the last two weeks. We've hit big big land markers.
First off, Eric has moved into the halfway house! We are very excited about kicking off this ministry. Eric, his wife Kenia and their daughter Lauren are settling in to their new home and we are preparing to receive men in the rehab process and to accompany their re-entry into society.
Friday, Barbara graduated from her college course in marketing. We had a great celebration with her and are glad that she is searching for job openings here in Itu. But should she be led to stay or to move on, we pray that God would imbed her in a very meaningful involvement of what He is doing in the Kingdom.
Carioca moved out of our home on Monday. This was a tough one, but he is on his way to live in Dallas TX and to see what will come of his relationship with Sarah Lang. Carioca has been a core part of our home and team for two years now. We had a huge party at our house to commemorate his move and to celebrate Barbara's graduation, complete with churrasco and a DJ, and we partied till the cops showed up. It was the only worthy way. God blessed us in immeasurable ways through his involvement here. We would have loved to have kept him here... but this experience has reminded us that our home serve to bless, to give purpose, and to send out in a purposeful way. We pray that Carioca caries a new peace with him where ever he goes, and that he will come back, even if only to visit, rejoicing over the wonders he has seen.
And finally, Buno. Bruno came into a Celebrate Recovery meeting in September, brought by mom and visibly upset about having to talk to a group about his involvement with drugs. Soon he warmed up to Eric (I’m sure the “fro” and guitar helped!) and Mark and became a regular at youth group as well as C.R.. We invited him to spend a couple of weekends with us and we enjoyed having him in the house.
At the end of 2011 his mom called saying he had disappeared. We searched and prayed but never heard anything before we left the country for Christmas. We did not hear from him or his mom for a month, then our first Sunday back at church Bruno snuck in late and found his place next to Mark.
A couple of weeks earlier, as Mark and I drove from Ohio to Michigan, we had prayed for him and said to each other, “if he comes back, we’ll welcome him into our home.” Sure enough. After talking to Barbara and Carioca, we sat with him mom, Isabel, and offered for him to live with us during the week while he goes to school. So Bruno is the kid in the house. For a 16 year old, he is small and underdeveloped for his age. He has not gone to school in 5 years, and he has not been well fed. But with all these disadvantages, he's doing great. We give him extra homework every day which he does surprisingly willingly, and he is learning to respect others with noticeable improvement. There is a lot more we could write on this... but just pray for us and we'll try to keep some updates coming.
So this is our new starting point. Every thing is a little different, but that's normal. Throughout it all God continues to show that He is God, and we are blessed.
We've started a non-profit that has started taking over our lives! We have put new plumbing in, ripped out the old sewer system, and now we're putting our new electric lines into the houses which will receive guys coming out of drug rehab. Our church has been a huge help! This week I got help from João Ortiz, Edson and João Victor to install the conduits for electricity, Carlão to dig for the new sewer lines. As a means of raising funds our guys to go through rehab we have started Chance Bags. The very cool Chance Bags site was set up for us by our friend Deborah. We just finished and sent off our second batch of these bags. They are going to be sold at ACU, the ArtReach fair in Austin, and Midland Christian Schools store. One of the cool things about this project is how it has involved those who want to serve but who have a very different skill set from what we would normally look for to help the chemically addicted. The other cool factor, is that these bags are just stinking cool! Thank you Midland Christian Schools, Abilene Christian University and Centennial High School for donating the old jerseys to make this work!
We had a great evening with Alermão and Cida Wednesday night. Alermão was one of our homeless friends who we helped go through rehab, see previous post for more explanation, but he making it great in his now role as a family man! What was set as a double date turned into a terrific party of 12! We had a very cool family of friends who came in from out of town, and Alermão and Cida's kids all joinded in. We had a great time planning Alermão and Cida's wedding, and getting to know his wonderful family better. They have fun kids! Here are some pics -