Saturday, February 19, 2011

An undeniable God

There have been some things that we've lived in this last week that have been hard to describe... because I'm not sure that I "get it" myself. One example is the story of Fran. Her story with us started a week ago Thursday, the day after we got back into the country.

Before going to the US in January Ali and I were becoming more and more involved with a work of the city government called CREAS. They work assisting homeless and youth on probation and I had offered my services for assisting in home visits and group meetings. When I went to visit recently, it was to initiate this type of service again, but that's not what happened.

As I stepped into Alzira's office (the city's social worker who has now become a close friend) there was a lot of tension in the air. They had been working all day to resolve a problem with a 15 year old girl named Fran who had come to them for help because of abuse in the home. They had arranged an interview for her to be taken into a clinic, but this wouldn't be till Monday. They had exhausted their resources the city had nothing to offer her. They were about to send her back into her abusive home. I asked to use the phone, Ali and I talked it over, and Fran moved temporarily into our home.

Ali and I had just arrived back here in Itu from a month in the US, so this wasn't easy. Fran's presence took a lot of attention. She didn't know the norms of being in someone else's home, when she was in a room we couldn't help but wonder what wouldn't be when she came out, and her base interaction with boys was... constant.

Fran saw a different world here, and took part in it. She went with us to church and various home groups. When she learned of our plans to have a community center she took us to a place that she thought we should consider (pictured here). It is an old night club that is falling apart and mainly used by kids who are looking for a place to do drugs.

We learned a lot about the Itu drug market as Fran used to sell. We went downtown with her one night and she started pointing out who sells, who prostitutes and explaining how it's all organized, stuff fifteen year olds aren't supposed to know.

The clinic that Fran was supposed to be put into didn't work out. She ended up staying with us for a week before another solution was worked out by the city. I questioned how wise this was on my part, and wasn't going to blog about it because I figured, 'this is not what we do... it's just something that happened. We have a focus and I don't want to give the false impression that this is it.' Then Alzira (the social worker who is pictured below with her husband) came and sat down with Ali one evening to talk about what was going on.

Alzira would not refer to herself as a Christian, and maybe that's why her words struck me so hard. She described the day this all started. She had brainstormed with all of her co-workers, called on all available city resources, called for a second brainstorming session, and then made some more phone calls and she had come up with nothing. She was giving up and dreading telling Fran that she would have to go back home. Telling Ali this story she said, "I only know of one person in this city who would open his own home to a situation like this, and at that very moment, he walks into my office, hears the story, and says, 'okay, she can come home with us'. It was like there was some... cooperation between something bigger and Mark to bring about the right sollution at the right time..."

Then I realized, this is a story to be told openly because it had very little to do with 'what I was doing,' and everything to do with what God was doing. That was clear even to someone who lacks words for "something bigger" and it is a witness to the readiness of our God to use us in this world.

As I write this we have a new visitor in our house. His name is Harley and he has been addicted to drugs for many years. Harley sought me out this morning desperate for help. I spoke with the director of the rehab clinic and there is a waiting list, but we are going to start the process this afternoon. In the days between now and when he can move in, Harley will be with us and will sleep with Manu and Eric in the garage. We are in the process of opening a halfway house, and till it's open, looks like we're it.

Please pray for Gods strong presence in this house. His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Back at it

In the last month Ali and I spent time with a lot of family and friends. We were in the US and spent time in Michigan, Ohio, and Texas. We spent a lot of time catching folks up on what's happening in Brazil, and learning from some of the things unfolding State-side. We loved the time there and are very grateful to the many families who hosted us. Wednesday night we arrived back home, and life is crazy once more!

On Thursday, I visited with a unit of the city government that deals with youth on probation and homeless. They are excited about our intentions to start a halfway house for the guys getting out of rehab, and set up a meeting this coming Thursday for us to meet with the cities secretary of social action to propose our plan and to discover what help we the city might offer.

This morning one of the city social workers, Alzira, came to visit the location. We talked with many of you about the crack house that we would like to turn into a halfway house, and the abandoned daycare that we hope to use as a community center. Below are pictures of both.

This will be a big week regarding these projects, and with catching up with the rest of our normal lives. We appreciate your prayers as we jump back into life here in Itu. We know that God has great things in store, and are anxious to live them out.