Today I felt like I got punched in the gut. I was excited to get to spend the morning with my laptop at a coffee shop. The kids went back to school yesterday and I miraculously discovered a few hours of freedom. This morning as I read and prayed, I excitedly made a list of all the things I could work on without interruption. As I settled in with my hot cup of tea and fired up the laptop at Starbucks, I looked over my list.
- Work on sermon outlines for a series my husband and I are co-teaching in September.
- Finalize fill-ins for video teaching I’ll get to film for a Jeremiah Bible study to be published next year.
- Write several stories for a new website launch for families called www.reachthepoorthisweek.com
- Answer emails.
Other than the emails, I was excited about all of them. However, for some reason I have been putting off getting the stories written for the new website. I decided to start with one of those because of that still small voice inside prompting me. I took a sip of tea and began reading over the questionnaire that a children’s worker in Brazil had filled out.
I wasn’t prepared for the feeling in my stomach or the tears in my eyes. I live with first world problems. Just this week my tire blew on the highway on my way to church. My daughter has been struggling recently with coming to terms with her alopecia. I’m fretting over paying for all the extra expenses associated with back to school. My to-do list is always rolling around in my head – laundry, meals, getting kids to activities, overdue library books, etc. I can easily get discouraged and complain about any one of these things.
As I began to put Jose’s story into a blog form, I was hit with the reality that tonight he might be dealing with an abusive father… or hungry… or sad. I remembered that 26,000 children die everyday of preventable disease. I thanked God for all my blessings and the safety and provision my family takes for granted. It gave me some perspective. Wherever you find yourself today – I hope Jose’s story will give you a moment of clarity and gratefulness as well.
This post will be on www.reachthepoorthisweek.com in Sept. but I feel compelled to share it here now. If it touches you in any way – please read it to your children and consider signing up now to receive a similar weekly story through the website starting next month.
Here is Jose’s story (names have been changed in this story for anonymity):
Imagine a street full of families in Brazil. You might hear Portuguese being spoken and children playing. But inside the houses, you would be surprised to find how these children really live. Most of them don’t get food regularly or opportunities to take baths and clean themselves. Older children often take care of small children during the day even if they are only eight or nine years old themselves. Outside the school you will probably find people selling drugs. The reason they target students is that they want to get kids hooked on drugs early in life so they can make money selling to them.
Violence and drugs in this neighborhood are everywhere. Many families want to find a better place to live but can’t afford
to go anywhere else. Typical families include children living with grandparents or neighbors because their parents are addicted to drugs or might even be in jail. Jose was born into this life two years ago. His mother’s pregnancy was very dangerous and he spent his first year of life going to the hospital a lot because he was very sick.
His mother, Lucia, tries her best to take care of him, but it’s difficult in this community. Not only are they very poor, but Jose’s father is addicted to drugs. He doesn’t work and often allows other dangerous people to come over and take drugs in their home. Sometimes he hits Lucia and scares little Jose. You may be wondering, why doesn’t she leave or tell the police? The reason is that she has nowhere else to go and is afraid of her husband. He once killed a man before they were married and has been in jail for drugs as well. He tells Lucia that if she tells the police, he will hurt her.
Some people have tried to help her. The staff at a place called “Projecto Amar” have offered to take Jose’s dad to a place that will help him stop taking drugs, but he says no. Although Lucia does have some family living in the same community, they can’t help her because they have many problems of their own.
Projecto Amar means Project Love in Portuguese. This learning center for children is trying to make a change for the better in Brazil. Lucia works there every day cleaning and is able to get food for her family. Little Jose, along with all the other kids in the program, get three meals and safety all day. The older students go to school and then come to the project afterwards for two meals. The project has worked with college students majoring in nutrition to make sure the kids get the right kind of foods to help them grow up healthy and strong. Lucia also takes food home so they have something to eat for dinner each night.
Children who come to the program also get a shower every time they come. It feels good to be clean and also helps protect them from viruses and infections. Even though Jose gets great care during the day and healthy food, the troubles in his home at night affect him deeply. Sometimes he hits other kids at the learning center after watching his dad hit his mom at home. When his dad goes a while without hitting his mom, then Jose is calm. Project Amar has a psychologist come in twice a week to help in specific situations and observe the kids. Jose meets with her regularly to help process all the abuse he witnesses at home.
Without the Center, Jose and many other children in the neighborhood would be left by themselves during the day without any food or care. Many parents in the neighborhood talk about how much the Learning Center means to them and to the community. It has been helping since 1986 with Vision Trust partnering with them in 2000. One woman who went to the learning center as a child now owns her own bakery in the community and donates bread to the program. Other graduates of the program have broken out of the cycle of poverty and abuse. Many of the leaders of the local church came to Christ through Projecto Amar when they were young .
It’s a safe place for kids to come and feel loved. Every teacher who works there loves Jesus and the kids have Bible class each day. The love of Christ, shown through the hands and feet of Christ-followers in Brazil and sponsors providing money here in the United States are partnering together to change the lives of kids like Jose.