Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sem Chuva. Without Rain. Or Hand Sanitizer.

First and foremost - the rain stopped.  While our friends in Texas are praying desperately for rain, we were praying equally hard that it would quit.  Guess we know who's closer to God - we've had two incredible days of great weather and you guys are still praying for rain.

This has been such an amazing and crazy experience on so many levels.

Have you ever seen a Brazilian swim?  Well, neither have we.  But that doesn't keep them from trying.  These kids LOVE to swim. But let's just say the next Michael Phelps will not be wearing a Brazilian Green and Yellow speedo.  But what these kids lack in swimming ability they make up for enthusiastically thinking they can swim.  Brazilians can't float either.  Which is ironic because most of these children live in favelas that are no more than 4 miles from the beach - yet it's likely that none of them have ever seen it.  But programs like Kid's Places gives them the stability they need to complete school, and ultimately qualify to take and then pass the college entrance exam.  Your support is life changing.  Literally in every sense of the word.  Our lifeguard contingent ranges from 8 - 48 - and thank God - they are incredibly proficient.

Wednesday was shopping day.  After lunch - we laid out nearly 5,000 pieces of clothing and had the kids come in a handful at a time and let them go shopping. It was amazing.  The joy, sheer joy on their faces at the abundance of choices that were before them.  In the  event you have a Brazilian on your Christmas shopping list next year - the brighter the fabric the better.  It's been awesome to the kids running around in shirts from TCU  Fort Worth Zoo, Aledo Bearcats, Panther Nation (Viva 109!) or the random Tony Romo jersey.  Even saw a Chad Pennington jersey - seriously who donated the Pennington?  We actually had to bribe a kid with a milkshake to get him to take it.  They were so grateful, so overwhelmed and genuinely so appreciative of your love and support.

Wednesday night saw Americano tears flowing with the Brazilians.  After an emotion-filled night of praise and teaching - over 40 children gave their lives to Christ.  So many of these children have been literally abandoned in life, by the system and by their fathers.  They have no hope.  None whatsoever.  And for them to find out that they in fact  have a Father that cares for them and loves them unconditionally  brought so many of from the point of emptiness to a life of hope.  Watching our team, especially the younger ones, Isabella, Pace, Abbie, Parker, Sara, Campbell and Sam - holding these sobbing children in their arms, crying right along with them, was one of the most moving things I've ever seen.  Language was no issue.  Culture, politics, social standing - they meant nothing.  What meant everything was that each of us were unified through the love of Christ.  Words simply cannot do this night justice.

Tomorrow is the last day of camp. We'll be saying goodbye to 165 new friends.  I'm certain more Americano tears will flow.  Both bitter and sweet. There is just so much need.  And we have so much.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Headline Options - "Noah Called, He Wants His Boat Back" or This Little Light of Mine.

We think we figured out why this place is called a Rain Forest.  From the time we landed in Brazil up until this morning - it has rained.  The forefathers that planned the city of Recife, while I'm sure they were fine fellows, they cut a few corners by not throwing money away on something frivolous like a drainage system.  When we landed in Recife, after a blessedly uneventful three leg plane trip, it was pouring rain.  As our plane was on approach, when it broke through the clouds, I remember thinking to myself, "there sure are a lot of lakes in Recife." Come to find out, they were epic water puddles due to the aforementioned  cost reductions at the city planning meeting.  Every single piece of luggage made it, and thanks to a very good friend of VFC Brazil who happens to work for somebody, somewhere doing something - he was able to whisk us through customs without any delays.

We went straight from the airport to the Coque favella, where VFC Brazil has a Kid's Place in operation. Kid's Place is a place where kids can go; ergo the clever name.  But what a critical place - Kid's Place really is.  Life inside a favela is a living hell, by any standard you might have.  The favelas are "run" by gangs that are involved in every kind of illegal activity you can think of.  Violence is a way of life, a big, big part of  life.  Kid's Place provides families with an alternative for their children than the streets of the favela.  The after school program enables children to receive tutoring in a safe and loving environment.  They are fed and taught but most importantly, they hear about the love of Jesus Christ.

After playing and eating with the kids, we then went on a tour of the favela.  Unless you have traveled and seen the slums of the world,  nothing could prepare you for this.  Trash literally everywhere, naked children playing in the maze of paths through the wall to wall makeshift city.  The sewage literally ran through the community, everywhere you stepped was an infection waiting to happen.  A few things struck our group - one was the absence of men.  We saw people everywhere but virtually no men. And the few we saw were searching for answers in the bottom of a bottle.  The other thing we noticed was the genuine kindness of the women in the favela.  Did I mention it was raining?  We were constantly invited by these women to step into their "houses" to get out of the rain.  Houses is a loose term by any definition when you are talking about favelas.  But they were so willing to share what they had.  The last thing was the children.  Desperately wanting be with you, near you.  So willing to follow you.  It could have to do with the fact that we were a little conspicuous.  But they genuinely wanted to be part of your world if even for a brief moment.

It was absolutely stunning to think that people actually life like this.  And once they are labeled with the stigma of being from a favela - you are permanently a second class citizen.  Even within many of the evangelical churches, they don't want anything to do with with people from the favelas. Kid's Place helps support one of the only possible avenues out of the favela - education, while teaching these children that there is a hope that they can believe in.  A hope that loves them unconditionally for who they are.  I get the feeling that finding love in the favela is no easy task.

More later... Ken

When we left the favela


No they didn't add red food color.  Dinner for the champions.  We didn't show the peas and corn which were used as condiments.  This is obviously not 100% pure beef.  Great food with great friends. 
We did an eye exam today.  This kid was able to read the Bible for the first time today. 
Is she planking or making crafts.  Frames, photos, and 1,000,000 sticky letters.  Brazilians gone wild. 
She was stopped at the door due to the failure to remove the security hang tag.  Not really......We gave away over 5,000 pieces of clothing today.  Thanks to everyone back home who sent all of the new fashion for the Recife runway.
A green nerd?  Only in Brazil.  We promise that we are actually doing mission work and not just having fun.  It is midnight and we are somewhat delirious.  It was a great day and we will have plenty of stories to tell.  Thanks for the support and we will report back tomorrow.

Day 3 Quick Pics

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Quick Pics

Man Down, 1/2 a Woman Down But Hey - All the Luggage Made it.

Do you realize that Recife Brazil is closer to Africa than it is to the United States?  That dawned on me about hour 9 of the trip.  The whole toilet flushing the opposite way when you are below the equator - well, sad to tell you, it's a myth.  But I'll update from the beginning.  We lost one at the airport, not a bag, a person.  We had a last minute passport problem and one of the veteran's, Cruz Shope, wasn't able to come. You want to talk about an emotional scene, two parents walking through security without the son they thought was coming with them.  This was definitely one of those moments that we were all scratching our heads asking, "really God, you aren't going to work this one out the way we want?"  Who are we to know, for that matter, we are we to even ask?  While the Visa Fiasco 2011 was going down,  LuggageGate had begun.  Seems that part of our group got in line with an American Airlines Agent that was none too happy about our trip to Brazil.  She became militant about the size dimensions of the luggage we were bringing with us. Mind you, we had over 20 pieces of luggage, each filled to 69.5 lbs of clothing for the children in the favella's.  This is the exact same luggage that has been used for countless mission trips to Brazil, the exact same luggage that an agent two stalls down whisked through without a second thought.  Her solution?  For our team to pay $4,000 dollars in extra baggage fees because the luggage was too long.  Seriously, I didn't even know luggage could be too long.  But evidently they teach you those things at luggage school.  It became clear to us that no one in our group was going to sway her yardstick.  So what did we do?  We asked for rolls and rolls and rolls of packing tape from her. We then proceeded to dog pile the luggage compressing it just enough to reach the size limit and then holding it  together with half a roll of packing tape around each piece. This is where the 1/2 Woman Down part comes in.  Seems one of our team members lower back was only rated for 65 lbs and she was hefting 69.5 lbs.  Despite an incredible amount of pain, she is soldiering on.  So before we even pushed the gate, we'd leg wrestled a gate agent and lost.  One of our experienced travelers was on his way home with his grandparents and a young healthy member of our team had been reduced to an Advil/Tylenol junkie.    OK God, where are you headed with all this?   Our plane ride was uneventful.  Every piece of luggage made it.  Our time in the favella was incredible, humbling and terribly heartwrenching all at the same time.  We met a little boy, maybe 10 or 11 years old, that had just been returned to the favella's after being kidnapped and abused by a taxi driver for two months.  Unbelievable.  He's just a boy.  This will be an adventure.  It already has been.  - Ken

Sunday, July 10, 2011

STMT June 11-17, 2011