"What just happened?" That's what was running through our minds when we walked out of the home of one of our Kids Place students yesterday afternoon. Wagner was at school, but we spent almost two hours talking with his grandmother, who cares for him, crammed into their tiny home on a small couch/bed and up the stairs. The walls were covered in pictures from calendars and magazines, ranging from Michael Jackson and girly calendars to Jesus on a clock and in a frame. Skinny striped cats swiped at each other under the partially closed door which did nothing to block the music blaring next door. It was probably turned up for our benefit, blasting "America! America! America!" at one point.
There were 6 team members, a translator and a Kids Place staffer together, there to thank Naja for getting Wagner to Kids Place 5 days a week. His mother lives somewhere else with her other children by another father, and Wagner lives in this house with Naja, his grandfather, his uncle and aunt, and another uncle who comes and goes. While we were there, one of his aunts and uncles climbed passed us on the stairs to go up and smoke crack. Wagner's father was out on a street corner somewhere in town, squeegee in hand, washing windshields at red lights hoping to make enough money to contribute to the household income. Wagner's grandfather works at a tractor repair company and has been there 10 years, but he comes home to this $100/month rental house and drinks the rest of his day away, making life difficult for everyone in the house.
When we see Wagner's home life up close like this, our quiet little 8-year-old friend with the sweet smile becomes a heartbreaking figure to us. Naja tells us that all the Bible stories at Kids Place inspire him to work hard at learning to read well so that he can read the materials he brings home. His teachers tell Naja he isn't always obedient and she worries about his safety when he's out in the neighborhood playing marbles or soccer, but he is a good boy.
Naja can't read, she explains, so although she goes to church on Sundays, she can't read her Bible on her own. She is confused about some things she has heard in her church about bar codes on foreheads and wrists, and knows other churches teach different things. One of Wagner's uncles sat with us for a while and echoed her questions, saying it was so hard to know what the truth was when all the churches seemed to teach different things. We weren't expecting to answer end-times questions, or debate the differences between Catholic and protestant views on baptism, but these questions ended up being a perfect opportunity to share the beauty of a personal relationship with Christ.
Naja said she'd never raised her hand in church when the preacher asked if anyone wanted Jesus to be their Savior. She didn't feel like she understood everything, and besides, she had so many other things on her mind that worried her in a more immediate way. Our Kids Place staffer, Celia, rescued us from our bumbling attempts to cross a cultural divide (as we saw it) and just preached simple salvation to this hurting woman. Emanuel translated for us simultaneously so we could keep up. Celia hadn't even planned on joining us at Wagner's house-- she was just going to show us the way and return to work -- but she stayed and God led her to speak up. The Spirit spoke through her and light broke into that house that had been filled with palpable darkness when we walked in. Naja said she wanted Jesus to be her Savior and we had the privilege of praying with her. She asked us to pray, also, for her family situation. We prayed again for the salvation of everyone in the house, Wagner's safety and spiritual growth through Kids Place, and the salvation of his mother.
Wagner's mother has never been to Kids Place, but Naja wants her to go there to meet us and possibly be convinced to join the women's Bible study that takes place on Thursdays. Naja thinks she would go if we said we wanted to meet her. We told her we would be there every morning this week, and we hope she will come. We are praying she will and that through Kids Place she could find a relationship with Christ.
We went with sincere hearts and intentions, and saw that God can use even our bumbling efforts to bring Himself glory. We were all blessed to be there and I can say that I learned a lot about evangelism seeing Celia speak straight to a hurting heart.
Please pray that God will continue to open our hearts to His opportunities and that He will prepare the way for the proclamation of His Word. It is a privilege to be here watching His work up close in this beautiful city.