It is hard to believe that we are sat here writing our second Christmas link letter since arriving in Brazil. This year has truly flown by and it feels to us as if Christmas has come around way too quickly. 2018 has been an important year for Brazil; after hopes to win another world cup were crushed, the country turned its attention to the presidential elections which took place in October. The rightwing candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, was duly elected as the 38th president of Brazil.
This is a divided nation. Some still support the former president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who is in prison for corruption and money laundering. His dream was to see Brazil become a socialist nation. Others support the new move towards the “right” to avoid the “Venezualization” of Brazil. However, generally speaking, all Brazilians are tired of corruption in politics and the violence that keeps people hostage inside their own homes.
During the election campaign, a lot was said about “truth” with both sides claiming to be on the side of “truth”. In fact, Bolsonaro’s opening words in his victor’s speech were the words from John 8:32. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This rhetoric resonates with a people who are looking for truth, looking for meaning and looking for hope.
However, hope, meaning and truth are only truly found in Jesus, who declared himself to be the truth. In quoting John 8:32, the president elect may have been referring to ideological truth, but according to Jesus he is himself the way, the truth and the life. The truth referred to in the Gospel of John is not an idea but a person. Jesus Christ the true one.
I love the way God does things. In our quest for truth or true ideas and ideologies, God surprises us. Our quest ends not in reading a book but in reaching a heart. Not in learning head level information but feeling a heartbeat. Our quest ends not in knowing something, but in being known by someone. Our quest ends not through our intelligence, but through our adoption as children of God. Our quest ends in a manger. Our quest ends in the stable where we find a baby, the hope of the world.
So our work here continues to help people connect or reconnect to the person who can reassign purpose to their lives. Jesus the truth.
Each week we continue to visit the places where street people are. However, we have recently seen one of their favourite spots being blocked off by the local authorities so we have lost contact with a few of our regulars as they have moved to other areas of town. This ministry is the backbone of our project; through it we have regular contact with people who we are called to serve and are given the opportunity to offer them the chance to leave the streets and get help. Sadly though, we have seen a drop in the number of people seeking to go to rehab. We are not sure why this is happening but we are praying God will continue to transform lives here in Goiania.
One big development for us this year has been the establishing of our project as an organisation, something made official in October during our first board meeting. The charity is called “Igreja Sem Paredes” (meaning Church Without Walls), with 13 people on the board from six different churches. We are hugely encouraged with this development for a number of reasons. First of all, it means that we exist legally and for all purposes. It also shows that we have the support of people from a variety of churches, which is a positive thing. We are excited to see what the future will bring.
This Christmas we will once more spend our Christmas on the streets. We expect to be joined by 60 street dwellers, as well as a team of volunteers. Our hope is to be able to share God’s love with them and help show them that they are not alone, in what can be a difficult day/ season for many. As Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve here in Brazil, we will be offering showers, haircuts, a change of clothes and a meal. There will also be music and decorations. Please think of and pray for this time.
The kids are doing well. Brazil is a great place for kids and the culture is much more inclusive for children than in the UK. The weather has not only provided Nicolas and Olivia with a tan but also with many good memories of sunny Saturdays as a family.
Nicolas is doing well at school and continues to surprise us with what seems to be a very sharp mind. We have also seen huge growth in his faith and understanding of what Jesus did for him. We pray God keeps him close to his heart, and that Nicolas will continue to be open to God. He is eight now.
Olivia is a delightful and sweet little girl. Her favourite hobby is to take kitchen utensils from the lower drawers and throw them in the bin when no one is looking. We are missing many items, but we still love her. She is learning new things all the time and tries to count until 10, even though she can’t quite pronounce the words yet. She will start kindergarten in the New Year after she turns two.
We continue to pray for a bigger place. Our little flat is lovely, but we feel a little cramped in it. On top of that we want to be able to host people and welcome visitors. Please pray we find the right place and that everything falls into place.
Our hopes for 2019
In 2019, we hope to:
• Continue to run our weekly ministry on the streets, as well as the larger events at least four times a year.
• Create and strengthen our partnership with local rehab centres.
• Continue to look for training opportunities; Debora wants to specialise in barbering and Levi wants to validate his UK studies and qualification in Brazil.
• We would like to move to a new place.
• Visit the UK over the summer!
• Live intentionally and close to God’s heart.
Please pray that the above will come to pass and that God will, in all things, guide our every step. God is good and perfect in all he does and we thank him for you! Thank you for standing with us and being here with us through prayer and support (financial or otherwise). We are humbled to be your partners in mission, and thankful for this opportunity.
This Christmas, our prayer for you, your family and your church, is that you will experience Jesus, the true one. May you be filled with his presence and may you share that presence with others. We pray you will be filled with joy and that the New Year will be filled with a hope that only God provides.
Happy Christmas! Feliz Natal!
Debora and Levi, Nicolas and Olivia