Day 6: Beauty and the Beast

Welcome to Vitoria, Brazil!

 

The city of Vitoria and its surrounding communities (total population 1.66 million) present some of the most alluring vistas in all of Brazil.  Beautiful beaches, a monastery built high on the hill of an island, and stark granite cliffs rising up out of the bay all contribute to a pleasing visual palate.

 

The port at Vitoria is one of the busiest in the world.  From the air, cargo ships are anchored miles out to sea … and as far up and down the coastline.  You can just see them along the horizon in this picture.

 

But it does not take long for the darker side of Vitoria to become apparent:  signs in hotels along the beachfront warn that soliciting minors for sex is against the law; the children’s prison at Cariacica looms forebodingly right next to the road; and favelas with subhuman living conditions spring up seemingly on every vacant patch of ground.

 

Vitoria is also home to Hope Mountain, providing the promise of a future to children who have led the bleakest of lives, bringing the promise of Hope to kids for whom tomorrow has always been a threat, rather than a promise. Isn’t it a beautiful place?

 

Hope Mountain stands in stark contrast to the oppressive children’s prison we visited yesterday.  I’ll admit …  Based on the stories of Board members who visited the same prison several years ago, I tried to prepare myself for a very emotionally disturbing experience.  Thankfully for the children, conditions have improved in recent years since Brazil’s child judicial system (and this prison by name) was condemned in 2011 by the Organization of American States’ Human Rights Court.  But trust me.  It’s still bad … really bad.  And yet we’re called to reach out to these children.  We all are.


Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  (James 1:27)
 
Luan,
stretched out on his tiny upper bunk reading his Bible, asked me to pray for him.
Antonio,
who stood at his heavy cell door looking out the tiny barred window, reached out in response to my offered handshake.
Genovaldo
told me he is child #3 of 11 in his family.  He was selected to assist with our tour … and next week he will go back before the judge in hopes that his time has been served.  He’s 14 years old.  On behalf of the prison staff, with thanks for our interest in their work, Genovaldo presented the three women in our group with gift boxes made by child prisoners … because Sunday was Mother’s Day.  This one’s mine, and it came with a big hug and a smile!  My heart was blessed by the kind gesture of an incarcerated child … and it makes no difference that his crime remains a mystery to me.
 
We then visited a second juvenile prison facility.  It was less “heavy, clanging doors” but still very high-security — and it used a totally different operational model.

 

Why is the Board of Hope Unlimited for Children visiting children’s prisons?  Because our organization was asked by the state to investigate how we might adapt our award-winning program with mortally at-risk children for new work with juvenile prisoners.  It’s a huge decision … and we’re doing extensive research … and walking down the path until (or unless) it ends.  But God opened this door … and has confirmed His intent over the past two years … and so we keep stepping out in faith.  We covet your prayers for discernment and clarity of mind even as the Board continues to meet through the weekend.

I’m so glad you’re traveling with me this week.  It’s been a busy one, huh?  (… with lots you haven’t even seen!)  It looks like I’ve managed to see the clock strike midnight yet again tonight … and, once again, tomorrow (today!) comes early.  Sleep fast!
 
 
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For the past week I’ve been blogging about my trip to Brazil with the Board of Hope Unlimited for Children.  If you missed any posts, just scroll to Older Posts to see where we’ve been.
 

Comments

  1. I am sending prayers your way!

  2. This is what my son is seeing in Cambodia also as he builds another play ground for the children…the contrast, the beauty and the darkness…the things that make you look up and shout Awesome God and the idol worship…and in the same place.
    Thanks for keeping us up to date…so we remember what others are going through and it pulls us out of our shells and on our knees.

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