Bom dia (Good morning) from Brazil!
The last time we were together here at My Place, I wrote about young girls in Chile… but I’ve spent the past week in Brazil with the kids at Hope Unlimited for Children. The days have been long – and the nights short – but we’ve accomplished a lot.
- We introduced the children and staff to two prospective Board candidates – and gave the candidates an “up close and personal” look at the organization.
- We welcomed two women from an El Salvadoran residential care facility (as well as a mutual donor) – and trained them to use our highly-successful graduate transition program with their own students.
- We’re still working with a world-class photographer and his videographer son to get new publicity materials. That started last Saturday… and continues until we’re finished. No idea when that will be.
BUT, Renaissance Man and I wouldn’t trade this extended time we’re having with the staff, the children, and the culture for anything! We’ve been blessed on so many levels, not the least of which is watching God at work right before our eyes.
If you happen to be feeling discouraged today, let me introduce you to some stories of hope… with names changed for privacy.
This is Marianna; peaceful as she worshiped last Sunday evening at the Graduate Church. Her life story before coming to Hope was anything but peaceful… Marianna graduated from our program about four years ago. For awhile she worked as an au pair but now works as a teacher’s aid while attending university. She will soon graduate – excited to teach her own class of young students. She and Renaissance Man have a special friendship, and he was privileged to baptize her several years ago. She is one of many beautiful Hope success stories.
The first time Bruno appeared here at My Place was in conjunction with Hope Unlimited’s 20th Anniversary Celebration in October 2011. Always one of the most engaging kids on campus, he was a great camera subject, except his “cool” demanded he flash a peace sign just as the camera clicked – always.
Not uncommon with some of our kids, Bruno occasionally ran away, always returning to campus within a day– or a couple of hours. But last year, Bruno’s life took a tragic turn when he ran away and was hit by a car. He was totally paralyzed, the initial diagnosis being profound and irreversible brain damage. After he came out of his coma, he was returned to the City of Youth where he required around-the-clock care. He was a tragic reminder of the dangers our kids face when they return to the streets.
While in Brazil last May, Renaissance Man and I visited Bruno and were encouraged when he recognized us and gave a “thumbs up” from his wheelchair. Perhaps the brain damage wasn’t as bad as first thought… We left praying for more progress, but I knew my faith was small.
Last Saturday night, as we arrived with our visiting groups for the worship service at the City of Youth, Renaissance Man approached me with excitement. “You are not going to believe this. Philip was just at the boys’ graduate house, and Bruno came walking up to him with a big ‘Oi, Tio Philip’.” Bruno? Our paraplegic… Walking?
The following evening, we saw Bruno at the Graduate Church. Slowly but surely, as he continues rehab, he’s getting strength and function back in his limbs. That peace sign he flashed that ruined many a group picture? Today we love it! We’re calling it a “V for Victory.”
One more story… and it’s one in which I want to see another victory. My faith is increasing…
One of the girls in this picture is Luana. For several years, she sat around the Table With Heart. Today I hold to that hope…
At one point (while still an innocent little girl), the courts allowed her to return home. Once again, the situation turned bad, and she was brought back into Hope’s care. Sadly, but not surprisingly, she was scantily clad, her purse containing small packages of proof for how she’d spent her time away. The little girl was no more…
On my last trip to Brazil in May 2013, I learned Luana had run away from our campus and was working as a prostitute. Hope’s wonderful staff is quick to communicate that our door remains open, always hoping to draw the prodigals back, but ultimately each child has to make their own choice. I thought Luana had made hers.
As I walked into the Graduate Church last Sunday evening, my eyes scanned the crowd and connected with a beautiful young woman. We smiled tentatively at each other across the room as the service began. Is that Luana? “Yes,” we were told. Luana has started coming to church on occasion. The Table With Heart is drawing her back…
Immediately following the service, Luana walked toward Renaissance Man and me, knowing she would find hugs and acceptance. I had the opportunity to tell Luana that since she left the City of Youth I’ve prayed for her – and cried for her – many times. I told her I would never pretend to know the stresses she faces in her life, and reminded her that God is bigger than any of those problems, and He wants to help her find a path through them. I told her, “tonight you made a very good choice to be here in church surrounded by people who love you.” She cried… and hugged me hard and long. I hope she found some tiny bit of encouragement in our conversation. I also hope you’ll pray for her.
Wherever you find yourself today
- lacking faith
- needing healing
- struggling to believe
God also wants to help YOU find a path. He wants to bring Brazil-sized blessings to you, too! There truly is *nothing* that is too big for Him. Are you willing to take a chance and believe that? Stop what you’re doing right now and pour your heart out to Him. He’s listening. His answer may not look like what you expected… but He won’t let you down.
If you’d like an easy way to encourage the children of Hope,
join me on the Thrive Team!