A week ago, Renaissance Man and I arrived in Brazil.
A day behind schedule already, we hit the ground running, not even slowing down to rest after our overnight flight.
So much packed into the first few hours . . .
- Re-connecting with old friends—and making new ones
- Rejoicing over campus improvements at the City of Youth
- Visiting the newest Hope Unlimited for Children thrift store
- Grieving with a friend who lost his wife very suddenly a few weeks ago (H1N1 flu? Test results not available for 90 days…) and rejoicing with a young staff couple over their precious 5-month-old son. . . . My tired body grasping for a balance of emotions.
Early the next morning, we headed to the airport—again. And after a mix-up with reservations, I finally got a ticket in time to slip onto the plane as the door was about to close. Whew!
Destination: Vitoria, Brazil
Located on a small island and positioned where several rivers meet the sea, the beautiful city of Vitoria has a population of over 1.8 million people.
It’s a popular vacation spot with high-rise hotels claiming stunning views of the ocean and easy access to gorgeous beaches. But “the rest of the story” is that Vitoria is the capital city of one of Brazil’s poorest states, and behind the fancy skyscrapers are the favelas where drug trafficking is rampant, young girls are prostituted, and generational cycles of poverty, abuse, and exploitation are the norm.
But on the outskirts of town is a place of refuge and transformation: Hope Mountain
It’s a place of beauty and color and creativity . . .
A place of learning . . .
A place of worship . . .
Day students come to Hope Mountain for vocational classes, but they get “ethics” classes, too, that expose them to Biblical truths and the love of their Creator. They take their new knowledge and return to their homes and communities, sharing it with others.
But at its heart, Hope Mountain is “home” for teenage boys who have nowhere else to go. Honestly, I guess some could go to the children’s prison you saw in the picture above. Many of them have trafficked drugs, stolen from businesses. Some have killed. But I’ve been there, and I wouldn’t wish that place on any human being, much less a child.
But Hope Mountain is a place of the unexpected.
Boys once abused and exploited by the very ones who should have cared for them—their parents—end up on the streets with literally nowhere to go; no one to love them; no one to listen to their stories.
The lucky ones end up at Hope Mountain where they are welcomed with open arms. Where they are loved. Where they learn discipline and life skills. Where they are invited to experience the saving love of Jesus and the amazing grace of God.
Where their lives are transformed from hopeless to hopeful—and Hope-filled.
Hope Mountain is a place where generational cycles of poverty, abuse, drugs, alcoholism, exploitation, prostitution (and the list goes on) are broken. Where once-troubled young boys become confident young men, returning to their communities to live out the Love they received.
Where the future of the next generation looks very different.
That is the mission of Hope Unlimited for Children: Transforming the lives of children at mortal risk, providing them and their future generations a productive future and eternal hope.
The stats speak for themselves. Two years after graduating, almost 90% of our kids are working and living in stable situations; the vast majority are in church. Wish we could say that about the U.S. foster care system—or the church youth group.
Next time, I’ll tell you some real-life stories of transformation. You might want to pull out a pretty vintage hankie and have it ready.
In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Thanks for stopping by.