Report Upon Returning
Deus te Abencoe!
Hello all friends, family, and supporters,
Due to travels and unreliable internet we were unable to make any day to day updates while on the March trip. Today is Monday the 26th of March and we have all arrived back safely into the U.S.A. We have all shared an experience this week which has reached each of us in a unique way, from coloring and teaching bible stories to children, to painting, to digging a trench through a road, along with a number of church services and unforgettable fellowship with our Brazilian brothers and sisters, who must be the most hospitable and generous people in the world.
Many of our members, I know, kept personal records, journalings, and reflections upon the work accomplished and the experiences had here, so their individual thoughts will be posted here in the coming days, combined with perhaps more details of the planning for the second trip with the other half of our members in June.
I'll provide as much of a summary of the day to day activities as possible. As the men spent most of the rest of the week out in the community on work projects, we have less knowledge of the Bible school times with the children at the Villa Pantanal Church. I apologize in advance for the somewhat slanted view on the week's activities.
Of all the children who attend the Pantanal Church project, five where chosen who had the worst housing conditions. These we have identified as our priority projects. Throughout the week we succeeded in accomplishing much of the work, and all of the heavy work, on two of them. One home was rotting, leaking, and collapsing in the "room" where the children slept. Here our principal work was in clearing out brick and other debris from next to the house, and then helping to dig and pour concrete footers there, so that a room could be added to the side of this shack, giving the family a safe and dry place to sleep. At the second home we worked to build a family a bathroom. As you can see below, the sewage system here consists of runoff and ditches along side the road. Most times they are not so clean cut as this, but run along the road itself. All of this garbage and sewage is dumped into a nearby river and swamp area. Our biggest task was to dig a trench (through a road, mind you) into which pipes could be laid for waste removal. In addition to this we helped with the brick and cement building of the actual bathroom structure. To most Americans, a toilet room is such a basic thing that we do not even think about it. We expect a modern bathroom with the same normalcy and dependency that we expect the sun to rise each morning. Yet to these people, this family, something so mundane even crude, as a bathroom, and on top of that a flushing, pipe-draining bathroom, means a great deal.
These community work projects occupied the men for most of the remainder of the week, although we had time Friday to participate in the vacation bible school with the children. The women, in addition to spearheading the VBS for the children, worked hard to paint the church. Roger Yarbrough devoted much time (and sweat!) to one of our most important projects in Pantanal: the training of locals in various craft and weaving type trades. Here he is with Morgan, cutting frames for weaving.By such means some people have actually succeeded in escaping the cyclical prison of poverty which traps those living in Villa Pantanal. Even since last year, through efforts such as Roger's, we have seen people break out in this way. Pastor Audir (pronounced "Aw-jeer") described it as a "good frustration," that as people come into the church, learned trades, and perhaps more importantly acquire Christ's infusion of hope, they break free from the bondage of poverty and leave the favela. This means that Pastor Audir, or whoever is working there, has to deal with a feeling of always starting over. Yet it is Audir's vision, and ours, to someday see what is now hardly more than a landfill with shacks dotting it, a place of spirits downtrodden as much as the broken bottles across the roads, to see this a green pasture land, empty of people, having been liberated as the Hebrews from Egypt.
I would be amiss if I failed to mention J.D. Revels, our guitarist for the trip. We were all very fortunate to have his talents serving us in leading all the worship times and the music for the children's VBS. We thank J.D. for his leadership and hard work in this area; he is a great guy to work with.
We attended two more church services during the week, both of which were grand times for us all. At the service Tuesday night we performed our skit, "We Are Pulled," which attempts to show first that we are drawn by temptations and vices in our spirits, but then, how we can be rescued by Christ and healed by the Spirit.
We met Bishop Jean (pronounced "John") Carlos and Audir for supper two nights, Thursday and Friday, for excellent native Brazilian meals, and equally if not more pleasing native Brazilian hospitality. For those of you who do not know, Bishop Jean Carlos and his wife (with the Methodist church) are our chief contacts in Brazil and coordinators of our work while we are there. Although they are Methodist affiliated, our mission is multi-denominational, including brothers and sisters from all backgrounds. Both the Bishop and Audir are wonderful people with incredible individual stories, and are all the more worthy as a couple working together for the Kingdom of God.
That is a very much summarized look at our work of the week. Saturday was a mostly a recuperating day. We went to the coast, visited more dear brothers and sisters at a church there, and then accompanied them across the bay, where we ate supper by the historic town of San Francisco, swam on a beach near the church, and then shared bread and a song or two with them again that evening.
Sunday we awoke early, and after a brief excursion to see the downtown culture of Curitiba marketplace, we returned to our residence of Lar Rogate to have a final service together with Audir on the front lawn. She gave her own testimony, and Reverend Singleton shared words on the devotionals of the week, both of a very appropriate and moving nature.
Our hearty thanks again to all who supported us by prayer or finance. As mentioned above we will continue to post more on here in the upcoming days, and be in mind that we have yet the second half of our team to travel in mid June.
Grace e Paz,