I’ve been meaning to get on here for a while to tell a story – so here it is.
One of the things that I love about my times down in Lapa w/ the youth is our conversation. We talk about the most random things – from why they left home, issues w/ family, faith, and God, to who’s going to be the next soccer champ of Rio, to the latest fun facts we’ve found out about animals. (One of the guys has a fascination w/ animals – we’ve talked for hours about the cool things we know snakes, whales, fish, dolphins, spiders, insects, and other creatures can do.)
Last week another guy asked me why I speak different. “Why is it that your country and my country have different languages?” So I launched off into a quick rundown of the story of the “Tower of Babel.” He was fascinated. “Is this true?” “It’s in the Bible…” “No way!” He quickly ran off to tell a few of his friends, “Guess what I just found out!!!” and proceeded to tell them the entire story. I had to smile.
Last week I ran into Rafael, who I hadn’t seen for a while, and he asked me to sing for him. He has a favorite worship song – “Oh Praise Him” – so I began to sing. Immediately a small audience gathered around to listen.
“That’s church music,” I heard someone explain to another. At the end of the song, someone else asked if I knew any church songs in Portuguese. I ran through the few that I do have memorized from church, and began to sing one. A larger crowd gathered, including some of the older, “tougher” guys. A few of them started singing along. And then the floodgates were opened.
They began clamoring – “Do you know this one? How about that one? Listen to me sing this song…” And they began to sing. We sat there for half an hour listening to groups of them or individuals sing songs from home – their “church songs”. I was struck by the beauty of it.
Hearing Chrstiano sing “You have taken off my filthy rags, and dressed me in garments of praise…” Listening to Leonardo sing “Great is the Lord, His amazing works will never end, His eyes will never leave me…” Trying not to cry when Thiago sang in his quiet, low, shy voice, “God sees into our hearts, He feels our wounds, He knows our pain, and He won’t give us more than we can bear…” Smiling and trying to sing along as they belted out “Lord, heal our land. Only You can make a difference here, so listen to our hearts and heal our land…”
I believe I have worshipped before. But nothing compares to that night. I knew I was in the presence of the Lord, as He was in the midst of “the least of these” (Matt. 25). These are the children of Lapa. These are the broken ones. Yet my Abba spoke to me through them.
As I walked the last bit of the way home, around the horses, past the men w/ guns, under the power lines and over the soccer field, I looked up and saw the stars, and contentedly sighed, “Lord, make those words they sung be a prophecy – what You will do in their lives, and what you’re already doing. Change Lapa, and change them. Give them life.”
Join w/ me in praying for them – for us – that we all may taste His life, even in the darkest, smelliest, most broken places. Thanks for sticking w/ me.