A week ago today, a good friend of mine, one of the street kids we worked with, was killed violently.
Immediately after the funeral, I wanted to leave. Leave Rio, leave Brazil, and just go someplace easier – someplace far, far away. In the midst of that, however, I stumbled across a few signs of hope. I wanted to share some of them with you –
On Friday afternoon, I went down to Lapa for the first time since the funeral. I didn’t really want to be there. I stopped at some steps across the street from the Arcos for a few moments to pray and get myself together. As I was crossing the busy street, I saw Jenna holding a baby. Saw Milton and Monique (Jeferson’s sister)’s three kids, who are three of my favorite things about being in Brazil. I love them better than the beach, and more than words can express. I could play games w/ Christiane (the 4 year old boy) for hours and hours (and we do). Christiane launched himself at me from several feet away and gave me a crushing hug (but not as crushing as the one I was giving him). And I got a kiss from Maria Elena, and got to hold little Brendan (my godson – he’s beautiful – and perfect – and such a reminder that God is still at work here.) They looked so good and healthy since Monique has been living at home (and off the street) for the past few months. I’ve been really proud of her. And the fact that they are Jeferson’s nieces and nephews somehow was comforting.
I spent hours chasing Christiane, flinging him around, over my shoulders, spinning him around, tickling him, sharing popcorn, and acting like four year olds again… (one very large four year old, and one normal sized one). It’s hard to stay depressed when a little child loves you, and shows it. Christiane, Maria Elena, and Brendan are signs of hope.
On Saturday, I went to the beach. It was cloudy and chilly, but the waves and the sand and the salt breeze are a tonic for my soul. Being tossed around by huge breakers reminds me of how small I really am – it’s good for building humility – and I never leave the beach without a deep sense of awe in my heart. The beauty, the changing, the fun – how it seems like God made this little present for us, and he called it “the beach”… it’s like Christmas, and I’m four years old, and I can’t wait to get started… That was a sign of hope.
Today, I went to church and was invited over to a family’s home for lunch afterwards. That was a sign of hope.
Today, I went down to Lapa and watched Brazil trouncing Chile in a World Cup Qualifier (4-0 35 minutes into the game) with a bunch of the street kids. We were laughing and talking and cheering together. A sign of hope.
Today Cleiton (Clayton) came home with me from Lapa. He’s a very sweet, 16 year old guy from Lapa. He seems a little younger – lots of fun, very talkative – but he’s great. He wanted to visit my house, and so we spent the afternoon together, and then went to church. We came back here w/ the Servant Team, and then fed him spaghetti and coffee cake. We cut his hair, and I let him “cut” mine (he just trimmed it a little and fixed it up in the back. It was nerve-racking, though… =) Laughing about haircuts – a sign of hope.
Sitting in my living room talking tonight, Cleiton said something profound. He said to the Servant Team, “It’s always really good when you come down and visit us. We love it. It’s a distraction – something to take our minds off of the lonliness, the tiredness, the pain. We don’t use drugs as much when you’re there. You talk to us. You bring stuff for us to do. Sometimes you help us out w/ food. Some people say it doesn’t make any difference, you coming down to spend time with us, but it does. It makes a lot of difference.” Cleiton, you are a sign of hope for me…
Pray for these signs of hope – the big thing about hope is that is not yet realized. And in that fragile state, there is always the possibility that hope will fail. So pray with me – that the signs of hope I’ve seen will be things we can look back on in the years to come as different signs – signs of God’s faithfulness. Pray for Christiane, Maria Elena, Brendan, and Monique. Pray for Cleiton. Continue to pray for Jeferson’s family and close friends. Pray for our WMF community – that we might be a community of hope in the midst of death.