Snapshots of July

One of the side effects on going non-stop this past month has been the almost total absence of reflection and introspection. That absence exacerbates my mental and spiritual exhaustion. This is me taking some time to reflect – to laugh – to remember – to share both brokenness and beauty…

– At the beginning of the month I was able to hang out with a youth tour soccer team from the Charlotte Eagles. It was so refreshing to be able to share their time here in Rio – playing soccer, helping translate for them, worshipping on the beach, sweet prayer, and unexpected new friendships. For fun pictures, go here.

– I celebrated my 28th birthday. Thanks to all who sent greetings and love. They were much appreciated. I had a bit of space for reflection the weekend prior as I went down with Rich to a friend’s house who lives outside of Rio in a peaceful vacation community right off the beach. Sitting on the beach and watching the sun rise while journaling was a breath of fresh air. And as I sat on his balcony later that day, looking over the ocean before me and the green mountains rising behind me, I tried using my birthday wish to help me to fly. It didn’t work. Maybe I needed to actually try it on my birthday… hmm…

– The actual day I felt celebrated and loved – I was teaching at Timonis (after school program for favela kids) and received a few little gifts from the kids, had “Happy birthday” sung multiple times by screaming Brazilian kids, a cake and 28 verse version of “Happy Birthday” led by Everton and backed up by a chorus of singing Dutch girls, and a sweet time on the streets with them that evening. I left the streets to head to a friend’s house for home-made brownies from Jason (the former pastry chef), Rio Risk, and lots of laughter late into the night.

– Monday I was searched by police upon leaving Jacaré, where they proceeded to go through my bag extremely thoroughly – including going through most of the 40 sandwiches I had made to make sure that the only thing in them was ham and cheese (instead of cocaine and marijuana?)

– Tuesday evening was beautiful – Janneke (the Dutch woman who, along with her Brazilian-Jewish husband Fernando, runs Timonis), Priscilla (the 15-year-old daughter of staff who work there), Musaki (the Angolan studying in São Paulo and visiting Rio for a few days), five tall, mostly blonde Dutch girls (currently interning at Timonis, who speak almost no Portuguese and only a smattering of English) and myself moseyed around the favela of Manguinhos at dusk. We were inviting children and youth who come into the favela to smoke crack to take an hour and come to “the little school” with us, and Janneke decided it would be fun for the Dutch girls to hand out tracts – which they did with gusto to everyone (including the drug dealers – one cocaine dealer was extremely interested, and talked with me and one of the girls for a few minutes…)

Almost 20 kids and teenagers came back with us and listened to Musaki tell about growing up in war-torn Angola, fleeing from guerillas, and God’s protection of his family. Shocker of the night for me was afterwards, conversing with Musaki – a man who has lived through and seen many horrible things – as he gazes at me and says “Man, this is heavy… Hard work. Necessary work. But oh-so-heavy…”

– Today we spent the day at Fernando and Janneke’s home – 2 hours out of Rio, it is cold and hilly and green and peaceful – celebrating their daughter’s seventh birthday. It was a fun day full of churrasco (lots of meat), laughter, games, and story telling (Fernando is a master story-teller with the adventures to back it up – the time he bet his friends that two floundering swimmers wouldn’t drown then dove in to save them, the time he electrified a teacher’s chair and nearly killed him, the time he barely escaped being run over by a bus when he drove his soap-box cart underneath it, etc.) Generally, there was the feeling of being at home and among friends. The Dutch girls were all present, which though our communication is limited, doesn’t seem to stop the fits of whispering, blushing, and giggling that seem to strike them from time to time in my presence… (especially when Everton, the resident class-clown and troublemaker, calls me over to ask which of them is the most beautiful, etc…)

– The highlight of today was sitting on the porch worshipping – a guitar and hammock, four nationalities (Brazilian, Angolan, Dutch, and American), some drinking coffee, others guarana, others beer, singing songs that meandered from Portuguese to Dutch to English to Spanish and back… A taste of home – of completeness – of belonging – of unity – of shalom… a taste of the Kingdom of Heaven – the Reign of God – the prodigal son welcomed home, the love-feast of the Father… but such a sweet, sweet taste…

Peace to you all…



Filed under Amusements, beauty, brokenness, daily life, favela, love, peace, photos, timonis, worship

2 responses to “Snapshots of July

  1. amanda

    i imagine that the dutch girls weren’t the only ones blushing when you were asked which one was the most beautiful.

    i’m glad that you took some time to write!


  2. laura

    benjo, you have a way with wordsm my friend. thank you for sharing all of these things.

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