Saturday, March 31, 2018

"I WAS Dead.." 

Sunset I caught out the window as we were driving to Paraguay. 
Hello my friends, how is everyone doing:)? Happy Easter to each of you in the truest sense! The three most powerful words ever spoken, "I WAS Dead". Only the man named Jesus could say that He WAS dead and because of those three words, we have hope. Just imagine the moment a thirty three year old man lay dead in a stone cold tomb. Three days passed and then the wind of new life blew across His body. His heart started to beat again. Since He had shed every last drop of His blood, new blood had to now fill His veins. His Father filled His lungs with breath and He stood up, folded the burial cloth, and walked out of the tomb. Since He had never sinned, the rules of death were broken and death itself could not hold Him. He fought. He won. He lives. Now we can live.  No matter how dead we may feel at times, how difficult our past or hopeless our present may seem, because Jesus rose, we also can rise from our ashes,  and live.
"I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.." (Rev.1:18)
Down Town in Paraguay
Well my family and I are in Paraguay now! We plan to stay here for a while and then return again to Brazil.  The border we crossed is known for being very difficult to cross and even dangerous and corrupt. Someone told us it was best to cross it late at night so we drove 12 hours straight to make it there and crossed late. The border was pretty deserted and it all went smooth.  The next day we drove another 7 hours to the Capital. It's neat when you look on google maps and even though you only have 15 miles left to go, your estimated arrival time is 2 HOURS! Yeah for traffic:) 
It's cool to be in a Spanish speaking country again, but also super difficult to switch back after speaking Portuguese. We have to really focus!  I spent Tuesday writing letters and meeting with high officials to begin working in the prisons, schools, orphanages and down town center here. It all went pretty good and after Easter, hopefully some doors will begin to open (if not I will go back to all the same offices again...and again till they let us in:))
One of the Paraguayan borders late at night. 
And that sign pretty much sums up the food here:) "Cooky;)
We went in a dominoes pizza and they had "Apple" written on the menu.
We were thinking it was a pie or something, but no, it was their "healthy" food option:).

It is a really tragic situation here in Paraguay. The city is in extreme poverty and just a complete disaster. It was actually under a dictatorship until 1989 and then that party continued to rule all the way until 2008! This really effects the people and the way they are. Because of bad flooding in January, thousands of people lost their homes and are now living in temporary shelters right in the down town center. They have very little food, drinking water and no electricity or bathrooms. The need is just overwhelming and we are praying for the Fathers grace and wisdom to effectively help these people and touch them with His love. I wish I was rich because there is just so much you could do to instantly, long term help a lot of people, but like Peter said, "silver and gold have I none, but what I do have, I give you". What we celebrate on Easter is the only hope for all humanity no matter what we may be dealing with. A man named Jesus WAS dead and is now alive, therefore we have hope.  
Performing inside a rehabilitation center.
This dance that conveys the idea of each being an individual, "playing" our
own rhythm and not being influenced by others. 
The week before we left Brazil was super full:)! We presented at a different place every day, sometimes two a day. In one of the days, we drove three hours away up into a mountainous area. It was a long drive down a narrow windy road and we came in and out of  rain storms. We finally found the prison which was buried behind a small town. The workers were expecting us and very glad to see us. The temperature at this higher elevation was a bit cooler so that was really nice for a change:)  One man named David, told us that he had been set up to take the fall for a crime. In it all he was hit in the back of the head with a 2x4 and left for dead. He showed us his scars. In a song we share we have the words in it, "não desista" (don't give up) and at the end he told me how much that meant to him.
We had a beautiful time visiting and performing at a large home for the elderly. It was so cool to see these beautiful, but sad people, slowly warm to us and then accept us like their family. The director of activities was a 17 year old girl! She was mature well beyond her years and really cared about the people she worked with. Her mom had died when she was 11, her dad just left and her grandparents were raising her. Seeing the kindness of her grandparents, gave her the desire to work with older folks and choose to lay down her life and love these people. She had a very selfless beautiful attitude.
She told me that 90% of the people in this home get NO visitors! Someone drops them off and forgets them. The home, which is Catholic based, pays for all the expenses including their care, food,  and clothes. This one man named, Theo, was really beautiful. At first when he came in he was really grouchy and even angry. But after a little "magic" and just talking to him, he became my best friend. He lost one of his legs in a hit and run accident years ago. As I pushed his wheel chair, he took me on a tour of the place. I gave him a chess board and we sat down and played a game. 

Love really is a weapon. Even a tiny amount can change a life. We have to always make an effort to remember the forgotten and love the unlovable, just like Jesus did. If you even make a simple effort to say, go visit the elderly, or boys and girls club, or homeless shelter, you will take away as much as you give. I imagine you have some kind of talent you could use to approach people, maybe you can play an instrument, sing, use a card trick or puppet or just your personality. The best thing you can give others is to give yourself, and let God use yo to show His love. The best thing I ever did with my life, was to loose it (Jn.12:25)! 

We had to go up and down a hall as some of the people at, here at this home for the elderly.
We had to go up to each table and engage them one on one. They were really beautiful and listened.
On my youngest brothers birthday, we visited a juvenile detention center and did two performances for two different groups. Both times we really got through to the kids. My brother was blessed to share the day caring about these young men. Many of the kids have come from broken families, had no parents or been through a tragedy.  We were able to reach a lot of really beautiful young people and give them some real direction. They were quick to learn, ask questions and participate. It was like they were just starving for love and attention.
My family with a group of the kids and staff at a juvenile detention center. 
We made a color flyer with a cool car on it and use the example of a car, to teach them how they have to start their mind (think), shift into gear (make right choices) and drive their life (short version of a detailed and helpful example;). No one can drive our "car" (life) for us, if we are distracted by peer pressure and all the voices of the world, we can "crash". We communicate these ideas through a theatrical act, and large colored posters as well.  It is something that really relates to this age group and they really get it.
The way it works here in Brazil is that minors, 17 years and younger, cannot be tried as adults or receive a long prison scnetence. So big time gangs, recruit these kids to commit serious crimes knowing they will get less time. It is tragic what some of these kids, who are really mere children, have done and now have to figure out how to deal with. After our performance, many of the guys came up and just wanted to tell their stories. One guy named Lucas, had just watch his mother die in the hospital. One guy had just had his right eye shot out by a cop who was chasing him. One kid had 7 brothers he was raising. Many told us that we had changed them forever and they were going to leave the gangs, maybe leave this city if thats what it took, and that they wanted to do good with their life. 

The director told us that in 15 years of working there, and seeing other groups come in and talk to the kids, he had never seen anything like what we did. He said we were the first people he ever saw "speak their language". That is why we use cool music, do a little rap, cool magic ecs, so that we can "speak their language" and reach inside them. We did a total of eight presentations for different groups at different youth centers in the city. 

We meant a beautiful group of people who are starting a foundation to help the homeless and those in need. They are a big family with others joined on and even though they are not rich, they are doing what they can to start to make a difference. The father, has been battling cancer for 8 years and it is heartbreaking to talk to his wife of 48 years tell me she knows he does not have much time left. His three sons are starting the foundation in his honor and are beautiful men that really love their family. The oldest son lost the use of his left arm in an accident at a factory. They really are an example that there is no excuse to not try to do good and help others! We shared together and were able to give them extra clothes, some food,  supplies bibles that we had for their foundation. It was cool to think that even after we leave the city, someone is going to carry on an effort to keep helping the poor and homeless that we had come to know. 
Our family with some of the members of the foundation. 
Its really awesome when it works out and we can go back to visit a previous prison. All the prisoners have had time to read the material we give out and think about all we shared and now they get the chance to ask us any questions and engage in conversation. We keep track of what  acts, magic routines and dances we did the first time, and do all new things the next time so they get a whole new show. We usually re-visit a previous patio, and then go to a new one as well. 
This picture and the one below it, a guard took from up above us on the wall. 
An act where we use a net to communicate all the things that can trap us in life.
Only by engaging our freewill can we break away and find freedom. 
We worked extensively in the largest prison in Brazil. In this one patio we went into, it was one of the worst we have seen. There was trash everywhere (because they are not allowed bags or anyway to deal with trash), open sewage, and the walls were covered in mold. My heart just breaks for these guys suffering these conditions, some for many years. Many have never even stood before a judge or gotten a sentence!  A lot of the guys knew Capoeira (the Brazilian martial art which is a combination of dance and fight) and were so excited to participate! One guys said, "wow, thank you! It gives me goose bumps to play these Brazilian instruments again! (We let them play the drum and percussions)" Doing Capoeira brings a lot of energy into the whole crowd so everyone becomes more attentive to listen to all we share.
My brother "playing" with one of the guys. 
We tried to make it to the main down town city plaza at least once a week, and many people came out to look for us. It was so busy here and at times our crowd would get really large with people from all walks of life. I do a magic routine with my brother (who wears a cirque do solid type mask), where I make an invisible "seed" turn into flowers. We go up to random people in the crowd and make them put a "seed" in my bag then I turn it into a flower:) 
Seeds are those things in life which can seem so insignificant, but end can end up being very big. Like deciding to love a little more, making someone laugh, changing one thought or attitude, talking to the Father in a deeper way, spending a little more time reading the sacred scriptures, these are "seeds" that can grow into massive trees.

We reached so many people that were crossing through the plaza on their way to the bus stop. When they heard our music they stopped in the crowd, and many of them ended up staying the whole time! My sister does a really classy ballet dance that stops people in their tracks:) 

When we arrived in the patio of a certain far coastal prison, we noticed right away that something was wrong. All the guys were unbelievably thin, way more than any other prison we had been too. It looked like something you would see in Africa. They began to come up to us and ask us if we possibly had any food we could give them! It was just tragic. They explained they only got one meal a day and sometimes not even that. 
We could not figure everything out, but realized that there was some serious corruption going on between the gang leader, prison guards, and a huge (very evil) "church". Anyway, long story short, it was getting late and was almost the hour when no one can go in our out, but we were able to leave, find a grocery store close by, and buy a lot of food to give them. We made it back a gave it directly to the guys so it could not get stolen. Its tough because we can't really afford extra stuff like this, but in this case we just had to and we know the Lord always provides. A week later we went back to that same prison and brought more food as well as our performance. 

 The previous day my sister and I went to the local fruit market and talked to the sellers. We were able to get a bunch of fruit, potatoes, watermelons and beans donated to add to the food we were bringing. The prisoners were so grateful we remembered and came all the way back with more food. We did two performances here again, and reached a lot of guys. No, you are right, watermelons is not exactly the most practical thing to bring into a prison:) but these guys had specifically asked for it so we decided to bring them some this time. But loading 30 watermelons into our van, out of our van, through a scanner (to make sure nothing was inside), off the scanner, onto a cart and then into the patio Plus this same process for EVERYTHING else we bring in and out! 

Once our van is loaded up, its a tight fit to get all 8 of us plus our gear inside:)
My sisters and I do a magic routine that is about time (obviously this is such a big issue for people in prison, especially those with long sentences). We use different tricks to communicate how time can "disappear" and if we spend our time thinking about the past, or things we cannot change, we merely waste our time and keep ourselves living in the past. Time can also move so slowly, and trap us like a like a bird in a cage (we keep this theme through the routine). But if we invest our time to do deeper things, things that are important, like talking to the Father, love others, study, think, then we can find a time beyond time. A time that is eternal. We make a bird cage appear that is empty. Then my sisters comes our with beautiful wings on as the "bird" free from time. Its hard to explain writing it out, but it communicates a lot and we perform it to a high energy rock type song the guys love.

My crazy brother really made the prisoners laugh in this one prison when he climbed up a pole to get away from the angry "dog" that was chasing him in a clown routine:) There were about 250 guys all spread out along the wall, all of them were really engaged and listening to all we shared. 
I felt so bad for this older man who had lost one of his legs in a hit and run accident years ago. Imagine dealing with the hell of prison with one leg! We do a traditional Brazilian dance called a, "Gaucho dance". It is a song and dance they all know where we wear beautiful skirts my mom made and the boys wear cowboy hats. They all sing the words to the song and join in the dance. It means a lot to them that we do something from their culture that they grew up doing:) It reminds them of growing up on the countryside. 
I'll share with you a letter we got that one of the men from inside this prison dictated to a worker to send us. He wrote it in his attempted English:) :  
"This date will surely be remembered in my memory and in my heart. the day that a group of Americans who might even call them angels, have arranged to come to a penitentiary, where much of society wants to stay away, to give their personal testimony, to present themselves theatrically and to demonstrate knowledge of the culture of our state. I wanted to thank everyone without exception. I'll introduce myself to you just by my first name. My name is Alexander, and I wanted to make you who made this day the best day of the approximately 242 days that I find myself secluded here in this Catcher's penitentiary. You have been able to awaken in me something, that perhaps I had no more, that is hope. God has bigger plans for me. I could be writing about you several pages, but I will abbreviate my words in a simple and simple Thank you !!
*QUANDO FICAR SEM CHÃO APRENDA A VOAR* (When you are left without ground you learn to fly)
 This date I believe to be the re-beginning of my life. Thanks, my American friends
This picture and the one below are the same prison. Most of the day the guys have to stay inside their cells. 

Well I am going to sign off for now my friends, I have to practice a new magic routine with my sisters and get ready to go out tonight:). This Easter weekend here in Paraguay there is a boardwalk that is really busy in the night. 
I pray the Lord my God would bless you each, and  that you would look to Him, learn from Him and allow Him to carry your burden. May we never think that "we have arrived", "been there done that" and now have God in our "box" and we're all set. In presumption we will fall, but in humility we will rise and grow. The God who rose Jesus from the dead will never fit in any "box". The heavens are His throne, the earth is His footstool (Is.66:1). This Easter as we enjoy certain traditions and ceremonies, may we more than anything focus not on who Jesus was, but who He is. Because He WAS dead, but He IS alive and He is worthy of our lives. 
His love and forgiveness are as deep as the ocean and high as the heavens. He is waiting to come to you and help you. Let us be humble, be a children and talk to our Father.  The same power that called Jesus out of that tomb 2000 years ago, is there for you and I to access in our personal lives. A power so real, so strong and so practical it can change our life and then through us, change the lives of others. Don't hold yourself back guys! We are our own worst enemy. Don't let routine hold you prisoner and keep you from discovering the life God has for you. 
Happy Easter and God bless you all. - Ruth 

“Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6“He is not here, but He has risen.." Lk.24:5

              The Rising Son (part of a poem I wrote).
 I Bore all sorrow, sin and pain,
                             Resurrection blood now fill my vein.
Oh glorious sun it’s time to awake,
                            Come dancing dawn it’s time to break.
Come from your chamber rejoice in your way,
                            Great is thy glory on this third day.
    Come spirit wind fill me with breath,
                            For I shall be the plague to death!
 The curtain torn the earth will crack,
                            Oh stone that holds me now roll back!  

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

If you want to matter, matter to someone else.

Talking with prisoners.
Olá amigos, tudo bom :)? Como vai vocês? Are you all making it through the winter ok?  I pray God would give you each the grace to deal with all the issues you face in your day to day lives and lift you above any personal struggle you have to deal with. 
Life can be such a fight at times can't it? Nothing comes easy and sometimes it feels like no one really cares. We can feel like we are lost at sea, just trying to survive the "waves" and "storms" of life. Sometimes we feel like we just really don't matter. But you do matter my friend. You matter very much and most importantly, you matter to God. He designed the entire plan of salvation because He wants you to know Him. You are not just a number out there, floating in a sea of humanity. You are unique, special and beautiful. There is no one like you on earth. Look in a mirror and stare into your own eyes. Those beautiful eyes are proof that God exists and that He is good. God is not distant from you, even if you feel distant from Him.  He is near you. He is not an abstract cloud or doctrine. He is a Father. He sees you, knows you and knows your pain. If you could truly realize that are loved by God, it would enable you to forget about yourself, and begin to love others that are suffering. If you could realize how much you can matter to someone else, it would make your own struggles seem smaller and you would realize just how much you do and can matter.

Here in Brazil my family and I have been continually working in the prisons, on the streets, with the homeless and at special events.  God has opened many doors for us and we have been reaching a lot of people with His love. When I talk about prisoners, I imagine that many of you have the same attitude that I used to have. You have a thought like, 'prisoners are criminals getting what they deserve, why give them special attention'? And of course, there are many serious criminals who have done horrible things and deserve to be in prison. But if I could just communicate to you what I have learned, I think it would give you a new perspective. First, many of these guys really are either innocent, or just committed a petty crime like a parking violation, or overdue bills, they can't pay a fine, so they get thrown in prison and lost in an unjust system. Their paper work gets misplaced, their identities confused with other criminals and since they cannot afford lawyers and no-one cares about them, they just get lost. The majority have never stood in front of a judge or received a sentence yet they have been in prison for years. I know this first hand and have talked to many prisoners, family members, press, guards and officials in the prison system who have told me many such tragic stories.  

My brother and I in a large prison here in Brazil
Second, most of the prison conditions here are inhumane and not fit for animals. They are so overcrowded that at times, the prisoners don't have space to lay down. Since the government does not care, and they are the least priority on the social scale, they get no funds and there is not enough food, health care or basic necessities. In certain prisons, there is no sewage system, drinking water shortages and severe structural damage that is dangerous. 
Third, when you think about it, in the right, or I should say wrong, circumstance, all of us are just a mistake away from being in their position. Anyone of us could accidentally hit a pedestrian with our car, get so angry we throw something at someone and severely injure them, loose our job, end up on the street and be so desperate we steal to feed our family. So it is wise, and gives us compassion to consider this perspective and realize that we are all the same. We are human. We are fragile. We fail. We say, think and do things that we regret, sometimes there are no consequences, sometimes there are tragic consequences. And the last point to think about is that beyond our personal opinion, or what we think or feel, Jesus Himself said, "I was in prison, and you came to me...whatever you do to the least of My brothers, you do to Me.."(Mt.25:35) And again God say, "Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated" (Heb.13:3).

My youngest brother built this cool electronic contraption. 

When he blows the pipes, it looks like sound is coming through 
them because he has it timed to the music. 
He conveys an idea about using our freewill.
We frequently visit one of the largest and worst prisons in Brazil. One day, when we were scheduled to visit, a certain patio, a part of the building structure had just collapsed and a major sewer pipe had broken. All the guys had to bring their stuff onto the outdoor part to try to clean it and everything was a disaster. The smell was just horrible. But the men had been anticipating our visit and really wanted a break from the nightmare that is their usual reality, so we decided we would figure out how to work around everything so we could give them a little laughter and hope. We arranged a certain area for them to sit and then brought all our equipment in. Its like as soon as we turned the music on, they got to travel to another places and leave the horror of these walls. We made them laugh a lot which makes me so happy. 
We do an act where my brother wears a mask with many faces on it. (it looks really cool because you can't tell which is the front when he turns his head). Each face has written a word like, "the Past", "Regret", "guilt", "failure". In the act he comes to the Word, takes off his mask and gains perspective and focus. Its hard to explain but really effective. The prisoners were so very grateful and asked that we return some day. Later, the director of the entire prison wrote an article about us on their webpage explaining that the work my family and I are doing is having a very big and positive effect on the prison and that the doors are always open to us. This was a great blessing because to enter here it required a lot of work and convincing because of the gangs and danger.

Clown routine about a crazy dog and a soccer player that looses his ball. Its hilarious! We use the jerseys of the local soccer teams so the crowd is divided in a funny way. I want to thank the toy company that donated the awesome toys and plush animals that we use as prizes for so many families that have nothing. It means so much to be able to give some of these beautiful poor children a little toy. 
We got the chance to perform at a really cool Catholic festival down town. So many families and people from all the surrounding cities came to this festival. Some to participate in the religious ceremonies, but many came just to get out and enjoy the holiday. We had a good spot in the shade so a large crowd gathered and stayed a long time. We were celebrating my dads birthday so it was extra special:) I even got the crowd to sing him happy birthday. My parents have been married almost 40 years and so they teach a lot of things that help other parents raise their kids and keep their families together. It is the love of the Father that can heal all our pain and make a family strong. A key to getting past arguments and mending relationships  is something very basic but rarely done. We learn it in first grade, but sometimes as adults, our pride gets in the way. Just saying the words, "I'm sorry", even if you know your not wrong, can quickly diminish a situation and put an end to conflict. I really think that so much heart ache and even divorce, could be avoided if one party could just bite the dust, be humble and say those magic words, "Hey, I'm really sorry...its my fault..."

On another note, anyone see a minor problem with this picture:)? After a bad storm, all the electricity went out for our entire neighborhood. So just imagine, no one, including the local stores, has refrigeration, air conditioning, lighting ecs. and they are looking to the government to fix it. Then after a few days, these three guys show up with a tool box and one free standing ladder, which they lean against the shorted out wires they are "fixing". Check out the guy at the bottom, "holding" the ladder. I guess if the ladder started to fall, he would....catch the guy? It's kind of funny but really is just one of many things that shows how hopeless the situation is here and that the people get no help from their own government. 
We threw together that shade structure so the guys wouldn't get to hot in the direct sun.
We visited this one prison waaaaaayyyyyy out in the middle of Nowheresville. I don't know if I have yet seen such a forsaken place as this prison and the town that it was beyond. First we could not find it and got lost with our google maps constantly saying, "Make the next legal U-turn"... Yeah no duh! Finally we found someone who told us where to go and we had to drive miles down a really bad dirt road. There was no one around and even the guards at the gate had the attitude of absolute hopelessness and despair. We had to  explain again why an American family drove all the way out here and was trying to get in. 
Once we finally got into the patio, it was all in direct sunlight and burning hot. There was no way the prisoners were going to enjoy watching us while sitting in the burning sun so we had to figure out something for shade. They had a big piece of plastic, and we had string and a bunch of poles, so we all worked together and figured out how to rig it up tying it from the cell windows. It was tough because it was a windy day but we figured it out and they were so grateful.
Guards were not allowed to come in because it is just how it works with the gangs here, so it was just us and them. I love it when my brother gets a volunteer for a card trick. The volunteer gets to wear a microphone and really gets into being a magician and having fun. We do different things that allow them to get up and participate, they get a prize and it really gets everyone involved and engaged. We are working very hard to reach them. He met a man named Joao, who was serving 30 years. He saw his sister being attacked and in his fury, accidentally killed her attacker. He was a big time gang leader. He told us not a day goes by where he does not regret things he did. After we shared with him, he told us for the first time he began to understand forgiveness. 
My brother doing a card track where one of the prisoners volunteer and end up "doing" the magic trick.
We go down town to the streets often, sometimes at the end of a busy work day. There is always a "rush" in the evening when everyone leaves the city to go home. The bus stops are just packed. We are able to reach people from all walks of life, both rich and poor, old and young.  As well as just constantly talking to the crowds, through our performance we weave in the many beautiful truths of the Gospel. The need in this country is very great. There are so many new strange religions, churches and teachings here. Its like thirsty people drinking cool water when they hear that we are giving them the traditional, Scriptural message. A Father, sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to bear our sins. He died and rose again and offers eternal forgiveness not based on the works we do, but on faith in what He did. 

My brother spinning fire at the climax of a Tae Kwon Do dance we use to teach the importance of discipline and focus.
Our crowd constantly changes over and some people stay for hours so we are able to touch many, many people in the three to four hours we are down town. We have different acts that are geared to different people so that we can grab them as they walk by and put some solid thoughts into their minds. The martial art of Capoeira is popular here since it originated in Africa and was brought to Brazil by the African slaves. We tell a story about a man, who became a slave, to free the slaves as Jesus did to free us. We act out the death and resurrection in a really cool, non religious way to upbeat african/Capoeira music that really moves people. 
We always bring a lot of lunch packets to give to the many homeless and hungry that walk by and sit in our crowd. Some of the poor people know we always have food for them and are so grateful. 
My brothers and I jogging over to help a family that lives under the bridge. 

There are just so many homeless on the streets and in the parks here. The rains can be very severe and flood the streets. The homeless suffer greatly and it is very hard for them to find shelter. We make up hundreds of lunches and care packages and then walk and drive the streets giving them out and talking with the people.  Thank you to the companies that donated rain ponchos, and sanitary items to us that we use to help so many people. It is amazing how even the simplest things like soap, a tooth brush, or a nice rain poncho, mean the world to someone.  May God really bless and repay those that decided to care and act on behalf of those in need. 
So many stories of suffering and tragedy. I wish I was rich and could help them in greater ways. I wish I could afford to get them a room sometimes, or new clothes, or constantly feed them but I can't. But like the apostles of old said, "Silver and gold I have none, but what I have I give you...."  We can always give our time, heart and care about them. So many of them never even hear or speak their own name because no one cares and they have no one to talk to.  It means the world when you ask them their name. Keep  this in mind next time you walk by someone on the street. Just stop for a second and ask them their name, tell them not to give up. 

We visited a psychiatric facility. All the men suffer from mental disorders to various degrees. Some minor, and some severe.  Many of them had the mentality of a child, very simple and just wanting attention. They loved to paint and wanted to show us all their drawings. Some of them were almost completely normal, just something was slightly off in their brains. These guys would tell us how hard it was to be at this place, surrounded by others who had serious issues. Its like they have to fight to keep their sanity.
There was not a very good area for us to perform, since the whole building was very run down, but we were able to find a little spot out on some grass. They brought out groups of men and we were able to share many simple, but beautiful things with them. They really got the idea of the butterfly coming out of a cocoon. At the end one man, named Paulo, was actually brave enough to ask for the microphone and thank us in front of the whole crowd. He shared how he had never gotten a visitor and that his birthday was in a few days and us coming was the best gift he could get. It was really touching and the director and social workers were so shocked that he was able to speak like this in front of everyone.
Here we could only do small groups at a time, so we would do a few things, talk to the guys then switch the group over.
There a relatively new prison that was built to accept prisoners from some of the over crowded prisons, but it is filling up so quickly that it soon will become over crowded as well. We performed for a group of young men. At first, they were very skeptical of who we were and what we were going to do. Often times evangelical preachers will come in and just preach at them and they dread that. Some of these preachers actually tell the prisoners they need to tell their families on the outside to tithe the churches of these preachers! Sick, I know. Anyway, after we did this hilarious clown routine about a "soccer player" and a "dog", they were laughing hard and all with us. Then after we "win" them, we are able to share serious things with them about change, about forgetting the past, about using the time they have here in prison and about beginning to talk to the Living Father. By the time their names were being called to go back to their cells, they were like our family and did not want the day to be over. I make up little gift bags for them with little toys, candy, games and things to read. They were so grateful and gave us each a hug. The prison director printed a story about this day on there national web page and he and all the workers told us that these men never get visitors. It was such a privilege.

A magic routine to the Cirque song, "Algeria".
At another prison in a city way out in the country, we did three presentations, each for around 200, to 300 guys and were able to reach one entire section of the prison. The area was not ideal because there was not much space and the acoustics were a nightmare, but we figured it out:) The men here were very sad and had long sentences. It took work to get through to them, but by the time we left, we were family.  
My sister made a magic trick that looks like a miniature prison. She shows it empty inside with nothing except steal bars. Then she makes a flower appear inside. She teaches how even in this terrible place, life can grow. In the place of our hardest suffering, God can bring something good if we yield to Him. In the "soil" of suffering, a tree can grow. We have a poster that my brother made that shows a tree growing behind bars. 
Performing Irish step dance. 
Before I did my Irish style step dance, I shared how people can say so many things about us and we have so many lies in our mind about our future. Like when I had my accident and broke my leg, the doctors told me I would never walk the same again, but now I am dancing. Our future is not written in the stars. We decide who we are and who we are going to be. Even if they are going to be in these walls for a long time, they can still choose their attitude and the kind of man they want to be. No matter what happen in our past, we can have a beautiful future. Some of the men were moved to tears when I shared and they really listened.

We took a trip to Rio during the week of Mardi Gras. Literally millions of people flood the streets every day. We performed on the streets and beach board walk and also made beautiful flags with Portuguese messages on them that we carried in the large crowds.  The beaches were just crammed packed and we walked them with our flags talking to the people. 
Countless people would come up and want to talk and take the flyers we were giving out (we gave out 30,000 beautiful color flyers all together that said, "don't give up, you are wanted" on the front). We also had many Bibles to give out and talked to people who had never read the New Testament. I couldn't believe the hunger and how grateful people were that we were there. Many told me that we made their carnaval.
One young man told me he stopped believing in God because of all the hypocrisy in the churches. He really listened to everything I said and said he would start again to seek God on His own and read the Scriptures. His name was Stefano. Another young girl had seen us in another city and did not get the chance to talk. She was so excited to see us again and eager to listen. Her name was Francias. We talked to people who had seen us in Argentina, Chile and the US. We talked to people from Egypt, Italy, England and many other countries.  A young women told me that even though she is acting happy, her heart is so sad and she is suffering inside. Her mom had died of cancer recently and she felt so alone. Her name was Tamaries. She said for the first time in a long time she found hope. Many groups of young men were eager to listen and hungry to find something that could give them purpose. Like all of us, they want to matter. 
Talking to people in the large crowds of Rio
The main beach, Copacabana, which is usually full of upper-class people, was now packed with 1.5 million poor people. Most of them were 18-30 range. I could not believe the attitude of these young people. They were so different. Humble, broken, eager to listen, making an effort to come up.  One kid was just like "I know, I know, you're right, what are you telling me about Jesus? What is this?" The look in his eyes was that he was about to cry. Here these kinds of kids live in "Favelas" which are massive slums that go up a mountain, full of garbage, sewage, and crime. The majority were not "punky" but deeply wanted to hear and know what we were saying. Two kids in camo shorts came up asking for a bunch of our flyers, I was skeptical, but gave them each a pinch. Then they walked up and down the beach and just passed them out saying "you need to read this, this is profound". They were sincere. They gave them to all their friends and just wanted to be apart of it. 

There are certain churches here that are very corrupt and scam people into giving them money in the name of God. Plus the government is very corrupt and does nothing to really care about or help the citizens. So many are just at the point of giving up. To be able to bring them the hope of the Gospel and tell them that God really cares about them and remembers them was such a privilege. Many news papers reported on us and people were just shocked by the love and courage they saw in seeing American come to their dangerous city to help them. 
Talking to individuals during carnival. 
We stood outside the Sambadrome and talked to just floods of people going in late at night. I had always thought the whole Carnaval, Sambadrome thing was really something and would be like the ultimate party for all these people. But it was so nothing. Since the government is corrupt and takes all the funds, there was literally nothing for all the poor and the crowds to do. No beads, no games, no floats no decorations to see. The rich can go inside the Sambadrome  (which is a huge 90,000 stadium) and see the floats, but the poor can only observe from a distance, sitting in bleachers separated by a river of sewage, no exaggeration. It was really sad. 
You can kind of see from this picture how the floats and parade was on one side of the river, and then on the other side there were bleachers where all the poor sat to try to catch a glimpse of the parades before they went into the Sambadrome, separated by a river of stench and waste. It was really a stunning picture of the reality that is Brazil.
We had a beautiful time inside a women's prison the other day. It was pouring rain so we had to cram into a small space but we were able to really touch some precious women who were hurting. I am so grateful to the chess company that  donated some beautiful quality chess boards to us that we can give to those we meet.  It has been such a blessing and those that receive them are extremely grateful. It allows people in difficult situations to get lost in the game and focus their minds on something besides their pain.  We can learn so much from the game of chess. If we just take what life gives us and meet it move for move, we can be defeated. But a strategy  for victory requires that we go beyond ourselves and find the unexpected move. We have a flyer that we give out to prison guards, police and military with a chess piece on the front. We use the idea of chess to explain how, often we are put in positions that require us to make difficult decisions. But if we do not repay "evil for evil", but evil for good, we move ourselves into a place of victory and can break a cycle of hate. 

Well, goodbye for now my friends. Keep your heads up and don't let your hearts grow cold. Don't let this world beat you down. If I could ever help you in someway or you would like to be in touch or help us, drop me an email ( I know at times we feel like, just below the 'happy' surface, is an undefined grief. Our pain can get the best of us and without realizing it influence our life. Remember that no matter what you may be going through, God is a deeply compassionate Father Who, not only knows our weakness but, yearns to comfort us. There are real answers to the most difficult struggles in life. God looks to the broken and contrite (Is.57:15). Just consider,  'Maybe I don't know everything about You, God. Maybe I could learn". It involves not going to others but directly interacting with the One Who sees our deepest hurts and pains and can heal us. 
We actually have a God that we can talk to, and He hears us. You do matter. If you could just start to forget about yourself, and decide to matter to someone else who is hurting, you would realize just how much you can matter. The world is full of suffering and shattered souls. They need what you and I can give them, love. A thousand sad faces sit behind a thousand "closed windows", wishing and hoping that some day, some how, someone might open there window and whisper to them, "Hey friend, don't give up, you do matter". Let us be that whisper.  - Ruth M

Painting I saw in Rio.