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. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Love is the answer. The question doesn't matter. 

A little boy at the orphanage we visited. 
Hi everybody:)! I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas this year and can take time to let all the stress of your routine go and just be in the moments that really matter. 
After a long, turbulent flight and delayed layover, my family and I  made it to Brazil safe and sound:)! It's really good to be back and to have so much opportunity before us and so many open doors, we pray for Gods grace to carry us. We have had to do a lot of work these last weeks to get stuff ready. The vehicle that we had here was not in the best shape and we had to work on it to get it fixed up and running again.

The day after we landed there was a super cell storm and it poured all night. We woke up to a river outside our door:). Since we had not yet exchanged money or got groceries and water, we had to wade through the river to get to the store:) We were knee deep trekking along for a few miles (trying not to think about everything we were stepping on and everything that was floating in the water). The whole city was completely flooded and our street was actually better than most! Hey, its Brazil and this is just another adventure. 
Its funny because in this part of Brazil there are no tourists that come, so everyone is surprised to see Americans (especially Americans wading through flooded streets) and tend to stare and want to try out their few English words. Since we are so far in the middle of nowhere, and they all dream of making it to America, they are so surprised to think someone from America came here (especially into the prisons). 
Performing in an orphanage in Southern Brazil.
Getting kids to participate in our performance. 
We had a beautiful experience putting on a Christmas party at the largest orphanage in this part of Brazil. It was a bit of a journey to get there, but we made it:). We had to go a ways down an unmarked dirt road that was full of pot holes and only wide enough for one car even though it was technically a two way road. After about 5 (very long, slow) miles we realized we missed a turn off and had to figure out how to turn around and back track. Oh right, obviously we should have turned by the large tree next to the unmarked shack, by the painted chair, everyone knows that;)
The children were so precious and so grateful for every little thing.  We had games, activities and prizes. Total chaos and total fun! We certainly got our work out picking up kids and throwing them in the air:). The director was explaining to me that usually the little children will get adopted, but once the kids are around 10 and up, no one will adopt them and they will live at the orphanage till they turn 18. You see so much sadness in the older kids eyes. They know that no one will want them and they will never find a home. Then once they turn 18, they have to face a very difficult world all alone.  I think its the most beautiful thing when you hear stories of older kids being adopted. The director also told me that anyone who adopts a child has 6 months to "return" them. So if they change their mind they can bring the kids back! Think about how that would break a little child's heart! Twice they were unwanted. There were two kids there that had been given back. I just wanted to hold them all day. 
My brother running a game at the orphanage. 
Through the different acts in our show, we communicate to them that they have a Father who loves them and wants them. For Christmas we did a special play about an orphan who is sad on Christmas because he has no one and nothing. The orphan (A cool looking  puppet) then is read the story (by my brother using a beautiful light up book) of the birth of Christ, which we act out.A Father gave the world His Son, Jesus, the Son showed the world the way back to His Father.  No matter what we each may go through and deal with in this life, and no matter how lost we may feel at times, God is not a pastor or preacher. He is a Father who loves us. I was so surprised that even the small children were throughly engaged in the story and were quick to answer questions. 
After our performance my brother was Santa Claus and all the kids took turns sitting on his lap getting their gifts. I think this was the first "gringo" Santa they have seen, but they didn't mind:) My brother was so overwhelmed with kids, and the costume was a little too big. It was hard not to laugh while trying to keep the kids organized. 

Performing at an event in a poor area.
Performing at an event in a poor area. 
We put on another event at a really poor neighborhood out side the city. The people here live in tent type shacks and really have nothing. Thanks to some companies that donated little toys to us, we were able to give every little kid that came a Christmas present. We made up little packages with the toys, some candy, crayons and a little children's book that my brother wrote. The parents were so grateful that their kids could get something on Christmas and it was a beautiful time. They loved our Christmas play! We even had a huge star to lead the wise men to Bethlehem:) 

Giving out Christmas gifts with our special giant frog and elves. 
The down town plaza has been very, very busy these days leading up to Christmas and we performed in the center for large crowds. I love just being on the streets in down town city areas. It is difficult because you're just out there and any thing can happen, but you reach people from all walks of life. 
We had so many people that came up to us and told us that they had seen us from other events. It made us realize that we are reaching this whole city. A few men actually saw us perform inside a prison  when they were a prisoner, and now they are free! This one guy came up to me the other day and leaned in to whisper in my ear that he had just got out of prison. He remembered me performing my Irish dance inside his prison and telling him about how to focus his mind and leave the past in the past. He wanted me to know that he was changing and that what I had shared really helped him. It meant a lot to me. Sometimes you just don't know if anything you do matters, you just hope. Like sowing seeds, maybe one seed will change someones life.   

Its tough on the street because you have to deal with drunk people and  crazy people wandering through your crowd, cops, traffic, thieves and lots of things you would never think of if you didn't see it. Its a lot to handle, but being able to reach so many people makes it all worth it. One lady in the crowd told us that she thought we were there just for her. Her mom died of cancer and she was really going through it. She said at times she felt like she just couldn't make it and wanted to give up. She said after listening to all we shared she finally found hope.  
There are so many homeless and many of them will just sit in our crowd and listen.  We always bring food and care packets for them and they are so grateful. Its not like there are levels of people in Gods eyes. There are no rich or poor, Brazilian or American, Republican or Democrats. We are all the same. Children in need of a Father. Souls that need His love. We had some gifts left from the orphanage that we gave to many of the kids and that sit in our crowd. They love the magic. There is one little boy who lives on the street with his mom. He was really sweet and wanted to help us in anyway he could. We had a cool soccer ball to give him;)
My brother performing a rap he wrote to a group of prisoners.  
We performed inside the largest prison here as well this last week. It was actually on lock down because of a fight that occurred,  but a certain social worker sort of snuck us into an outer patio so we could visit with the guys she cares for. It was really sad to realize that the prison was closed to visitors for Christmas so none of the prisoners got to see their families on Christmas. They said that this Christmas, we were their family. It was a smaller group this time so we could really spend time with each of them, listening and teaching. 

"Amor é a resposta. Não importa qual seja a pergunta. - Love is the answer. The question doesn't matter." I saw this quote graffitied on a wall in a bad neighborhood here and really like it. Sincere love can heal even the deepest wound and bind together a broken life. Maybe someone you know is going through a hard time and you don't really know how to help. Love will never let you down. Love them with selfless love, and you will give them exactly what they need. That's what God did for us on this day we call "Christmas". He gave mankind everything they would ever need, for all time, when He gave us His Son. It was just an ordinary night in an ordinary town and yet something extraordinary happen. Hope was born and they laid Him in a manger. God is love. He came to earth and was born in a stable. For the very first time, a Light dawned in a dark world. Love was born and they named Him Jesus. From that day forward, no matter what question, issue or problem we may have, God gave us the answer when He gave us His Son.  

Merry Christmas everyone, and this New Year, may you find the blessing of the Fathers love like never before. 
His loves written in the skies.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Hope is the bridge that brings broken lives a future. 

Before heading back to Brazil, we spent some time working in U.S cities where there are also so many people in need.  
First we spent time in Denver, Detroit, Chicago and Ohio. Right now Dayton is dealing with a serious drug problem, the stats are just overwhelming of how many people are becoming addicted and are losing their lives from Opioid and Meth. So many children suffer greatly from parents that are addicts.
This world can be so cold and cruel. It entices men with dreams and then leaves them with nightmares. It promises a future but leaves a troubled past instead. To know Gods love is the only way to make it and to survive this dark world.  His love will never fail. No matter what we have done or are going through, the Father is waiting to help us, love us and forgive us. There is nothing that is beyond His reach. Even in our darkest hour, He will be there and be our light if we just call on Him.  No matter what, hope is possible. 

So many people in Chicago have suffered so much due to gang violence. It is just tragic how many shootings have occurred. It makes me angry that more is not being done to stop this and to help all the innocent people that get caught up in the violence. In 2016 there were 4,331 shooting victims in Chicago with 762 murders. I just can't believe those numbers! That's in America in our own back yard. 
We worked with a lot of people and also made up a tun of care/lunch packages and just walked the streets helping and talking to those along the way. Even along the Magnificent mile there are just so many in need. So many tragic stories. We met a guy in a wheel chair who was begging near Wriggly field. He had lost both of his legs in an accident when a car pulled up next to him, shot at him and his car flipped over. He was so smart and had such an upbeat attitude for all he had gone through. Another man who we bought lunch for and ate with us in Taco Bell, had a prosthetic leg and told me that one day he worked late at an electric company and when he was walking home, a car ran through a street light and ran him over. He lost everything. It is such a privilege to meet these people and touch them with the Fathers love.

We spent a good amount of time in New York city working with so many. There are so many people that sit on the street corners with cardboard signs asking for help.  So many sad stories. A few that really broke my heart were ones like, "Please see me!", or, "Today is my birthday, could anyone please help make this day a little special", or,  "I am just so hungry". You see just crowds and crowds pouring past these people and so few see them. Its like they are invisible. 
I remember an experience I had one day when we were living in Colombia. My brother and I were building this little trailer that we needed to carry all our gear behind our van. We had been putting the axels on so I was covered in grease and my shirt and jeans were a mess. We needed something to lay on to slide under the trailer so I was looking through the trash for a piece of cardboard. Being blond, I don't always blend in in latin countries since I look like a foreigner and often people will stare. But as I was looking through the trash, I noticed that all the people passing by the street suddenly averted their eyes and ignored me completely. I felt like I was invisible. I realized that as I dug through the trash with my dirty appearance  I looked like I was homeless. It made me so sad to see, even for just a second the reality of their world. What would it be like to be in desperate need of help, but always be ignored and shunned? My dear friends, no matter what we may face in life, we have to "see" each other and never let our hearts grow cold. Even if we can't afford to help someone, we can always afford to care. 
We also spent time in D.C and Baltimore working with some beautiful people.

Packing up and getting ready to head out:)!
As the fall winds down, we will prepare to return to Brazil by Christmas. So much to do and so little time:)! It takes a lot of work to translate everything into Portuguese and figure out all our equipment, props costumes and gear. We are so extremely grateful to the individuals that donated to us Portuguese Gospels of John, stuffed animals, little toys, bracelets and chess boards. Shortly after we arrive we will be performing for a Christmas party at a large orphanage and we are so happy to be able to bring some little toys and stuffed animals to give them for Christmas. 
The department of government that runs the prisons has requested that we continue our work and we are very eager to do so. We pray for the wisdom, courage and grace to effectively communicate Gods profound love and absolute forgiveness to them. 

I leave you with this thought....

- "What is essential is invisible to the eye. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly" -

Have you ever by any chance seen the animated movie, "The Little Prince"? It is made after a famous french book. I think you would like it.
There is a thread, a theme that touches every one of us deep in our soul. No matter how old we are, or how "important" we are in the world, there is a part of each of us that just wants to be a child. The world wants to make us forget, to just "grow up already". From childhood we are thrown into the system and faced with the question, "what will you be when you grow up?" Everything around us says, "forget childhood, just start to prepare for adulthood". The world shouts at us that we have to "be something", we have to be essential. But what truly are those things that are essential?
Don't you ever miss that thing called, "playing"? The simple bliss of childhood, running for fun, not for exercise. Playing a silly game with no rules that you just made up. Building a fort. Having more fun with the big cardboard box then with the thing that came in the box. Laying on your back and seeing faces in the clouds. Making up clubs even though your siblings are the only members in it. Gazing with wonder into the starry skies. Having no worries, responsibilities or the pressure and schedule of a job. Well you know what is so awesome? Jesus Himself said, “Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt.18:3).  He did not say that to be a child was an option, but the only thing that is "essential".  So don't look for your identity in a world that has no place for children. Rather find your place in a world that calls you to identify as a child. It is the things that are invisible that are essential, love, laughter, faith in an unseen God. And these are the things you can only see with your heart.

(Ps. I highly recommend you get some of those glow in the dark stars and put them above your bed;))

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Always remember the forgotten.

Hello Amigos:) After getting back from Asia we returned to our jobs and continued to work in Las Vegas for a while and save up. We each worked two jobs at restaurants so we could earn money faster and be able to continue to travel and work with those in need. We have received numerous invitations to perform at various places back in Brazil, as well as a request to continue our work in the prisons there. It has been difficult having to spend so much time working when we know there is so much need and opportunity waiting for us and we are eager to return.  
Sometimes working as a server is looked at as a just "get by" kind of job, but I really enjoy working as a waitress. Although it can be hard work and stressful at times (especially when you get sat a big party and 5 tables at once and then run out of ice:)), I love the chance to touch so many different people and brighten their day, maybe make them laugh or at least smile. 

We were also able to work with and help a lot of the homeless that lived in tents down by Fremont street and also on the strip. So many suffer in silence just trying to make it. We talked to so many that end up where they are just because of one mistake, or one event that took a turn for the worse. We are so fragile and at times just a mistake away from tragedy. So many people just fall through the cracks and are forgotten. We must always remember them, see them and care for them. Even if its just a little effort, let us make an effort and always remember the forgotten.

 OvR- Cm EV-RY ObstCL - 

One day we got the chance to run an obstacle course type race. We volunteered one day so we got to enter for free :) Over 8 miles, around every corner there was a different obstacle. From running through a river, crawling under barbed wire, jumping over walls, doing monkey bars or carrying heavy things up mountains (I know, what sane person would choose to do this?!;)). We had a blast and it was a great way to train and stay in shape. I even sunk a spear into a target first try:) (Totally a practical talent you use every day:))
But its just so much like life. Around every corner there is some obstacle that we have to face. Sometimes it seems that life, just doesn't let up on us. We get past one thing, just to run right into something even harder. 
God says, "This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith."(1Jn.5:4) Faith in a Father who is good and loves you more than you can imagine. The faith that Abraham had when he looked up at the stars and said, "yes". "Yes God, I believe in you".  I don't know or understand so many things, but I trust you. There are so many things we just don't know, but to know the love of Jesus, answers everything. It is this childlike faith that can allow us to overcome every obstacle.