Friday, September 28, 2018

Untraveled Roads Lead to Beautiful Places.

Fishing town in central Brazil. 
Like cars flying by on an expressway, our days pass by so quickly. Moments we thought we would never forget, can often fade in the rearview mirror as we face the trials and hazards on this road called “life”. But my dear friend, our lives our not like a train, attached to the tracks, destined to go somewhere we don’t want to go. We can "exit" our current "road", and choose a new "highway".  Our life is our own, we determine our destiny and we determine who we are and where we are going. We can choose to “drive” down whichever road we choose, or even, make a new one.  
There is a road that will take you somewhere you have never gone. A road that will change your life and the lives of others. It is the highway called, “Love”, a road most often untraveled, but one that will lead to a beautiful future. 
Love is the one thing that can heal the deepest wound, bind together a shattered heart, cause someone to not give up, heal the past or give the hope of a future. I don’t mean a romantic love, or a token, feel good "everything is going to be ok" shallow love. But the love that comes from sacrifice. The love exemplified by our Master Jesus when He washed the disciples feet and said “ I gave you an example that you also should do as I did.” Jn.13:15. 
Service is the practical application of love. It is not a feeling, but a decision, to lay down your own life. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” Jn.15:13.  Even just the smallest effort to touch another life, to love someone who is hurting, turns you in the right direction and from there, you will see your own problems fade and the “road” will rise to meet you.

There is no greater joy my friend, than taking the Fathers love to the world. This is the Gospel. In America alone there are 45,000 suicides a year. In 2017 there were 72,000 deaths due to drug overdose, around 200 a day! This is the tragic, broken world we live in. The mind and the heart are fragile and can be shattered in an instant. We can be the voice of reason and care that tells someone they matter and pulls them back from the edge of suicide. We can speak a word of hope that gives someone an alternative to drugs. The way we love a God that we can’t see, is by loving those that we can see. These are the two greatest commandments in which the entire law and prophets are fulfilled, love God, love others.  
Don’t let any more days fly by without taking at least one small step down the highway called “Love”. Dream big. Turn your life in a new direction.  Let your mind awake and think about things you could do to reach others. Opportunities are endless to those who are selfless.

I imagine you have a talent that you could use to bring happiness to others. Maybe you can play an instrument, sing, have a sense of humor, could learn some simple card magic tricks, use a puppet or maybe you could write something that would inspire others. You could visit a home for the elderly, a home for children, become a big brother or big sister, maybe visit someone in prison, a hospital, or visit a homeless shelter. Maybe you have a lovable pet that you could take to visit someone who is alone and suffering. I have a little rabbit that I use in our performance and I have seen her melt even the hardest heart and bring smiles to so many:).  

This is my rabbit, "Gracie" :). She is a unique breed of rabbit called Lions Mane, or something like that.
Super fluffy. I made a cool magic trick where  I put a balloon in a box, pop it and make her appear. 

Letting a volunteer make my rabbit appear. 
Your probably not rich, neither am I and so we obviously can’t give out money or always buy food or things for people. But with a little thought and a lot of heart, we can come up with ways within our means to make a difference. Often times bakeries or produce markets have product they can’t sell but that is still good. Sometimes they will donate it if you ask. Sometimes second hand stores and thrift shops will donate toys or stuffed animals if you explain you want to give them to children in need. You could consider volunteering at different places, for example to work with people with special needs. I worked with the special olympics a few times and it was such an awesome experience. You can write an email or letter explaining that you want to visit or volunteer at a certain place. For a number of reasons, you usually have to follow up by calling multiply times or emailing again but I assure you, it is worth your effort. 

As you begin to realize the difference you can make to someone else, you find your purpose. To really matter, matter to someone else. If you ever want to write me, we could be in touch and I could tell you some practical things that I have learned to find opportunities. 
Open your mind to new possibilities, dream big. To visit a third world country can seem like such a huge undertaking, but it is really not that big of a deal and would change your life. You could learn a little Spanish (even a few phrases), request time off work in advance, book a one week stay on AirBNB and book a cheep flight from say,  Miami to a Latin country. Once there you could visit an orphanage, a home for special kids or a shelter. The experience would be priceless and would open your mind and eyes to things you have never imagined. You could get a bank (like a little world globe:)) and set aside some money each day or after each shift (thats what I did so I could afford to go to Asia). Or like I said, start in your own backyard. Anyway, I don’t mean to get carried away here, I just want to maybe plant some new thoughts in your head and inspire you to think big, to be big because God is big and there is a big world out there that desperately needs what you could give.

On The "Road".  (Winter/Spring/Summer 2018)

My brother, working at the "bracelet making factory". :)
Once again, sorry that its been a while since my last post, same two excuse:), no internet and/or no time :) After our time in Paraguay, my family and I traveled back to Brazil. It was a looonnnggg drive and we passed the time planning new acts and performances, catching up on sleep, talking, listening to music, and making bracelets that we can give out to the people we touch.  
After we crossed the border into Brazil, a nationwide truckers strike began. All the gas stations quickly ran out of fuel and when there was a gas station with fuel left, the lines were insanely long stretching for miles! We use diesel and found enough stations that were not out, plus we got some extra tanks and loaded up before we hit the stretches in the middle of no where. 
Unfortunately because of the strike we had to bypass seeing Iguazu Falls, which we had hoped to get to see on the way, but no big deal in the big picture:)  Stores ran out of food, fast food restaurants like McDonald's closed and a lot of cities had no public transportation or trash service so the strike caused serious problems. For about three weeks you couldn't get anything fresh like fruit, milk, vegetables, beef, cheese, ecs. At different points where the trucks blocked the road we had to talk our way through since the truckers were trying to get everyone to stop. 

We had a tire blow out in the middle of nowhere and had to go real slow on a spare till we got to a town. The grace of God was with us and our Father took care of us like He always does. 
Late at night when we finally made it to a place we had reserved to stay in Brazil, it ended up being literally on the side of a steep cliff and you had to hike to get to it. Not kidding! Our van barely made it to the bottom of the hill which then led to a steep winding staircase and then a slippery boulder that led to the house. After we made it to the house, it turned out to be full of mold to which my brother has a serious allergy so we had to find a new place which was not easy at midnight :) But, all apart of trying to live, and give in the third world;)  Our Shepherd took care of us and we were able to find an affordable place to stay outside the city. 

For those of you who don't know, my family and I (dad, mom and five siblings) perform a show of music, magic, dance and theater which we use to bring a message of hope, forgiveness and the love of God the Father to people who are suffering and facing difficult situations around the world. We have traveled to over 50 countries performing in prisons, schools, orphanages, theaters, military bases, the streets and many special events. We have discovered that through means of music, comedy and all the things we do in our show, we are able to get into places and reach people in a greater way than just speaking. We do not charge for our performance our receive money but rather work jobs to save up and fund our travels. (For safety reasons, because we travel to dangerous places, and work with dangerous people, in this blog I usually don't write the specific names of towns and places we visit).

When we arrived back in Brazil, we met with different departments of the government to present our show and explain that we wanted to work in the city and offer our performance free of charge. The Lord gave us great favor and doors opened. During the world cup, the city put on events in different villages to show the soccer games and give people in poor villages a big party. They asked us to participate and perform at each event. They would set up a huge stage and invite crowds of up to 5,000 people that we then performed for and were able to share the message of the Gospel in a creative way through means of music, dance, magic and theater. These are people we could not normally reach because many of the villages, (or slums, ghettoes, favelas, ) are on the sides of steep mountains and very dangerous. We have to ask permission from the gang leader just to get in. 

My brothers performing a hilarious clown act. 
Massive crowd waiting for us at one if the world cup events. 
Our first event was a very intense atmosphere and looked like a scene you might imagine somewhere in Africa. When we arrived to set up, men and teenagers were walking around with AK47s and machine guns, there were fights breaking out and just chaos everywhere. I thank God for giving us His grace and wisdom to handle the situation. It ended up being a phenomenal experiences and everyone was very touched by our message and for coming there to them in that environment. They loved our magic!
Another event we did was at night which always adds to the challenge of it all:) But once again, the Spirit of our Father took over and we were able to touch thousands with His love. My parents have been married for almost 40 years and are able to teach many things to help these families. 
My sisters and I do a cool magic routine about making our moments count and taking time for the things that are most important. We communicate this idea while performing  magic tricks, like making and empty bird cage appear, a steal ball float and clocks appear then disappear. We do this to a high energy trans/rock type song my dad wrote that really gets the crowd into it.

Performing a magic routine with my sisters on stage. 
We met with the director who is over all the juvenile detentions centers in the state. The Lord Jesus again gave us great favor and the director was moved by the work we do. He ended up asking us to do multiply performances at all the detention centers in the city so we would eventually reach all the kids. These young men have been through so much in their lives, most of them have only one parent if any and have grown up in gangs and violence. 
Here in Brazil, adolescents under 18 cannot be charged as an adult. So even if a 17 years old commits a serious crime, he cannot serve more than 3 years. Because of this, gangs will recruit young kids, even as young as 12 or 13 to do serious crimes. Many are forced to do things by threat to their families and own safety and many do it for the money. It is tragic and so many kids loose their innocence at such a young age.  It takes A LOT of work to break through to reach these kids since the peer pressure and pressure from being in the same room with members of an opposing gang is serious. We have many tools that we use to "crack their walls”. 

My family and I on stage at a juvenile detention center. 
When the young men first come in, they are brought in with theirs hands behind theirs backs, in a single file line, in small groups at a time. They don't really smile and are wary of what we are going to do. Often they assume we are going to either lecture them, preach at them, or do some kind of social reform program which they have had hundreds times. But after we start playing some cool, electronic type music that my dad and brother write, or after we do some magic, comedy acts, or just connect with them one on one, they  then realize this is something they have never seen and that we really care about them. 
We perform an act using the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira which means a lot to them since its their culture. My brother communicates the idea that we each have to find our own rhythm and not just follow the rhythm of the world. Strength is found in being an individual. We allow them to participate with us and play Capoeira together. It is really high energy and everyone has fun expressing themselves. 
At the end of one of these events, a young man asked for the microphone and told us how much it meant to him that we would come there. He told us he was going to change and really thanked us. It meant a lot. Later, the director told us that he was considered the most violent guy there and were shocked he said those words. 
The teachers were blown away that we got these kids to participate throughout our show and speak on the microphone during our leadership program. They said they have never seen some one be so effective with these kids. Thank you Jesus!  

My brother speaking about being an individual while introducing Capoeira. 

My brother designed and printed a number of different large posters that we use as teaching tools to help give the kids visual, practical things to help them. We use the idea of a car to parallel with their life. There are a lot of analogies we take from that such as steering your life, applying the breaks (saying "no" and stopping bad choices), putting the car in gear (starting to think and engage your mind) ecs.
We use another poster to explain the idea of the difference between logic, and emotion. If we make designs based on our emotions, (hurt, revenge..) we can make bad choices. But if we think about things logically, and take a step back from a situation, we can prevent  terrible consequences. We use volunteers and act out a transaction where we have a "package of drugs" and ask them how much money they would deliver that package for. Once they say a number and we play act the situation, we then take out a picture of a horrible prison here and ask them how much they would pay to get out of that prison. It hits them that there is no amount of money worth risking their lives for. We get them to think about their life, their future and that one with one bad choice they could end up in a prison or a graveyard. It is amazing to see these "bad" kids really listen. 

Performing in a detention center. 

We do a theatrical act where my brother is on stilts, dressed all in black. He is holding on to my sister who is wrapped up in  a black piece of fabric. As the hip hop song progresses, she unwinds as she says poetic lines about not letting the shadows of her past, her situation or others keep her wrapped up. Once she unwinds the "shadow" (my brother on stilts), falls (which is very talented to do on stilts while wearing a long black cape;)). She finds the Scriptures (a cool book that lights up when you open it) and finds purpose. Once again, it is always hard for me to describe our acts to you without them sounding cheesy, but if you saw it, you'd get it :). It really connected with the kids and the applauded in the middle of it.

Most often we are not allowed to take pictures inside these detention
centers but you can get a sense of the situation from these pictures
I took before the kids were brought in. 

In another detention center we visited, the area where we performed was a cool theater that was air-conditioned and they had nice seat for all the kids to sit in. After the first few acts we did, the kids were all with us and into everything, which gave us a lot of hope. So many of them were in bandages and had scars from bullets, knives and accidents they had been in. 
I perform Irish step dance and before I start I show an Xray of my leg which I broke a few years ago. I have a rod and 8 screws in my leg and spent time in a wheel chair. I share how we each have an "X-ray", we each have scars, some on our body, some on our mind or heart. I then share how Jesus also had an "X-ray". He had scars. He suffered and bore our pain. He knows what we are going through and can heal us. All the guys starting clapping to the beat while I danced and many were in tears while I talking with them. It was a beautiful moment. As the guys left, they all wanted a hug which was so cool coming from these "bad" hard kids. I have a rabbit that I use in a magic trick (which draws gasps of surprise:), and at the end all these tough guys wanted to hold or touch the bunny. Inside we are all children.
After the performance the directer said, "Shh, you hear that silence? Your message is now setting in". It meant a lot to us because usually the facility is full of shouting and screaming and to think that now, so many young people we're thinking, is the whole reason we do what we do. 

Performing at a large park near where we stay.

Besides all of the many events tea re scheduled, we also constantly go down town to the city centers and parks. Because this city is so huge, there are at least 10 areas where it is just packed for lunch and dinner. We are able to reach people from all walks of life and all the surrounding areas. 
There is a ferry that crosses the channel that everyone uses every day to get to and from work. 2000 people get off and on every 20 minutes. So if we are in that plaza for a few hours, we reach a lot of people. There are also large markets, metro stops at the bottom of favelas, beaches that are packed and train stations where we spend time reaching people. We use music, dance, magic, theater and large banners with inspiring messages to touch as many as we can with the Fathers love and the hope of the Gospel. 

Down town center near the port.
There is a nice park right near where we live and it is super busy on weekends! It is a really good place to reach families and just every day people. We have a wide range of acts that we do from acts with puppets and costumes to get the kids, to Capoeira, Tae Kwon Do, Hip hop for the young people, and then songs, cultural dance, and theater for the older people. Of course everyone loves magic:)  
Through each act we weave different messages  about love, family values, forgetting our past, using our time and drawing near to the Lord Jesus. We give out color flyers, posters, Gospels of John as well as little stuffed animals, candy and chess boards for prizes and for the children. 
After a dance we do that conveys a caterpillar, turing into a butterfly we let little girls from the crowd come dance and wear little butterfly wings that we have for them. We talk about how we are all a child inside, a butterfly waiting to be released. 
One day that we performed at the park, it was my parents 39th wedding anniversary and thus a very special day for my family. Of course they wanted to spend it giving to others, just like they have done all their lives. We shared a special moment when my dad and mom shared with the crowd about raising a family and both sang a song together. 

Working with kids at special events. 
My brother dressed as a prince on stilts (it freaks me out when he picks up kids).
We got the chance to participate in a special event called, "Day of Dreams". A catholic foundation organized a huge festival for 1,500 poor children from different favelas throughout the state. They chose 1,500 volunteers, one for each child, and paired them up so each child got special attention and care. They asked us to do two performances, one for the volunteers before the children arrived, and another one for all 3,000 people at the close of the event. It was an awesome day! 

I'm in the frog costume and my sister is in the lion:).
Some of these kids have never seen puppets and their smiles are so beautiful

At the first performance here, we did things to pep up and inspire the volunteers to really love the kids and leave it all out there. As we were setting up, we noticed some of the volunteers were consumed with their cell phones and taking selfies. We did a little funny act to address this and encourage them that today was about loving someone else. We do a magic/dance routine where we "throw" a little red scarf to each other (by making it disappear and reappear) to a cool hip hop song. We use the red scarf to say that each of us have the mage to love in our fingers and we can give it to others. Hard to write out but it was really cool and met with a loud round of applause. Our second performance was for all the kids as well as everyone present and it went really well. We brought a number of the kids up on stage to participate in dance and magic and it meant the world to them.

We had just worn black t shirts as uniforms because they are easy to keep clean but we wanted to add little color. So I got some neon ribbon for .99 cents a roll and designed this heart beat / frequency on our t-shirts. My mom borrowed a sewing machine and stitched them on:) It's cool when we all stand in a line it looks like one heart beat. It is our mission to bring people back from "flat lining" and give them hope to come alive.
Another event we did was in a park at the foot of a real bad  slum. The lady who organized it invited different small foundations and schools for disabled, special needs and elderly people. There were a lot of kids so we did all of our magic routines, played a cool game with a giant ball and used our costumes and puppets. 
In one of the magic routines, I start by playing with a jump rope by myself, my brother is playing the song "Fragile" by Sting on his guitar. I then stop jumping rope and say that I am so sad, I feel like I can't be a child, my life is hard, no one cares and lines like this to identify with their suffering and pain. I then cut the jump rope in half a throw it aside, as if giving up on being a child. Then my father comes out, makes me laugh and helps me realize that he loves me and I can always be a child. He is conveying our heavenly Father and that no matter what we go through, there is hope. We have a beautiful poster of Jesus laughing that a prisoner once drew for us that we put up behind us during this act. Later, in the magic routine I magically put the cut jump rope back together and continue to play as a child (long skit short:) there are clowns and other tricks through the act and we perform it to the Cirque song, "Algeria") The act really touches people and I have seen people in tears.

Performing a clown routine. 
After our performance, many people came up to thank us and talk. For my birthday my sister gave me a rabbit. Its a special breed that is super furry and super cute:) I made a magic trick out of a box, some felt, elastic and a drum stick that I use to make the bunny appear (I made the trick for about 10$ compared to a few hundred it would have cost if I bought it). I have a volunteer blow up a balloon, draw a rabbit on it then put the ballon in the box. They then pop the balloon and Abracadabra, there is a live rabbit:)!! Literally every time I do it there is stunned silence then cheers and gasps. It is so fun to do.  I let this old lady in a wheel chair hold my bunny and she just broke down crying as she stroked its fur so softly. A little boy with down syndrome was so excited to hold Gracie( the bunny:)) as well.
Maybe you have heard of or seen the movie, "City of God" about the worst Favela in Brazil. Normally it is very dangerous to go in or out but we got the opportunity to work with a group who had permission from the gang to put on a party there. It was an incredible experience. There were massive piles of trash on the roads leading to it which they deliberately put there to keep the police out, so we couldn't drive in but had to walk and carry all our equipment and props in to the Favela. 

Walking into the slum with our performance equipment. 

As we were unloading our van, a military truck approached, full of army soldiers with machine guns. I was talking to these two little boys and when they saw the army pull up, they started running, crying and asking me to keep them safe. It broke my heart to touch their reality that when they see police, they know violence and war can break out since the police invade to combat the gangs and drug trafficking. There were gang members with machine guns standing by and it was tense until the army trucks passed by. A guy told me that every few days there are bullets flying. 
We shared a special time with these people and brought them laughter and a special show in the middle of their suffering. There is no other hope but that of eternal life and the love of Christ Jesus.

Another event we did was in a community center at the bottom of a huge, very dangerous favela. The organizer invited multiply schools, foundations and communities to one area for us. Around 700 people showed up and it was very loud:) The kids and families came from very poor backgrounds and were so grateful to get a special, high quality show for free. They loved the magic and too many were quick to volunteer. ("Can I get a volunteer"....200 kids stand up;)) When I made my bunny appear, literally the whole crowd screamed:) It was cool. 

My brother on the stilts he made. 

Many of the kids knew Capoeira and were excited to see our fire/Capoeira act. Through it we teach how we have to be courageous and be an individual even when surrounded by things that could influence us in a negative way (drugs, gangs, violence). It was a long day but very rewarding. Afterwards we got tuns of emails and requests to visit schools, favelas and community centers.

At a large community event. The echo was insane!

We were also invited to work with the Brazilian military police, performing events for their children, on police bases, in military prisons and at a very large festival. It was an honor to work with them and put on a party for their children. The police here have a very hard job dealing with all the violence and chaos of the city and we were able to pick them up and bring some encouragement and the guides that comes from the Gospel.

 This one event we did with the police started out do you say...COMPLETE CHAOS! :) Tuns of people, burning hot sun, no space to set up, dogs, ecs. But we found an area where we could do a small scale show and it ended up working out:)! These people were very poor and it meant the world to them that we would be there. T
he event was organized by a cop in the military police who was very grateful we came (and didn't bale when everything was going south:)). So many beautiful people came up at the end to talk and to tell us their stories. We have a lot of Gospels of John and New Testaments that we give out and people are so grateful. Many of them don't have and cant afford to get a bible.

Performing a special party for children of the military police. 

We visited a military police prison. We were not allowed to take any pictures here and the security was tight. There were about 200 men in the prison and we reached them all at the same time. They all looked liked cops out of a tv show, cool, tough and together. They were a bit wary of us when we started and had no idea what to expect, but after we got started they realize we sincerely wanted to help them and encourage them and they completely opened to us and let us in.
They are all still currently cops, but had committed a crime and now are awaiting trial or for their case to be dismissed. The situation here between the police and the gangs is very complicated. Sometimes the cops are caught in a gun fire and may shoot, "civilians" who actually had a gun which they cannot later prove. Often cops take the fall for higher up government corruption, and sometimes they do take bribes for need of money or fear of gang retaliation. The situation is very complicated and all though some of these men have made bad choices, some are victims of bad circumstance.  

Police event for families. 
They were extremely grateful for our visit and for picking up their spirits. My father spent time to teach them some things from the Scriptures about  how we have been completely forgiven once for all. My mother sang a beautiful moving song called, "Crying for Your love", that is about how the Father longs to show them His love. Many were in tears and really moved by it. At the end so many came up to tell us their stories and talk one on one. One guy just said for the first time someone showed him compassion from all he had been through instead of condemnation. He asked if there was any chance we had a soccer ball he could possibly have. I actually had one in the car I was able to go get and bring to him. It meant the world and he was so happy. 
One event we did with the police ended up being for over 7,000 people on a huge stage. It was an unbelievable opportunity to reach so many. 
Police event for over 7,000 people. 
One morning we were scheduled to perform at a large school. It was pouring early and we had to leave at 6am to get to this school by 9. We were afraid the roads would flood out and we considered canceling, but after texting the school workers we decided to go and they told us they had a covered area where we could perform. This school was so far in the middle of nowhere, when we pulled up I thought it was abandoned and we were at the wrong address, but it was right and all the kids were waiting for us. The streets around it were just covered in trash, pigs and cows walking around and teens with machine guns hiding behind a wall. When we walked into the school, instantly all the kids were so excited to see us and surprised to see Americans way out here. 

The teachers and director really thanked us for coming. We all crowded into a covered gym out of the pouring rain. It is always a bit more challenging to break through when the audience is all at the teen age category because peer pressure can be so strong, but God always gives us His wisdom and different ways to touch them. Sometimes we have to call out kids and lovingly teach them what it is to be an individual, to respect others, to not talk while others are talking, to be a leader and make a difference for the good. 
No matter how grown up some of the kids wanted to act, they sure loved the magic and were blown away by our routines:)! A cool 16 year old kid helped me do my appearing bunny trick. I told him how the trick was down before hand so he could do it. When the whole crowd screamed their delight, he was really happy. At the end, they all asked for a Bible or Gospel of John and waited to get a chance to talk to us one on one and tell us their stories. One girl named Gabriela told me that her grandmother, who had raised her, just died and she was trying to keep it together. She had suffered abuse as a child and her grandmother was all she had. She was in tears and wanted to be held. She was so grateful for the message we brought. Many the teachers were also in tears and told us they had been at the point of just giving up. They said they could see love in us. Afterward a lot of the kids wrote us and we stay in touch with them now.

My brother performing a rap he wrote at a school. 
One day we visited a prison/hospital for people with mental disabilities who had committed crimes. The director was a kind, tender man who treated the patience as his children not as criminals. Most of the men had the mentality of children and were very simple so we kept everything we did simple and clear. It was visiting day today so some of the prisoners families were able to watch the show as well and we were able to help bring healing to them. We did many things to help them and make them laugh. At the end, one man took the microphone and thanked us, then all the prisoners said the "Our Father" together, it was really beautiful. 

Talking one on one with the families after our performance at the prison/hospital.

One story was so sad. There was a father who was visiting his son. The father had beaten the son as a child and thus caused his mental disability! The son had forgiven the father but the father could not forgive himself. The both held each other and cried then prayed together. The father kept saying he was sorry and the son kept saying it was ok. It was one of the saddest stories I had witnessed. Oh, the tragedy of our fallen human state. We are so broken and so fragile. 

I know this blog gets long and most people probably won’t get all the way through it (unless maybe there is a zombie attack and you have to hide in your basement for a long time kkk:)). I just like to record these things because I have been an eye witness to the power and love of God and how He will use and bless someone who serves Him. 
It is my hope that maybe someone would read this blog and be inspired to turn off the main "road" and start driving down the Highway called Love. Because on this road, the view is beautiful and you will never go back to your old "road". 
The world is full of suffering and the need is so great. You can be the answer to someone else's prayer. You could be the sign from God they were praying for. You can change a life. Never settle dear friend. Dream big. Be Big. Because God is big and there is a big world out there that needs what you can give. Even those who believe just a little, can do very big things. 

                        By for now, take heart, love you guys.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Place of Broken.

Hello mis amigos:)! I hope that you are each doing ok and have been able to rise above all the obstacles that life throws at you. I don’t have a tun of time right now but its already been a while so I wanted to let you know I am still alive:) and at least post some pictures. Please excuse any mistakes and typos in this one;). 
My family and I have been working very hard here in Paraguay for the last two months. I spent the first week writing letters and meeting with the heads of the schools, prisons, orphanages and different government branches. By the grace of God, many doors began to open quickly in each area, in fact almost too quickly and in a short time we were overwhelmed with events and requests. We have had the privilege to touch so many people from so many different walks of life. 
My brother and I doing magic at a school. 
The Paraguayan people are very unique from other latin countries I have visited. They tend to be guarded and skeptical at first, but then can be very warm and kind when they come to trust you and let you in. You can clearly see the effects of a country that was previously communist and  under a dictatorship. The actual city of Asuncion is in really bad shape. The roads are just horrible, there are practically no working street lights or stop signs so traffic is a nightmare and all the city plazas and parks are occupied with temporary shacks and shelters where families who lost their homes in floods are now living. The city completely floods out when it rains and all the sewers back up. Mosquitos are a real problem as well. I hope things could improve for these beautiful people, but honestly it seems there is little hope and they know it. They just had their elections here and the new president is said to be much better and “the first honest man in a hundred years” so maybe he can began to change things. It has taken a lot of work, thought and time to effectively reach this nation but our heavenly Father has greatly been with us and given us new ways to communicate His love. 
Performing a Spanish style dance with my sisters. 
Sometimes it can seem that we are so different from each other. Different by country, race, culture, background or belief. You might see yourself as so different from your neighbor, family member, partner or coworker. We deal with conflicts towards a boss or a certain individual because it seems that we are each a world apart.  At times we do not forgive others, because we see ourselves as far better or far worse than someone else. We can harbor anger against someone for what they did, but fail to see that we could have done the a similar thing in a certain situation. Families can be torn apart because they just cannot reconcile their differences. Here in South America as I work in prisons and on the streets, I constantly speak to and deal with different gangs and men who cannot mix with other men because they are from a different gang. But you know what? Of all that makes us different and separates us, there is something much bigger that makes us the same and unites us. We are, all of us, broken.
Large event on the boardwalk where we performed for nearly 3 hours. 

You and I, you and your boss, I and the prisoners I visit, are all the same. We are from the same "gang". We are all human and we are all broken.  We have two arms, two legs, one heart and we bleed the same blood. A blood that has been contaminated by this thing called, “sin”. We fail, we make mistakes. God sent His Son Jesus down to earth to become one of us. Jesus became broken. He "emptied Himself" to take on our weakness (Phil.2:7). Jesus bled our same blood on the cross. He was crushed and broken for us.  “..By His stripes, we are healed.” (Is.53.)  
He took on our exact broken nature so He can completely sympathize with our weakness (Heb.4:15). Imagine if you had a specific injury, say a knee injury, then later, someone you knew got the exact same injury. You would be able to tell them specifically how to recover and what kind of rehabilitation to do. Jesus suffered our exact same “injury” we all suffer, so now, “..through His stripes..” we can be healed. 

It is in this place, on this ground, the ground of “broken” that we can now draw near to God.  A ground where there was a hill and a cross. A ground that was saturated with the blood of an innocent man and a ground where there was a grave that could not hold that man down. It is here, my friend that all of us can meet. All of us, the victims and the criminals, the rich and the poor, young and the old, all of us are broken. We are sheep that need a Shepherd, children that need a Father. So let us consider this, and perhaps allow this thought to give us compassion and make us deeper people for we cannot be forgiven unless we forgive.  
It is in the place where we realize that we are all broken, where we can be healed.  A seed is nothing and will become nothing unless it first is broken. A caterpillar is nothing and will become nothing unless it completely dies. We are nothing and will become nothing unless we will be broken, so we can be healed (Jn.12:24). God said He honors the lowly, the broken and the humble (Ps.51:17/1Pet.5:5).

One afternoon I had a "chance" encounter and met the head organizer for city events here in Asuncion, Paraguay. We exchanged numbers and I later scheduled a meeting so I could explain to them the performance that my family and I do and we could discuss working together. When I showed up for the meeting, they told me the director was busy and couldn't make it (even though I just confirmed it and had ridden my bike 6 miles in 95 degree temps to get here:)). Any way, as I began to get upset, they said, "don't worry, he read the letter and was very impressed and told us to organize events with you” (I had previously sent a letter explaining the work that we do and that we offer it free of charge). So we were able to coordinate different events in different areas to reach the city. The municipality would set up a stage, bring seats, send out flyers and advertise on the radio and social media which drew large crowds. 
Preforming for Independence day in Paraguay. 

The government asked us to open their Independence day celebration concert. It was large event on a stage and it was an honor to participate in Paraguay's most important day. The event was well organized and because of the quantity of performers, everyone had to be on a tight schedule. It was a very special day for my family and I, we each got to perform our personal act as well as our magic and group choreographies. Through each performance we communicate a message of the Fathers love, hope, forgiveness, change, second chance and family values.  My sister performed ballet, I did Irish step dance,  we did an act with fire and capoeira, a Tae Kwon Do choreography and clown acts and magic. We were excited to learn afterward that it was broadcasted on live tv for all of Paraguay. Days after people told us they saw us on tv and heard the message of the Gospel through us. 

Talking with the crowd on the streets. 
The government also organized an event on a board walk that runs along a river. As we performed, behind us there was a stunning sunset, and in front of us a full harvest moon was rising. A lite breeze came off the river and it was just a beautiful night. The crowd grew so large that many could not fit in to see. We were supposed to be on a stage, which would have allowed a lot more people to watch, but the crew that set up the stage put it on the wrong side of the street where there were no lights :(. Many had received the invitations and come from all over the city and from different functions of the government to watch. It was such a privilege and we shared so much over the three hours we were there.

We organized another event with the municipality in the center of the poorest area of the city.  This event was for the victims of the flood who are living in temporary shelters right in the city center. These people have nothing and are really suffering, especially the children. They were thrilled to get a free show and see all the magic. One little boy ran up to me with a beaming smile on his face and wanted to play with the bubbles I was making. His left hand had been completely burned off and his whole face was distorted from severe burns. He told me that his house had been burned down and he was trapped inside. His little brother said he always helped take care of him and they both just wanted to laugh and be held. Ill never forget his beautiful face.
I put on our giant frog costume and my sister and I walked through the shanty town inviting everyone to come to the show. Crowds followed us out and I felt like the Pied Piper:) (Except dripping in sweat and walking through mud trying not to fall since I could not seeing anything in the costume with kids hanging on me so yeah, super romantic ;) :)) .

My brothers and sisters and I make simple bracelets that we
give out after our performance so they can have a little memory.
Its amazing how something so small can mean so much to someone.
But in case you were wondering, it takes a long time
to make 500 bracelets that are then gone after one day ;) 

We had made over 500 sandwiches which we gave out afterward along with some of our extra clothes, candy and toys for the children. If you have ever been in extreme poverty, you know how impossible it is to give things out and keep order. Desperation takes over and you have to be really organized and have plenty to give. It was difficult and exhausting to manage this situation but God gave us the grace and wisdom. When we left we felt like we were leaving a war zone because of the extreme focus and mindset we had. So many people say that to help people in these desperate situation can’t be done, but when you take time to plan things, it can be done and should be done. Sometimes its just our own laziness that makes excuses and if we make even a small effort to love others, God can bless it in a big way. 

Playing with the children after our performance. 
On stage in the center of Paraguay. 
Within one meeting, I was actually able to meet with the Minister of Education (highest up person who usually takes a while to get to), and she opened to us the doors to all the schools and colleges in Paraguay. Three ladies spent their time driving from school to school organizing events for us at the schools that needed it the most. They did a lot of the leg work my brothers and sisters and I usually have to do ourselves, such as going all over the city, meeting with the school directors and organizing the logistics of, space, place, which grades and times. I really appreciated their help! 

Performing a play at a school. 
 At this one school we visited, there were 800 kids and we had to do a few groups. If any of you have worked with kids, please imagine and visualize working with 800 kids at the same times from preschool all the way through high school age:) This was a new school just built for all the families and children that lost their homes in the flood. It was the first and really only thing the government had done to help. When I first walked in, there was a little girl standing there just weeping. She was so scared and lost. I held her in my arms and helped her find her way but this was the state of many of these children. They were so sad and scared. Many of these kids had no parents and have been moved from place to place with no where safe and secure to call home. They were desperate for love and attention and it was such an honor to bring them laughter and give them seeds of hope.

In our performance we tell a story about a little girl who is chasing butterflies but cannot catch them. Like we all chase dreams and look for change. Through the story she meets a giant frog (me in a costume;)), a cool dwarf, (my sister in a costume), and a prince (my brother on stilts). She learns that she cannot catch butterflies, because sometimes life is hard, and we cannot get what we seek, but she can become a butterfly! Sometimes things on the outside will not change, but if we change, we can find hope. 
A psychiatrist  who works at the school told us that in 2 hours we had done more for the kids then she had been able to do in months to help them and give them practical answers. When we drove away, a little boy was running full speed after our van wanting us not to leave. It broke my heart and I will never forget that image. 

This is where the children live at a certain school we visited. 

Because of the floods here, many people are living in shelters all throughout the city center. It is really sad to see all the shacks  made out of cardboard and garbage bags all around and when it rains, these “ homes” become just a sea of mud. A lot of these people don’t go to the center, so to reach them we spent time in the evenings just walking up and down the rows, through the villages and going house to house talking to the families. We met some really beautiful people with amazing stories. 

One lady we met while walking through a village, started a home for the elderly which she tries to run in her own home. Her husband helped her start in but then tragically, he died, and now she struggles to be able to afford to take care of all the elderly folks that come to her. We gave her 35$ which allowed her to be able to get a lot of rice and beans. She broke down crying, just so extremely grateful. She said God sent her angels today to pick her up.

Originally when I approached the director of the largest prison here in Paraguay, and asked for authorization to enter, he said we could only go in a small room on the side of the prison which would hold around 30 men. But after showing him pictures of others prisons we have visited around the world, and explaining that this was a big event, he allowed us to go in. 
This is the largest, most overcrowded prison in Paraguay and is a very, very bad place. Unlike most prisons we have been to, there were no "patios" or separate sections here. As in, all 5,000 prisoners were all walking around the prison at the same time and in the same area. Basically like a huge city inside a prison and just complete chaos. People shouting, the guards blowing whistles, little fights breaking out between the prisoners, soccer balls flying, guys crowding around and begging us for things, ecs... The conditions were just horrible with the walls covered in mold and crumbling, the smell was terrible and the men were starving because they barely had enough food.

We set up in the center and everyone crowded around. It took a lot of work to pull this one off and we had to be at the top of our game every second but the Lord Jesus was with us and we were able to share many things with them. We do a magic routine that has a message in it about time, eternal life and gives them a perspective beyond these walls. It really connected with the guys.
I do an act where I start out playing a flute (a plastic recorder that breaks in half). Someone comes up to me, steals and breaks my flute. I use the flute to symbolize our life or our heart. So many things such as tragedy and mistakes can break our “flute”. In the skit my brother comes out acting as Christ. I take my broken flute and give it to him. He holds each half in one of his hands and stretches them out as if on the cross. He then “rises again” and puts my flute back together. Then he gives it to me and also calls over the one who broke my flute (my brother acting the part). He explains that we are all broken, the criminal and the victim and that Jesus was broken for us, like I shared earlier in this blog. It is always hard to describe some of our acts and theatrical performances to you, but if you picture them with moving music and costumes, performed in a theatrical way, it helps. As I walked out of this prison a man said to me, "Thank you for bring light into such a dark place”. And that is the only thing we are tying to do. That is why we try to use so many different means, acts, music and measures, so in some way we can bring light into their dark world. 

Performing a magic routine about time. 
Another prison we visited was about a two hour drive out into the country. The director was so cool and allowed us to perform right in the main area so we were able to get the whole prison. As we started, there was some fire nearby that began to blow think smoke and ash into us. I thought we were going to have to leave but then as quickly as it started it stopped, and I thank God we could continue. Literally the entire crowd of 700 to 800 guys were so engaged and listening to everything we shared.
I do a skit where I use words written on large cards like, "Why", “Remorse", "Regret", "The Past", I drop the words on the ground in the pattern of a circle and I explain how thoughts about the past can keep us in a cycle of regret. So many times the cycle begins with the word “why?”, “why did I do that?” “why did he say that?”. We wander around and around in our mind as if lost in a dark forest going in circles of the same thoughts about the past. We end up right where we started, getting no where and change nothing only to start again. Then I take new words out of a New Testament like, "You have a future", "you are forgiven" and drop them on the ground in a line leading away from the circle. I explain how we need new thoughts to change our mind. If we would study the Scriptures, we would find answers and new thoughts that will lead us into a future. 

Talking with the men in a prison. 
Interacting with the prisons and allowing them to participate in Capoeira. 

We spent a long time there and it took a while to leave because everyone wanted to shake our hands, tell us their names and stories and receive personal attention. It was a beautiful moment I will never forget. One guy gave me a beautiful rose made out of medal that he had made to thank me, it meant a lot to me. When we were finally out and had gotten all our equipment back through security,  the director, who had watched our whole show, said, "wow, my mouth is on the ground. I never imagined anything like that." He was so grateful and had never seen the men so engaged. 

These two girls were adopted sisters and so precious. 

One morning we had an event scheduled at the largest orphanage here in a city called, “Luque". Most of us weren't feeling good in the morning and we were really tired from back to back previous events. We thought about canceling, but decided to kick it out;) There was no way we could let these kids down:) 
The director of the orphanage was a very kind women and was so grateful and glad that we had sought them out and would come there. It was a smaller group, maybe 100 kids, but they were so precious. It just breaks your heart to see the pain and sadness in their eyes and know they have seen things and gone through things well beyond their years.
At one point in our show, in the middle of a clown act where my brother is crying because he has no one to celebrate his birthday, all the kids came up to him to hug him. It is a funny act about smashing a piñata, and usually everyone is laughing, but it was both touching and sad to see all these kids identify with him acting sad and lonely and having no one to celebrate a birthday with. Each child was so desperate for love and attention and desperately wanted to participate in everything. 

I just wanted to keep holding these two little girls who were adopted sisters and not let them go. Many of these children have lost their parents, and many of the children were given away when their parents decided they could not afford them or did not want them. I can't imagine a more tragic reality then realizing your own parents gave you away and didn’t want you. The director explained to us how hard it is when she receives confirmation that their parents are not coming back and she has to try to tell explain this to the children. She told us that she tries to put it off as long as possible before she explains to them that this orphanage is now their home. She said many of the kids, especially the older ones, just loose it and will try to run away, break things and just cry. It takes a while for them to adjust to this home. It was such a privilege to give them some seeds of hope and tell them that they have a Father who wants them, and loves them. 

The next week we returned here to a large school next to this orphanage that is run by the same foundation. There are 900 kids here and most of them are either foster kids, orphans or have been through something traumatic. We performed for about 500 of them, which, is A LOT of kids:) They had fun bouncing a massive ball above them as we set up and then we got them all to sit down and they were very respectful and well behaved. We taught them many things to help them and comfort them in all their suffering.
My youngest brother wrote a rap/song that has a message in it about being the bigger person, taking responsibility and helping make peace with others. We act out two people arguing, then my brother comes in and through the song says he is sorry, cares about them and helps them make peace. The words "I am sorry" can be so powerful and prevent heart break, sadness and even divorce. "I am sorry", "its my fault", "I love you" are words we all need to be quick to say. These words can bind a family together, save a marriage or friendship and dissolve friction and tension between two parties.  So many of these children come from broken homes and at times hear their parents shouting at each other. Sometimes a little love and humility can make all the difference no matter who's fault it is.

Playing around before we begin as all the kids come out of their class.
We wrote a children's story about a giant frog who feels all alone and wants to give up. Throughout the story we communicate the hope of the Gospel in a simple way and teach to not give up, but that God the Father wants us and loves us. We gave each child one at the end along with a bracelet we made. As we travel we make bracelets so they can have a memory of the day and all we shared. ( It takes a long time to make 500 bracelets :)). So many of the older kids wanted to participate and at the end a lot of the kids joint with us in a participation dance. 

My brother on stage at a school using a costume he built to communicate how our free will is like a super hero. 
We had a very special evening at the women's prison here. The prison was built to house 200 women and now holds over 500, so they are in a very difficult situation. I was able to get chairs so they could all sit close and they were so grateful and engaged in everything we did. 
I sing a song about a wounded bird that flies again and I share how we are all in a sense, "a bird with a wounded wing” (like I shared at the start of this blog) and in our broken state, the Father is by our side and lifts us up so we can fly again. 

Performing Irish step dance in a women's prison. 
At the end of our performance my whole family and I do a dance where we use all the dance moves we have learned from the cultural dances of the countries we have visited. Afterward, we invite others to join in the dance. It was so beautiful to watch as gradually all the women came up to dance. Many were in tears when we left. One lady told me it was the first time she had been given a bible and would treasure and read it always.

At the women prison.

Most of the women are serving time for drug related crimes, most often carrying drugs to make money to support their children. Some have been set up by their partners, like one young girl whose boyfriend asked her to hold his back pack, then took off. She had the back pack with her when the cops caught her and found drugs inside. She had no idea. The other day I read a story from the US about a women who drew a map for someone that ended up being a drug route. She thought she was drawing the map for hunters.  She got a 16 year sentence! Its just tragic. I read a good quote by Winston Churchill that said, "Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” Our mistakes do not have to destroy us, nor are we defined by what we have done, whether good or bad, but what matters is that we go forward and never give up. 

The down center is taken over with temporary shacks and shelters. 

A certain school we visited was in a horrible part of town, it was surrounded by temporary shacks that all the victims of the flood are living in. At this school the children were older, from 12 to 18. They all brought their chairs out of the class rooms and arranged them in a circle around us. 
We do a cool thing where we ask them who wants to be a leader and won’t be controlled by peer pressure. After we get a few volunteers (in this case like 20!), we give them cards to read that have meaningful historic quotes written on them such as, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself", and many inspiring quotes from past famous figures. We then have a competition to see who can read it like a leader with emotion, diction and passion in their voice. It was really cool to see these kids get into it and try to speak with all their heart. This time  we had a three way tie for winner. It is a good exercise we use to help them come out of them self and learn to speak and lead regardless of what others think or do. We have a number of games and activities like this.

My brothers in the middle of a really funny clown act about a dog chasing a clown who stop his ball. 
This one little girl named Sandra, maybe 13 said she couldn't read but wanted to participate. She was so sweet and I helped her just say a phrase about how hope can be given as a gift. It made me sad to realize how broken the education system is if a 13 year old girl has not yet been taught to read. Another girl named Alisa who was 17 years old girl told us her mother had recently died of cancer. She was in tears, and really touched by our message. She told us that we had given her hope today and given her words to help her begin to heal and get over her sadness. 

My brother on stilts interacting with the kids. 
We got up super early because it was a loooooonnnnnnggg drive to reach the largest juvenile detention center here. Traffic is insane because the street lights either don't work, don't exist or are taken as mere suggestions ;) Anyway, it was well worth the drive! 

Excitement filled the air as the kids came out of their cell blocks and heard our music. Before they sat down they all wanted to come up, shake our hands and tell us their names. Here in this detention center, these young guys can have a sentence of anywhere from a few months, to 8 years. It really surprised me how teachable and receptive these teenagers were. Often when the whole age group is in their teens, peer pressure can be strong and sometimes we have to be a little firm to get them to listen,  but in this case, even though  many of them looked like cool "bad" kids, they were just little boys at heart. 
One boy named Luis who was 16 years old, told us his dad left when he was 7, his mom died of cancer, then his dad came back, but was a drunk and died shortly after he came back into the boys life. He was in and out of foster homes and got into trouble. Many of these kids moms or aunts are now in the women's prison (the one we visited). It was hard to leave this place. 
Every young man gave us the tightest hug and didn't want us to leave, even the “ bad” kids, weren’t too bad to ask for a hug. One guy named David, pulled me aside and just asked, "How and why did you find us and come here? Of all the places, how did you find us?" He was so grateful and touched that they were not forgotten. In another life, I would love to adopt some of those guys and be the mother they never had but I pray that God could use my life in this way to give them a seed that some, day, perhaps could become a tree. 

Having a water ballon toss at the juvenile detention center. 
Awarding prizes after the games we held at the juvenile detention center. 
Weeks later we went back to this same juvenile detention center again to give the boys a very special party. For a day, we transformed a prison, into a playground and even though they are here because the are criminals of some kind, inside, like all of us,  they are children. We wanted to celebrate their birthdays and let them have fun, so we planned some games, piñatas, a magic show and got some prizes and treats for them all.  We divided them up into 6 groups, one for each of my brothers and sisters and I and made up teams with each a different color, name and cheer. We played dodge ball (super crazy and fun:)), had water balloon tosses (even though they all kept stealing water balloons and hurling them at each other so it was a good thing we had hundreds. Obviously the ultimate was for them to soak one of us:)), and had wheel barrel races and other games.

Performing at a school for troubled youth. 
Between each game we would take time to sit down in a circle with them and teach them things to help them. Things that can help them get a job like how to give a good handshake, look someone in the eyes, how to speak loud and clear and stand up straight. To not make fun of each other but rather care about each other and look out for each other like brothers. We gave them ideas of ways they can help their community and fix things. We talked about drugs and asked them how much they would pay if someone asked them to carry drugs. Then we showed a picture of a horrible prison and asked them how much they would pay to get out of prison. When they answered they would give everything they own to get out of prison, they realized that no amount of money is worth running drugs, besides the risk of their lives. And we talked about how to focus and tune out all distractions to begin to read the Scriptures and seek Jesus on their own. We broke down the Gospel in a clear simple way and explained it to them.

One of the many "neighborhoods" here.
It took a lot of work to keep everything under control, to include the outsiders and kids who were more rejected, keep order, teach them, plus play with them. Breaking the piñatas got super crazy with big jam piles of boys diving for candy and having a lot of fun. Then we brought them all together and talked with them as a group and did a magic show. Many were in tears when we were saying goodbye and it was all over. Honestly, I was at the point of tears too and really came to love my “green team" of 16 boys who they named, “ Tacu” which is a slang way of saying, “ The misfits". They just kept giving me hugs. The director and all the guards and staff were very moved and grateful to us. It was a very special day I will never forget.

Spending time at a school for children and young adults with special needs. 
Speaking to the crowd after the race. 
We had been in contact with a school for children with special needs and we got to run a 10k race with them that was for their benefit. It went through the center of Asuncion and along the river. I was not in the best shape because of my leg injuries, but still ran it in 47min and it was fun to run the event with my family;)  After the event as the runners gathered in front of a large stage for the prize ceremony, I asked the director if I could say a few words and he gave me the microphone:) I was able to share with the whole crowd, about 7000 runners how even in difficult times and times of suffering, God is a Father who will help us and that no matter what we have been through, we can talk to Jesus and He will be there. I was thrilled to get that opportunity to share with the whole crowd. My mom actually took first place in her category and stood on the center podium to get her trophy! I was so proud of her!

We later went to the special needs school to perform for and spend time with the kids. It was definitely one of the best days of my life:)! Even with all the challenges these kids face, down syndrome, autism, ceribal palsy, they were so precious and engaged. Many of them wanted to dance, sing and speak on the microphone. One little boy with down syndrome walked up and asked for the microphone. He took and it just said, “Jesus!” with his hand in the air. It was so beautiful. No word has more power. 
Putting butterfly wings on a precious girl with down syndrome. 

After we do our dance with the caterpillar who becomes a butterfly, pretty much all of the children wanted to wear the butterfly wings and dance (we have a bunch of sets of the small butterfly wings we bought on sale after halloween. We let kids wear them to participate, teach them a choreography and introduce them to the crowd so its really special for them, both at schools and on the street). 
The director of this school has worked here for 22 years and dedicated her life to caring for those with special needs in Paraguay. The government was trying to implement a rule that there would be no specific schools for those with special needs, but that all regular schools would have to make accommodations for them. The director explained how this idea would never work and only make things very difficult for those with special needs, so she started this school and really loves these kids. It is really amazing what we can do if we just allow ourselves to care a little bit.  

Talking and playing with the kids afterward is definitely one of the best parts:) This is Shanon in the picture talking to me.
Another school we went to was in the poorest area in all of Paraguay and even the poorest in much of South America. Just getting to the school was quite a trip! It was a terrible dirt road, washed out by the rain that was one lane but two way traffic with dogs, roosters and people all over. We almost turned back because it was not looking good and we did not want to risk our van, but then a little kids ran in front of us and we realized the school was just ahead. The teachers and administrators came out to greet us and help us unload. They were so warm and grateful it picked up our spirits. 

Maybe you saw a while back there was a 60 min episode about a school that built musical instruments out of trash. Kids would rummage through a massive land fill of trash and salvage things they could make into musical instruments. Well anyway, that story was about this village and we drove right by the landfill. This whole area is one of the poorest saddest places I have seen. At the school there were 600 kids and we did two presentations, one in the morning and one in the evening. Of course many of the kids never left, so we were playing with kids and performing for some 8 hours:) Yes, we were dead!

Massive trash heap on outskirts of "city".

Going house to house through different areas. 
My sister does a beautiful ballet dance that communicates the idea that we can go beyond obstacles and reach for our dreams. She starts all wrapped up in a black piece of cloth and then slowly unwinds into a ballerina. She explains how we all feel trapped sometimes by our own fear, by others, by our past, by circumstances, but if we can reach beyond ourselves, and reach out to our Father, we can find a dream greater than we imagine. A dream to love others and care for those in need.

Through the dance she teaches a "blind man" how to play a drum, (my dad acting), she helps a "homeless man" (my brother acting) and turns an argument into a dance (my sister and I acting). It is hard to explain it all to you, but it is a beautiful act that is very moving. At the end she chooses a few girls as volunteers and teaches them dance moves and gives them a little crown:)
The director explained to me that many of these children practically live here at the school, because their "homes" are nothing more than muddy shacks.  They have nothing to eat there, nothing to do and if they have parents, their parents are in the center trying to work so they have no one to go home to. The director and the teachers set up a certain fund where they set money aside to buy food so they can send the kids home with something to eat and they can know that the kids got at least one meal today. Its really sad. She told me she acts more as a mother then a principle and I could tell she did. All the little kids wanted to be picked up and all the older kids wanted hugs and attention. One little girl was so precious, she walks over to me and gives me the cookie she got with her lunch. 

We ran into a lot of trouble with our visas and dealing with government corruption but God was with us and eventually we sorted things out. We will soon head back to Brazil and hope to work in the Favelas of Rio and Sao Paulo. The gang violence, government corruption and poverty are escalating and we pray the Father would open up doors and lead us how to effectively penetrate these cities with His love. 
Living like this and working at this pace definitely takes its toll. My brothers and I were talking with each other the other day about how after we leave a prison, orphanage or certain areas, we feel a lingering sadness that we just can’t shake. Even if everything went well and the people were preceptive, its like we feel their sadness and pain, especially in prisons. We are working hard to infuse hope, life, laughter and new thoughts into people, and as a result we take on their suffering and sorrow, we touch their pain. Plus there is always the feeling that you just want to do more, say more, care more and give more. At the end of every presentation we do there is always a rush of, giving things out, people coming up, talking one on one with certain people you pick out in the crowd who are listening, talking to the directors and organizers, people wanting pictures, flyers, bracelets and attention and it can get a little tough trying to keep up with everything. My parents don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese so as people come up to them one of my brothers and sisters and has to translate for them. I find myself literally running around keeping up with stuff, sometimes trying to talk to one person while also translating for my dad:) But I wouldn’t trade it for the world and it is such an honor to effect lives in this way.

Driving home in the evening after a prison. 
Its always the things I regret that I afterward think on the most. Like the guy that asked for something and I forgot to get it for him, seeing a prisoner have to leave before I could give him something to read, realizing I started sharing a thought but didn’t conclude it, realizing I said a word wrong in Spanish or Portuguese and hoping they understood it, remembering a certain sad face that I wanted to go talk to and didn’t get there, or messing up on a certain routine. The other day after a prison, a really old, frail man asked me to give him any little thing as a memory. I had nothing left on me and told him I would go find something in the van. I got delayed translating for my dad and by the time I got back the guards had taken him away and I felt really bad. Still bothers me. I just hope and pray that the Spirit of the Father would go behind me and cover all my failures. I pray that Jesus would use the little I do to draw people to Him and I know that He knows, I am broken. It is only Gods profound mercy and grace that sustains us and His Word that carries us and gives us life to give.

Performing a choreography with fire, Capoeira and drums.  
Performing a fun/funny magic routine in a prison.
We are all tired and many of us are fighting a flu type sickness as well as various injuries, but beyond everything we have to deal with, God is so good and there is no greater joy than seeing Him use us to touch others. We all seek for purpose, we want to matter and leave our mark on the world. I promise you my friend, if you would surrender your life to the hands of the Father and let your “seed”, break, you would find a purpose and a joy beyond anything you could imagine. Study Jesus, all by yourself. He knows you. He knows you are broken and knows your past failures. He is not waiting to meet you in a building, or meet you after you get your life in order. He is waiting to meet you right where you, to meet you on the ground of “broken”. The ground where there was a hill called “Calvary” and a cross.   Because it is there, at the place of absolute death, where we can find absolute life. Indeed, the place called, “Broken”, is a beautiful place. 

 I love to listen to music, let everything go and just run. Running is definitely the best medicine for stress;).