Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Walk in the Slum...

In this post are photos that show the reality of the slum where we live and serve as missionaries - praying, sharing, and sowing seeds of God's LOVE.
My good friend Kelly, who serves as a missionary at the Lighthouse Community Center, took these beautiful photos while walking through our slum. Kelly is an amazing photographer with a deep love for the people who live in this community. She gave me permission to share her photos on my blog - thanks Kelly!

There are many many more amazing shots that capture the beauty and the reality of life here... Here I have only posted a few.

When trying to explain what life is like here, I can tell many stories and paint detailed pictures with my words, but in posting photos on our blog, I feel everyone can really get a better idea of the reality of a slum in Brazil. There are thousands of slums in Brazil and a majority of the population either lives in slums or extremely poor areas that look much like this... Many people get a better understanding of this reality by seeing photos, or by coming here and seeing with their own two eyes when walking through the slum.

Although many children are COMING IN to the Lighthouse to participate in the special programs, there are also missionaries from the Lighthouse team who are GOING OUT into the slum! There are two specific ministries going out into the community to pray, worship, evangelize, build relationships with people, visit families, and also these missionaries simply just make themselves available to hear God's voice and do what He says in the moment...

Here is a photo of two missionaries and two volunteers, enjoying their afternoon in the streets of Cafezal slum.

One specific ministry that goes out from the Lighthouse feels that God is calling them to pray in this soccer field below. During a time of prayer (on this specific afternoon) this team sensed that they are to pray on a regular basis at this soccer field. They are to pray for all the people who go regularly to this field to play soccer, watch the games, and also participate in other activities (such as drug dealing, violence, and who knows what else).

During a special prayer time on the field the team sensed that God wants to restore the people who go to this soccer field... That He wants to make their lives like a green field, full of life. As you can see in the photo below, right now the field is dry and barren, just as many lives in the slum are dry and barren, God desires to GIVE life and bring restoration.

Many times you see people in the streets here in the slum. Brazil is a warm climate culture, so people often spend lots of time outside spending time with friends or family. The children are often on the streets playing games like soccer or marbles or even pool - like you see in this photo.

This road leads straight to the back entrance of the Lighthouse Community Center.

We also encounter many dogs roaming the streets... Sometimes these dogs are in pitiful conditions.

This is just a glance of the reality... Future posts will reveal more...

Please pray for the Cafezal slum...
Pray for transformation in the lives of the children and families who live here.
Pray for the churches that are established in the community and also the ministries (like ours) who are working to share God's message of hope, love, and abundant life!

Monday, March 8, 2010

What WE are up to...

What FELIPE is up to...

This year Felipe is EXTREMELY happy because he is working with kids again!
During 2009, Felipe and I had so much going on that Felipe decided not to work with a group of kids. The whole year he terribly missed working with children. This year, Felipe was determined to return to work with kids!

Felipe is working with a group of boys ages 9-11 years old. This is his favorite age group to work with and Felipe especially LOVES working with the boys that are often the hardest to reach, with difficult behavior and who are at the most risk.
Felipe loves the challenge of breaking through the thick walls of protection that many of the boys are already putting up at such a young age. These boys live in harsh realities and many of then do not have a father figure in their lives. It is beautiful to see how the boys really look up to and respect Felipe.

The boys are extremely hungry for the love, attention and approval of a man. Every boy needs a strong male role model in his life, but I believe that the boys living in the slums of Brazil esspecially need strong and positive male influences in their lives.

The reality here in the slum is that many times the male role model, or point of reference, can easily become the drug lord selling drugs in the streets or a family member involved in drug trafficking or gang activity. It is our prayer that the children of the slum will encounter Jesus and look to Him as a role model. The children see Jesus in us, so we do our best to point to Jesus in all we do.
During the children's groups there are many activities that we do with the kids - Bible Studies, worship, swimming, soccer, educational activities, and much much more!

Spending time playing in the Light House park area is one activity that the kids truly enjoy. There are no park areas in the slum, as the homes are often built literally one on top of the other. Many times the kids are playing in the narrow, crowded and dirty streets. The Light House provides this safe and open area for the kids to let loose, run, play and just enjoy being kids!
Hanging out!
Last year, I had the pleasure of working with Melina, a Brazilian missionary here at the Light House. This year she is a co-leading the boy's group with Felipe. Here is Melina in action-working with the boys on their math skills.
Also working with this specific group of boys, is a young man named Josiah from England. He is 13 years old and his family has been serving in missions here at the Light House since January of 2008.
The little boys in the group really look up to Josiah and are SO impressed with his amazing artistic abilities. In this photo Josiah is teaching the boys how to draw a car...
Check out Josiah's masterpiece!
Focused and working away!

What LAURA is up to...

This year is going to be a MUCH different year for me, for many reasons... I am now 7 months pregnant and our baby girl Sophia is soon to arrive. This year, I decided not to commit to working with a group of kids, as my health has been unpredictable during my pregnancy and also because I will soon be a first time mommy.
I have been a bit sad about not being able to work with a group of children, esspecially when I see the many needs in the slum and the many children who I know who would LOVE to be in a group here at the Light House.

Felipe often says to me, "Laura, but you WILL be working with kids this year. You are going to be working with our daughter, Sophia." That is true and what an adventure, joy and priviledge parenthood will be! I am excited about this new season of life God is bringing me into.

However, there is ONE special little girl that God placed heavy on my heart...
Meet Tamara, a 9 year old girl who lives here in the slum.
Tamara has had many problems in school and is now repeating the 2nd grade. She is an extremely bright girl, but has great difficulty with reading and identifying letters and sounds. I began to realize this when I first started working with Tamara in 2008.

I often have spoken to her family about her educational challenges. The education system is completely different here in Brazil, and it seems there are no free special services for a struggling girl like Tamara. Her family is doing the best they can to help her as well.
From what I have learned from working with children with learning disabilities in the USA, it seems that Tamara may have some kind of learning disability. Therefore, it is my hope and plan to work individually with Tamara during 2010.

Currently, Tamara is coming to the Light House three times a week to have special 1 hour tutoring/reading sessions with me!

Together, with a fellow missionary from South Africa named Ian, Felipe and I are leading the Light House Community Center team. This entails a variety of responsibilities which keeps us quite busy. We lead an amazing group of missionaries from all over the world.

Here is a FUN photo of our team! We took this photo at the end of last year during a sporty team-building activity time.
Felipe and I feel priviledged to be serving the Lord together with our amazing and talented team. It is beautiful to see how God is speaking to each team member and how God is using each person in specific and purposeful ways.

God is doing GREAT things through the lives of the missionaries serving here at the Light House Community Center. It is our prayer that as we serve here in the slum of Cafezal , more and more children, youth, and families will be reached with the transforming LOVE and REVELATION of Jesus Christ.