This class is a preparation for the people who wants to work with them specially in the juvenile detention center, where they reach kids and try to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society.
I learned about the reality of the children and teenagers there. Almost all of them come from broken homes, very poor families, and soon they get involved with drugs. It doesn’t take long until they start thinking that the traffic of drugs is their only option in life.
But there is another fact about them that I had no idea: the majority of them were abused in their childhood or early teens, by someone close to them or after they entered the “system”. I’m not talking about only sexual abuse, but also psychological or physical.
In the last couple of Saturdays I attended a leadership class prepared by Suzanne Duppong, a missionary from JEAME, the non-profit organization I’ve been working with.
Suzy, as we call her, has worked for 31 years reaching for the needy and preaching the Word of God in slums, state shelters and in the streets, seeking for children and teenagers in need, usually those who are somehow involved with drug addiction.
Even though the class I’m attending is technical, in order to prepare us to be social project leaders, she also shares stories. Stories of amazing things that God has done in her life and also to reach those lost young ones.
Back then, I didn’t know exactly what God wanted me to do, but I was sure that it was related to social causes and getting involved with a non-profit organization.
Now I can see how He indeed guided me towards that direction.
I found out about integral missions, which is to provide for the person’s needs in all areas: physical, psychological and spiritual. Then I realized that this is an example of what the apostle James talked about when he wrote about faith and deeds (check James 2:14-26):
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. (James 2:18)
Last Saturday, a few people from my church and I went to Francisco Morato, a city near São Paulo, to visit one of the facilities of a non-profit organization called JOCUM (short for “Jovens Com Uma Missão”) which is the local branch of YWAM (short for “Youth with a mission”).
At this facility the missionaries work to help and provide for a very poor population (Francisco Morato is one of the poorest cities in Brazil). Their main focus is the children, for whom they provide several activities in order to keep them from drugs and criminality. They have soccer practice, English and Spanish classes, and they also teach them the Word of God.
The vast majority of these children comes from broken homes. In that region, unfortunately, it is common that the father flees and the mother is left behind to care for herself and the many children.
It is overwhelming to see such poverty so close to São Paulo, the richest city in Brazil. Yet, it is reassuring to see the sacrifices that those missionaries face every day in order to reach for those people. I am sure many other missionaries face similar difficulties all over the world at this very moment.
Looking at such poverty and overwhelming need, I kept thinking about how God works.
About a month ago, we had a special visit in our church: David de Vinatea came to share his testimony with us. David is a former colonel of the Peruvian Army. A few years after accepting Jesus as His Savior, he was wrongfully accused of dealing drugs and sent to a maximum security prison because, due to his faith, he refused to play along with the corrupt Army officials and government, who received bribes from the drug lords.
David was arrested in 1995. Two years after that, representants of Open Doors, a ministry that serves persecuted christians worldwide, learned about his situation, and after confirming that the accusations raised against him were indeed not true, they started a legal battle to get him out of prison.
During his imprisonment, David and his family received support from Open Doors and the local church for many of their needs. They received thousands of letters from people around the world, encouraging them. Several people also came, through Open Doors ministries, to visit them in person. That was true Christianity in action (see Matthew 25:35-40).
He went through many experiences in prison, including starting a church there that brought many inmates to Jesus. Then, in 2003, he was finally set free.
At the end of last year, a missionary and singer called Helen Berhane came to Brazil for a series of events where she would share her life story and testimony. I have never heard of her before, but I am sure I will never forget about her.
She came to Brazil through Portas Abertas, a local representative of Open Doors, a christian organization that serves persecuted christians worldwide.
I wasn’t able to attend any of the events, but I was able to watch an interview that she gave at a TV show. It was brief, but when I heard her saying that she was imprisoned for almost three years in a container (like those shipping containers) and was submitted to harsh beatings and torture for refusing to deny her christian faith, I had to look for more information about her. I wanted to know her story.
So I found about the biographical book that she had written entitled “Song of the Nightingale“, and luckily it was available for Kindle, so I bought it and started reading it.