Monthly Archives: May 2009

The charming side

Someone remarked the other day that many of my recent posts seemed sinister and melancholic.

I didn’t mean them to be!

I’ve been in the mode of a reporter over the last three weeks, describing what I was seeing while in the interior of northeastern Brazil. In many ways, life there is a black and white existence; Kodachrome images generally seem to be in lesser quantity.

But they do exist and are absolutely charming.

Take my mother-in-law, for instance.Arimar-and-Mom

She hasn’t quite broken the 70 year old barrier, though she is getting close. Born and reared in the hot, desert sun, her skin is “grizzled,” deeply wrinkled and gives her the appearance of someone much older. She is an absolute delight and loves to love on me.

She is so short that the top of her head barely comes to mid-chest on me. But, my how she can hug.

Her life has been tough. The stories she tells causes me to shake my head in amazement. I do not know if I would have been able to do what she did.

She told me a story about my wife, when she was only 6 years old.

Living in the middle of nowhere, in extremely harsh conditions, pregnant and all alone except for my wife who was only a child at the time, she went into labor. There was no one there to assist her, the nearest neighbor being miles away, and she was having difficulties. Finally, after a very arduous labor, she gave birth to a baby boy.

My mother-in-law was so exhausted that she couldn’t raise her head and had collapsed on the floor. My wife as a child, came in to check on her mother. Seeing the baby on the floor and her mother still attached to him via the umbilical cord, she commented:

Mommy poopooed a baby!

Oh how my mother-in-law howled when she told this story! Oh how my wife turned red! Oh how I loved being a part of the recounting of the memory with the two of them.

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Hellhole part III: To Hell with it

The friend I’d gone to see almost seemed overjoyed to see me.

He was definitely surprised!

This is a tough character, not easily intimidated nor frightened. In his six months in the favela he’d already been robbed, mugged, had his home invaded. As I stood in his little shop, he keep furtively looking side to side, anxiously pacing.

“So, this is a pretty bad place?” I inquired.

“This is Hell,” he plainly replied. “It is not a good place to be,” he said as he locked the iron grate door behind me. This was the door to his store; he opens it to let people in, if he recognizes them or doesn’t feel threatened.

Once, well-kept and handsome, he looked like he’d been drug through… hell. He was grungy, sported white hair on his temples that hadn’t been there before and his eyes, his eyes told me more than I wanted to know.

He was defeated. Totally and completely.

Once so close to following Jesus, his desire for money had overcome the appeal of a Jesus that the culture (aka, Satan) had so effectively portrayed as unmanly.

He’d chosen the wrong god and his choice sold his soul to the Devil.

Now his god was exacting a high price.

I fear for my friend.

Obamarama cha cha cha

It is interesting to see the perceptions that people outside the U.S. have of what is occurring inside the U.S.

Our new president is an excellent example.

To hear folks in Brazil speak of him, Mr. Obama must walk on water, perform miracles and even raise the dead, at least of the economic kind.

They are amazed that not everyone is out in the streets throwing down palm branches before his arriving donkey.

Perceptions are funny that way.

Hellhole part II: Reality

Though his power has been broken, Satan has effectively and efficiently convinced us humans, and especially those of us who claim to follow Jesus, otherwise.

We willingly give him the power we’ve been given and he immediately puts it to use against us.

As Americans we are blessed that we do not live in a third world country. What we think is “bad” pales in comparison with “bad” in less developed nations. The open depravity that Satan has unleashed on these countries in appalling. He rules. Unequivocally. People are oppressed so severely by his domination that even attempts to break free are actually traps that suck the miscreant deeper into his clutches.

There is no escape, except One, and the Dictator has so convincingly lied about the One, and especially His church, that the slave will not accept the avenue of freedom that is right in front of him.

My excursion into the favela in Fortaleza was a textbook case.

I could literally feel the presence of evil. I was challenged with “What are YOU doing here!”

Funny, but the story of the angels going into Sodom to rescue Lot came to mind, especially the scene where the inhabitants surrounded the house wanting the visitors handed over to them.

The two gatherings of less than pleasant characters on the street corners didn’t help remove that image from my mind.

Dona Creusa needs some hair

Most women in Brazil who are married or out of their twenties are called “dona” as a means of respect. A rough translation would be the way we use the word “Miss” in the south — Miss Francis, Miss Mary, etc.Dona-Creusa

Miss Creusa is an individual who carries quite a story. In the clutches of macumba (spiritism) for decades, when she broke free to embrace Jesus, Satan came after her with a vengeance.

And he’s still attacking her almost a year later.

Dona Creusa has cancer. She is supposed to be dead. I know that sounds crass, but, literally, it is the truth.

Last summer the doctors told her she wouldn’t make it till Independence Day (September 7); then she wouldn’t see Christmas; then she would be dead before March. Now they just tell her that they can’t explain it and she is just supposed to be dead. Why she continues to live is beyond them.

We know why.

Along the way, Dona Creusa lost her hair.

Last week she asked my wife if someone might give her some.

Poor as dirt, a wig is beyond her resources; living in Ubaúna, even if she could afford one, it isn’t available.

Anyone got a spare wig lying around that you’d like to donate to a woman in a fight with the devil?

Oh, she prefers black.

Hellhole part I: A trip to hell

I’m made at hell.

Not mad as hell, but mad at it.

Perhaps you saw some of my tweets this past weekend and wondered, “What is wrong with that dude?” In the event you didn’t, I expressed an immediate reaction to walking into the worst slum I’ve ever been in while in Fortaleza, Brazil.

Understand that I’m not new to favelas (slums) in Brazil. I’ve worked in them for years. I’ve been in places where I feared for my life and have seen the quality, or lack thereof, of life there. Most dogs in the U.S. live better than the inhabitants of these undesirable plots of real estate.

I ventured into this hellhole in order to see a friend who has made some very bad decisions about his life and has landed here as a result of them. Before going, I did a lot of second guessing if I really wanted to go. In all honesty, I didn’t and almost talked myself out of it.

Because he doesn’t know Jesus and could easily see his life end living where he does, I chose to go.

I immediately thought I’d made a bad decision when I drove in.

I visited there five years ago and had been threatened. In broad daylight. It has gotten incredibly worse with time. Again, I’ll confess, my heart began to beat a little faster. White boy, obviously American, in the only car visible. Heads turned immediately and several clusters of “unsavory characters” began to form on the corners, pointing at me.

“Jesus! What am I doing here?”

The response was so loud I was convinced that everyone heard it, “Exactly! You’re here because of me.”

Am I adopted?

Poverty is such a cruel taskmasters. Especially to children.

Seed of Hope is trying to address the problem, teaming up American sponsors with Brazilian children. For $1 a day a sponsor can provide a child with a nutritional meal each day, clothing, rudimentary medical care, and educational assistance.

They also get to meet Jesus.

At a recent meeting in Ubaúna, Brazil, we met with all the parents and children who are registered in the program. Hundreds of adults and children were present. The level of excitement was high. Parent after parent came up to me, wanting to thank me for giving them hope.

I was humbled and more than a little uncomfortable in the role of “savior.”

At one point I had kids dripping off me like water off a duck. I was surrounded, inundated, hugged to the point of claustrophobia.

In the midst of all this commotion, a little kid was insistently tugging on my jeans. At first not really noticed, then irritated, I bent down and asked, “What is it little fellow?”

With the biggest, saddest, brownest eyes you can imagine, he looked up at me and asked, “Am I adopted?”

I honestly didn’t know.

But, it sure did mess me up…