Because we can… and we must!
In recent months many people have asked us why we are going to Goiania, Brazil. Many are puzzled as to why we would want to leave our life in England to live in an unfair, increasingly violent and economically broken nation. Many others are shocked to hear that we are leaving the “security” provided by having a salary, soon with two young children, to live from gift income. Some are surprised to hear that we have no plan B. And in many ways we agree with them! We agree that it is not sensible to exchange what seems certain for the uncertain, that which we know for the unknown. But we also know that God’s plans are not always “sensible”. The cross is not sensible. God’s choice to partner with us to fulfil His mission on earth is not sensible. God’s Word is full of examples of people who were not sensible and yet experienced God’s provision in amazing ways. So we have decided that we will not live a “sensible” life, if that means we will fulfil God’s purpose for our lives.
In January 2015, during a short visit to Goiania, we were struck by the huge number of people (many children) who were living on the streets of the city centre. In Goiania, formerly known as a sleepy city with a countryside atmosphere, people are now using and dealing drugs in broad day light. We talked to a local pastor about it all and he described the situation as a “crack epidemic” and a “pest” that was out of control. It was also clear that although there are many churches in the city centre, and in fact all over the city, very few organisations or churches are doing work to support people who are living on street or struggling with addiction.
When we remember all those men, women and children who are considered to be a sort of pest in society, we are reminded of when Jesus looks at the crowds and has compassion on them, ‘because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (Matt 9:36). When confronted with such brokenness Jesus tells his disciples to pray for more workers to help in the harvest. We find this fascinating, Jesus did not see the crowds as a pest, he saw them as a harvest in waiting… This is how we feel about the people we saw in Goiania. They are precious to God and we have a heart to see many of them set free from addiction and given new dignity by the Good News of Jesus. So we said yes to that challenge not just because we can, but because we must!
In saying yes to this challenge we will have the opportunity to return to the country we both grew up in. The place is familiar, we speak the language, and we will be near family and friends, but we do not feel we are going home. We have changed. We are less Brazilian than we were when we first arrived in England… we are a hybrid version of our former selves. So we are aware we will have many challenges in adapting to the Brazilian way of living, but we are excited to recover the good elements of our first culture. Having said that, we shall look forward to seasons of rest at “home” in England, an opportunity to see our friends and family, and to reconnect.
So what is it we hope to do in Brazil?
Our aim is to reach out to the most marginalised living on the streets of the city centre (particularly crack-cocaine addicts and children), support and train local leadership, and equip the church for local mission. In partnership with a local church we hope to set up a food bank, and to form and train a team to work on the streets looking for ways to share the Gospel of Jesus with them (Street Church), as well as providing food, clothes and dignity through hair cuts and other small treatments (Social Bank).
Debora wants to serve through her work as a beautician, by showing love to women through beauty treatments. She also wants to teach girls how to work as beauticians, which may give them an alternative to drug dealing or prostitution. Levi hopes to train people for local mission, teach English to disadvantaged kids, and to set up a network of organisations and professionals who can offer different services and skills to those who most need. But his focus will be to walk the streets to get to know people, offering opportunities for them to leave the streets in partnership with local rehab centres.
We are passionate to see people coming to faith in Jesus and this is our primary focus. All other activities will flow out of this primary passion and hope, as they are a response to human need inspired by God’s love. We are excited and cannot wait to see what God will do, after all, he is in the business of multiplication, taking the little we bring to feed thousands (Mark 6:41-44).
We are hoping to start our training with Church Mission Society in April 2017, so we can be ready to move to Goiania by July 2017.
- That God will continue to speak clearly to us in this transition time
- For wisdom in all the important decisions we will have to make about schooling, housing and finances
- For those who are living on the streets of Goiania, for dignity, freedom and salvation
- For our health and safety (Goiania is reportedly the 29th most dangerous city in the world)
- For our children, Nicolas (6) and Bump (baby girl due in January 2017)
- That we will successfully raise all the financial support we need