Thursday, September 27, 2007

Newsletter 4

Oi Amigos!

I AM learning Portuguese. It is slow going and a lot of work but I am learning. And knowing the language is making a big difference in how we relate to the Carioca (people of Rio). Learning another language is not even the most difficult thing I've ever done, it is actually quite natural. When there is mutual love between people, they want to be known and understood by each other. The people we have consistently spent time with over these past 5 and a half weeks are opening up to use and are extremely patient with our language differences. There is a group of older women who volunteer to cook at the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) on Wednesdays so every Wednesday we eat their amazing lunch with them. One woman we call Dona Maria knows some English so we bonded with her from the first time we were introduced. Every week we talk to her and teach each other some of our first language and she expresses her pleasure at how much Portuguese we've learned. Some weeks I don't feel like we have learned anything but she is so encouraging and helps us realize we really are learning.

There is an 84 year old Chilean man who is in residence at the MoC. I gravitated to his bedside from the first time we visited in hopes I could understand his Spanish. I couldn't. Chileans speak very differently then Mexicans. But Wednesday Heather and I were finally able to carry on an extended conversation with him in part about why he is so sick with cancer now. It was an exhausting time trying to understand him Portuanish (Portuguese/Spanish) but also so rewarding to see that our relationships are being blessed in a new way now. Those relationships are also deepening with the kids at the orphanage, in the favelas, and on the streets.

We had an interesting experience on the streets Monday. We have heard about the corruption of the police but this was our first personal observation of their mistreatment or power abuse to the street kids. I was sitting with some of the kids playing UNO when a couple of police started eyeing our group (I'm sure having gringos around attracted their attention). They picked up a backpack lying on the pile of random stuff and it happened to belong to Will (one of us Norte Americanos). The police carefully searched his bag then moved on to a rattier looking backpacked that belonged to Ben, our leader, and searched through every bag of sandwiches it contained. Then he moved on to criticize D (a woman with a 9 month old baby, M). He told her she was being cruel to her baby and reached up his hand threatening to take M away. The young men playing UNO with me stood bold upright at this point. All the kids made a protective circle around mother and child to keep the police from laying a hand on either one of them. This pattern continued for about 30 minutes with varying intensities. D ran off with M a few times to put more distance between herself and the cops (it is undignified for the cops to run). At one point the cops caught up with her and began beating her with an umbrella. The young street men ran over to protect her again. We were able to reestablish some sort of peace after that and gathered together hand in hand to sing and pray before distributing the food but them the police interrupted again to lecture the kids about respect (the kids were saying some things to provoke the cops to anger). Then D said, "We are people and deserve respect too then." The police responded, "That may be true but I wear the badge." Then they kept bickering back and forth with the police on a complete power trip.

Later we were talking with one of the pregnant women after the police left about the situation. She had 7 kids. One of her kids had to run away to another city with his dad because a police but a gun to his head. She was telling us that she wanted to live in the U.S. because the poverty isn't so bad. She said the one thing better about Brazil is there is no war. Even still at least with war you expect there to be death. In Brazil, death is unexpected. The police kill without just cause those who are poor or involved with drugs or those who look like they belong to one of those categories.

That's wisdom from the street. At least Brazil isn't involved with organized war however, the unacknowledged war between the corrupt power structures (namely the local government like police, drug gangs, and the extremely rich landowners) claims the lives of an undocumented number of people across the nation.

Through all this Jesus stands up on his mountain with arms outstretched and we wonder when he will ever swoop down and reign forth justice. Slightly off the suject we plan to hike up to the Christ statue tomorrow.

Psalm 82:1-4
God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgement among the "gods":
"How long will you defend the unjust and show pariality to the wicked?
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

Prayer Requests: Our health is generally better at the moment. Some coughs, sneezes, hoarse voices, and aches are common still but nothing serious. Heather may have had a parasite but we think it passed on Monday. Thank you for your continued prayers for our health. Also please pray that God will use our bodies to be his physical hands and feet. That God would fill us so fully that the words that come out of our mouths are no longer our own but Christ's sent to love the least of this world, to serve, and to administer justice.

I hope you enjoy the stories. Sorry it's so heavy and serious. I also hope you are all well. Send me updates!


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