NEWS FROM OPEN ARMS
Partnering with Creative Hands in Benevides, Brazil 2010 For the fourth year, Open Arms has had the privilege of sending a team to Benevides, Brazil, to assist with a camp hosted by ministry ‘Creative Hands.’ Creative Hands is a ministry that works with families living in a community named the ‘Flowers Estates.’ The families living in this community survive off a trash dump. In July, Open Arms worked alongside Creative Hands, Reston Bible Church, and Word of Life (a Bible College) to run a week long overnight camp that was attended by 200 children. The team from Open Arms led worship, developed and taught the week’s curriculum, led small groups, counseled individual children, served as translators, and participated as room leaders. The theme this year was “Na Contra-mão do Mundo,” which loosely translated to English conveys the idea of “going against the flow” of the world. As believers we are called to act countercultural. Jesus calls us to love those who hate, and pray for those who persecute us. Much of the week’s teaching came from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5. What a blessing to see children respond to the Word of God!! Throughout the week, we were privileged to see many make decisions for Christ. It is always an encouragement to see year by year, growth within those who have already chosen to serve the Lord. Every year, we pray the week of camp is a haven, even just for a little while, from the difficult lives these precious children live. More importantly, we pray more and more children run to the everlasting safe haven found only within the arms of Christ. For this reason, we strive to be the open arms of Christ to our dear brothers and sisters living in Benevides.
Benevides, Brazil 2010 In Their Own Words… My name is Isabella. I live in Assis, São Paulo. I had the privilege to go on my first mission trip, this year, when I was 14 years old. In June, I joined the Open Arms team and participated in a camp that happens every year in Belem, PA. To be honest, I never saw myself doing something like missions. I always loved kids, but working in a camp for them never crossed my mind. One night I recognized God's call to my life. I always wanted to live my life to the fullest but I never thought I would find something that would make me feel useful, loved, happy and most important, blessed. The desire to help the kids blossomed in my heart and from that moment on I couldn't keep it out of my mind. During our preparation meetings, I saw the hard reality of the kids. It humbled my heart and I felt unprepared. I found myself in a desperate state.
I prayed to God to give me wisdom to talk and care for those kids. As a father, he answered my prayer with wonderful experiences that marked my life. Experiences like sharing the plan of Salvation with the kids. One of them was deaf and I could explain to him with sign language. It was amazing! For the first time I played keyboard in public. It was totally improvised but I could feel God's presence during the worships. When we first arrived there I was afraid I’d think everything was disgusting [the trash dump, germs, etc], but when I saw the kids, nothing else mattered. The tiredness, the hunger, the pain... the only thing I wanted was to love and care for them. When we first arrived there I was afraid I’d think everything was disgusting [the trash dump, germs, etc], but when I saw the kids, nothing else mattered. The tiredness, the hunger, the pain... the only thing I wanted was to love and care for them. I got very attached to the kids. At the time to say goodbye my desire was to hug them all. I met wonderful people there that became a family to me. It was very hard to say goodbye. Even though two months have passed, my heart is still with those kids. Now I have stories to tell for a lifetime. I thank God so much for the opportunity he gave me to go to my first of many mission trips in Brazil and around the world.
Personal Testimony: Kelly Smith I led a group of seven 12-14 year old girls. I love my girls so much, I wouldn't have traded the group for any other. However, this was one of the most difficult groups I've had at camp. I think that at this time in their lives they are faced with a crossroad. They must make the decision to follow the Lord or not. No person can make it for them, which is what was so difficult for me. In their incomprehensibly difficult lifestyle, they are forced to grow up at a very young age. They must choose whether to grow in their Walks or to grow in the world, and they must each make this decision as every other person must make as well. I had a hard time trusting the Lord in what seemed like a very unfair situation for these girls. I had my older siblings and my parents to push me to make the decision to follow Christ with their own life's example. I had accountability growing up to question my life choices as to whether I was honoring God in the Walk I had chosen to take. I’m blessed beyond what I could ask for. For my group of girls though, choosing to follow the Lord will be one of the most difficult choices they will make. I wanted to make that decision for them more than anything. I thought that's why I was there, to teach them that Christ is the best decision anyone can make and push them to make that decision. I continued to keep the girls listening in chapel, singing worship, praying at meals and in the room, settling reoccurring conflicts among them, following the rules, and in all this not showing anger or annoyance or difficulty. This was not wrong to do, however my motives were wrong in trying to teach them myself; which was extremely exhausting and frustrating. By the end of day three at camp I wasn't seeing any changes in the girls. They continued to fight with one another and the gossiping among them only grew. On Wednesday, day three, I was in a skit with some of the American team members. We were attempting to show a picture of the Lord's forgiveness in our lives. Four of us displayed signs of sins hanging on us which read violence, stealing, gossip, & drugs. I was the last to turn around and show which sin hung over me which was "gossip." As soon as I turned around on stage I looked to my group of girls in the crowd and they all were either giggling, pointing at me, or had their hand over their mouth. It struck me then that they had been affected by this display, and I had done nothing. We continued the skit in which we all chose to give our sins over to Jesus who had paid for them so we could be free to accept God’s forgiveness and worship him together as the Body of Christ.
The rest of camp was different for me. I stopped trying to show them what a spiritual Walk looked like, and just stuck to letting the Lord show them things through me about Himself I never could have even attempted to show. I still tried to help them listen to the pastor, pray often, and to resolve conflicts, but it was amazing to see what the Lord did through me once I decided to let go and stop trying to use my way of pushing the girls in the right direction. I became very close with my girls, spent every minute of camp with them, yet only was able to witness a few comments and acts of faith in the Lord. Instead of letting that ! discourage me, through what the Lord taught me on day three of camp, I can trust that the Lord speaks and shows himself to the girls in ways no one else can. The Lord does not need me at all to show Himself to these kids in Brazil, however I am extremely blessed that he allows me to be used and taught by him.
Where Were We? Benevides is a small city located on the outskirts of a lager city named Belem. Belem is the capital city of the state itâ€™s located, Para. The mouth of the Amazon River is found in this northern city. Assis, where Open Arms headquarters is located, is found in the state of Sao Paulo, about 6.5 hours driving distance away from the city of Sao Paulo.
INTERVIEW WITH MELANIE FORD Q-What was the Flowers Estates community like? A-The World Cup Soccer was a huge deal while we were there and the community showed their enthusiasm by hanging Brazilian flags and green, yellow and blue streamers (Brazilian flag colors) everywhere. (You always knew when Brazil made a goal even if you weren’t watching the game because you could hear all the neighboring communities letting off firecrackers.) All the houses had high wooden fences with gates. Some of the houses were concrete and brick but most were constructed of wood, and it seemed that each had only 2-3 rooms for the whole family. In the back of the neighborhood there was a dump where many of the adults scavenge through the trash for items to sell. In 2008, the city ordinances prohibited children from working in the dump which is a huge praise. Q-What did the team do during their visits to the Flower Estates? A-For the most part we stayed in the Flower Estates “Community Center,” a concrete house built next door to the missionaries’ home which is kept open during the day for the kids to hang out and play ping-pong or other games. Bete, one of the missionaries, led us on a “tour of the community” where we walked around the streets (with kids holding our hands, getting piggyback rides, or walking beside us at all times), talked to some of the neighbors, and visited the actual dump section of the neighborhood. Q-What were the kids like? A-The kids were so sweet. There were seven 9-10 year old girls in my group. Even though we couldn’t really talk to them that much (beyond “hi”, “what’s your name?”, “my name is _____”, and a few other random phrases we picked up throughout camp week), it was as if they were our immediate friends. It’s hard to explain how you can be so close to someone who you can’t communicate very well with, but everyone was close. There was a difference that you could plainly see in the actions of the campers who had accepted Christ. I think they ministered to us more than we ministered to them. Q-What was the theme of camp? A-The theme of camp this year was ‘Na Contra Mao Do Mundo.’ Roughly translated it means ‘Going Against the Flow of the World.’ Through the sermons and cabin quiet times, the campers heard the good news of Jesus Christ and were encouraged to live in a way that showed a decision to follow Him. There were many kids who came to Christ and many others who chose to step up and act on their decision to follow Christ--whether that meant apologizing for fighting with another camper, becoming friends with the outcast of the group, or becoming involved in acts of service like clean-up after meals and in the kitchen and helping with the younger kids at camp, God worked in the hearts of everyone at camp. Q-What were some amazing things you saw God do? A-Everyone on the team will tell you different things because there were so many great things that went on at camp, but I think one of the coolest things is how the kids anticipate camp week all year long. One girl literally packed her camp bag three months before camp started. Also, everyone seemed so open to hearing and talking about God. During a cabin quiet time led by one of my group’s Brazilian helpers, one of the girls accepted Christ. I didn’t really understand all of what was said because it was in Portuguese, but one of the girls asked our helper a question and then our bi-lingual helper said to me, “We are going to pray because she is ready to accept Christ.” Lastly, one of the other team members shared that there had been a physical fight in his cabin, but one of his Brazilian helpers broke it up, talked to the guys involved, and they both apologized to each other. Culturally, that’s a big deal because for someone to take the initiative and humble himself enough to apologize to an “enemy” is unheard of.
Q-What was something funny we saw during camp? A-One of my favorites was the nicknames that the kids gave the leaders. The campers called the leaders “tia” or “tio,” which is an endearing term similar to “aunt” or “uncle.” One of our two bi-lingual team members told her cabin that one of the guy leaders only understood simple words like “gordo,” so afterwards they all called him “Tio Gordo” (‘Fat Uncle’). Also, whenever we would speak English to another one of the team members, they would make fun of us because to them it was just jibberish. I teased that one of the girls in my cabin had gone ‘louca’ because she would make fun of me and start rambling off all these ! made-up words that she thought sounded like English. Q-What was something God taught me through this week? A-Many people see poverty as a curse, but I was thinking throughout the week about what would really improve the lives of the people in the Flower Estates community and money wasn’t my answer. While some of the kids do need medical attention or more food or more sanitary living conditions, the biggest thing that they need is hope. And the only place that you will ever find lasting hope is in Christ Jesus. With Christ, they have a purpose, hope, and a future. That’s something you just can’t buy with money. One of the missionaries in the community summarized it like this: “We ask them what they want to be when they grow up and they look at us funny like, ‘what do you mean when we grow up?’ They don’t have any dreams or goals for the future and that’s one of the biggest differences we’ve seen in some of the older kids when they’ve accepted Christ. They begin showing responsibility by working for an income instead of stealing, and by supporting their families, and [Creative Hands] has even helped organize some mission trips to other areas of Brazil for them to go on.” Q: What can I pray for? I was amazed at how easy it is to talk about God in the community. The people, especially the kids, are extremely open to hearing about the gospel and God. Please pray for: 1) Leadership: A major prayer request is that a male leader would step up in the community. At this point in time, all of the adult leaders are female. Having a spiritually mature man to act as a father-figure and role model in the community would hugely benefit the guys and kids in general, in the community. This is a critical need in the community as many have faced difficulty in or even fallen away from their faith due to negative father figures. 2) The campers: Pray that God would continue to work in their hearts and that those who made a personal decision to follow Christ during camp week would grow under the leadership of Bete, Lynne, Kathleen, and the other missionaries. Glory to God for those who were saved! 3) The B.O.P.E. Kids: This is a group of about ten teens from the Flower Estates that have been campers in the past, but now serve as camp leaders. God’s work in their lives is seriously impacting the community, beginning with their younger siblings and overflowing into the lives of their friends. They are the beautiful hands and feet of Christ who live out their faith in the community after camp ends. Leaving them was probably the hardest part of the trip. Please pray that God would give them the strength to keep standing for what they believe and following Him, contrary to the flow of the world. Pray that God would bless them for following Him. Bela
Want to Know More?? Learn more about Open Arms at: http://www.bracosabertos.org/
“WHOEVER WELCOMES ONE OF THESE LITTLE CHILDREN IN MY NAME WELCOMES ME…” MARK 9:37
To learn more about Creative Hands Ministry in Benevides, contact Lynne McLeavy at firstname.lastname@example.org Vandergleison
To read a blog post about a typical day at camp written by Reston Bible Member Kelly Pedroni, visit http://openarmsbrazil.blogspot.com/searc h?q=camp+benevides View photos from the trip taken by Reston Bible Member Bonnie McKernan at: http://picasaweb.google.com/mckernanb/ Brazil2010?feat=directlink