Tuesday, July 17

What is Shade and Fresh Water?

A very good friend of mine is headed to Brazil on a mission trip with the United Methodist Church. He is part of a team of eight mostly from Roanoke, VA that will be working on a Shade and Fresh Water Project in Recife (pronounced Ha-si-fi). When I first heard the phrase "shade and fresh water" I pictured teams of missionaries digging wells and building pergolas. And although I wasn't completely off-base...I wasn't really correct either. (that's my way of saying "I was wrong")

The amazing thing is that it is a program very much like our JIFF program at Centenary UMC! It is an after school program for children 6-14 that come from low-income areas! It provides education on self-esteem, health, sports, arts and Christian education. There are 68 projects throughout Brazil (and more in other countries) that include over 3,000 children. It started in 2000 as a way to move Brazilian children off the streets, away from drugs, prostitution and crime. The program accepts people, values them and encourages them to take positive steps in their lives.

When I was reading more on the website I saw even more parallels with our JIFF program. One person stated "Some children are rebellious, use very bad language and have a lot of relationship difficulties." Wow, have I seen THAT!! She went on to say, "We need to embrace them. At least at Shade, the child can experience love and care." That reminded me of a situation that arose soon after I started volunteering for JIFF. I noticed a young man who was sitting off by himself and rubbing the back of one hand. I went over and sat down next to him and struck up a conversation (well...a monologue, mostly). At one point I asked if his hand was bothering him. He said he had gotten it burned. I asked to see. It was a perfect 1 inch circle. In my ignorance I asked what he had burned it on. He took a long time answering. Finally he said one word "cigar". The truth hit me like a ton of bricks. This was no accident - he had gotten it burned - someone had done this on purpose.

I was stunned. I was furious. I was helpless.

I got some burn ointment from the first aid kit and applied it gently. He didn't want to say any more about what had happened. He didn't even want to take the rest of the ointment with him. He seemed to regret telling me what had made the horribly perfect mark. I told him that when he was with me at JIFF he was safe. I told him he was loved.

I wanted very much to find the hand that was on the other end of that cigar. I wanted to cause a great deal of pain to the person attached. But one of our wise volunteers had to remind me that vengeance was not mine to deliver. I had to do the opposite of revenge. I had give the young man a chance to "experience love and care." And so that is what I tried to do - and have tried to continue doing in the years I've volunteered. I can only imagine how much more difficult that task would be on the streets of Brazil, where abuse and exploitation are the norm.

So, during the next 10 days, as the team from Virginia is working on a building for the Shade and Fresh Water Project in Olinda, Brazil...I hope you will keep the project, the volunteers AND the participants in your thoughts and prayers. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience love and care.

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