I recently returned from Recifé, Brazil where I was serving with The Upstream Collective on a Jet Set Trip. We visited several ministries in this city to see where God was already working. One of these was Shores of Grace. After spending several hours with them and touring their ministry center we asked if a few of us could join them the next evening as they did Street Church in the downtown streets of Recifé.
I’m not going to lie, I was apprehensive. We were going into the bowels of the city at 9 pm to bring children who live on the street together to worship in song and just love them. We had been told of the drug addictions and human trafficking that so many were subjected to, but we were unsure of what to expect. The three of us that went that night prayed together and I also prayed silently as I felt tremendous responsibility for these team members.
We walked the back streets until we found the group of children that Shores of Grace consistently ministers to. Even though the police had run the children out of the main streets, they were being searched for as Jesus talked about in Luke 15 with the parable of the lost sheep.
Women and children were huffing glue out of water bottles. Drug traffickers get the children dependent on this drug because it is cheap and it numbs the hunger pains they feel when no food is available. Only one 6 year old girl, Victoria, went with us as we looked for the other children.
We came upon the group a couple of blocks over. We sang songs (they knew them all), clapped and praised the Lord in Portuguese. I was in a strange place. It was dark and the smell of glue and urine filled the air. I wanted to engage. I wasn’t sure how. I was overwhelmed by the crowd of children, teenagers and adults that were strung out on the glue that they had attached to their faces and whatever else they may have taken. A fight broke out between a young woman with a baby and a man.
As I was sitting on the ground talking, I felt someone kiss me on top of the head. I was a little jumpy and it scared me. As I looked, I realized it was a woman who was speaking to me although I couldn’t understand. A young man sitting next to me could translate a bit of it. She was saying that she loved me, that I was beautiful, and she wanted to kiss me. Now I was really confused! She kept touching her heart. As it turned out, she was a passerby and she was saying that what we were doing was beautiful and she could feel the love in my heart. She walked away blowing kisses and covering her heart.
I moved down to where some of the girls were getting their fingernails painted. This was a way for us to engage them one on one and give appropriate conversation and touch. Little Victoria didn’t want me to paint her fingernails, she wanted to paint mine. She was very meticulous. She had watched and learned from past times. She redid the first hand 3 times before it was what she wanted. I had orange fingernails and then she came back and did red tips. It was incredible to see that this 6-year old had skill and a desire to complete a task to the best of her ability.
I so wanted a picture of this beautiful, smiling little girl to take home with me. I didn’t take a camera. No picture. In the words of my son who hated to have his picture taken, “Some things you just have to remember, Mom!” I will. She is etched in my heart.
We saw and experienced so many things in the few hours we were there. It left us with feelings of sadness, but also hopeful that God is working among these children to bring them out of this lifestyle. Pray for those who are working in Recifé and also in the urban areas of our own country to rescue and restore those bound by these chains. Pray many will want to be rescued and accept the love of their heavenly Father, even though they have been betrayed and forgotten by their earthly fathers.
How are you preparing yourself or others to enter the darkness in your own city or around the world? You can never be quite sure where the Lord will allow you to walk so that He can teach you. He taught His disciples about faith in the middle of the night, in the midst of a storm (Mark 4: 35-41). I believe He will teach us there too.