Saturday, December 24, 2016

So Many Things we Don't Know

My heart is heavy. Perhaps some heaviness is needed at holidays, to remind us of what is really important and to reveal just how much we already have.
When I met Flavio after church one day in 2004, he was carrying his guitar and singing a song he had made up. I didn’t know then that he had grown up on the street, his mom busy working, his dad gone, and not enough food on the table. I didn’t know then that he had come to Christ and then started teaching guitar at the very first Living Stones program in 1998.

When I walked by Flavio’s house every day on my way to Living Stones, I didn’t know then that God was working in his life, calling him to the ministry. I didn’t know that he had given up his job, and all of his old plans. When we walked together every day to Cajueiro Claro Living Stones, through the rain and sun and mud and dust, I didn’t know then that we would become work partners, that he would become my pastor, or that we would become such good friends.
I don’t know why God gave this out-of-the-way, messy, hard, stubborn, and real community to Pastor Flavio. I’ve worked with at-risk children for half my life, and these are the hardest kids I’ve seen. Maybe that is why I love them the most. I didn’t know then that we would each get married to incredible people—and now are a partnership of 4. I didn’t know that our daughters run around together through the old yellow church.
It has been a hard year at Cajueiro Claro, just like every year. There have been many victories, but in great poverty and struggle, the community is so depleted of resources that it is a drain and constant giving, giving, giving. Most of those receiving do not understand how to reciprocate. It will probably take a generation of this faithful dedication before we see results.
But Pastor Flavio and Mercia and Heloise are there, and are loving even the unlovely. Heloise has suffered many health difficulties this year, and has been in the hospital almost every month with high fevers. At the end of November, Pastor Flavio’s car was totaled. Because he wasn’t driving (one of the older boys from Living Stones, 21, had run a quick errand for him), he was unable to receive any insurance money. Thank God everyone involved is okay.
I think every one of us knows what it feels like to have a hard year, and then be blindsided by something at the end of it. Pastor Flavio is supported by one church in the USA, but that is not enough for his family, so he began his own business, and has grown it into a convenience store. He is also the pastor of Cajueiro Claro, and runs the Living Stones program during the week.  But if you see him, he always has time to share and smile and encourage others. He is truly a great man of God, and someone I am proud to know.
Pastor Flavio is back to walking to Cajueiro Claro. Using public transportation, it takes longer to get there and back than the time spent with the children or at meetings. With finances tight, no car, and still car payments, it has been a hard holiday season. But God is faithful. And even with discouraging times, Pastor Flavio and Mercia know they are right where God put them, and are continuing on.
This Christmas, I remember this family and what a privilege it is to have them as work partners, our pastor, and our friends. It is heavy to be away from them during this hard time. We have sent our love and support, and they know they are not alone. I know you are not lacking for opportunities to give, but if you would like one more, this family is worth your investment.

For those of you who know Flavio and Mercia, perhaps write them a quick note on Facebook? Their names are Flavio S Travassos Travassos and Mercia Elizabeth. If you would like send them a gift, then click here (Click the option for “Brazil” and then “Missionaries” and then “Pastor Flavio”).

1 comment:

  1. having been there and even ridden on his motorcycle I wholeheartedly agree with what you say about Pastor Flavio- Lillian