Videos about Living Stones

sexta-feira, 25 de fevereiro de 2011

Defining Carnival

Carnival (called Mardi Gras in New Orleans) is the party that begins next Friday (well, depending on who you ask, because they started celebrating last weekend) and culminates on Fat Tuesday. The basic idea is to get in as much partying as you can before Ash Wednesday, which begins Lent, the 40 days before Easter.

For most Christians in Brazil, Carnival is something they have put behind them, and don't want to be a part of anymore: they remember trying to fill themselves up with something other than God, and remember the futility. Being an outsider looking in, everyone has their version of Carnival to tell me (they enjoy "teaching the American" about their culture). Some tell me they are ashamed of their culture for having Carnival. I have some friends who will be leading the Blocos down the street, dancing as fast as their feet will allow. I have some who will watch the cultural festivities from afar, enjoying the beautiful costumes. One friend reminded me that "To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted." (Titus 1:15) There are many different definitions of Carnival.

Most of the Community churches use Carnival as a time to have a church "camp," somewhere away from the city. I have enjoyed these wonderful times of games, singing, eating, more games, and even more eating. Brazilians know how to have fun. Yep. Others use Carnival as a time to get away and rest: two years ago (and this year) I have enjoyed going to the beach and listening to the waves, rather than the blasting music.

Carnival is celebrated differently in different states, but in Northeastern Brazil, it is mostly made up of Samba schools and Blocos which are different groups/clubs that get together and give themselves names (like "o cachorro lambo tua cara" --the dog licked your face), sell matching shirts, have a band come and sing, and have at least one big Trio Electrico: a big truck thing with huge speakers on the roof and a dance floor on top of the speakers with singers/dancers going crazy on top of that. The Bloco will then parade down the street with people in front, behind, and around the Trio Electrico, dancing (this often ends up just jumping up and down, due to the lack of space) like no tomorrow. Recife (the capital of Pernambuco, the state I live in) and Olinda host some of the biggest and brightest Blocos--according to Guinness, Galo de Madrugada is the largest in the world (, and will be next Saturday.

All the feiras (open air markets) are filled with masks and wigs and costumes. I can feel the excitement in the air, and for the past couple of weeks, until the middle of March, not much else will get done besides Carnival plans, decorations, and then clean up. Carnival is the time to forget, it is the time to dress up and be someone else, to let it all go. It is the ultimate masquerade.

Carnival is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro. It brings in a lot of revenue for many people. While it is full of bright colors and laughter, there is a darker side as well. For the many in poverty (Recife has posted statistics of more than 35% of the population living in deep poverty), it can be dangerous and victimizing. Prostitution is a huge production--I have heard stories of families that earned their yearly income through their daughters during Carnival. Many foreigners come with their money and take anything they want--and then leave the pieces broken on the floor.

For most of the children in the Living Stones program, they do not have the luxury of going to a church camp or the beach. They will be working--most often selling beer and running back and forth, doing little errands for whoever has some moedas (coins) for them. It is not uncommon for the children to go missing or get lost during Carnival. PETI is having a celebration for the kids next week, before Carnival, where the kids can play, enjoy themselves, and be kids rather than workers; and the parents can be informed of various dangers/tips to protect their children during Carnival.

Defining Carnival is difficult: the curiosity of new sights and sounds, the bright sequins, the horror of some of the stories I hear. Carnival to me simply means a week at the beach--but its definition is different to each person. Please keep Brazil in your prayers--especially for the children.

The Many Uses of Uno

In 2008 I brought a deck of Uno cards to Living Stones Paudalho. They loved it. They loved the cards to death. Seriously--we covered them all with tape because they were so worn down. And they still died. I didn't know plastic could fall apart like that.

I used Uno to teach colors and numbers in English. I used it to meet new kids and help them not be so shy around the "American." The kids at Cajueiro Claro are different than Paudalho. Paudalho, with about 35,000 people, has a "downtown" with two banks. While many of the children have never been to the "big city," it still has some resemblance of commerce. Cajueiro Claro, the town of 1000, is up one hill and then down another, with a light on each porch to say that someone is home.
The poverty is different, and so are the problems that the children face. In Cajueiro Claro they don't seem to have the deep rebellious attitude, but they can not sit still. It is "good morning, how are yo---" and they are off and doing something else. Walking around, getting water, climbing a palm tree, something. I thought it might just be me, but even during the church service they couldn't stay in one seat and had people after them, bringing them back to their seat time and time again. Li'l monkeys.

But Uno has arrived in Cajueiro Claro, along with a miracle: all of the children managed to sit at the table playing Uno for TWO WHOLE games. They were so excited about it that on Wednesday we had five kids waiting at the top of the hill, to walk us rest of the way to the church. On the way they told me, "You know what? We saw a commercial for Uno on TV! And we get to play it!" This may be the beginning of something good.

sábado, 12 de fevereiro de 2011

Prayer Requests

The PETI children (those I got to know through the Paudalho Living Stones, who are continuing through the government program) are doing well, and meeting in the covered space for the feira (open market). The government is reorganizing once again, but the good news is that the new person in charge is someone with much more experience and competence. Patricia and Cacau (two wonderful women who help run the program) are very optimistic about the changes.
Though not connected with the church any longer, these ladies have been asked to continue teaching the children Bible/character, and to train the rest of the government workers how to as well. The good they have been planting at the church for over four years has grown into a wonderful testimony to the community.
Please pray for Patricia and Cacau as they work to implement and train others in the Bible/character program, and that they will find an official meeting place that has a kitchen, so the children can receive lunch.

Alexandria is six months pregnant, and is either 14 or 15 years old. She (and her brother Alexandro) have been living on the streets or in abandoned houses since she was little and her drunk father left for one town, and her prostitute mother moved to another town. She did not want this baby, and tried various self-abortions without success (abortion is illegal in Brazil), but is now (basically) ok with the idea of having the baby, and then giving the baby away to someone. Please pray for Alexandria and this special baby.
The good thing that has come from this situation is that for the first time, Alexandria has a home with the baby's father's family. She looks healthier (and cleaner) than ever before. Please pray for this family as they have these three younger children (in the picture), while the older children are very active in drugs, gangs, and violence. The guy in the picture is not the baby's dad, but his brother, who recently escaped from prison in Recife where he was serving time for drugs.

The last prayer request is for Stephanie. She is nine years old, and has one of the most beautiful smiles ever (her picture was posted previously on this blog). Last Sunday she was playing in the river with a group of her friends (the same age), when a man came and took her. The rest of her friends ran and got Stephanie's mother, who was able to get Stephanie back, but not before he harmed her physically and sexually. She was taken to the hospital, but we have not had any further updates. Please keep the whole situation before the throne of God.

Getting to Know Cajueiro Claro

Monday through Wednesday I (Rachel) am assisting Flavio at Cajueiro Claro. Walking. 4k (A little less, since we took a short cut). Each way. Both ways have an uphill. "30 minutes" Flavio says. He is even more of an optimist than I am. It is closer to 45 minutes.
 (see the light brown squiggly line? Our path)
Walking (with a breathtaking view) down (and up) little dirt pathways through the mata, which is the tropical forest/farm land under the hot sun, Cajueiro Claro is a little town where many of the houses are made from dirt. It feels like the middle of nowhere.
( The home of some of the kids)

The church is in dire need of some upkeep/repair (If you would like to help with this project, you can donate to Living Stones through It needs a fence, and to fix the busted widows. The government had been using the church as a school for this poor community (of about 1000 people), but decided that there were not enough children to justify it. Now the children are bused to the next town, but the school didn't leave the church in very good condition.

The basic plan is to come, have a short Bible story and sing, then go outside and play soccer/dodgeball. Most of the kids are over their shyness of me and reply to my “Good Morning” in English. One morning, Flavio shared a Bible story, and while explaining about the fruit of the Spirit, they didn't know what "selfish" meant. So he explained further, and just as he finished, a little voice from outside the window said "that's me! I am selfish!" and then ran away. Most of the kids find it hard to sit still for long, and are constantly moving around, peeking in the windows.
(L to R: Flavio, Gustavo, Marcela, Diego, Evanilson, and Paulo)
But as soon as Flavio gets out the guitar, a miracle happens. Everyone is quiet and attentive. The love the music. Every week they practice a song to sing/mime for church on Friday(Flavio also opens the church for a Friday night service for the community). It is amazing to watch these hardened children, old beyond their years, open like flowers to the music.
(L to R: Luiz, Evanilson, Edivaldo, Lucas)
And then soccer, barefoot in ze hot, hot sun. The field is dust and weeds, covered with ant hills and other sized holes. The kids kept putting their hands down the holes, once they saw I was worried that something would bite them down there. Next week I am hoping to add a second option to soccer...something less active that doesn't result in so much sunburn, sweat, and dirt in my toes. Like coloring.

Thank you for your prayers and support. If you are interested in giving to the Cajueiro Claro Living Stones project, or for a motorcycle for Flavio (so we can save time instead of walking, and have more time for the kids), you can donate at