Videos about Living Stones

segunda-feira, 26 de março de 2012

Visiting the Dump

Medical teams from the USA have been helping out a small community located next to the dump of Carpina for the past couple of years. This area has been on our hearts for a long time. Please pray about possible openings for Living Stones to serve there more permanently in the future. Here are some pictures from an outreach that Living Stones had with Massa Humana, part of a local church in Caprina.

Thank you for being a God's hands in Brazil!

quarta-feira, 21 de março de 2012

Josefa's Birthday

(Josefa and Rachel)

They moved. Their old house was demolished. It wasn’t much of a house: made of taipa (Clay, mud, and sticks), but every time I visited, seven girls came scrambling out of it to greet me: Karla, Rosilda, Mariana, Camila, Rosineide, Josefa, and Rosana. I had known Karla since 2004, when I first visited Living Stones. She was five at the time.  
(Karla in 2004)
The first time I went to their house, Rosana was a week old. Josefa was peeking out the back room, with their pet pigeon walking around behind her. The smell of trash floated in from the nearby dump, where the girl’s father works, sorting out whatever is recyclable from the piles of trash. No gloves.

(L to R: Camila, Mariana, Josefa, Rosana, Mother, Rosilda)
Their house was easy to get to, so I started making more stops there. I took more pictures. I sat and talked to their mother, as she invited me in to sit on their small ragged sofa. The girls would giggle and come around me, asking me questions. For Christmas one year, I gave them their first Barbie. One Barbie for seven girls.

Last year Living Stones began the $10 for Them program, celebrating the children’s birthdays. Their house was my first stop to get a list of names and birthdays to celebrate. I asked the girls when their birthday was. They didn’t know. That didn’t surprise me—but I was sure their mother would know. She didn’t. She had me wait, standing on the dirt floor of their two bedroom house, while she went and found a folder with all of their important papers.
She handed me the girls’ birth certificates. I wondered why she didn’t just give me the dates, but then realized later it was because she didn’t know how to read. Balancing the papers on my knees, I wrote out the dates and told them I would be back to celebrate their birthdays. Rosana, the youngest, didn’t have a birth certificate, so we figured between a couple days when she was born (from when I had first visited), and decided her birthday would be December 3rd.

(L to R: Karla, Rosana, Mother, Josefa, Camila, Mariana, Rachel)
Today was the first of the girls’ birthdays: Josefa turned 5 today. When I got there, their house was demolished, currently becoming an extension of our “highway” which will go from two lanes to four lanes in a couple years. I walked until I found someone who knew where they moved to and pointed me in the right direction.
Up one hill and down another, I heard a rooster, a goat, and a frog. Not far off the main road, but in a very poor part of town, looking up the side of one hill I saw two little naked girls, belly’s sticking out like pictures of Africa. I wandered a bit further until I heard someone yell out of a window, “Hey—it is that girl from that church program!”
With the money the government gave them for their taipa house, they were able to get a larger, basic brick house. The mother is so happy. She gave me a big hug and proudly showed me around, looking smug at the wardrobe and TV she was able to purchase as well. “The money is all gone, but we are happy and have what we need,” she said. I still have never heard Rosana speak, and Josefa’s words are few and far between. But the older girls made up for it, telling me all about what I had missed since seeing them last year.
After the first excitement was over, I told the girls why I came today—especially today. “It is Josefa’s birthday! She is 5 today!” It was an exciting announcement: no one knew. After the cheers died down, they waited to see what that meant. They have never celebrated their birthdays. Ever. The green bag I carry around is never empty, and today it was overfull: first came the cake. Josefa’s eyes got big as she saw her first birthday cake. She ran to the back room with excitement and shyness. Her mom hauled her out and I handed her the birthday glasses.

The rest of the children laughed as I said, “Let’s sing ‘Happy Birthday’!” Some of the older ones knew it from school, but my voice was the only confident one, as this is not a common song for them. Josefa ran away again. One big piece for Josefa, one for Camila, and Rosana was too shy to take one, but eagerly accepted it from her mother as she started picking off and eating the sprinkles one by one.

We munched cake and smiled for a bit, and I got down on my knees and asked Josefa if she knew how old she was. She shook her head. “When people ask, you say ‘I am five,’ and hold your hand like this” I told her, showing five fingers. “Five.” She repeated quietly. I wonder how much of this she understands. This day had been just like any other until I showed up five minutes earlier.
“Well, we had cake, we had the special glasses, we took pictures, and we sang happy birthday—we just have the presents left. You don’t like presents, do you, Josefa?” I teased. She nodded her head violently and her eyes got wide as I pulled out her present. She ran with it to the other room, the rest of her sisters following. Her mom hauled her back out again, saying, “Tia Rachel wants to see you open it.” One by one she pulled out the toys and glowed.

Camila remarked: "Do you know when my birthday is? Don't forget to come again!" Her birthday is in April if you would like to help donate for her party at

I left soon afterwards, after taking a picture of the girls’ brother (apparently, there are two boys as well, making a total of nine kids), the six puppies, and their new home. As I stepped out of the gate, Josefa ran to me and looked up: “Are you my Tia (Auntie)?” she asked. Yes, darling, Yes, my heart burst—I guess I am your Auntie.

My eyes filled with tears after I reached the main road and got a Kombe (VW van) ride back to my apartment. Josefa will never know how much her question meant to me. It was the simple conclusion of a little girl who had this woman suddenly pop into her life with special things. Who brought pictures, when she had never seen them before. Who brought presents. Who came from somewhere very far, far  away.
But for me it meant so much more. For me it meant she accepted me as family. That I was part of her life. And Josefa also didn’t know that I am an Auntie, and my one nephew has the same birthday that she does. My nephew turned 2  today. And I am very far away. I was in the country for his birth, but haven’t been able to celebrate any birthdays with him. Every time I return to the USA, we begin again: Hello, I am Rachel. I am your Auntie who lives very far away—but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you.
Maybe it isn’t changing the world to carry around a green bag with a birthday cake, knife, napkins, birthday classes, and presents. But to me it is. To Josefa it is. It changes her world. It means she has an Auntie. It means I have a niece. It means we are connected by love that reaches out and gives. Love that includes sacrifice and being away from home and 2nd birthdays. Love that says “God made you and you are special. He has a plan for you, and it is something beautiful. And right now, He is celebrating your birthday too, because you are worth celebrating and remembering.”

Second Annual Pool Party

Bam bam—they banged on the door. “Pastor, it is time to get out here—we need the tools for the yard!” They remarked impatiently.
For over a month, the kids from Cajueiro Claro have been banging on Pastor Flavio’s door at 7am, ready to help with any odd job available, especially the yard of the church. It has made Pastor Flavio doubt the sanity of moving into the second Sunday school classroom and turning it into a small apartment for himself: Living Stones doesn’t begin until 8am on weekdays, and there went sleeping in on the weekends.
Their zeal for yard work began when we put a date to our second annual pool party at the Alcance. It was one of the highlights of last year, and something that was always at the front of their minds: when can we do it again? St. Patrick’s (March 17th) was their lucky day.
The children vigorously went about helping at Living Stones, calling attention to their good deeds, and general sucking up in hopes of being chosen to go to the pool party. We carefully explained that the requirements were general good behavior, attendance, and filling out one page of information/parental permission, but the 7am wake-up calls continued nonetheless. To simply say they were excited would be understating the facts.
The one page of information we required from them asked questions like their emergency information, school grades, and what it meant to them to be a Christian. Then they were to have their parents sign it. Who knew how much trouble one page could be? No one has an address in Cajueiro Claro. There are no street names. Most of them do not have telephones, and cell phones, if they have them, don’t have any credit. So much for emergency information.
No one has gotten a report card yet this year. Many of them didn’t get one last semester either. That is the kind of public school we are dealing with. Three of the children threw a fit when they found out they would have to fill out the page of information: only afterwards did I discover that was because they didn’t know how to read or write to fill out the information. Edivaldo, age 16, is still in 3rd grade (and will never pass) because he doesn’t know how to read or write—he could only sign his name.
When the children started returning the filled out papers, there was a big smudge on every one, right where their parents were supposed to sign. So many of the parents cannot write their name that they color their thumb with a pen, and then put their thumbprint on the paper instead of a signature. It made my heart hurt. Paulo M.’s mom has never been to school. Paul’s mom dropped out in 4th grade because she was pregnant with her first child. The lack of education is overwhelming.
This is the generation that ends illiteracy. Now is the time that we take responsibility and say, “These children are not going to grow up without the basic skills of reading, writing, math, and being able to support themselves and their families. They are going to know that God loves them and they can do amazing things with their lives.” These children are ours now: we are responsible for what we tame.
Thank you for joining with us in these goals. Our pool party was a huge success with 16 children, 6 volunteers, 80 hot dogs, lots of dessert, no clouds in the sky, and one crystal clear pool.

It is Facebook official--Mercia and Pastor Flavio are engaged and getting married December 9th!

domingo, 18 de março de 2012

Easter is Coming!

For the past 4 years, Living Stones has been celebrating Easter by inviting all of the children (and their families) to come and celebrate Passover. Each child receives bread and grapes, and we share the significance of the first Passover, and the sacrifice shed, to the gift of God: Jesus sacrificing his life on the cross.
This year we are including the involvement of the International School of Carpina, the school/ministry that Tele and Heather Moraes began in 2006. Twenty-one 7-9th graders will come to Cajueiro Claro on April 5th to set up and run our very first Easter egg hunt. We will be bringing 20 or so children from Living Stones Mussurepe, and are expecting over 30 children from Cajueiro Claro.

After the Easter egg hunt, everyone--over 70 children--will hear the message of salvation. This will be the first Easter egg hunt the children have ever had, and for many of them, it will also be the first time hearing the history behind the holiday.
Please join us in making this Easter something special for the children by contributing: it is $3 for a kit, providing for one child to attend our program. This is also an exciting time, providing a chance for the children from the International school (the future leaders, and children of the movers and shakers of the community) to meet and share with the Living Stone's children.
You can donate online at:

Good bye Vovo Bel

Things are going very well at Living Stones Mussurepe, and are going to continue, but Vovo Bel (who opened her farm for us to use, and supplies most of the food) is going on a long vacation to Europe to see her daughter. She left everything in order with her workers to keep the project open, but wanted to have a special service on Sunday, March 11 to see all of the children, their parents, and her family before she left.
More than 80 people showed up for a couple hours, to see Vovo Bel off, and to worship together.

It was a long time for 30+ kids to sit still, but we were proud of them

The Living Stone's children had practiced, and then mimed a song for the occasion

Pastor Flavio, Jaciel, and Vovo Bel shared about God's love. It was beautiful to see the love Vovo Bel has for this community as she shared with tears in her eyes how opening Living Stones was a dream come true for her, and how she would miss them and pray for them until she could come home and give them hugs once more.

The gospel was shared in a real, practical way, and many hearts were touched.

There was, of course, cake and pop for everyone

And before anyone left, the mothers of the community made a long line to get their chance to hug and say good bye to Vovo Bel.

PS: Vovo Bel made it safely to Europe, and soon after asked for me to post all of my pictures from Mussurepe on Facebook, so that she could pray for them daily.

quarta-feira, 14 de março de 2012

Picnics and Parties

Cajueiro Claro continues to go well. Here are some pictures from our day to day activities and fun times:

Flavio is redoing the bathrooms:

celebrating more birthdays, like Tiagos 1st!

Singing in church.

Drawing our own rainbows as we learn about Kindness

Letting (or not letting) the other kid use the little carrinho while we learn about Generosity
Thank you for your continued prayers!