Author: Shores of Grace

Roots that Remain

No one can argue with the fact that there are few tragedies as deep as being orphaned. Being unwanted scars the core of the human soul. I grew up in a home with both parents present, and can only imagine what it is like to search your whole life for someone who truly knows you. Real nurturing cannot be forced – it cannot be done without your whole heart, and perhaps it is the bravest human action. In this season we have had six infants living in Bethany home, the most at one time to date, and that also means more adoptions than ever before. I watch our staff bring these babies so close that the reality of their loss for a moment fades away. Despite what they have lived through at such a young age, I know that they are cherished beyond human limitations. They have a family of 30 caregivers; who laugh with them and cry with them, who take them to parties and the mall; who lovingly pick out their clothes and cut their hair, who feed them, who fight over spending time with them, who take them to the doctor in the middle of the night, who dance with them and teach them to sing. Watching our staff cry as the children leave from a combination of grief and joy, I have no doubts they are some of the most loved children on earth. And that is how I remember each of them. The babies get a book when they leave – with pictures and letters so that 10 years from now, they will know what their infancy was like. Their first two years will not be empty time with questions and mysteries. It’s like a cast full of signatures so that you can never forget what you came through, or those who walked beside and wrapped around you. The spirit of adoption is not a soft ideal; it’s an unbreakable covenant, made from the inside out. Strong as bone. We are simply the lucky ones who secure it’s setting. It’s the same covenant Christ made with us, calling us his very own body.

Two letters from the above book:  

Marcus,

Since the day I met you, it was easy to love you! Seeing everything that you have conquered and knowing that for a moment we were able to be part of your story is an honor! You are such a happy kid, smart, kind and really funny. You like to wear hats, play soccer and just love it when uncle Ned beat boxes! You also love when I dance with you. You play guitar and sing songs for everyone. You have such an amazing heart and I’m very happy for you to have a new family. I know that God has an incredible life for you. Love you forever. Love, Aunt Larissa.

Dear Little Marcus,

Thank you for loving us in such a simple and pure way, and for letting us love you and have funny moments with you. Thank you for everything that you taught to us (for training us to be future parents) and for all the amazing moments that we have spent together. We will miss you, but we are very excited for your new family. Forever you will be one of my best friends!      – Uncle Ned.

Another of our girl’s adoptions inspired an article that was published on Father’s day in the city newspaper. To summarize, this couple waited four years and ten months in line for adoption at the Court of Pernambuco. When they had almost lost hope, the news came that the process was approved. They adopted their daughter at 1 year of age, which means they began preparing for her 3 years before she was even born.  Her adoptive parents attest to the immensity and infinity of the love of a father, which transcends blood ties. “When we saw her photo, it was love at first sight. It was nothing different than the way we felt for our two biological children. Everything about her is beautiful and it looks like she was ours from gestation.”

Daughters of Jerusalem

I have always looked upon Song of Solomon as the personification of Jesus and the Church: a pure, intense, real, and true relationship. Before even going to the Avenida, the red light district of Recife, Father God put a deep desire in me to know these girls, and a longing for them to know Him burned in my heart. When I arrived at Shores, Jesus began to tell me that there is no relationship between the Bride and Groom without the daughters of Jerusalem. He continued to show me that the girls working on the Avenida are the Daughters of Jerusalem, that is, the friends of the Bride. In Song of Songs, the daughters of Jerusalem are witnesses to the love between the Church and Christ. I heard God say to me, “How did you stand to live so far away from these girls, don’t you feel your heart ache for them?” And really, it was incredible; I did ache for them! He started to tell me about Song of Solomon chapter 5.

Here, the Bride was looking for the Groom as usual. Several times in earlier verses, she had “ignored” the daughters of Jerusalem. There is a version that says, “do not disturb our love”. When she finally discovers that her Beloved groom is not in the room with her, but in the streets, she says to the daughters of Jerusalem: “If you see Him, tell Him that I faint with love,” and then they ask, “But who is this Beloved?” As the Bride begins to speak in detail about Him, she brings the daughters of Jerusalem into intimacy as well. As Jesus showed me this, He said, “There is no relationship between me and the Church if the Church does not bring the girls into intimacy too!”

After the Bride speaks of her Groom, the daughters respond, “then tell us where your Beloved is that we will seek Him also.” We need to share with these girls about our Christ, who is so filled with passion, and in compassion desires them as He desires the Church.

In the verses of Song of Solomon, the Bridegroom says to his Bride, “You have conquered me with your gaze, with only one pearl of your necklace.” The first time I went to the Avenida, Jesus showed me a treasure chest full of pearls and jewels and told me that each represented a girl on the Avenida. It was then that I understood that they bring glory to the Bride, because the Bridegroom yearns for the Bride to burn for what burns in His heart! After all, there is no us and Him, without the daughters of Jerusalem!

By Paula Leite, missionary at Shores of Grace

Stories from the Streets: From Thamires

Every Thursday, I am surprised at  “Street Church”. I am surprised by how much God pours His love into that place and how much He cares for those young children. He loves to be with them, loves to play, laughs and hears them – He fills them with so many dreams and wonderful desires.

Today, I got a flower from a girl who has a huge heart and loves to create songs that are beautiful. Yes, our heart is to give as much as we can to the people we are meeting. However, it was a reminder that God gives to us in the midst of our giving as when we go to the streets, not only do we give love, but we also receive.

Stories from the Streets: From Dayane

A few weeks ago, I encountered a girl who is 17-years-old who had been living on the streets. I had a great time with her as we drew together and I painted her nails. On September 7th, I found her again on the streets. This time, she was sniffing glue. When I asked her if she was free to talk, she put her glue bottle away and asked if I would be able to pray for her mother, who was using drugs.

In that same moment, she looked at me and said “Hey, Tia (Auntie in Portuguese), can you take me away from here? I don’t want to stay here anymore and I can see the glow of Jesus in your eyes.” As she spoke these words, tears started to stream down my face. I could feel the mercy, love, and compassion that Father God has for her.

I had been Christian for 12 years but this was the first time that someone recognized Jesus inside of me, that someone could see Jesus powerfully flowing through my eyes. His love overwhelmed me just as much as it overwhelmed her.

Stories from the Streets: From Elaine

Every Thursday, we go to street church. I want to tell you about one encounter that was very special to me.

There was a 9-year-old girl near the guitar, singing songs with us. She asked for an opportunity to sing her own song.

One of our students was playing the guitar; he didn’t know what she was singing, but he followed the rhythm of her voice. The most incredible of all is that even with a language barrier God’s love manifests and surprises us when we are seeking Him.

She sang about nature and how we can take care of the planet, because the Father created it and it is our responsibility to take care of the planet.

I could not follow the song because I did not know the words. She smiled and said “I just created”.

We explained that when we “create” a song, in fact we are  composing and we need to record it.

At that moment we began to record the spontaneous song that came from her heart. It was so powerful what she sang that God told me “this is the song that streets are can” It struck me deeply, for it brought to me the simplicity that people seek after God.

This was the song:

“I want You come to my life,

I want you come now,

You are the Lord in my life.

I want, I want you in me

My God, My Father

I want you in my life,

I want you in my house,

I want you in my family,

In all of us

My God, my Father.

Stories from the Streets: From Gillian

This night was different.

Amid the open sewers, mounds of rubbish, relentless heat, roaming chickens and mangey dogs, we were welcomed in.

“Amiga! How are you?”

“I’m good, considering what happened last night…did you hear?”

“No, what happened?”

“Two guys on a motorcycle went door-to-door, robbing houses.”

I looked around the lean-to shack that we sat inside, with water that poured in when it rained. Houses?! That’s a bit of a stretch. What on earth could there be to steal from people this desperately poor?

“Were you scared?”

“Yeah. But more for my brother.”

I understood little of where mum or dad were, only that this 15-year old girl was responsible for her seven year old brother, and that she was telling the story as casually as if it were about a flat tire.

That afternoon we visited families and played with kids, but mostly what we did was listen to peoples’ stories.

Amid the filth of this bustling favela, I couldn’t help but notice the immaculately kept nails of every woman we spoke to and I was reminded that in this country, to be Brazilian is to maintain beautifully manicured fingers and toes. I could never make it as an authentic Brazilian.

We headed out for street church as the heat of the day receded and darkness settled over the city, and I observed the streets coming alive.

Kids and families were out along the beach front like it was a sunny Saturday morning, but as we drove past them and headed deeper into the city, the local families seemed to congregate less, and the roaming street dogs noticeably more.

We pulled up to a dirty water fountain surrounded mostly by street kids, the homeless and transvestites. On stepping out of the van my eyes were drawn towards an extremely skinny, Brazilian transvestite dressed in skimpy shorts and a singlet. An empty Coke bottle half filled with yellow resin hung limply from her mouth as she stood up, swayed, and sat back down again. The filth from her bare feet reached half way up her stick-like legs and she turned her head towards me.

Were it not for the glue, we might have made eye contact but instead her eyes roamed aimlessly around the street. As we walked towards the mish-mash group of homeless kids and adults surrounding the fountain, she kept her head fixed in my direction; the lights might have been on, but there was clearly no one home.

We laid a large, red sheet down on the concrete and pulled out a series of nail polishes, paper, crayons and toys. The guys we were with unpacked their guitar and we sat around the fountain, playing music and hanging out. In many other countries this might have seemed like a normal street scene, except of course, for the abject poverty.

Most of the people seemed familiar with the Shores of Grace team and within minutes I was surrounded by a group of boys, repurposed Coke bottles permanently attached to their mouths, all showing sheepish interest in our collection of nail polishes.

“Aunty, pass that one to me, I just want to look at it.”

“Aunty, I want a boys’ colour, I want blue.”

“Aunty, give me your hand, I’m going to paint your nails.”

Okay. Time to enter their world. I pushed aside my thoughts of the filthy street with its’ occasional wafts of raw sewage, scanned the ground for used needles and sat down.

My hand was picked up by a good-looking Brazilian kid that seemed about eleven, and in bad need of a bath. Before he could open his blue nail polish, he was shooed away by the skinny transvestite. One of the Shores staff recognised her.

“Andresa! What colour would you like tonight?” Andresa inhaled from her glue bottle and stared hauntingly at the Shores staff member. She swiped aimlessly at the nail polish held by the eleven year old and presented it to me.

The Shores staff member secretly handed me a bottle of nail polish remover and whispered, “keep this in your pocket”. Seemed a weird thing to be secretive about to me, but I didn’t ask questions.

Andresa presented a grimey hand, and my surf instructors words sprang to mind, “No one likes hesitation. Just commit, or you’ll miss the wave.” Okay. For tonight, this is my wave.

I held Andresa’s hand in mine like she was my six year old niece, and started to remove last weeks’ nail polish. The staff member I was with reminded me to avoid the large, weeping blister on one of Andresa’s fingers so I carefully worked around it. Hmm, life moments you don’t imagine for yourself…

After I had worked my way through each fingernail, Andresa inspected her hands and sighed. As she lifted her nails to her nostril and inhaled, I realised why the nail polish remover had to be kept hidden.

Andresa switched from inhaling her newly polished fingernails, to more glue, lay down on the street, closed her eyes and lifted a dirty foot towards my lap.

I thought of the story of the holocaust survivors who, on being rescued from concentration camps, had chosen lipstick over bread, because that was what helped them to feel human again. I looked at Andresa and wondered how human she felt. If this helps you lady, then for tonight, this is my wave.

I worked methodically through each of Andresa’s toes, my hands becoming more sticky with each one. As I finished up the polishing I wanted my hand-gel. I wanted a shower. I wanted to not be a midwife who was aware of how many communicable diseases I had just exposed myself to.

I looked at Andresa, laid out on the street with her eyes rolling into the back of her head, and got the impression the only thing Andresa wanted was to not exist at all.

What if I had been born into a favela? What did I do to deserve a priveleged life in a first world country?

As I put away Andresa’s nail polish the young boys and their glue bottles crowded in for their turn, still making excuses, “I’m not going to wear any, I just want to see yours…” Andresa sat up, consciousness returning, and swiped them aside. Making eye contact with me for the first time, which seemed to be taking considerable effort, she managed her only word for the night, before wandering off to who-knows-where.

“Obrigada” (thank you).

I held her hand in both of mine and wanted desperately to reassure her that no one deserves this kind of life, that she is human, that she deserves love and care like any other person on this planet. But all of that escaped me.

I clenched her hand in mine and returned her eye contact, “Of course. You are welcome.”

© 2021  |  3000 Custer Road Suite 270 #7024 Plano, TX 75075  |  +1 (615) 647-6274  |  Av. Pres. Castelo Branco, 7966 - Barra de Jangada, Jaboatão dos Guararapes - PE, 54460-210  |  +55 81 99802 9000 |  Shores of Grace Ministries, a US 501 (c)(3) public charity, EIN 27-3022828  |  Shores of Grace is a charity registered in Brazil CNPJ 19.312.157.0001-80.