Author: Shores of Grace

Where Jesus Is

It is shocking to arrive at the city square where we do “Street Church” and see the reality of the people there. Children sniff “shoe glue” to stay their hunger and people who once had a career roam around having lost everything due to drugs.

On one particular day, our team was walking around looking for people to love. That day, we had the opportunity to meet a 17-year-old girl who was also sniffing glue. We asked if we could pray for her, she declined. We stayed with her and we talked about love, taught her a few words in English…

And then, she shared about her background. She had lived in Spain with her mother but when her mother passed away when she was 4-years-old, child protective services brought her back to Brazil to live with her grandmother. Since her grandmother did not have resources to take care of her, she lives on the streets. In the end, she did ask us to pray for her family. As she opened her heart for prayer, a man approached her about purchasing her for sex. She refused and chose to stay with us.

After we prayed, she asked if she could play our guitar. We all entered into worship together as she sang, “Be Quiet My Soul”. We were astonished by how God worked that night and how we could see him at work in the girl right in front of our eyes. God opened her heart to receive the love that we could give, the love of God flowing through us and chose to remain in that love over going with that man. It was a moment that we recognized that it isn’t about the prosperous church but rather the church is about who we need to be, where: in the streets, where Jesus is, with the least of these.

Rainy Season

In Recife, we have two seasons – 9 months of summer, and 3 months of rain.  Monsoon season is a little cooler than the rest of the year in Northeast Brazil, however, the slight drop in temperature does not come without cost.  Nothing will be dry again until September and this year has been exceptionally destructive. Due to poor drainage, runoff fills the roads knee and chest-deep in some parts of the city, leading to many flooded engines, abandoned cars, and accidents. Children play in the water and steal licenses plates from frustrated drivers. The plates are loosened by the force of the vehicles pressing their way through the water and are sold back to their owners for a small profit. Despite the challenges faced all over the city, rain presents exceptional dangers for those in the slums where flooding is the worst.

At times, the slums are so flooded you have to scale the walls of the houses to get through the dirt streets, which look like rivers. The sewage water here is full of parasites that will literally (not metaphorically) crawl under your skin. Septic runoff mixes with the flooding, yet children run barefoot through the knee-deep water into and out of their homes – dirt floors, tin walls, bare wires, and water pouring through the roof. Snakes often seek refuge from these floods inside the people’s homes. Some local families don’t even have the money to buy shoes for their kids. Without shoes, they cannot go to school. In one circumstance, a single pair of shoes were being rotated between the four children so each could attend class one day a week.

In our state of Pernambuco, thousands are displaced with homes destroyed. We’ve expanded our food and clothing bank this month to try to compensate for some of this loss. We have been so encouraged by the local communities’ response in donating food, clothes, and other necessities.

To feed one family, depending on size, for between 2 and 7 days, it costs approximately R$ 27,82. With this money, you can create what is known as a cesta básica, which includes Rice, Beans, Soy, oil, and other provisions. With the help of funds raised and food donations given to our base, we were able to distribute 65 cesta básicas to the families we work with over the month of May.

Holiday

Sunday morning: backpack ready, paint cans and enthusiasm for doing something new. Without knowing exactly what awaited us, we left the Shores base for Holiday, a twenty story occupied hotel (a vertical favela). A desire to express God’s love for the sons and daughters living inside the Holiday building filled my soul with life as we painted the entrance hall. We had an idea of what this mural might look like; a sketch, but we knew that the Holy Spirit would flow through us to create something that came from His heart.

We were born to create together with the One who created us; to manifest His glory through colors, traits, and forms. This phrase defines my way of seeing different artistic manifestations and how we reveal the love of the Father.

There were children everywhere, curious looks, cans of paint scattered on the floor and joy stamped on the faces of all. I could feel God’s presence in every moment. In the smiles, hugs, and conversations. A simple love deeply marked my heart. In particular, we were able to visit the house of one of the residents, who welcomed and served us. We spent a few hours laughing and talking in her living room. By the end of the day, no one felt like going home.

On the way back to the base I reflected on this visit to Holiday. I am sure that I came out knowing more of God’s love than I went in understanding. The song that our Father sings about the Holiday building is a song of love, peace, and joy, even in the midst of its danger.

By Nicolli Schwartz

Blessings Go with You

After six years serving Shores of Grace here in Recife Luke, Alisan and their kids are moving back to Philadelphia next week to start a new Shores mission there.

I can’t tell you the joy and privilege it’s been to have family here with us these last six years. Their impact on our family, staff, visitors and the families in the surrounding slums has been profound and will echo throughout eternity.

Although we are sad to see them go, we are very excited for all that God has planned for their family and for Shores in Philadelphia. Through their time in Brazil, Luke and Alisan have been battle tested, strengthened and matured in their faith, their journey and their vision. All of their experiences here have prepared them for this new adventure and mission! Please join us in praying for their family and also pray for our Shores family here during this transition. God has beautiful and wonderful things in store!

By Nic Billman, President of Shores of Grace

On the Shore

I’ve never been far from the church. At three weeks old, I was baptized in the congregation where I learned what love and support looked like at their best – a moderate voice in a conservative branch of the Lutheran church who surrounded me with grace, quiet but committed faith, and love in abundance, with heart connections that continue to this day. It was everything infant baptism is supposed to be – claimed by God, marked by the Holy Spirit, sprinkled into a community of faith who raised me in faithful Christian practice until I chose the faith for myself of my own accord.

Graduation from Fornalha seemed to come too soon – the work God sealed in me came after Carlos called my name, afterI was handed a certificate, not before. The Spirit of God began working in me the night of graduation a new heart, and by the Spirit’s power through the hands of so many wide open vessels that night, I cried and rested and laughed my way into something new that I’m still discovering. What I knew, though, was that something had changed. I leak tears even now as I type for the grace that seemed to have swept into me, for how full of Jesus I knew I was meant to be and was starting to become, for the newness of Life and Joy and Courage I was experiencing. And so – baptism the next day? Yes. Not because the first one didn’t count, but because I was never so sure of resurrection – for even me.

I waited eagerly in line, cheering each one baptized before me, all the while receiving prayer and blessing for mais e maisfrom each praying leader and fellow student, and when my turn came, all I could do was run to the water. Run toward the death for the joy of resurrection. And I can still hear the words ringing in my ears, “Keri, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I realized later that I didn’t even think to turn and hug them when I splashed up from the water. I ran again, full of Hope and Joy, toward the waiting world. Because all I knew was that I had come to Life and that I had so much Life to live.

By Kerri LaBrant

Being Naked

There is a level of intimacy that words can not express. This connection of intimacy between two persons that allows one to know the other in an infinite way. When we fall in love, we desire this intimacy, and the truth is that we have not come to know this relational connection by healthy models. Men and women have not been examples of relationship with ourselves, with the neighbor, with God. That is what I want to talk about: it is needed to bet naked. What am I talking about? Do not get confused, dive in the Word with me and let us understand this.

When God created Adam and Eve, He put them in the garden (Genesis 1 and 2). They were naked, without clothes. God had created one for the other. They had become one flesh. That was the Father’s plan. And then you know the story, Adam and Eve eat of the fruit they were instructed not to eat, and they immediately realize they are naked (Genesis 3:7). So they seek something that would cover them. As we read through these scriptures for times we miss these details, and we do not understand why they were naked, or why immediately after they covered themselves. There is a strong reason of being naked or not. Adam and Eve were exposed to a new idea they did not know yet: integrity.

They were made relational beings, and they were nude, and they were not ashamed. Why? Because they had the understanding that they were one. During Eve’s creation, He said to the couple: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother… and they shall become one flesh”. This statement is not just a beautiful poem, it is a strong sentence about God’s nature. The word found in the original manuscript for this text for “one” is Echad. Echad is used other times in the Old Testament; when the Lord says “Israel has one God” the word is Echad. And in many other times Echad means the one of God. That is, Adam and Eve in their union reflected the oneness and image of God. It is here that everything gets deeper, marriage is the reflex of God. It was not for poetic purpose that Jesus taught about the Kingdom as a wedding feast, or when Paul refers to Christ as the groom and the church as the bride. Echad reflects who we are, it reflects who God is.

Though the modern and corrupted system of the world has been replicated in all society, including within the church this false reality of unity. People sleep together but they have no responsibility with each other. People become objects of lust, and they are treated as objects in sensual and erotic magazines and videos, taking away the humanity of the people God created. That is why the girl that slept last night with the guy she had just met wants to call him the next morning, she wants to know the future of their relationship. She wants to get naked, she wants to know the infinite being in this man. That is God’s sexuality inside of each one of us looking for Echad. And as we know, people have sex and they do not get naked. Children that have no father, divorced parents is acceptable and normal. As human beings created at God’s image, we have devalued what God has made so valuable.

This devalue exists because we do not know who we are, we do not know who we are because we do not know who He is, and not knowing who He is we can not know who people are, and Echad is only a beautiful poetry, it is no longer taught or inspired, for we do not get naked.

We are not naked before ourselves, we lie and deceiving ourselves.

We are not naked before others, we use masks, we are not real.

We are not naked before God, we do not even know Him.

Being naked is to have intimacy, i.e., it is the exact connection of outside with inside. That is extremely dangerous, we become vulnerable, we become real. We will never be able to truly know Christ unless we get naked, exposing every area of our lives. Here is where we do not conform with the world, but we are transformed in the renewal of our mind. We need to repent for covering ourselves avoiding the mind of Christ.

Integrity is to be in the outside exactly how you are in the inside, yes, I am talking about having integrity and intimacy with God, with yourself, and with your neighbor. Does it not sound like the model of Jesus? Every day I find out more in this walk how I need so much more of this transformation, I need it more than anyone else. We need to be naked, live in transparency, it is time to be real. And you? Do you think it is also for you?

By Jonathan Costa, Vice President of Shores of Grace

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