Intro & Visit Day #1 (BR417)
Visit Day #3 Part 1 (BR110)
Visit Day #3 Part 2 (BR329)
On Tuesday September 20th I visited Jasmiel at BR-453 on behalf of his sponsors Brian and Lisa Crawford.
I first visited the family in 2013.
It was Dad and three kids; their mum left the family, dad was unemployed. Jasmiel had an older sister and younger sister who was sponsored. Brian had kept me updated and from what I found out they had had a tough three years, so I wondered how the day would pan out.
I arrived, with my driver Renato and translator Davi, to lots of cheering and a confetti shower from the Project staff. Sponsor visits mean just as much to the Project staff as they do for the kids, possibly even more. We were late because of traffic and I was told later that the Pastor arrived in a taxi and they thought it was me, so they started cheering.
We were served an early lunch at the Project, then we walked to Jasmiel’s house. In the course of conversation we found out several things about the family’s situation
* Jasmiel’s father had a new partner, Julianne (six months). Jasmiel loves her.
* The house has been completely fixed up and rearranged.
* Jasmiel (13) now has a step brother Gabriel (12). They get along well.
* Jasmiel’s older sister (15) is four months pregnant and is now engaged to the baby’s father. Her father likes her boyfriend, which is positive.
* Jasmiel’s younger sister is a full time student, so she doesn’t have time for project activities. The Project staff are negotiating for her to stay in the program.
* Jasmiel’s father still has no steady employment; Julianne has tooth problems
* Sponsorship impacts the parents as much as it does the kids. When I asked Jasmiel and his father if they had a message for his sponsor, his father’s message was longer than Jasmiel’s.
The family’s pets also got actively involved in the visit. While we were talking, their cat came over and started clawing at my shoes. While we were praying, the dog came into the middle of the circle and joined in.
We walked back to the Project in time for the afternoon session just as the gates opened. There was a flood of kids and I was immediately engaged by curious and fascinated little ones. I got out some photos to show (Australian animals, my family etc) and was mobbed. Davi had to get them to sit down. The language barrier was a pain, but not insurmountable.
After a while we all went inside the church for a performance, where each age group from 3-12 sang a couple of songs.
I got up and sang “One Way, Jesus” while playing guitar. After I had finished, I sat down pretty pleased with myself only to see a little guy in the front row fast asleep.
I told them a bit about myself and I was also able to speak into their lives. I can’t recall the exact words, but it was along the lines of “Everyone has been given gifts and talents by God and even if you don’t know what yours are yet, your Project teachers love you and want to help you find them. God created you and loves you, and I am happy you are in a safe place, like the Project.”
It was a bit chatty when I was talking, but when I started to pray, a hush fell over the place. It was a profound and holy moment, as these words from God started to sink into their minds and hearts. Poverty is a beast, it steals any sense of worth, value, hope or dreams for the future. I am convinced that while the money we send is an important part of helping these kids, they need to know that they are loved and they have value, which comes from being created in the image of God. They need to know that there is Hope for the future in this life and the next, because what they see in front of them tells them the exact opposite.
For a snack we enjoyed some tapioca and then it was outside games time. The leaders had the unenviable task of wrangling 100-ish excited, crazy kids into groups in the hot sun and doing relay races. I’ve done my fair share of PE teaching and on this occasion I’m glad it was them and not me.
I’m not competitive or athletic due to my bad knees but I got cajoled into having a jumping race against the other leaders with our legs tied together. I lost but the kids loved it and it was good fun.
In my Compassion travels I always take a footy with me. At some Projects they take a bit of a look before going back to their soccer balls, but on this day it was an object of endless curiosity and fascination. I taught them how to handball and pretty soon there was a flood of kids lining up wanting to have a go. Eventually it would get a bit rough and competitive so I’d stop the game, then start again sneakily with a couple of kids before the others would descend like a flock of seagulls on a hot chip.
After a bit of a run-around it was time for classes. The kids are divided into age groups: 3-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-12. I popped my head into each class to have a bit of a chat, tell them about myself and see if they had any questions for me. I asked if anyone had a sponsor from Australia, and a few did. I said “Now you can say you’ve met an Australian in real life!” and their faces lit up.
One thing I love about kids is their honesty and lack of filter. There were references to my ‘gold teeth’ (they’re not in good shape but I prefer ‘off-white’) and when I explained about the 13-hour time difference, someone piped up “Oh, so that explains your red eyes.” The previous day I had visited BR417 and made a bracelet, which I was wearing. I’m not really a ‘maker’ and thought it was pretty clumsily put together. However, one of the kids admired it and asked if I had any more. Unfortunately I had to tell them that this was the only one. I was flattered that they liked it though.
Over the course of the day there was a young teenage boy hanging around. We interacted a bit and I had assumed he was part of the Project and one of Jasmiel’s friends. However I was told later that he was a drug addict, his dad was in jail, his mum abandoned him and he was looked after by his elderly grandmother. He was not in the Compassion Project but they let him hang around for the day for my visit. I realised that this meant he sat in on the songs the kids were singing, heard my words to the kids about their worth, value and hope in God, and the words of God I prayed over the group of kids also fell on him and hopefully sunk into his mind and spirit.
How incredible it is to be used by God in someone’s life even when you don’t realise it.
The thing that stood out most was the way I was received by the kids. There was immediate trust and affection shown. Despite the language barrier. Despite the fact that many of them come from situations where they are abused, abandoned and taken advantage of. Yet this stranger comes in, plays some games, sings some songs and I was immediately treated with such love and joy. It was humbling and was a day I’ll never forget.
I have honestly never felt such love and acceptance as I did on this day. BR-453 is located in an industrial area which is dry, hot and dusty, and its residents do not see much evidence of hope in their daily lives. The church and Project are a beacon of Hope, Love and Joy in this community where their children are safe, loved and free to grow up dreaming to become the person God made them to be. I was also pleased that Jasmiel and his family seemed to be in a much better place than my previous visit three years earlier.