Intro & Visit Day #1 (BR417)
Visit Day #2 (BR453)
Visit Day #3 Part 1 (BR110)
Visit Day #3 Part 2 (BR329)
The final visit day before my Big Birthday Bash was to Project BR-458 to visit Jessica, Cristian and Ana Cristina.
|First visit back in 2012|
I previously sponsored all three of these kids and visited twice but my friends Cathy Ward (Cristina) and Amanda and Bruce Newton (Jessica and Christian) took over the sponsorships when I moved to the Philippines in 2014..
I have written a lot about my connection with Ana Cristina. She was my first sponsored child from Brazil, God used her tragic family situation to move my heart and I ended up sponsoring and visiting 12 kids from the same area over the next few years. My visit to her family home in 2013 was among the hardest days of my life. Seeing the reality of their lives crushed me, and reminded me that poverty is a beast and Compassion is not some sort of magical instant quick fix, but a long term process.
I was looking forward to seeing Cristina again and I remember thinking it couldn’t possibly be a harder day than last time. How wrong I was.
The day started off so well. We were welcomed by lots of joyful noise and a confetti shower by a group of curious kids.
I met 12-year-old Jessica and her sister Gizelle.
I learned that Christian was at school and I would meet him in the afternoon. They also mentioned that 16-year-old Cristina was away having tests for a potentially serious medical issue. Wow. So much for an easier day.
Fair to say this played on my mind all day but I was aware of the need to stay present and engaged for the other two visits. I re-introduced myself to Jessica and Gizelle and went through some photos. I got out the Uno and elastics and we had a play before the home visit.
Jessica and Gizelle live with their mum and five-year-old younger brother. We also met their 10-year-old uncle (Mama’s little brother). We teased him in a friendly way about whether his (older and taller) nieces obeyed him. There is no father at home. Their mother has her own sewing machine and has a job sewing lace onto bras and underwear. It is not stable or consistent. Both girls were very shy and I struggled to get much out of them. Jessica was unsure when I asked her about her future, what she wanted to be etc. My guess is that the people in her community just see what’s in front of them. I encouraged Jessica that God has given her gifts and abilities, even if she was unsure about what they were at this stage.
Little bro didn't want to be in a photo, so I had to take this sneaky shot.
We went back to the Project for lunch, where I was met with more bad news. Cristina had to go to another medical facility for different tests and I would not be meeting her on this day. There was also a possibility that she would not be attending my birthday the following day. This left me shattered and I pleaded with Renato to do everything he could to ensure that I was able to see her.
Despite Cristina’s absence we still went to visit her mother.
She was there by herself, as her husband and four daughters were out and about. Last time I visited they were living in their grandmother’s house, now they were living next door. I did my best to rustle up some conversation, and she was more open and honest than on my previous visit. As it was election time they were employed as one of the thousands of people waving flags and handing out pamphlets for the election candidates. It’s only temporary and they have nothing else. I found out her oldest son was in jail for riding a stolen motor bike. She was convinced he did not steal it himself. We had a look at a couple of Cristina’s ultrasound results and prayed for the family.
After this it was time for the third home visit of the day, to the house of Christian and his parents. We were told that normally after school he goes straight to his grandparents house, as it’s closer, but when we arrived there we found out that he had already headed home. His grandfather came with us to direct us to the house.
I visited Christian back in 2012 and 2013. His parents have had a rocky relationship but that changed about four years ago when his father genuinely gave his life to Jesus. Now their whole existence revolves around church activities and sharing the gospel. His father was a smiley, friendly chap who is the resident “fix-it guy” and has a workshop next door to their house. I had a chat with Christian, the highlight of which was when he got out his guitar and strummed a few chords.
Time was running out so we headed back to the Project for a final play. I entertained a group of kids with pictures of my family and some Australian animals, then we got out the footy which was once again a big hit.
Before we went, I had another look inside the church. It is still amazing to me to think that thischurch went from construction zone (2012) to sanctuary (2013) in the space of a year, thanks entirely to the tithes and offerings of the church members
Despite the news about Cristina, which had the potential to overshadow the whole day, my visit to BR-458 was a positive experience this time around. I was thankful to God that he enabled me to be present and engaged for the remainder of the day.