Tuesday, June 18, 2013

We Pray

I held her little five-month-old body and rocked her back and forth in the darkness of our spare bedroom, singing Amazing Grace and trying to comfort her while giving her sixteen year old mom a break to eat dinner and take a shower. Her body was hot with fever and her wheezing cough spoke loudly that this was serious. Over and over again she was at the point of sleep only to be awakened by another coughing spell, leaving her breathless.

Her whimpers broke my heart.

As I tried to comfort the mom, just a kid herself, I felt helpless. I didn’t have medicine to treat her baby girl. All I could do was some essential oil treatments to hopefully help her breath better throughout the night until we could get her to the clinic first thing in the morning.

There were dozens of children in their village two days up river with these same symptoms, they told me. Several had died.

Nothing prepares you for this part of missions.

Every day my heart breaks for the hurting, lost, hopeless.

I look into Maricleine’s big brown eyes and wonder if she will ever fully heal. After all, she can never un-see the things hersix-year-old eyes have seen.

I break up another fight between two eight-year-old girls who never get along and I know that they are fighting because they’ve been raised in fend-for-yourself homes and taught that you lie to get what you want or to keep from getting beaten again.

Richard comes home on the moto one night while little four-year-old Frankie yells to him, “I’m hungry!” It’s almost 9pm and he still hasn’t had dinner and probably won’t.

I walk down the street with Maricleine and her big sister Mariclea and they see their mom walking down the street. They call to her, excitedly. She barely gives them a glance. “Where is she going?” I ask. To the trash to find them some clothes, they tell me. Not because they don’t have money for clothes, but because their money is better spent on alcohol and partying.

I sit at the hospital with a Ticuna Indian friend as she prepares to welcome a sweet baby girl. I can’t figure out why she and her husband don’t seem the slightest bit excited. I find out later it’s because they’re embarrassed to be having another child. It was just an “indiscretion” and every one they know tells them they should have never had this baby. Another baby born with no one on its side.

Maricleine’s two year old brother, Alonzinho, shows up completely naked just about every day now because his clothes are all dirty and his mom never washes them. His hair, full of lice, has never been cut and he pees wherever he happens to be standing at the moment. He only knows a few words. His four and five year old siblings take care of him.

Every day it’s story after story.

Every day we remind ourselves that we weren’t called to do it all—we can’t do it all.

Instead we do what we can. We clothe the little bums, brush the rotted-out teeth, feed the hungry bellies, speak love to the hurting hearts, bring food and treatment three times a day to the sick father with TB, rock the crying baby, plan to drill the wells to bring clean water, raise funds to train more young men from the uncontacted regions, all the while sharing Christ through every aspect and opportunity that prevents itself.

But most of all, we pray.

We pray because there are so many bellies out there going hungry and kids that need clothes and teeth that will rot out and hearts that may never know true Love and men, women, and children who will die from preventable and treatable diseases.... but we know the Ultimate Provider and Healer.

We pray because we are human and sometimes we just want to say, “Forget it!” and walk away because we feel alone and drained. Sometimes we don’t love like we should and we react in frustration and we choose not to give mercy..... but oh how good it is that His mercy is new every day.

We pray because the needs are tremendous and the workers are oh so very few... but we know the Lord of the Harvest.

We pray because there are so many projects on our hearts to reach more and more and a million dollars would only scratch the surface... but we know the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and to Him a million dollars is mere numbers.

We pray because we could never do enough to save them all, but Christ already did enough to save them all.

Please pray with us. We’re all in this together.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

This is real life, and it hurts.

This is uncomfortable, it is sad and it hurts. It is the kind of thing that makes a grown man cry – and it has. I have cried about it alone because the weight is unbearable.
I saw pain in her eyes as she told me. I don’t think I had seen a broken heart in someone’s eyes before – I saw it in hers.

Since she shared with me what she heard, it has been like that black cloud that follows you around on the cartoons. Except this is reality, a very dark, painful reality.

Please be warned, this is not easy or fun to read. This isn’t something that is going to just touch your heart. This is painful and it is something that hurts your soul.

This is how it happened.

Maricleine (see the last blog, she’s our little breakfast visitor) showed up with her siblings just like every other afternoon. We had just returned from dropping off some friends in Leticia and from trying to rest a bit before returning to our overly busy life and ministry.

As usual, everyone was at our house. At least 10 people including kids, teens and Rosa (the wonderful lady that God has put in our life) were here. I was gone, looking at another house for another couple. When I returned I walked in and Ashley looked like something was really wrong.

She began by saying, “ I feel physically sick at what she (Maricleine) just told me”.

Now, Maricleine has said some really vulgar things and we know that she is exposed to pornography and abuse in her home. But I don’t think anyone could be ready for what was to come next – not even Rosa who has been here for years working with people like Maricleine and her family.

Rosa asked, “Maricleine, did you mom go to work today?”

“No”, said Marcleine, in a very normal way. “She’s sick”.

“She’s sick, what’s wrong with her?” asked Ashley.

“She had a baby last night” once again, said in a normal, non issue type way. At this point Rosa and Ashley looked at eachother very confused.

Ashley repeated, “She had a baby?”

“LIE” was what quickly and obviously upsettingly came out of Maricleia’s (Maricleine’s older sister) mouth.

Maricleine quickly defended herself by saying,” No, I saw it! Its head was this big” and holding up her hand and making a circle with her fingers about the size of a quarter.

What, who told you it was a baby?” Ashley said.

“I saw it!” she responded as any child would who was pleading their case. “It was there in all the blood” she added to prove she wasn’t lying this time and to subsequently seal an image in our hearts that she had in her head.

“But who told you it was a baby?!” Ashley requested again.

My dad, but I saw it, it’s head was this big” she said again and once more showing the size.

Her mom had aborted her baby and gave birth to a dead child, probably no more that 2 months along. She did it where everyone in the family was able to see – including a 6 year old child who has been exposed to more than any grown man should ever have to see.

One of the saddest things was the simple, easy, matter-of-fact type way that this young child told the story. As if it were normal…..but, for her,  it is normal.
Who knows how many times she has seen that in her life, her dead brother or sister lying in a pool of blood because it was an inconvenience to her parents.

It is illegal to have an abortion here in Brazil but that is a non-issue when you can buy drugs to do it at home at the local pharmacy.

The next day, Maricleine came over in the morning, as she always does. But this time her first words were something out of a horror movie. Something she said just like she would say, “HEY neighbor!” or “Can I have some bread?????”. This was no good morning greeting.

“My mom threw the baby away this morning”, she said.

Think about those words. This young girl watched her mom (that wouldn’t care if any of her other children died today) literally throw her baby brother or sister away. Treated like it was a piece of trash.

Maricleine has now learned that if you don’t want a child, you can just kill it and throw it away with the other things you don’t want.

She is 6, that could have easily been her. Her mom certainly doesn’t want her or any of her other 7+ brothers or sisters. Her dad makes it clear that the only thing he wants is beer and sex. EVERYTHING else is free for him to ignore, abuse and treat as he wants.

As we are hurt for this family and their reality, for the mom that obviously has no self worth or love for/from anyone. For the baby that was murdered because it was conceived in a drunken night and was nothing more than an expense at a pharmacy. And for these children that are exposed to such horrible things as if it is normal,
our eyes are opened that this is normal. This is “right”. This is what you do, this is how you treat life. This is the majority of the world. This is how most kids grow up, this is how millions and millions of innocent children die. This is the meaningless life that most of the world lives.

This is realityapart from Christ.

What are we doing to accomplish what James tells us is “true religion” by taking care of the orphans and widows in their need. We stand up and hold signs outside of abortion clinics and talk about how sinful it is and how God will judge murder…..what if those children were born and remained unwanted – would we invite them into our homes, would we feed them, would we adopt them, would we love them as if they were our own?

Before we are so quick to say a hearty, “YES, OF COURSE”……how are we doing that for the literal MILLIONS of them all over the world right now? If we are not doing it now, what makes us think we would take up for the more than 3,500 new ones each day in the US alone?

May God have mercy on us as we claim to be followers of Him but live completely contrary to our words – and His Word.

We are reminded that apart from Christ, we are not even able to desire to do the things that these children and adults need.  That He died for us while we were yet sinners. That He loved us first. And THAT is our motivation.

So, our hearts are broken. Our souls are heavy and the weight of sin is unbearable.  The hopelessness that these children are in is enough to make you ask yourself, “is there a God”?

But as we run to Him in our pain, we know that He is the Great Comforter that He promises to give us rest and that His yoke is light (because he has carried the weight of this sin already). We know that the weight of Glory crushes the weight of sin. We know that He loves these people and these babies more than we ever could. I would never give my son to be brutally murdered so that Maricleine’s mom and dad could have life.  Yet He did – and my call is to LIVE that in front of them.

Pray for us. Pray for this family. Pray that we glorify Him in all that we do. Pray that the Church steps up and DOES what it was called to do and quits merely filling bottles with coins once a year to aide a pro-life center. Pray that along with that, we will open our homes, our families. Pray that more people will foster, that more will adopt, that more MEN will step out to reach people like Maricleine’s dad.

Let’s stop passing out condoms and start bringing in children.

“Help us to know a sacrifice that’s real, a pain that we can feel, a Love we can’t explain”. It is our calling as His disciples.

Blessed Hope come, there is only One, we need You.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Breakfast Visitor

“Who sleeps in this room?” our little breakfast visitor asked with intense curiosity.

“That’s where Elliott and Raegan sleep,” I said, smiling at her sweet toothless grin. This was probably question number one hundred since she had come in less than thirty minutes prior.

“They both sleep in here? Just the two of them?” She seemed puzzled.

“Yep,” I said, not sure where the confusion was coming in.

“Then why are there two mattresses?”

All that morning I tried to see through her little eyes and then—bam—another question that caught me off guard. In her mind she couldn’t grasp the excessiveness of two separate beds for two children. For a moment I flashed back to when I told Richard we really needed to get their beds built soon so they weren’t “just on mattresses on the floor”. Perspective.

I still haven’t been in her house, but judging by the size of less than 400 square feet and the fact that she has 7 siblings, I’d say there’s quite a bit of bed sharing happening.

Little Mariclene (pronounced “Mar-ee-ClAYnee”) first showed up at our house about a month ago now with a little bowl, asking for some dish soap. After giving her that, she was back within 15 minutes asking for  farinha, a local food that serves as a belly-filler more or less. I didn’t have any but I did give her some beans and rice. Soon she was back for some oil. And so our relationship began.

I didn’t know her story at the time, but soon I would, and my heart has been broken for this little girl ever since.

Just a few minutes after the mattress conversation, she was staring wide-eyed into our shower.

“Is that a shower?” she asked.

“It is,” I said, waiting.

“It works?”

“It does.”


Later that day I gave her a shower. One would have thought I took her to Disney World. I had to be careful not to scrub her head because her scalp is so raw from the skin infection caused by the lice.

When I asked when was the last time she took a shower, she just shrugged her little shoulders. She was all giggles and smiles with the water pouring down and bubbles swirling down the drain.

My heart hurt.

Next were the teeth.

“Do you have a toothbrush, Marecleine?” It was more of a rhetorical question because I could tell by her rotten teeth that if she did have one, it had never met her teeth.


I got her a toothbrush and her very own toothpaste. She was so excited and ready to brush them right then and there.

I wasn’t ready to see what I saw though. Every single tooth in her mouth was rotten, most of them to the point that they were mere fragments. Her tongue had a fungus. Her gums immediately began to bleed as I softly brushed, explaining to her the importance of brushing twice a day and telling her I would keep her toothbrush at my house for safe keeping—and to make sure it happened.

Next were her little ears that I’m sure haven’t seen a Q-tip in years, if ever.

Over the last month and a half, her story has unfolded.

Her dad is a drunk. Sometimes he walks around the neighborhood in his underwear because he has no idea what he’s doing.
Her mom works all day long, seven days a week. Not to provide for her children, but to buy alcohol.
She has 4 siblings at home, the other three were taken in by neighbors.
Her dad uses up all the water at home, so she never takes a bath.
Her mom never washes her clothes so she wears dirty clothes all the time, often the same clothes for days in a row. Sometimes, she takes her mom’s shirts and twists the twists the straps to fit over her head.
She rarely goes to school and her parents don’t care.
She once stayed with a neighbor down the road for three days in a row. Her mom never even came to look for her.
Her dad sends her to beg for food, but eats it all when she brings it home.
She’s often awake and watching while her parents watch pornography.
She has lice and her teeth are rotten far beyond repair.
She roams around the neighborhood day and night and her parents couldn’t care less.
Looking at her, you would think she had highlights in her hair. It’s just malnutrition.
I thought she was probably four, almost five when I first met her. She’s seven according to neighbors.
She has no idea when her birthday is.

The saddest part is this story can be repeated over and over here in our community.

In fact, Mariclene’s little brother, Frankie, showed up the next day after I had given her a shower, asking if he could have one, too. I told him in a few minutes so he went back to playing. When the time came, I called to him, “Frankie, do you want to take a shower?”

“Yeah!” he said, leaving behind the RC helicopter that he finally got a turn to play with.

What four-year-old boy gives up his turn at a flying toy to take a shower??

A boy that can’t remember the last time he used soap to bathe his body.

Not part of a family but not technically orphans. I don’t know the term for that other than “abandoned”.

The needs here are tremendous. My heart hurts as I think of each of the little needy faces we’ve met already and we’ve lived in this house just over a month.

Right now we are just praying and doing what we can. Teaching these kids, loving them, bathing them when essential, feeding when needed, and setting boundaries when necessary. You get a dozen kids who have never been disciplined a day in their lives together under one roof and you have to have a lot of rules. But they are loving it, rules and all.

God has placed a sweet lady in our lives, Rosa, who has lived in the neighborhood since before it was developed into government housing. She’s a local and knows the kids and their needs and has adopted several herself. We go to her with our questions and ask her advice on giving to these kids. We want to be sure we are being effective and not doing more harm than good. She’s a lifesaver and we love her dearly.

I think she is the only person we have met since we’ve lived here that has never asked us for anything. But not because she doesn’t have any needs. Her list is extensive like the rest.  When you ask her about it though, she’ll tell you, “I have Jesus, so I have it all. The rest takes care of itself.”

Lord, give me that faith.

Pray for this community. Pray for us. If I could, I’d take Mariclene and Frankie into my home right now and make them my own in a heartbeat. This town doesn’t have any type of children’s home but there is an overwhelming need for one.

I have no doubt that right now God is orchestrating something to meet that need.

Pray with us.

Nixson, Mariclene, and Elliott
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