Yesterday was a day to remember! We had planned a special event in the favela Cachoeirinha in Sao Paulo. Every Saturday we minister in this favela but this was to be an extra fun day with hot dogs, cotton candy, cupcakes, and an open-air worship service. Well, as I said, NOTHING went as planned….
Our team consisted of 26 people- four of those were young men from another low income area where we minister. We had to use our bus and the van as we were also delivering large food baskets provided through donations from a Swiss Foundation. At the favela we had to carry uphill all the food baskets, equipment, chairs, food, coolers, children’s materials, water filters, etc in the scorching heat along a treacherous debris strewn path. This required several trips back and forth (or up and down I should say) which made me so very happy that we had so many young, strong guys with us! One resident there had arranged an empty shack for us to use where we stretched out a tarp in the front for shade. Everyone got to work putting together hot dogs, getting the cupcakes ready, and all the rest while the local kids listened to a bible story a few yards away in the soccer field. Aside from the heat all was going well.
Then it hit. Out of the blue a serious rain storm approached fast and completely inundated the entire favela. We had to drop all that we were doing to gather the kids together under the tarp and protect them from the torrents of rainwater that were rising and rushing down that same treacherous path. As we stood by under the tarp we could see rainwater and mudslides rushing into the sides of the patched-together homes. I could just imagine the parents of those kids panicking in worry about where their kids were at that moment. We couldn’t let them go so we made the best of the situation and our team worked non-stop to keep the tarp from caving in on us from water accumulation while the rest of us fed the children until they popped! They ate as many hot dogs and cupcakes as they wanted much to their delight! Despite the danger and being a little wet they all seemed to be content. We, of course, were exhausted, soaked and muddy!
The torrential rain lasted for what seemed like a very long time and took its toll on the homes. We watched as clotheslines full of clothes and pieces and parts of homes washed down the hill and disappeared. A woman in the hut adjacent to where we were ran out in the downpour and furiously hacked away at the ground trying to create a path for the water to deviate from her hut which was already inundated with mud. Our guy, Anderson, ran out and helped her as much as he could with the one tool he had available.
When the rain let up a little some of our guys carried smaller kids through the water and debris to their homes. Many parents were so thankful and relieved that we took such good care of them. Sadly though when they took three brothers and sisters back to their home the place had been overtaken with mud from a mudslide. The embankment behind their little place came down and passed through their home first before moving downwards and inundating homes located in front of them. If they had not been with us they would’ve been home alone with their older sister as their parents weren’t in the neighborhood.
As the rains let up completely we continued with our plans and set up the cotton candy machine and continued making the hot dogs and distributed them to the community. Anyone could come and get served.
In the aftermath of all the commotion we could see the effects of the rain on that poor neighborhood. Several families lost their homes completely. A family was out in the small “river” in front of their house looking at what used to be their bed. Another woman called us into her home to see the damage the mudslide slide did to her place- everything was either covered in mud or destroyed. Another woman was crying in desperation saying “I can sleep anywhere but what about my kids?” A young 17 year old girl broke her flip flops trying to show me the kitchen area of her home. With each step she took the 6 inch deep mud sucked the shoes right off her feet.
Thankfully we had all those food baskets with us! We were able to go immediately to those most in need and give them something to help them through the next weeks. We weren’t prepared to help construction wise as our goal for that day was something else. We do plan on going back Tuesday and helping in whatever way we can…cleanup, emergency repair, clothes, more food baskets, and getting many more water filters into their hands! Lord willing.
So, as we are always reminded, plans change! This is not always a bad thing. From our point of view yesterday was INCREDIBLE as we made an impact on that community. After getting back home and eating our entire team, although exhausted, had a reflection time to talk about the events of the day. The feedback was amazing. Three of the guys who went with us who are from another favela testified that they thought where they lived was bad but they had no idea that worse places existed. One of the guys, Igor, was telling us that one of the “low” points of the day was when he was carrying two small kids back to their hut he slipped and the rushing water whisked his flip flop downstream never to be seen again. The “high” point was that a woman saw his situation and gave him another pair!
For me [Jodi] the “high” point of the day was right towards the end as we were finishing up the cotton candy and giving hot dogs to the people a large guy walked past me (obviously one of the drug traffickers who have a “point” next to where we were) nodded and commented “valeu o esforço”- it was worth the effort!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your continued prayers!
Pete and Jodi