God's grace through life's grime
Ten Brazilian teenagers were baptised by BMS workers on Easter Sunday
Tragedy, violence and poverty: sadly these are realities for many young people living in tough conditions in parts of northern Brazil.
However, sorrow turned to joy and despair to hope for ten teenagers in Trapiá on Easter Sunday when they were baptised by BMS workers Daveen and Mike Wilson.
Here, Daveen describes what the baptisms mean for the young people and for the church, and introduces us to three of the group.
Back row, L to R: Eduardo (15), Janailson (14), Alison (16)
Front row, L to R: Josenildo (18), Adriana (12), Williane (13), Kenedy (13), Edson (15), Débora (13)
Each young person in this photo is a story of God’s grace through hard times. To give you some idea, only three of them actually live with both parents.
To prepare, we ran a series of ten baptismal classes covering the basics and, with this group, we actually did a few extra classes to take them to Easter. As usual, some dropped out on the way – they have to be faithful to the classes or I don’t baptise them. It’s a sort of test of their sincerity.
We had them all for Sunday lunch here at our house just before the baptism and prayed together. We went over five commitments of church members – here in Brazil, folk automatically become church members when they are baptised.
To support them, they each received a Bible for their baptism, and have been put in pairs to either read together or check the other is reading. They are also all part of small groups – we have accompanied them to the groups all through Lent, and group leaders should keep an eye on them.
I visited all but two of them a few days later to check how they are doing – all but one has definitely felt tested. But the fact is they are vulnerable; the bigger fact is that our God is able to keep them from falling. Please pray that each of them will stand up to Satan’s testing as Jesus did after his baptism.
Thirteen year-old Débora is one of the babies saved by our breastfeeding project (as featured on the 2003 BMS harvest video, More than survivors).
Her parents then became Christians and ended up leading a church plant we did in the Honey Hills. It was going so well, then Satan won a battle (I can find no other explanation) and her mum went off with another man.
Débora and her two younger sisters (her sister Sheila, also one of those baptised) were raised by her dad. He has now got a job where he has to be away two to three months at a time – he left for a stint as soon as the Easter service was over.
Débora is now having to keep house yet again. I met her just after the baptisms and she was in tears, having to cook meals even though she was feeling sick, and their maizemeal had all gone mouldy. The church is trying to think how we can help.
Josenildo’s mum died of eclampsia when he was about two, as did his baby brother. His dad got together with another woman, so Josenildo – now aged 18 – has been roughly raised by his grandmother.
Josenildo’s uncle died of leukemia when he was about five and, whilst digging up his mum’s grave to bury the uncle (her brother) we were shocked to hear people pointing out the bones and hair to little Josenildo and saying, “There's your mum, look!” (As a result of this incident, we extended the cemetery.)
Treated like a second-class citizen all his life, it is lovely seeing Josenildo finding his place and being accepted in the church, as an equal with the other young folk – not put up with because “someone has to look after him”.
Kenedy's uncle killed his wife with an axe a few weeks ago (supposedly because she was being unfaithful). Now his whole family is under a death threat from the woman's brother who has already killed a few – he had just escaped from prison and was in hiding.
It was a miracle that his parents came to the baptism (they aren't Christians, but five of his older brothers are) but they were very on edge the whole time.
The brother has said that the uncle will just kill any other member of the family he finds and has already tried to set fire to his grandparents’ house one night.
We keep reminding ourselves that love is stronger than hate, and that life is stronger than death.
Pray that they would allow him to mould their lives and ask for his guidance as they face difficulties. May they be great witnesses to their family and friends.
Pray for the protection of these young people, and pray for Daveen and Mike as they continue to disciple them.