Healthy rascals, holy children
Posted by Mark and Suzana Greenwood at 14:59 on 14th December 2011
Not able to celebrate Christmas as a child for lack of financial resources, when he grew up, Henrique came to understand that the joy of Christmas is not a product to be bought.
So, he set his heart to providing a Christmas celebration for the children from his poor neighbourhood. Being an athlete, the celebration took the format of a race.
For over twenty years now up to a thousand children, most of them barefoot, from toddlers to teenagers, take part in the Corrida São Pivete race every December.
Having many contacts and being very articulate, Henrique has managed to get the São Pivete race on to the official sports calendar in Fortaleza, a city of three million people in the Northeast of Brazil.
Children who have taken part in the race have also been able to explore their potential and enjoyment of sports all year round in the training scheme which has been consolidated through the São Pivete project.
São Pivete is one of those clever names with multiple meanings: In portuguese são means either “saint” or “they are” or “healthy”; and pivete can mean “rascal”, “urchin” or simply “children” in north-eastern dialect. Depending on "the eyes of the beholder" the children who take part in São Pivete are potentially healthy or urchins.
As a Christian, Henrique saw them as Holy Children, made in the image of God, made to celebrate the gift of the Saviour, created by God to live life in all its fullness.
In the recent Panamerican games in Mexico, Joilson Bernardo da Silva (right), an athlete who started at São Pivete won bronze in the 5,000 metres.
Henrique is not just an example in the realm of athletics. Last September, Claudia, his wife, had their fourth child, Ana Ester. When she was born, they were informed that the baby girl had severe health problems.
Not able to go home with her parents, Ana Ester was looked after by the medical team at the children's hospital and Claudia visited regularly, providing breast milk to feed Ana Ester.
Ana Ester was called to be with the Lord last week, she will never run in São Pivete race. However, she won't be forgotten either. During the months she was in hospital, Henrique and Claudia became aware of the great need for glass bottles to collect breast milk.
This shortage prevented mothers from donating milk to feed the babies in hospital care who so dearly needed it. So, for 2011 race, the entrance fee is glass bottles to be donated as a Christmas present to the children's hospital.
Bringing joy to others and enjoying themselves, Henrique, Claudia and the children racing at São Pivete proclaim the true Christmas message: the gift of God, the gift of joy, a gift to be shared, a gift that brings life.
Mark & Suzana Greenwood