Loving Jesus in Crackland

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Loving Jesus in Crackland

For me it started late one night as I was walking with my wife and some volunteers to our hotel at about midnight.  We were promoting the upcoming Global School of Ministry at an event in Sao Paulo and we had just finished for the evening and were looking forward to some sleep before we had to be back to work the next day.  Our hotel did not have parking and so we had to park our car two blocks away.  I had been thinking that day about my desire to reach out to the street kids of Brazil but I didn't know if I would have time to go look for them because of our full schedule.  As we approached the front of our hotel, my eye caught a young street boy who was walking toward us.  "Look!  A street kid!" I said excitedly. 

His name was Ricardo.  He asked us for food and I asked him for his friendship.  Over the next few days, I met his mother and brother and learned more about his life.  He is about 12 years old.  He and his family are residents of a community in Sao Paulo called Crackland.  It is a roving band of thousands of homeless crack addicts doing drugs 24/7.  Ricardo came to live with us for a week while we were working with Child Services to try and get permission for him to live with us full time.  After a week, the crack addiction was too much for him and he ran away, back to Crackland.  Perhaps at another time I will write more about Ricardo.  God used him to teach me so much about His love.

Now that I have a friend in Crackland, the place is constantly on my heart.  On Thursday last week, my ministry partner Allyson and I drove to Sao Paulo to join another ministry who has been working in the community for 20 years.  They were planning to take bread, coffee and water as an outreach to the drug addicts.  I wanted to join them because the few times that I approached Crackland on foot, I was challenged before being able to walk into the group.  I wanted to go with an existing ministry, get to know some of the people and hopefully be accepted into the group.  God heard my prayers and came through in a big way!

Three things happened that really helped.  First, the police were there, blocking the street that the crack addicts usually use at night.  When we arrived, the police started giving us a hard time.  Then, as we were leaving, the residents of the apartments on the street we were walking started throwing hot water and water balloons off of their balcony at us and the crack addicts.  They apparently think that feeding the addicts causes them to stay, nevermind the Crackland community has existed for decades.  Nevertheless, those events made it feel like we were a little more "with" the Crackland and a little bit less outsiders.

The most important thing happened when Pastor Irmao who was leading the outreach struck up a conversation.  He started telling me about the community and his work there.  He mentioned that he had a rehab farm where he works with the ones who want to get out of Crackland and fight their addiction.  By this time it was about 2 am but Irmao invited us to go and visit his property that night.  Being a little crazy, we accepted the invitation.  We first went back into Crackland and found a guy who was ready to leave.  The pastor said that if we were going to go all the way there, we should take one of them with us.

By the time we checked out of our hotel, went back to Crackland to find a willing soul, and drove the 65km to the ranch, it was almost 6 am.  We slept for a few hours and then took a tour of the facility.  It was quite nice with bunk beds, a full kitchen, a soccer field and a small garden.  Pastor Irmao told us some of the history of the ministry and we were able to share our vision for working with street kids trapped in drug addiction and prostitution.  It was certainly a "God connection".  Just as we were thinking of heading back to Curitiba, the Pastor asked me to preach at the afternoon service there on the ranch.  Of course, I jumped at the opportunity!

I had told Pastor Irmao about Allysons singing ability and so he asked Allyson to lead the men in a few songs of worship to start the service.  From the moment Allyson began singing, a sweet annointing fell in the room.  It was electric.  Everyone joined in the worship with great enthusiasm.  The pastor asked for more songs and as Allyson was leading, I heard the Lord tell me that He wanted to restore these men to their purpose.  Earlier in prayer I saw what appeared to be a large tear drop that was reflective like a mirror.  I realized that Godly sorrow had led many of these men to repentance but that they had not yet been able to see past the reflection of what they had become to the destiny that God was calling them.

I gave a simple message about how the kingdom is released in our lives as we change our thinking.  I encouraged them that  "where sin abounds grace abounds all the more".  Our God is able to take a person who has missed their original purpose and create a new destiny better than what the person would have had if they never sinned.  As we transitioned into ministry time, I told them to find a place where they could be comfortable.  I asked them not to pray but rather to allow the Holy Spirit the opportunity to speak to their hearts.  I told them if they felt the presence of the Spirit, not to speak in tongues but rather just rest and allow the Spirit to embrace them.  Allyson started playing songs about the Love of God and many of the men were on their faces.  Many were crying.  I prayed for each one, asking God to bring a revelation of His love for them and the purpose He saw in them.

After the ministry time, I asked them to raise their hands if God had spoken to them during the ministry time.  Almost everyone raised their hands.  I chose two of them at random to come forward and give testimonies and then one guy whose hands I had prayed for.  I chose him because when I prayed for him, I felt like I had grabbed hold of a power line.  I felt a numbness going from my feet, up my legs as the power increased.  I had an impression that God was imparting an anointing for healing and that's why I prayed for his hands.  The first two gave testimonies of feeling Gods presence and what God was calling them to do.  The third guy, told us that God didn't say anything.  He said when I prayed for him, he felt an electric shock go into his chest and then he felt like his stomach and chest were on fire.  What fun!

After the service, one of the guys came up to speak with me.  I remember him because he was all the way in the back during the ministry time and he was standing by the wall crying.  He said that when the service started, he saw the wall open up behind us and an angel step into the room.  He said he only used to see this stuff when he was high on Crack. 

Praise God for this connection with Pastor Irmao and the opportunity to minister to the precious guys at his ranch.  We are talking about ways that our ministries can work together to continue reaching the men at Crackland.  We are also discussing how we can help him get a new property to use for the pregnant women in Crackland and also as a place for young girls who want to leave the life of prostitution.

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