"Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words." Saint Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Winter Has Arrived..........What Do We Do?

Ecclesiastes 4:11-"And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone?"

Winter officially starts on Friday but we have been hit with cold temperatures the last few nights. The newspaper said it got down to 32 degrees fahrenheit this morning. When that happens you have to do whatever you can do to stay warm. Our family follows the wise counsel of Ecclesiates:
I'm sure some who read this think of Brasil as being warm year round, and in some parts that is very much the case. In the southern parts, however, we have 4 distinct seasons and when winter hits, it is as bad or worse than any winter we've ever experienced in the states. Not because it is so much colder but because no one has central heat. If you have heat, it is in the form of electric or gas room heaters or, as in some restaurants and finer establishments, a wall unit called a "split" which does hot and cold air. It's more expensive than the other but does a great job of heating a smaller room.

Another reason it is insanely cold is that our homes are made out of concrete with no insulation. So our house, especially the upstairs, is almost unbearably hot in the summer with temperatures constantly in the 90's and almost unbearly cold in the winters as the cold comes in our house and doesn't leave. In the winter it is almost always colder inside your house than outside.

These cold nights have been very rough on our three youngest kids. They all have colds and coughs right now. I know the cold doesn't cause sickness (from what little my brain remembers from my physical therapy school days) but I don't think getting out of bed in the morning and seeing your breath is a good thing either.

So tonight, as we start our 7th winter in Southern Brasil, Benay and I finally decided to go out and buy some new heaters for the smaller kids' rooms.

As I walked back to the car with our two heaters in my hand, I began to think about something else I read in this morning's paper. Two street people died last night because of the cold.

You see we live in a third world country. Although it might be hard to realize this if you visited our city because our city has everything you would want. Great restaurants, great schools, great neighborhoods to live in, big malls, movie theaters, nice cars and great houses and apartments. But, in the middle of all the wealth, is extreme poverty. You cannot escape the poverty. When you are at a traffic light, people of all ages will approach your car asking for money. Some might want to wash your window, some might try to sell you pencils or oranges, some might juggle, and on and on, but the bottom line is they want money. We've seen kids as young as Anderson (4) on the streets at 10 at night asking for money.

You don't want to get calloused to what is around you, but we've also seen first hand people using our gifts to buy drugs instead of food or clothing. You find yourself becoming cynical at who "really" needs your help and who is just trying to feed an addiction.

Just last week Benay and I were approached in a mall by a woman with a young child. She lives in the interior of our state and she had to come to the city to have medical tests done on her daughter and she just needed $20 to buy bus fare to get back home. We probably have heard that same story 20 times from 20 different people since we moved here. You do not want it to, but cynicism sets in and you begin to roll your eyes when you hear the same story again instead of thinking compassionately first.

The class disparity that exists here is something I've never seen before. In the states you can live your entire life in a city and never see poverty because it tends to be kept in a specific area. Benay and I took our two smallest children to a birthday party Sunday and drove down a street that had, on the left side, a huge "shanty town" called a "favela" and, on the right side, a yacht club.

I know we can't help everyone but, as I plugged in our new heaters, I couldn't help but think what could have been done to keep two men from dying alone, cold in the street last night. Alcoholism is a big problem among the poor here, and we have come to learn that many times it gets started because alcohol is the only way that the people can keep warm on a cold winter's night. Not to excuse the misuse of alcohol, but it makes it easier to understand how someone could use whatever means necessary to keep warm.

Since leaving the states, my eyes have been open to the poverty that exists in the world and how so little is being done to help. We see it first hand every day.

Please ask God to touch our church family in a way that we will feel a burden to do something. It is much easier to talk about it than actually do something about it. It's much easier for me to blog about it than to want to get my hands dirty.

Pray for us, in whatever way God is leading, to get dirty.

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