Last night I spent about three hours with two of my most favorite brothers in Christ. Their names are Elinton and Everton and they are part of our house church family.
Here is a picture or Elinton, with Everton in the background, right before Elinton baptized his mom last October.
Our bond is deep with this facility because not only did Paulo Renato go there to allow God to heal him from his addiction but Elinton and Everton did as well. Through the years we've had many men worship, work and pray with us who were part of the same facility.
Alcohol, crack cocaine, cocaine, marijuana and others are some of the drugs that these guys have used in their past. They didn't all use all of those drugs. Some were addicted to only one, some more than one....you get the picture. They had addictions.
I share their past because they share with everyone. I'm impressed with how open they are about their past. I think I might be too proud to confess "everything." These guys aren't. I remember before we went to the states I asked Paulo if we could share that he had a relapse last year and was back at the facility to be freed once again from his alcohol addiction. He looked me in the eyes and said, "Please share because I need their prayers and they need to know that through those prayers God is going to heal me from this."
Last night as we were talking I said, "When you guys were addicted to......" and Elinton stopped me. He looked me in the eyes, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, "We are still addicts and we will always be addicts." They teach me so much. They know this battle will be for the rest of their lives. The battle to stay clean. They also know how important family is and how good our church family is at taking care of everybody.
Addictions and family. We all have our addictions. These guys have just realized the power there is in asking for help, being open about their weaknesses, having a support system and relying on God for healing. They are my family.
These guys want to see lives changed by the power of God and so last night we spent some time on the streets together.
Why? There is a brother (André) who recently left the drug/alcohol rehab facility and is living on the streets again because his family won't accept him back at home. Elinton and Everton know that if you live on the streets it's just a matter of time before you fall back into your addictions. So we hit some places where our brother told us he might be. As I type I am remembering five different places we went.
Places, to be quite honest, where I wasn't real comfortable. My girlfriend and I grew up in strong Christian homes. Had strong Christian families and friends. Neither one of us spent any time at all hanging out with cocaine addicts, prostitutes and alcoholics. We were in the middle of all of that last night.
As we all got out of the car to ask these people if they knew our brother there was an initial hesitation to share anything. They told me later that the people on the streets thought we were either the police or drug dealers and they did not want to give us any information. After we shared that we are a church family and we wanted to take care of him the information began to flow. We followed the information to lots of different places but came up empty.
The brother we were looking for has our numbers and as we said our goodbyes we all agreed to call the others if he reached out to us.
We aren't sure exactly what we are going to do when we get in touch with him. We are a small church family with not much money. We can't buy him a house or pay for monthly apartment rent and, honestly, he isn't asking us for that. He just wants help in finding a safe place to be. We want to do everything we can do to keep him off the streets to make sure he doesn't fall into those easy temptations again. We also want him to be a part of our church family. Family and addicts. Our group is both.
After we abandoned our search I confessed to the guys that I didn't have a warm fuzzy when we got out of the car and were in the middle of all the different kinds of people. I shared that I just have never spent much time doing that but that I wanted to. A little ashamed to admit it but these guys have taught me way more than I've ever taught them about being open and honest.
My confession led to a discussion. A discussion about how our small church family can minister to people on the streets. I said nothing. I just listened as the Spirit began to move in my brothers' hearts and gave them ideas of what a ministry like that would look like. In a matter of minutes we agreed to begin praying about how and what it would look like and where God would want us to start.
There are no easy solutions to this massive problem in our city but we have a group eager to rely on God to provide everything we need for this ministry.
I ask you to pray with us as we follow the Spirit's leading.
One time Elinton got out of the car to talk to someone about where we might find André. Everton and I stayed in the car. We began talking about his past addictions. You would be amazed at what his life was like before Jesus. I looked him in the eyes and said, "You are a miracle of God! You know that right?" He looked me in the eyes and, with a huge smile, said, "I absolutely know that brother."
We want more miracles like Everton, Elinton and Paulo Renato in our city. Pray with us that God just blows us away with opportunities for Him to heal.