As the end of the year approaches, we always take time to look back and see how God has been moving in our own lives and in that of our community here in Rio de Janeiro. This has been an incredible year for many of our projects and we feel particularly blessed to have played a role in the transformation of a friend from the street. We want to share his story this month.
Eduardo has been on an incredible journey this year. He is a friend of ours from Praca XV, a square downtown that sits right on the bay. This park is home to many teenagers and families. When we met Eduardo about a year ago he told us his story of being thrown out of his house at age 13 because of continual drug use and conflicts with his mother. Unsure of what to do or how to survive, he migrated to the downtown area and found a group of friends who would become his new family. Most of our friends on the streets use drugs at varying degrees and Eduardo was no different. His drug addiction had worsened by the time we met him at age 18, and he had grown from a child to an adult with little hope of a better future.
As with the beginning of most of our street relationships, we introduced ourselves with no grand plan or agenda except to bring the presence of Christ wherever we go. We simply offered a friendly smile, a listening ear and the desire to create genuine friendship. Out of these simple acts of love, Eduardo's confidence in us grew as did his desire to spend time with us. One day after our worship service, one of our volunteers sat down with Eduardo and shared about Christ with him. It was an incredible moment when he accepted Christ, but that was only the beginning of what God wants to do for him.
Eduardo began to express to us his desire to get off the streets and have a normal life. He visited church with us a few times, and his determination deepened. Through a contact we knew, we got him a spot at a Christian rehabilitation center. Many of our street friends often say they want to leave the street, though many lack the resolve to do so. But the Holy Spirit was working in Eduardo's life and he never looked back at all he was leaving. Instead, his eyes spoke of the future, of all the expectations, hopes and dreams he held.
After three months at the rehab center, several visits from our community and a newfound understanding of God's word, the program was successfully completed. On a provisional basis, his mother agreed to allow Eduardo to move back into her home. Three months later he now holds a full time job, has returned to school and is an active member of his church. When I recently saw him, he was wearing a new shirt, pants and pair of shoes that he bought with his own money! Eduardo is very quiet, but he wears a proud look on his face and knows that it is God who has worked this transformation in his life. He says, “I know Christ has so much more for my life. God created me and loves me. It's only through prayer and relying on his strength that I can get through each day.”
I think of the paralytic who, along with his friends, was determined to have an audience with Jesus. Refusing to be hindered by the crowd's barricade, he was lowered through the roof to lie at Christ's feet. In faith, the man he turns to Jesus knowing it is only him who can change his life. Christ says, “Son your sins are forgiven. Get up take your mat and walk” (Mark 2:9). Eduardo has also found faith to turn to Christ and depend on His words to be transformed. He has begun to walk away from his crippling lifestyle into the open arms of Christ's love, acceptance and life.
We hope you enjoy a Christmas full of the expectation and joy of Christ's coming to be the Word made Flesh.
Rich, Rebecca & Anna Nichols