Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Contagious Fear (Jeremy)

(Marcos Paulo, Ronnie and Jefferson)

Whenever the United States loses to Brazil in anything, my Brazilian friends make sure that I know all about it. So, when Rio was granted the 2016 Olympics over Chicago and other contenders, I expected the typical harassment. But, it never came. Instead, concerns about the city’s violence seemed to eclipse any type of celebration – especially in the wake of the events of October 17th. On this day, rival gangs went to war with one another for control of the favela in which we work (Morro dos Macacos). The situation escalated when a police helicopter was shot down, resulting in two police casualties. For the rest of the day, the people of Rio were glued to their televisions, watching in dismay as gang members commandeered eight public buses and set fire to them. By day’s end, the death toll was at 22.

Jefferson, one of our students from the favela, spent most of that morning locked in his house with his mom and two sisters. I use the term house very loosely in his case. It is actually more of a basement – the basement of his grandmother’s three room, bare cinder block house. His mom moved into it following her divorce from Jefferson’s father. She is a remarkable lady marked by a sincere love for both the Lord and her kids. Jefferson bears a lot of resemblance to her in this – at least the love for the Lord part. He became a Christian a few years ago through the work of a local Christian leader in the community. At 14, Jason comments that he is surprisingly mature, characterized by a unique awareness of sin and a proper remorse for it. In our Friday afternoon soccer classes, he has emerged as a key leader – stoic yet influential.

Much like most residents of Morro do Macaco, Jefferson has experienced fallout from October 17th. Days after the incident, police invaded his home looking for gang members. They questioned him about his family, asked him if he was hiding anyone and interrogated him about his personal life. He claims that if his neighbor and cousin had not been there, the police would have hit him in an effort to scare information out of him. The sad thing about this episode is the fear that it engenders. Right now, it seems contagious in the Morro, and those that are not involved seem most impacted by it. We ask for your prayers for Jefferson, our other kids and the Morro. We are hopeful in One whose perfect love drives out such fears.

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