Monday, November 23, 2009

Casa de Recuperação

Yesterday I went to church on the back of a tractor with six recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. I accepted my good friend Berto's offer to take the weekend off and travel three hours out of the city and into the depths of the countryside or “interior”. I love the way the locals describe the city as “centro” and the rest of the huge state simply as the interior.

You may remember Berto from here or here. My age - give or take a few months. He's what you might call an overcomer. He's overcome depression and addiction to crack cocaine. He is one of the most joy-filled people I have ever known.

Health & Safety look away now

The facility, established by my Irish missionary friend Glen, can take up to 20 men who are struggling with addiction. Many come directly from the streets and vary in age from 18 to 70. All of them want desperately to be well. They live full time at the house for a minimum of 9 months (symbolic of rebirth) and work the extensive surrounding land. After cleaning-up, each has the opportunity to join Glen's construction team, which in turn (and rather neatly) works primarily with projects like Casa Elohim.

not looking to the left or to the right, just forward

On the first day we took a tour of the grounds on said tractor and I had my first experience of driving it up and down the muddy lanes. Incredible fun, but I managed to fluff a gear change at a rather critical moment (the top of a steep hill) - knocking it from nice steady first to crazy neutral and sending the tractor careering out of control, with Berto unable to reach the controls because I was in the way. When we reached an abrupt halt at the base of the hill, I could hear the blood racing through my head. Shaken, and only a little stirred.

Donna Maria - at a spritely 85 years - has been like a mother to many of the men who have passed through the doors of the Rehabilitation House. We dropped by to see her and her sons in the impossibly small but incredibly cozy collection of rooms they call home.

Donna Maria and her sons

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