Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Who you gonna call?

Metro Phone (São Paulo, 2013)

Batphone (Gotham City, 1966)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


As some of you may know, I am taking some time out from the rescue house. It’s enforced of course - there’s been much talk of burn out and the like. Goodness knows I’ve tried, but I haven’t managed it yet. Who was it that said that “you’ve got to burn to shine”?

Anyway, it seems like an eminently sensible idea, and it has freed me to  visit some of the other projects in the city that I have longed - but have simply not had the time - to visit. 

A good friend (in a similar line of work) recently said to me that some time out from this particular type of ministry is essential because of the misery we see every day: desperately needy children from disintegrating and fractured families wrapped in a blanket of violence and general depravity. 

The time away from the house will also enable me to finalise the paperwork for my long-term visa. 

Hope springs.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Morning Service

The pastor cut the line in front of me to be served at the diner. Coffee, with tepid milk he ordered, with a graceless undertone. 

I turned to him and smiled.

Does not compute

The Golden Arches use Windows® XP

Saturday, April 13, 2013

“There’s an ocean of tears before our happiness.”

It started with a Facebook message about falling into temptation and self-admission into a clinic in the centre of the city. I jokingly replied Addiction? What? Video games? There was no reply. A few days’ later I receive a telephone call from a social worker saying that she worked for the city and that João had indeed been admitted after a three day crack binge. I put the phone down and got in the car.

I knew that the last few months had not been easy for him. Each time I visited he was babysitting his two younger brothers when he should have been in school. His mother was out at work - a solid job in the local supermarket which she had maintained since she had moved the family from the stinky room next to the sewer in the favela (and João had been reintegrated) two years previously. Beer cans now littered the back yard and feces from their two dogs lay smeared in the unkempt front drive.

He never let-up that his difficulties had reached a peak, but peaked they had. His younger brother was locked out after one incident and then after a final argument when he was told to leave, leave he did with only the clothes on his back.

At first blush, the facility was much how I had imagined a state-run home for drug-addled street kids: mixed girls and boys, staff (and strangers passing by) giving the kids cigarettes (the justification being that the nicotine soothes the pain of a child’s recuperation from the more serious drugs they were taking. What century are we in?) and nothing much to do except the occasional trip to the local park or leisure centre (with internet!). As I sat and talked with João outside, I looked up and saw a condom which had been thrown from the upper storey and got lodged in the grooves of the plastic porch above us. Oh, the humanity.

Like someone recovering from a serious addiction, kids who return from homes (like ours) or institutions (like theirs) need to be accompanied long after their reintegration back into their families and wider society. I have been regularly visiting J because that’s what James 1:27 tells me to do, but reintegration is a slow and sensitive process, fraught with difficulties - akin to Alcoholics Anonymous’ way of living one day at a time. It is a balancing act where one shouldn’t interfere with the equilibrium of the family unit: encouraging them to walk on their own but at the same time providing a secure hand when needed.

Sometimes returning a child to his or her family feels a bit like carefully choosing a fruit or vegetable at the supermarket, only for the person at the checkout to weigh it and then hurl it unceremoniously into the bottom of a bag. When dealing with [often rebellious] street kids in extremely stressful family situations, it’s obviously never as straightforward as the analogy suggests, but the sentiment fits in most cases.

And invariably you start to think that you could have done better. That you - sorry, I - could have done something to avoid the current outcome. And as with many things, you can tell yourself that you’re doing your best, when you can do better than this. And I know the arguments about sovereignty and grace. And I know that I am not responsible for outcomes.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Yesterday’s police brutality stories today

“Eight police officers have been arrested in Brazil after a television channel broadcast images of two teenagers being shot dead in Sao Paulo.

The murder happened on 16 March in a dark street of the Bras neighbourhood, in an area notorious for drug dealing.

The security camera images show two armed men shooting the teenagers at close range - with a police car stationed nearby, before driving off. Prosecutors say it did not try to stop the violence or to pursue the killers.

“The CCTV footage is shocking, as it shows that the policemen in that car were at least guilty of omission,” says Elizabeth Sato, director of Sao Paulo’s Homicide Department.

There have long been allegations in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, that rogue police officers have been carrying out killing as acts of retaliation directed against criminal gangs, the BBC’s Gary Duffy says. But the attacks often claim the lives of ordinary civilians.

Ms Sato says one of the victims was on his mobile phone when the two killers approached them. The person at the other end of the call heard the killers shouting that they were police, before telling the boys to put their hands up.

The family of one of the victims, a 14-year-old known as Piui, denies he was involved with drugs. The teenager, who worked with his father collecting paper in the streets of Sao Paulo, had six gunshot wounds.

The other victim, who was 18, was shot 12 times. Police has not disclosed their names. A third teenager managed to run away and police are trying to locate him.

The eight police officers will remain in detention while the investigation proceeds.”

Source: BBC News (1st April, 2013)
Photo: Nivaldo Lima, Futura Press