An afternoon at an orphanage. Rachel and I have wanted to get involved in some social action work but for one reason or another it hasn't worked out until now. We (eventually) managed to track down the contact for an orphanage here in Natal I had been given by one of students, a Christian called Marcus. Rachel spoke to the lady there and we went to visit yesterday. We didn't know what we would find and whether there would be an opportunity for us as a family to be involved. What we did find was heart-wrenching but probably not unusual. Up and down Brazil, the forgotten children of this country end up in places not unlike the one we visited yesterday - a small, bare house of two floors which presently has 35 kids, literally bouncing off the walls, aged 1 to 14 and only two carers worked off their feet.
The lady who started the orphanage took pity on three kids that were left on her doorstep 14 years ago. She took pity on them and the flood gates opened. 14 years on and those first kids are still there. There are needs in every direction at this place so there's lots for us to do. Nelson, who was mobbed on account of his blond hair and on account of being somebody different, was a bit nervous at first but later warmed up to the younger kids in the group. We are praying about how to be involved, how to give and what we can do. Watch this space for more news!
Amusing uses of Portuguese: me attempting public speaking. We came back from a night in Joao Pessoa on Sunday. The occasion for our brief trip was Rachel's Dad's Dad's 80th. He is quite frail and has had a difficult few months but it was nice the family could be together and Nelson could see his cousins.
Back in Natal, our little church group met in the afternoon and the leaders and our good friends Marcelo and Veronica had asked me to say a few words about my parents situation in Africa and also reflect on something in the Bible that I felt was important. I was to speak in Portuguese without a translator. As usual, I was in a rush heading up to the service and I felt it wasn't so well prepared. But, I was really thrown when I arrived to find that our usual group (10 people or less) had trebled in size, was featuring some esteemed guests form Recife and all this was taking place in a completely different room. I found myself muttering an oft-quoted maxim - when in Brazil, expect the unexpected. When the time came for me to do my bit I fumbled about with my piece of paper and explained to everyone that I was a bit nervous but I did have my dictionary and wife around to help me soldier through. I spoke for about 10 minutes on one of my favourite chunks of the book of Acts - chapter 11 and the thoroughly international and outward looking church at Antioch. My efforts at accuracy were shoddy at best but I think I got my point across and that's the main point of communication, I suppose.
After a year in Natal, I finally feel I am getting somewhere with my Portuguese. I can certainly "get by" in most run-of-the-mill activities of the day - at the supermarket, putting petrol in the car, sleeping, walking etc. I understand "quasi-tudo" of what is said to me, especially within Rachel's family where I am used to their voices and manner of speaking. When I was learning to play the guitar aged 14 I think I reached a point after 6 months where the basics were in place, my fingers weren't so sore and I could actually play a couple of tunes. I think I am in the equivelent linguistic position as regards my Portuguese. I hope and pray I can keep plodding on from here and get close-ish to fluency by the time we leave Natal. WIth this in mind, I thought I should write a bit on here about my language learning adventures beginning with an absolute clanger from a few months back...
but, I'll save that for my next entry.