“Organize five Mini-Olympic Games in five different slum communities!” was the assignment that Johan gave the students of the Children at Risk School in Rio de Janeiro, to accomplish during the Olympic Games. And wow, they really went for it! After months of lectures about children at risk, based on biblical principles, they were ready!
An average of 80 children had signed up in each community. And I don´t know who enjoyed themselves more, the kids or the students and staff! Every day was a new celebration!
The kids just loved it. They were divided in ten different teams representing ten nations. Each child participated in 10 games. In between the activities, our students had time to ask them how they liked it and what had been a challenge. The students listened to them and prayed for them.
At the end they all received a “golden” medal, and for the three countries that had accumulated the most points, there was a trophy! It was so heartwarming to see that the kids whose teams came in last were just as happy as the ones who came in first. Wonderful!
“Is this really from you, God?”
We had asked this question various times last year while praying and planning for the eight months’ school during the Olympic year in Rio de Janeiro.
Yes, it was His plan! How often we have been surprised by the Lord during this time: He sent us a wonderful group of eager students, great staff, and provided an apartment that we could rent, very close to the large church building we were allowed to use for the school--at no cost. It has been a time of big and small miracles!
Blessed by loads of experienced teachers
Every week we had one or more teachers who came to share lessons from their profound experiences. Like Carla who started the House of Refuge almost 30 years ago in Belo Horizonte for children affected by HIV/AIDS. Or Alexandre, who is now leader of the base in Belo Horizonte, but was previously coordinator of the Restoration House for street children. He also brought Anderson, an ex-street child who is now leader of the Rescue House in Belo Horizonte, working with kids on the streets and in juvenile detention centers.
Dozens of experienced teachers blessed us, and the students even received classes from Michele and Romeu, our daughter and son-in-law, about how to work with children through adventure camps. Also Johanneke and Jonathan and their kids had a chance to visit Rio de Janeiro. For us it was wonderful to see all of them and our grandchildren!
Church growth from an old abandoned factory
The church where we are running the school, and where the students are living, also experienced growth. There was a nice Sunday School room in the church building, but there normally were no kids attending on Sunday mornings. But that has changed! Every Sunday morning a big group from our 32 students would go to the old abandoned factory, just around the corner, where dozens of families have “invaded” and claimed some square meters of space to build a little home. Lots of kids were invited and came with our students to the Sunday School.
After a couple of weeks, some of their mothers started attending the church, and later the whole families came. The church works with cell groups, and in the last 2 months, two new home groups were started. We are thankful to already be able to see our school bearing fruit in the neighborhood!
A street party for prostitutes
Several evenings during the Olympics we went with the whole school to a local park, where many young women and men are waiting for clients to pick them up, near one of the oldest prostitution areas of the city: Vila Mimosa. Since the World Cup in 2014, there has been a prayer room in that neighborhood with prayer and worship for 12 hours every day--a light in the darkness.
|Flowers and cards made by the students, to hand out to the girls on the streets. The card says: "I continue to love you, just like on the day you were born!"|
An international organization combating sexual exploitation, with whom we had partnered during the World Cup, invited us and our students to come help with a street party for the prostitutes in the middle of this red light district. In an open space between two lanes of traffic we hung bright blue, red and yellow lights and put out heart-shaped cookies and small presents on folding tables. One group sang praise music and others went to invite the prostitutes, armed with roses in glittering cellophane. Curiously they came to see what this was all about and were enthusiastically welcomed by our students. There was a corner to have their nails done, they were offered food and drinks, and because of the personal attention they received, they soon felt at home.
“This is the best evening of my life!” said Ana Carolina. “I wish I wouldn´t have to do this work, but I have 4 small children. I work as a nurse’s aide during the week, but my salary is too small to survive, so I work here also for them.”
A young girl of only 17 confessed it was the first night she had come to work on the streets. Her friends had talked her into it, but now she had serious doubts…
A girl walked up to one of our students, and her first words were: “Please, can you pray for me?”
Another girl told us that this was the first night she had seen real love, love that gives and doesn’t ask anything in return…
Everywhere around us we saw our students praying with the women and men, hugging them and then praying some more. We saw hope spring up in tearful eyes, hope that maybe there was another way, hope that God had not rejected them and still loved them in spite of everything, hope for a new life.
Final week of the Children at Risk School
At the end of this week there will be a graduation party for our 32 students. This “ending” will also mark the beginning for most of them as fulltime missionaries with Youth With A Mission and other organizations, here in Rio de Janeiro and in other cities and countries. We are very proud of our students!
Will you pray with us for them, as they take the next steps in their adventure with God?
We are so grateful to God, that we here in Rio, together with so many of you who carried us in prayer and supported us with finances, could teach the students and help them on their way in their missions careers. That we could reach children in the slums with God’s love. And that we could give hope to the young women and men who work in prostitution. Hope for a different life. Hope from God who sees them, who loves them and who reaches out to them. We give all glory to the Lord!
A big hug and thanks to everyone.
We wish you all God´s richest blessings,
Johan and Jeannette Lukasse
- Thank the Lord with us for the wonderful school we were privileged to lead here in Rio
- Pray for the students, as most of them are starting their missions careers among at-risk children.
- Thank God for His protection during this time in Rio.
- Pray for the children and prostitutes who have been touched by His love.