Monday, November 21, 2016

Inspiring millenials how to work with children at risk

We have thoroughly enjoyed the time we have been able to spend during this year of 2016 with a big group of young people in Rio de Janeiro—teaching them, showing them examples, giving them experiences of working with Children at Risk, and growing together in faith.


The crucial moment, of course, was at the end of the school: What will they do? Will they apply all they learned? Or was it just a lot of “good experiences” and a “great time”?

Great majority in fulltime missions

We were happy to see that the classes were not just interesting information; no, the students got more and more deeply involved with different groups of Children at Risk in Rio, like kids living in poor communities where drug trafficking has elevated crime to incredible levels, or teenagers and young people entrapped in sexual exploitation. 



By end of the school they knew God had called them to reach out to at-risk kids. Most of them joined Youth with a Mission (YWAM) or other missionary organizations. They have great plans to reach children and young people with the love of God, and I believe we will hear wonderful things from them in the future!

Millennials and YouTube

The current generation of youth are often called `Millennials´ and they can find almost all the information they need for their studies on the internet. From cooking recipes to building your own car, you always can find some do-it-yourself instructions on YouTube. You might ask why we still travel to other cities and countries to teach the Children at Risk School. Couldn´t we just put all our classes on YouTube and stay comfortably at home? Yes, I guess we could, but would that be as effective?



No, we don’t believe it would be. This new generation needs people to help them interpret the classes and information, to be an example for them, and to inspire them through our lifestyle and experiences.

What our students commented

Here are some of the things that our students wrote us:

“Your classes turned my life upside down…”

“Thank you for sharing your experiences and lessons from life, your lifestyle has inspired me…”

“I learned so much from your classes, it touched me deeply, and some deep wounds were healed….”

“Very inspiring, spiritually and practically, it will help me for the rest of my life….”


We are very grateful. Grateful to God who called us to work for the past year in Rio de Janeiro and provided all that we needed. Grateful to the staff who invested their gifts and talents to make the school a success. And also very grateful to the students who came with open hearts to learn, and put it all into practice.

Going, everywhere the Lord leads us

All this has giving us new impetus to continue. Since we handed over the leadership of the base in Belo Horizonte in 2013, we have been free to go where the Lord leads us to start new Children at Risk schools, and teach wherever needed in churches, seminars, and YWAM bases about how to work with Children at Risk.


During the final months of this year, we are doing just that: teaching in churches and Children at Risk schools in different Brazilian cities. And next year we hope to do the same in various countries in Asia, but more about that in our next newsletterJ.

Helping children in refugee camps

We’ll save details about our upcoming time in Asia for the next newsletter because, before then, we´re planning to make our fourth trip to the Middle East, to help the refugee children. Children who escape from the violence of war with their parents, or sometimes without them, are another category of Children at Risk.

This time we are planning to give a seminar to teachers in the Middle East, who work in schools with children from different refugee camps. We´ll focus on how to help children handle the traumas they’ve experienced through war.

Would you please pray for us? Such trips are challenging--physically, emotionally and financially. But we are thankful that we can help spread the love of God to these children and young people who have often passed through the most horrible situations.


Furlough in Holland

We hope to be in Holland for Christmas, so we can celebrate those days together with our ´Dutch` children and grandchildren. In January and February, we are planning to share in different churches and groups about the ministry with Children at Risk.



“Children at Risk” Seminar

From February 13-17, YWAM Heidebeek will organize a “Children at Risk” seminar with a special focus on refugee children. We will be sharing the first two days. Costs E175 - all included. For more information, please contact: jokevanheuven@gmail.com


Christmas, God with us, us together with God

“Watch for this – a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; they will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for ‘God is with us’).” Matthew 1:23 (The Message).

The Lord Jesus was born as a small baby. He came from heaven to earth to be with us, in order that whoever believes in Him will live together with God, and be saved.

“God with us!” That´s what I wish for all the kids in the refugee camps, for teenagers trapped in sexual exploitation, for families that must raise their children in crime-ridden neighborhoods. Together with God, everything changes—the burden lifts, the light shines, and everything gets renewed and touched by God´s goodness!

We wish you all God´s richest blessings!


Prayer points
  • Give thanks to the Lord for the wonderful students we were able to train in Rio de Janeiro and who are now stepping out into their missionary careers.
  • Pray that they will reach many children in need with the love of God.
  • Thank God for the opportunity to go and minister, equip and encourage teachers in refugee camps in the Middle East. 
  • Please pray for the safety of the refugees and all who are trying to help them. 
  • Give thanks for those churches that are trying with all their might to reach out to the refugees.
  • Pray for peace to come.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Rio: Olimpic Games in 5 slums and a streetparty at night in the prostitution area



“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



Prayer points:

  • 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. 
You can watch a photo album from our time in Rio on our Facebook page, “Johan Jeannette Lukasse”

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Looking at children through God´s eyes



“Lord, what do you want us to do today?”

This was the question one of the four teams of our students, who are on outreach for two months, asked in prayer one morning. As they listened for God’s answer, they received some very different impressions: a cross, love, thankfulness, popsicles and a bus stop…. Well, what do you make of that-- especially the last two items?!?

They ended up deciding to go to a local bus stop to give out free popsicles, with the message that Jesus paid a high price on the cross for our salvation, and that we may receive his love for free, just like this ice cream is free.

How wonderful it is to live for God!
“It was unbelievable what happened then,” Aline told us. “God took away our timidity, gave us the right words and used us! The sentences we said really affected the people deeply; some started to cry when we told them: Jesus loves you! And right there at the bus stop we were able to pray for some and lead them to the Lord, while they were still waiting in the line for the next bus!”

One after the other, the students were able to testify: “It is wonderful to live for the Lord! He wants to use us!”

Johan and I are so happy and thankful for everything the Lord is doing in the students and in us! It is very special to see young people giving their lives radically to God and then witness what God starts doing in and through them.


Students on outreach

While the students have been on outreach during April and May, we’ve had some time to help with the organization of a national YWAM leadership meeting that took place last week. We were also quite busy with one of our international students who became so ill that he had to stay in a hospital for a couple of weeks and finally needed to be repatriated to his home country. But even in those struggles, we could see God´s loving care and provision: a very helpful doctor and great support from his parents and the consulate. It was, of course, very disappointing that he couldn´t finish the training, but we are praying for full restoration and that everything will work together for the good.


While the students and staff are still on outreach, we have the rest of this month of May to finish final preparations for the Children at Risk school in Rio we´ll run during the months of June, July and August.


Besides the lectures in the classroom, we’re also planning some practical classes, where our 40 students will have the opportunity to practice their skills three afternoons a week in 7 different outreach locations in slums and the red light district. Especially with the Olympic Games coming our way in August, it will be so important to have some teams that can work against sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Johan and I went to visit some of these locations to talk with the leaders. It is great to see how the Lord continues to lead us and opens the doors!


“Peace full” favelas or slums?

In Rio de Janeiro there are around 800 slum communities. Some of these are not yet “pacificado” (in peace). This means that the police cannot enter these communities and that the local drug bosses are in charge. Young boys stand guard with big assault rifles on street corners and entrance ways into the communities. Drugs are openly displayed on plastic tables for sale. That business is going well is made obvious by the big bundles of banknotes that lay right next to the drugs.

The word “pacificado” means literally, “where peace has been established.” In “peaceful” slums, the army has taken over the slum community, often with great force using tanks, weapons, and lots of soldiers, starting a war against the ruling drug gangs. When the slum is taken back from the drug dealers, various police posts are put up, with heavily armed police officers. But even in the so-called pacificado slum communities, there is still lots of crime. An example is the Borel community where YWAM for the past 20 years has run a medical clinic, day care center and music school.

Tears

Last month in Borel, the police and local drug dealers engaged in a shooting directly in front of the green door of the community center. Two of our students had just left the house to go to the bus stop when they found themselves in the middle of the shooting! They were able to run back inside, where they joined the rest of the staff who had thrown themselves on the floor for safety. Together they continued their prayer and worship time laying down, all the while hearing the shots that were fired. All had tears in their eyes, and not just from the tear gas that entered the room through the windows. When they finally opened the door after more than an hour, they found the lifeless body of a 17-year-old drug dealer on the doorstep.


Looking at children through God´s eyes

Please pray for safety for us, our students and our staff. But pray also for those families in the slums who often don´t know any other reality than the constant warfare between gangs, or between the police and the gangs. Pray for the boys and girls who grow up in such an environment, that they will know God’s plans, “Plans for welfare and not evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11), and that those plans will become a reality in their lives.


We hope and pray that in August, at the end of the eight-month training program in Rio, the students will have learned to look at children through God´s eyes, and that many of them will continue to reach out to those “children at risk” in the long term… that they will have received enough information and inspiration to trust God more deeply and follow His guidance. We pray they will be open to starting new projects to reach children who need lots of help to reach God’s goals and plans for their lives.

Towards China and Thailand

In October and November, we plan to be home in Belo Horizonte to teach in the Children at Risk (C@R) School there, as well as in Curitiba, a city in the south of Brazil.

In 2015 we gave a seminar in Thailand, teaching about reaching out to children at risk.

In 2017 we have been invited to give the C@R school for the first time in China and Thailand. Our goal is to train local workers, using the experience we have accumulated in the dozens of projects addressing the needs of children we have started and been involved in over the years.

In between: to Holland on a furlough!
But between the schools in Brazil and the ones in Asia in 2017, we plan to go to Holland for the months of December, January and February. We have 3 children and 3 grandchildren living there, as well as our big extended family of brothers and sisters. We will also be sharing with various churches and groups that are interested in missions.

We want to thank all of you who have been involved in our lives through your prayers, help and encouragement.

May the Lord bless you richly,

Love,

Johan and Jeannette Lukasse
 


Prayer points

  • Please pray for the students and staff that are still on their outreach. 
  • Thank the Lord for the children, young people and adults that have given their lives to the Lord over these last few weeks.
  • Pray for the C@R school in Rio de Janeiro, that God will use the lectures and practical outreaches for His glory in the lives of the students and the children they will reach out to. 
  • Thank God for this wonderful group of staff and students, not just in Rio, but also in Belo Horizonte and Curitiba and other places where a C@R school is given.
  • Pray for protection for us, students, staff and the kids and families in the slums. 
  • Thank God for the opportunity to be able to partner with churches and other organizations.
  • Pray for the plans for China and Thailand next year. 
  • Give thanks for the opportunity we have to spend some time in Holland with family, friend and churches.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Don´t switch off the light during Carnival in Rio!

“Over the last month I have seen how God takes care of me in the smallest details: when I ran out of toothpaste, I found a new toothpaste on my pillow, and yesterday when I needed 30 dollars for the evangelistic outreach during the carnival, someone put a banknote in my pocket”.

“I couldn´t sleep the other night, I felt so agitated. The lectures had been very profound for me. Suddenly someone put a hand on my shoulder. It was my roommate.

“Shall we pray?”, she whispered.

She also couldn´t sleep. But after we prayed and brought all our thoughts and anxieties before the Lord, we slept like angels!



A new YWAM family of 50 people

We hear testimonies like this one after another from the students. In the beginning of January, we started this training program with 31 students and 19 staff in the city of Rio de Janeiro. But it was preceded by a number of miracles. We had announced the program, believing that it was his plan, and that He would go before us. We created a website, and even had already accepted the first students, but we still didn´t have a place to run the program. We had been looking at some buildings to rent, but it was all much too expensive.


Big and small miracles

Suddenly a pastor offered the use of his almost-empty, big church building. It was perfect with several dorms, a dining hall that also functions as a class room and an industrial kitchen. It´s right in the center of Rio de Janeiro, very close to the Metro system and train system, and various bus lines serving the neighborhood. And that was just the beginning. The existing small YWAM bases in the city joined the effort, and recruited volunteers to help paint the place and remodel some of the bathrooms. Another person rented us her partly furnished apartment next to the church for the 10 months that we need to be here. Dozens of students from 7 different countries applied for the program, and staff came to help from different parts of Brazil.
  

DTS and C@R School

And so now we have a whole new “family” of 50 people in the heart of Rio de Janeiro who want to know God and His will in a deeper way and proclaim His love all around. It is very special and precious, and we are enjoying very much being with such a wonderful group of mostly young people that God has sent us.

The whole program consists of a DTS (Discipleship Training School) and C@R (Children at Risk) School. We have many opportunities for outreach in the slums, putting our classroom lectures into practice.





With Carnival, all restrains come off

Carnival here in Brazil is a feast of 4 days and nights with lots of drinking, partying and sex. The government even gave away 5 million free condoms, just during the days of Carnival… It´s a time when many people pass their limits and often regret it afterwards. Most churches warn their members not to participate or come close to the celebration. Often they organize retreats and Christian camps during this time.


Don´t switch off the light!

“But”, Johan explained to the students, “if we are the light, and then leave the city during Carnival to protect ourselves from the world, we are actually switching off the light. What is already dark becomes even darker. As Christians, we need to go to the streets during Carnival to the people who are looking for attention, love and fulfilment in the wrong places like alcohol and sex, and tell them where to find true love.”


Staying with friends in a poor community
During the four days of Carnival we were all able to stay at the site of a partner mission organization in the middle of a very poor community. Very thin mattresses next to each other on the floor, a bit of a challenge for many of us! But what a wonderful time we ended up having. During the day programs for children, another program for the mothers and for the male students, a ministry time in a rehab center for drug addicts.


Big plastic cups of beer

At 10PM we went all together to the main street, which was closed off for the festivities, and participated in different forms of evangelizing until 3 o´clock in the morning. Whole families walked down the main street in the strangest attires and costumes. We saw fathers and their teenage sons dressed up in provocative female clothing. Mothers with red, plastic devil’s horns that would light up every now and then on their heads, dragging around their toddlers and carrying their babies. It touched us to see how empty the celebration really is, and how many people are looking for a bit of happiness and a purpose in their lives, which they hope to find in big plastic cups of beer.



“Let´s go for it!”
The staff and students had put together a nice and varied program for street evangelism, with drama, dance, puppet theater, circus acts like spitting fire and a human pyramid. This caught the attention of a lot of people. After the presentation, someone gave a short testimony, then all our students went around talking to the people. Really great! Many people received prayer, and several gave their hearts to the Lord right there on the streets.


Even though everyone was very tired from the intense program and short hours of sleep, they became more excited to go to the streets and share the gospel with people. What a privilege to work with such a group of dedicated young people! It is very satisfying!


“Empty nest”

Now that we are living in Rio de Janeiro for ten months, for the first time we are living far away from where any of our five children and grandchildren live. Before, we always had some of them living right next door or relatively close. So we are really experiencing an “empty nest”, and we miss them all a lot. 


But in December we had a quality time with Johanneke, Jonathan, Michele, Romeu and their kids. We did lots of fun stuff, like eating wonderful, big meals together, talking for hours, baking cookies, camping in the garden, inline skating, etc. It was so good to be together, but of course, we missed the ones who live in Holland a lot as well!


MANY THANKS TO ALL!!!

We would like to thank all who have been helping us in any way over the last couple of months, be it through prayer, encouragement or finances. It is so special to know that there are people who believe in our ministry and support us in many ways. Without you, we would not be able to do all these things.

We wish you God´s richest blessings,

With lots of love,

Johan and Jeannette