Friday, August 15, 2008

A Brand New Man

Francisco has been studying the Bible at our church for almost two months.  He saw the sign for Let's Start Talking  (LST) on the building and signed up for Bible classes taught in English.  He began studying with Bob, one of the LST workers who was here for six weeks.  Then, when Bob left, he continued with Ryan, another worker who has been here for several weeks and is about to leave.  In the midst of his English study Francisco was eager to learn more about the Bible than his limited English afforded.  That's where John came in.  He and Francisco have had weekly studies in Portuguese at the same time Francisco studies English.  John's silent partner, Fernanda (see my last post), has been present for most of those classes.  

Francisco lives on the street.  He makes less than most of us would consider a decent living by selling popcorn and peanuts on the street.  At night he locks his few possessions - a change of clothes, the Bible John gave him, and a magnifying glass to read it - in the cart he pushes around all day.  On more than one occasion he skipped a study because it had rained and his "clothes were stinking".  Someone stole his magnifying glass so he can't read his Bible any more.  

He became homeless when he was twenty-five.  He lived with his family as most Brazilians do well into young adulthood.  He had a friend who was keeping bad company, and one of the shady characters showed up to Francisco's house with a gun.  He shot Francisco's friend, killing him.  Then he turned the gun on Francisco.  Instead of shooting him, though, he shot Francisco's mother.  She survived but the family blamed Francisco.  They ran him out of his home and far away from where they all lived.  He has been trying to get back on his feet ever since.

Francisco has had three failed common law marriages and one child with whom he has no contact.  He has done desperate things, which need not be mentioned, just to feed himself.  He says he's been told that he needs to turn to God and has gone into may churches seeking the meaning of that suggestion, but to no avail.  Until he showed up at our congregation's door, he says, nobody ever took the time to sit down with him and explain who Jesus is and how he saves lives.  Francisco told John he believes what the Bible says and wants to follow God's ways.  He was baptized Wednesday night. 
We just found out that he turned fifty on August first.  He says he hasn't celebrated his birthday in many, many years because he hasn't had any friends or family with whom to celebrate.  We're planning a belated birthday party for Francisco.  We look forward to presenting him with a birthday cake, a Bible, an eye exam, and glasses.