20 September 2017

Brazil Lass Scores Tops!

raMany of us support projects that care for children in various parts of the world. What difference can this make in the lives of these children? Edna tells us her story of ‘God’s hand at work in her life!’

We trust that as you read this account you will be encouraged to support and give generously to such projects – financially, prayerfully or by going to help. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)

How fascinating to look back over my life and see without a shadow of doubt how God has taken me into his open arms and looked after me in a way that only He can. Born in Brazil, in a city called Belo Horizonte, to a young mum, times were to prove difficult. As my mum fell pregnant at a young age, she received no support from her family. To make things worse, shortly after I was born the relationship between my mum and dad broke down and he left. I have no memories of my dad apart from those my mum shared with me. Over the next couple of years, my mum had other relationships, which led to the birth of my sister, Selma and brother, Claudinei.

I remember the small house where we stayed so vividly. It was simply a square with a wall in the middle to separate the two rooms. One room was the kitchen that consisted of a cooker and a table. The other room housed a couple of mattresses on the floor, where all four of us slept. At the front of the house was a massive cistern that our family and neighbours drew water from. There were eight houses within the square.

The area where I was born was exceptionally poor which put pressure on my mum to support the family. She had to work several jobs to try to support us and so was out at work for a large amount of time. As the oldest child, I had to look after my sister and my baby brother while she was at work. With my mum working long hours, I slept in front of the door of our house to wait for her to arrive home. We had no electricity, hence no lights in the house! The neighbour in front of us would leave his kitchen light on to give some light at the front door of our house where we slept. I never liked the dark, even when I was very small.

At that time, my brother’s dad was around. He was a very harsh man. He beat us up, as well as my mum, and would trash and damage our house. Repeatedly, my mum tried to get away from him and on occasions, she would leave us at a neighbour’s or friend’s house while she slept on the streets. He would always find out where we were staying and then the beatings, ill treatment and death threats would start all over again.

A neighbour told my mum about a girl’s home that a mission organisation was starting in Belo Horizonte, Lar Galileia (which means Galilee). She told her that she could leave us there and that they would look after and provide for us. Initially my mum was adamant that my sister and I would not go there, but eventually she gave in. We moved to Lar Galileia. I was 5-6 years old and Selma, 2-3 years old. This was to change our lives forever.

The home had three aims. Firstly, to be a home for girls who had no home, or a very problematic one. Secondly, to bring the girls up knowing God’s love. Thirdly, to enable a good education and help each girl create a life for herself. Initially, the home only took girls aged 6 years and under. We all arrived around the same time, 14 girls in total. I was one of the oldest and many were still babies. It never crossed my mind that these girls would be my sisters and we would live together as a family for the next 20 years.

A missionary from WEC (World Evangelization for Christians) was in charge of the home. Jackie left everything she had in Australia to come to Brazil to look after girls that she had never met before. She became our “mum”.

The home was great! It was amazing having so many other kids to play with, so much fun. My mum visited some weekends. However, after some time, she stopped coming and we didn’t understand why. My sister and I would sit and wait for her the whole afternoon on a Saturday but she never turned up. All the other mums would come and go. This would break Jackie’s heart, as she would watch us each week, hoping and believing our mum would arrive.

One day, she arrived! Jackie was angry that our mum had not been to the home for such a long time, as she had seen how upset we were each week. They had a heated discussion and as a result, mum stopped visiting. I was 8 years old at that time and Selma was 6. She never returned to the home. However, this was not the last time I saw her!

We regularly had short-term mission teams from Tear Fund visit the home. On one occasion, they took all the girls to the park. One of the team was holding my hand as we walked along. Coming towards me, l saw my mum and our eyes locked. She shouted my name and touched my arm. The lady holding my hand had no idea who this was, so she pulled me along. I looked back and mum was looking back at me. I froze! I could not say or do anything! That was the last time I saw her. From that day on, I prayed for my mum and my brother. I used to pray that one day she would come back to the home to see us again. I prayed constantly for 13 years.

My life changed again when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I was 8 years old and it is a day I will never forget. I saw the love of Jesus through the people who looked after us. They left their home countries, their families, everything they had, to look after children they had never met before. I wanted to love like that. When I asked Jesus to come into my life I felt that I had to tell everyone about it. I told all my friends at school. It was an amazing time. We grew up knowing God’s love, and his care in our lives. Even though we did not have a proper mum or family, we had people who really loved us as their own children. I had so many amazing opportunities as a result of the provision within the home. I received a highquality education with support during my studies. I was involved in a strong Church environment and was able to attend camps and activities. We were always encouraged to make a life for ourselves and to do that it was important to study and have God in our lives.

Furthermore, I was involved in various different sports, of which football was a passion, obviously, being a Brazilian!

When I was 14, Jackie took unwell and had to leave Brazil to return to Australia. This was very hard for us! Jackie had been our mother-figure for a number of years. Now she was also leaving! We prayed for God to send someone else who could carry on the work in the home. Ruth Selenz, another missionary with WEC, was called to work at the home. Ruth was a God-send. God’s perfect timing again!

Ruth arrived during our teenager years. These teenage years brought many challenges and difficulties. I started to ask more questions – Why did my mum disappear? Would I ever see her again? All of the other girls in the home had contact with their families. It was only my sister and I, and one other girl, who did not have contact. I was included in many of the other families. However, I longed for contact with my own family. I kept praying for my mum’s protection and that I would see her again. Throughout my teenage years, we regularly met with a Christian Psychologist to work through the abandonment issues which we all felt and to reinforce that we were loved and that our lives could continue forward.

During this time, God brought another missionary to work alongside Ruth in the home. Heather came to the home when I was 18. She was, and continues to be a constant support. As my teenage years were coming to an end, I was about to commence University to study Technical Information. However, God decided to direct my path in a very different way which I did not see coming!

Heather’s niece, Michelle, and her friend Gwen, came on a short-term mission trip to Lar Galileia. Strong friendships quickly developed. As a result, Gwen suggested that I go to University in Scotland. I could stay with her family for the first year of my studies. After a lot of prayer, guidance and crossing many obstacles (such as securing a place in University, visa application, English language test, finance etc), God clearly opened the door and made a way. I was on my way to Scotland!

At this time also, Lar Galileia was to change. The government stated that the structure of the home must change to encourage children to remain with families and not live long-term in the home. The home had to actively look for the families and then ensure these families were prepared to receive the children back to their home. There was a huge problem tracking down my mum due to her continually moving address. An organisation, Happy Child, took over the running of the home, providing respite for children from difficult situations rather than long-term care. Selma remained with Happy Child and we all continued to pray and actively look for my mum.

August 2003 was the date I arrived in Scotland and joined the MacKenzie family. This was the first time I had ever been in a ‘normal’ family environment. I absolutely loved it! Stewart, Maureen and Gwen MacKenzie welcomed me into their home and their family. I cannot express how much this meant and continues to mean to me, having their love, support and guidance. I even have a granny now, something I always wished for! One year of accommodation turned into five years! I studied Computer Networks and Distributed Systems at Napier University. I thoroughly enjoyed University, studying hard to obtain my degree. I became involved and served in Wester Hailes Baptist Church and was so grateful for the way I was accepted and felt part of the Church family.

One weekend, while attending a youth camp with the Church, I received a phone call from Selma saying that they had found my mum. I could not sleep that night! I was so excited! I could not believe after all these years praying for my mum that we had finally found her! The next week, I arranged to travel back to Brazil to meet my mum and brother. I had not seen them for over twelve years.

Such an amazing moment when we arrived at my mum’s house! They lived in a very small house in a ‘favella’. The house was precariously perched on a cliff edge and as a result condemned by the Government. The house was very basic, with little space – the dishes and cutlery were stored inside the oven! Regardless, it was clear that the little my mum did have was well looked after. The house was gleaming!

Meeting my mum! This was the moment I had waited so long for. We arrived at the house, with only the feeling of excitement. As we entered the house, my brother Claudinei was there to meet us. This was a wonderful moment! I felt a connection immediately. Claudinei explained that my mum had gone to get her hair done in preparation for the meeting and had not returned home! The excitement was overwhelming by this stage. It was great to spend time chatting and getting to know my brother. An hour later, my mum arrived! It was just amazing seeing her again! To feel the excitement of us all was such a wonderful experience. Immediately, there was such a strong connection! As a result of all the prayer, there was no tension in the relationship at all. There was only an air of happiness and an assurance that this new-found relationship would simply grow stronger. I was so grateful to God. I knew that the prayers I prayed had helped to restore this relationship before we had even met. At that first meeting, there was an endless supply of coffee and food, as you would expect from any Brazilian. I immediately felt like I had returned home. Selma moved into the house with my mum and Claudinei. This was a big change for her and it took time for her to adjust. She had very few memories of my mum. By God’s grace the relationship is now strong and Selma is part of a secure family environment. I returned to Scotland to continue my studies. I continued to speak regularly with my mum by telephone and Skype.

A few months after returning to Scotland, my mum called to tell me she had tracked down my dad. He was extremely unwell, having had two strokes. Although I had no memories of my dad, I wanted to meet him. Thankfully, I was able to return to Brazil. This meeting proved to be very different from my reunion with my mum. It was awkward, as his illness made it difficult to communicate with him. When I visited there were fifteen family members from my dad’s side also present in the room, which made it even harder. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to meet him again. I was pleased to have time with him one-to-one and, despite his illness, I do believe he knew who I was. Sadly, 3 months later, I received a call that my dad had passed away. I was so pleased to have had the opportunity to meet him.

Miraculously, financial support was provided to enable me to buy a new house for my mum, Selma and Claudinei. This allowed my family to move from a onebedroom house, which they all shared, to each having a room of their own in an area that is not at risk. Year on year, God has provided for all of my needs and I have even been able to travel to Brazil once a year to spend time with my family.

I completed my degree and graduated. This was such a significant day. I could not have achieved this without God’s hand guiding, providing and caring for me.

After graduation, I had the opportunity to work and continue to stay in Scotland. Then followed the very difficult decision! I Should I return to Brazil to be with my family? Should I remain in Scotland and work? I was torn! Where was God leading me now? God is always gracious and good and answers our prayers. He guided me. He opened doors, directing me to stay in Scotland.

I am thankful I listened to God’s leading! I met my wonderful husband, Stewart McIntyre! It is incredible! I had known Stewart since I arrived in Scotland in 2003. Our friendship developed into a relationship over two years ago. We were married in April of this year. It was wonderful to have my mum, my sister and brother in Scotland being part of that special day. I am grateful to God for bringing Stewart into my life, allowing me to build my married life with a strong Christian man. It will be wonderful to have the opportunity to create a family of our own. God’s hand at work in my life!

Edna MacIntyre