Getting children off the street in Brazil is very difficult work. Many of the children on the streets enjoy the freedom they have to live as they please, and the street offers a better life than many of the horrible slums (know as "favelas") that they come from. The "soup kitchens" of the Catholic Church offer them three meals a day, and a warm house isn't really necessary so close to the equator where it is always warm. Catholics are also big on alms, which provide the children with drug money for glue and crack. The children can also make additional money through theft and prostitution. The government does not usually get involved with street children, so the solutions are left to the churches. The strategy of JOCUM (YWAM) is very different than that of the Catholic churches in the city. Below summarizes the 3 basic steps we observed.
- First Contact - Every Wednesday night a team of about 10-12 missionaries from JOCUM take to the city streets in downtown Recife. The goal is to form relationships with the street kids and eventually encourage them to leave the streets. Although the children range from young toddlers to older teenagers, they all love coloring pictures and playing dominoes with the missionary team. As relationships form, the missionary team learns their story and tries to contact their families. Restoration with their families is always the first choice! If the families are deceased, abusive, or in jail, and restoration is not a viable option, the children are invited off the streets. The various Christian ministries network to provide solutions (for example, JOCUM does not yet have a house for girls, although it is in the hearts of many of the missionaries).
- Triage - When the children are willing to leave the streets, they go to a triage house where they learn to follow rules and get off of the substances they have become dependent on. This detoxification time is often very difficult for the kids. The addictions developed aren't so easily broken, and they aren't used to having any authority figures in their lives. Unfortunately, less than half of the kids that are willing to leave the streets make it through triage without running away back to the streets. It was said by one of the Brazilian missionaries, "It is a lot easier to take the kids off the streets than it is to take the streets out of the kids." The boys that successfully make it through triage, then move to the missionary base to live at Hope House.
- Casa de Esperanca (Hope House) - Hope House usually dorms around 10 boys that YWAM has legally taken responsibility for and insured. Here they are given constant supervision, but they earn more and more freedom as time passes. They are also given an education, learn to do chores, and learn an occupation. These skills are very important for them to obtain if they are to have a sustainable job once they are grown. At Hope House they also receive Bible teaching and attend church.
The JOCUM strategy for keeping children off the streets is really two-fold. In addition to the Rescue strategy previously described, prevention is the other avenue of ministry. Here the focus is bringing the kids to the mission base to occupy their time with activities that they enjoy, accompanied by a Bible teaching. The children must also remain in school in order to participate. When the children are spending their time getting an education, learning the Bible, and staying occupied with positive activities, they are far less likely to fall into the traps and influences of the street.
- Show de Bola (Soccer) - Brazilians LOVE soccer!!! About 150 boys and girls participate each week in the soccer program on the base. One of the missionaries involved in this program is a former professional Brazilian soccer player!
- Karate - About 40 boys and girls participate in Karate each week on base. They meet in the Christian elementary school, which is also a part of the JOCUM base.
- Arts and Crafts - This outreach also meets in the school on base and is especially appealing to women and some of the neighborhood girls that may not care much for sports. It is interesting to note that boys tend to be easier to reach here than girls. Sadly, many of the young girls have become very hardened after prolonged sexual abuse from older men.
- Swimming Lessons