Christmas Reflections

Andy Roberts, a SAMS volunteer in Olinda, Brazil, reflects on a very different kind of Christmas. In Brazil 25 million children live in extremely deprived conditions. 8 million of these live on the streets, forming gangs to survive, and many will be killed before they reach the age of 18. ‘My Father’s House’ is a project linked to the Anglican Church of Living Waters which seeks to help and reach out to these boys. Living Waters Church is situated on a favela (shanty town) at the side of the city’s open air rubbish dump and together we reach out to over 250 children a day through a school at the church and ‘My Father’s House’, a safe house for boys in high risk: their lives are in danger. Statistics show, just from our own favela where we work, that on average 4 young people are killed each week due to gang violence.


Many of the boys in My Father’s House have run away from home due to

physical/sexual abuse from their families or because their parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Our youngest boy came to the project at the age of 4; he was found abandoned on the rubbish dump and covered in marks from where his mother had been biting him. Two of our boys have witnessed one of their parents being murdered: one boy’s mother held his father down whilst her boyfriend stabbed him and the other boy has to live with the fact that his own dad murdered his mum.


Christmas is a time to be with family and loved ones. Unfortunately, as you’ve just read, many of our boys don’t have any family or have no family suitable to take care of them. Parental love is something many of our boys have never felt. We work closely with whatever family the boy has to try to restore them both and this Christmas we hope that most of our boys will be able to pass a few days with some sort of family – their own or a substitute family. On the favela many of the children work on the rubbish dump picking through the rubbish to find recyclables, the majority of them supporting entire families from the little money they manage to earn.


For many children Christmas Day will be spent just like any other day, up on the dump picking through the rubbish, and Christmas lunch will be whatever they find there.Christmas is also when we remember the birth of Jesus Christ, who said in John’s Gospel that he came to give us life – and life to the full. It’s only through Jesus Christ and the new life that he brings that these boys and these children will change their lives.


So during this busy Christmas time please give a thought to these children who won’t be spending Christmas with loving families but rather on the streets and rubbish dump of Olinda. And we’ll be praying for all of you that this Christmas you might remember that Jesus Christ came to save and give life… and not just to street kids.