For Thanksgiving two years ago I posted a video of six young men who had either just completed or were close to completing their time in the Christland center for Christian Transformation. Each man shared at that time what he was most thankful for.
At the time I asked those six men what they were thankful for I wasn’t really thinking about going back and checking on them later. I just wanted to know what, after six months to a year of being free from drugs and/or alcohol they were most thankful for. If you have time, go back and watch the video HERE. It might bring some insight to your Thanksgiving.
I stay in touch with all of these guys, as I do with many other former students from Christland. I recently sat down with some of them and asked them what they are thankful for today, three years later. The interviews in the original video were actually recorded around Thanksgiving of 2016. So, it’s now been three years since these men completed their time at Christland and “moved on” with their lives. This is a story of where they moved on to.
Edson, the first young man in the video, sadly is back on the street. He went through the Christland program twice. Both times, despite our help in getting a job, a place to live, and connection with a local church body, Edson just couldn’t stay away from the world and its temptations. We stay in touch with Edson and are prayerful that he will seek the Lord again.
Bruno, the second young man in our Thanksgiving video, finished his time at Christland and went on to training as a Christland worker. He first served at Christland here in Recife, then helped start a new Christland center in Maceió, the capital of Alagoas, the state just south of us. Bruno is in his second year now helping lead that center.
Along with his ministry at Christland in Maceió, Bruno also preaches and teaches at a local church and is taking seminary courses. His dream is to some day pastor a local church. Three years now, clean, dry, and serving the Lord with a grateful heart.
Here’s what Bruno said he is thankful for: “Grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ. May God continue blessing you all. I have so many things to thank our God for. But first I want to read from Paul’s first letter to Timothy, beginning 1:12 “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man… Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”
With these words from the apostle Paul, I too am so thankful for the Lord who transformed my life, I who in another time lived in the world of addiction, in a deplorable state, mired in sin. I am grateful to Christland, which through the word of God and missionaries, men and women of God who helped reach me and teach me God’s word, the Gospel of Freedom through which I was reached by the Holy Spirit to persuade me that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, as with all of those who repent and believe in Him. I thank God for everything and may God bless you all.”
And we are thankful for all God continues to do in Bruno’s life and how he is honoring the blessings he has received from the Lord.
It’s a simple classroom, just a stall in a converted barn. Ninety degrees in the shade. No AC, no fans, not even a breeze. The dust filters down from the red tile roof that bakes everything beneath it. Ten students follow the mid day lesson in their Bibles. A rickety wooden pulpit with “Jesus Saves” painted on the front. Doesn’t look like much. But miracles happen here. Just like they did in a stall in another barn a couple of thousand years ago.
Tiago (the Brazilian version of James) has been drug free for four years now. Ever since he entered the Christland center in 2015. I’ve watched Tiago go from a student at Christland, to becoming a monitor, then a full time worker, then getting married and moving on to pastor a small church. But this ministry to men struggling with addiction never left his heart. Tiago is now helping lead a project similar to Christland in Carpina, about an hour inland from Recife.
As poor as the inland cities of the northeast of Brazil are, you would think there wouldn’t be much of a drug problem. But they are as ravaged by addiction as any city center in Brazil. And Tiago is doing his best to lead other men to Christ, following the same path that saved him not so long ago, now at the “Projeto Jesus Transforma” (Jesus Transforms Project) which ministers to these men in a similar fashion to Christland.
Here’s what Tiago is thankful for today: “I’m very grateful to God that he transformed my life through Christland and now has given me this opportunity here in Carpina through the Jesus Transforms project. I’m also grateful that by His grace God gave me a wife who is now six months pregnant with Manuela. I’m very grateful for the Christland project to come to know Christ and to serve in His work.
I plan some day to go to seminary to gain more understanding of God’s word. But, I am also waiting upon the Lord’s confirmation (of this plan) in my life because we always need to walk guided by the Holy Spirit. And I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be in God’s Kingdom.”
We too are thankful for the opportunities God has given these servants of his, who once languished in darkness, but when brought into the Light, have flourished, grown, persevered and produced much good fruit. All to the honor and glory of our Lord. And THANKS we give to Jesus!
Thank you so much for your prayers. And a joyful and thank-FULL Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!