It was in 2007 that my family first moved to the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil. The city with a population of over 1.5 million slowly captured our heart. We liked the southern South American climate which produces four distinct seasons including hot summers and cold winters. The food was consistently delicious. Porto Alegre is the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which borders Uruguay and Argentina. It has several beautiful and active city parks and nearly a dozen shopping malls. The downtown area has a significant amount of historic buildings and a favorite of mine is the market building right in the heart of downtown which offers a lot of local fare including; era matte, fish, and other items. Most of all, I grew to genuinely like the people. I remember how helpful strangers were to my family on various occasions when we needed help. There are numerous examples including; one day when a neighbor we had just met offered to take my family to the hospital and wait with us for hours while my daughter Lilly underwent tests at a local hospital (she had pneumonia symptoms). While such acts of kindness could happen anywhere, we experienced them all the time in Porto Alegre.
Unfortunately, Porto Alegre is not without its downfalls. It currently ranks as the 9th most violent city in world, according to a recent survey found here. This means the people are living in near constant fear of being a victim of a crime regardless of the time of day. It is also experiencing, along with many cities in Brazil, one of its worst economic downturns in many years as the country is currently in a deep recession. So much so, that it is common that the state cannot pay its workers on time during many months of the year in 2016. Also, as a matter of inconvenience, at the time of this writing, all the banks in the entire country have been closed for over a month as their workers have been on strike demanding better benefits.
However, the reality is that Carol and I really love this city - for its people and its character. Furthermore, it is of my opinion, that when life becomes more difficult it is not time to run from our problems but to face them in light of what is good. It is even more true when those actions are affecting our community and city in which we live. The Apostle Paul said (in Romans 12:20) to the Christian believers in Rome who were suffering through difficult times, "If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink." He reiterated his point by saying: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." -Romans 12:21
This is the attitude that we are taking upon our journey back to Porto Alegre, Brazil - to love both the lovable and the unlovable and that God would break our heart for what breaks His heart. And that we would realize that there exists within the friendly confines and wonderful aspects of any city (Porto Alegre included) the poor and powerless that God desires so much to be loved, to be prayed for, and to be saved. -J/D