“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
I felt like I was in one of those police movies; sitting as I was in a soundproof room behind a glass window through which I could look, but through which I could not be seen. Clenir was in the room next door and a social worker, having introduced the twelve year old girl from the favela (shanty town in Rio de Janeiro), was about to leave.
Clenir introduced herself then offered the girl something to eat and drink. They began to chat. Davi was sitting beside me translating every word. The girl began her story with the day a local judge came to her home in an armored vehicle with a police escort. The drug lords who ran the favela got into a gunfight with the police as the judge rushed into the girl’s home. With bullets whizzing around, the judge told her mother that if she didn’t send her daughter to school the state would take her daughter away. With tears in her eyes the girl told how she’d been pan-handling on the streets to supplement the meager family income. She shared how devastated she was at the thought of being separated from her mother, and more.
Handing her paper and crayons, Clenir asked her to draw a picture depicting how she felt. She drew carefully. Ten minutes later she passed the picture to Clenir who held it up so we could see. At the bottom of the page she’d drawn a bird with a wing ripped off. Drops of blood fell from the wound at its side. Tear drops fell from the bird’s eye. To the right of the bird there was a tree with a sad face. The tree was crying. In the top right hand corner she’d drawn the sun. The sun had a sad face and the sun was crying. Across the top of the page she’d drawn the clouds, they too had sad faces and they were crying.
Clenir asked her to explain the imagery in the picture. “I’m like the bird,” she said, “I’m in deep pain and the whole world with me.” I thought of the text that said, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning . . .” (Romans 8:22). My heart went out to the little girl as Clenir went on to select a Gospel Story, and using the pictures from the Pavement Project big green bag, shared the good news.
A wonderful transformation took place. Listening to the Gospel Story the girl encountered Jesus Christ. It seemed like the process of salvation and healing had begun. When Clenir invited her to pray she thanked Jesus for becoming her best friend, for being there for her, and much more.
Clenir then handed the girl another piece of paper and asked her to draw a new picture, one that indicated what her new feelings were. I waited; my anticipation mounting with each stroke of a crayon. What would she draw? When Clenir held it up I was enthralled. She’d drawn a bird in flight, and explaining, said that like the bird, she’d been set free!