30 Oct Day 20: Natalia, part 2

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Natalia in 1996

As I prayed for Natalia yesterday and reflected on our relationship, it dawned on me that when we talk about our success stories it may seem the transformation is immediate. But in reality, it is a generational ministry. Just like with biological children, it takes years and years of investment. Only through time can you tell if the Father will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Patience. Not one of my stronger qualities. I became nostalgic remembering the young Natalia.

The “Interact” youth clubs are part of Rotary International, and they are usually made up of the sons and daughters of Rotarians. However, our own Interact Club kids have had unique opportunities to cross over to the “other side” of Brazil’s great divide—the “caste” system, briefly stepping into the world of youth born to wealth and privilege.

Almost 15 years ago, our youth participated in a state-wide gathering of Interact students. After introductions, the emcee asked for a volunteer to describe what Interact was all about. After a long silence, our little Natalia, then 15, stood up and walked forward.

When he saw her, the emcee seemed concerned. Her slightly darker skin tone indicated someone outside of Brazil’s wealthy upper class, someone who may have had an inferior education. After a whispered exchange, the emcee addressed the audience once again, “Please remember to be polite to your colleagues and encourage them when they speak.” With that admonition, he motioned for his assistant to give her the microphone.
Natalia took the microphone with great confidence and poise: “The Interact Club is an international association of youth service organizations, each sponsored by a Rotary club. It is comprised of youngsters between the ages of 14 and 18 in over seventy-five countries who work together to better their communities, help those in need, and promote world peace…” Her spontaneous response was as articulate as a narrative from a brochure.
When she finished speaking, the room erupted in clapping, whistling, and cheers. Strangely overwhelmed with thankfulness and pride, I quickly ducked out to the lobby, where I let the tears flow freely. As many years as I’ve been in ministry, having had scores of similar experiences, one would think I’d get less emotional. As the conference progressed, anyone seeing my runny eyes probably assumed I had a bad case of pink eye, as our twenty-two Interact Club members continued to dominate the conference with their creative and articulate ideas and suggestions!
P.S.: A year after I wrote this, Alan, the President of the City of Youth’s Interact Club, was elected to represent Interact at a global conference in Florida, sponsored by Disneyland. The next year our founding Interact president, Golbery, traveled to New Jersey to be honored as “Rotarian of the Year” by the New Jersey Rotary district—the youngest award recipient in district history. If any kids from the “other side” judged our youth as not their equal… they were absolutely right!

If you are reading this—a supporter of Hope—you are part of her family. Please pray for Natalha as you would one of your own family members. Pray for restored health for her and for the doctors to find the root of the issue. And pray for Jardelho, who took her illness very hard. He loves her so much, and he can’t imagine raising their three children without a mother.