Uniting Brazil (intro)

There are 27 million slaves around the world today. More than at any other time in human history. From sex slaves in the Middle East, to mill workers in India. The children living on the street in Brazil are most often forced into slavery dependency on drug traffickers. There entire life is planned out for them, every choice made before they're old enough to choose for themselves.

There needs to be another way. They need to have a second chance at putting their life together and getting away from the mistakes of their past.

My name is Gavin Hayes. I am from Johannesburg, South Africa. Welcome to my site where I attempt to record my attempts at making a difference in the lives of people who I felt had no second chance, and were being dealt an unfair hand.

This is my answer to the call God has placed on my life, and a documentation of His faithfulness in my life.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Differences We Make

I got a text from an 18 year old teenage girl that I met 3 years ago on a beach mission trip. On this trip, we just hang out with teenagers, and encourage them in their faith and their life decisions. It had been about two years since we had last chatted, but then this happened (I formatted the language, and changed names and places):

Her EyeYou were probably wondering why I, of all people, texted you. Well the reason is because: that holiday when I met you guys? It changed my whole life, and today I'm missing it so dearly! I just wanted to talk to you for a little while, because I was starting to lose myself, again. But now I'm remembering all the things you told me, and spoke to me about. And the reason I texted you was just to say thank you, thank you so very much.
You guys did change my life. I felt like that holiday was going to be the last one I'd ever have. I was at my breaking point, I was so depressed and lonely and I felt like I was worth nothing. Like nobody even needed me and nobody cared. My mum didn't want me, so why was I going to even keep on living? But then, I went to my dad that holiday, to go camping. That day we drove past where you guys were, something said to me, "Go". When we stopped outside your tent I told my dad that something in my heart was telling me to go to your events. I spent the whole week that I was there with you guys. I don't know if you remember? I became so happy! I found God's love in me. That night at the bonfire when you spoke to me meant so much!! I didn't even want to leave on Christmas Day. Because you all made me believe again. You made me feel welcome, loved, like I was actually worth something.
The week after that holiday I met this guy. We've almost been going out for 3 years now, and I couldn't be any happier. He has been helping me the same way that you guys did. My grades went up, sky high! I even received awards at school. And it is just because you guys taught me to believe in myself and to trust in God. So I've made so many new friends.
My life goal, now, is to change other peoples lives and help make them better. I want to help make them see what you guys made me see.
 So I replied and told her that I'm so glad that we could've been a part of anything that God was doing in her life, and I asked her if I could tell her story to encourage the teenagers here in Brazil, and if I could, maybe she could share more of her background with me. So when I woke up this morning, she had sent me this:

Beach ShellYou see, my mum was 17 when she had me. So, you know, she was teased about it and people told her to give me up. But she didn't.
She and my dad then got married when I was 3 years old, but the sad thing about that is that she never actually loved my dad. She only married my dad because he told her that he thought it would give me security and that I would be proud of them.
They had my little sister when I was 4 years old. But 5 years later the marriage ended. My mom wanted to be young again. She would go out at night and hardly ever come home. So my dad was the one who was like a mother to me. My dad found out that she had been cheating on him and that she wanted to leave us. She thought that because we were so young we wouldn't remember her.
I even heard those words.
I heard that she didn't want my sister and I anymore. As a 8 year old little girl, scared, and then to hear those words. It broke my heart in two. I had such bad nightmares and even panic attacks. And I was only 8 years old! Soon after that my gran took me to see a counsellor because I was beginning to hurt myself from the inside. I believed that the only reason my parents ever got married was because of me. My dad loved my mom so dearly, but she didn't love him. So it was because of me that he wasted 8 years of his life with a woman who didn't love him, just to find out that she cheated on him.
After they got divorced my mum had my half sister, with her new boyfriend, so they also got married afterwards. He was also very young when she was born, and he only married my mum because of the child. I stayed with my mum for 2 years. It wasn't so bad. I would only see my dad every second week, though, but I wanted to help my dad fix up his life because I'm his little girl, you know?
Then he met this woman. I couldn't remember who she was every time I saw her, because she wasn't from our town. I heard that my dad was moving away. He had decided to move to the coast to stay with this new woman. It was the June that I had just turned 10 and that was the first time I ever went out of Glendale. Everything was so different and so beautiful at the coast. I stayed there on holiday and it was so much fun!
Then I made the mistake of coming to live here at the coast. I was blinded by all the fun and I didn't consider all the factors. My dad's woman kept telling me to come. She'd say, "We'll give you love, come stay with us, your mum doesn't want you anyway." Those words haunt me till this day. So I moved to PE.
My gran, my mum and everyone else who loved me in Glendale was hurt. I can recall the image of my gran crying as I said goodbye to her. Even my 2-year-old half sister, who had became like my real sister, was crying for me. My dad married my stepmother and she promised me a better life. That I'd be worth something to her. That was just a lie.
Then at 10 years old, when I was starting grade 5, my life changed. That year I had a new school, new mom, and a new life. But it really wasn't great. My stepsisters and brothers were all given a lift to school, but I had to walk?! As the second youngest in the house here in PE I had to prepare meals and I had to clean the house. My stepmother was too lazy and a drunk to do it. When my dad was around she was nice to me, but as soon as he turned around she would torture me. And she didn't want me to see my mum. I had to fight and fight just to see my mum in the holidays.
So it seemed that that's how life would be. I would work like a little slave during the school terms and then in the holiday I could relax a little. Years went by like this where I could only see my mum in the holidays. My stepmother would pick on me, saying, "You are so stupid!", "You little brat you should have never been born!" She despised me. My stepbrother, who was only a year older than me, touched my sister and I sexually. But my stepmother didn't believe me, so she just tortured me more because I was making up these 'lies'. The years still passed, but I kept the truth in my heart about what had happened.
There were a lot of bad things that happened as the years went by, and I became so emotional!
Then came that holiday of 2011 when I was 15. I had decided to start working at Spur to save up money so that I could live with my mum again because she wasn't even able to afford me and my sister.
Just before Christmas we went to Plett to stay with my dad for the week. As I said, I wanted that holiday to be the last one I'd ever have with him. After that, I was never going to go back to PE. Then I met you guys, and I changed. You made me feel worth something. You guys activated the little life I still had left in me and taught me to keep strong. You taught me to hold on tight and believe.

Her Cat

After that, I met my boyfriend Ryan, and we've been going out for almost 3 years now. He also encouraged me to keep strong. He had fallen in love with that little bit of life I had going in me.
So I decided to stay with my dad to see if things would get better. My grades got much better and my love for God grew bigger. My stepmother realised that she wasn't getting under my skin anymore. So things were actually going good. I would still remind myself about all the things she had done, and about when I told her about how her son had tried to do things with me and my sister.
But life didn't get much easier. I still had to cook and clean, I just accepted it. In my mind I was only cooking for me, my dad and my sister.
Unfortunately, I lost track of what was happening at my mums house. See, her husband was now doing to her what she had done to my dad. The tables had turned and my mum became like my dad. She was so hurt after being cheated on.
My little half sister is now going through everything I went through. She's also 8 years old, now. I'm doing everything in my power to make her feel safe, even though I'm all the way here in PE. I'm just waiting to write my last exam at the end of this year and then I'm done with PE and my stepmother will never see me again. I'll show her that I have all this good in me. I'm going to move back to Glendale and take care of my mother and my half sister. I'm going to live my life so differently, like none of the bad stuff ever happened. The only parts I would hold on to, was meeting you guys and my boyfriend.
I replied to her again just trying to encourage her with her stepmother, but I was so blown away by this story of this young girl, and how far she's gone in her life! 
I had no idea about any of this on that mission trip. All that I remembered was this young afrikaans girl that would hang out at our events, and hardly talk to anyone. So after seeing her a few times, I just struck up a conversation with her after we had heard someone share their testimony. I asked her if she'd like to tell me her testimony, or her life story. She just froze, and I could tell she wasn't ready for that. So I left her, and asked one of the girls in my team to go follow up with her. She shared some of her story with that girl the next day, and apparently those small gestures were enough to encourage a hurting girl to be brave in her life! 
You can never know the depth of the impact you're making, it seems.
These were some of her photos she enjoys taking.