Cooking with Yuri: Suelen’s Story

But when I looked for good, evil came to me; And when I waited for light, then came darkness.-Job 30:26

Many things have happened since we last cooked with Yuri. However, I cannot give a proper update without telling the story of Yuri’s courageous sister, Suelen. In my previous post about Yuri, I mentioned that Yuri’s father abandoned the family when the children were very young. Then something tragic happened to one of the boys in the family which changed their lives forever. It was something that hit the national news but I don’t think that it is appropriate for me to go into the details here. It was the final straw for their mother and she lost all grasp of reality. She started using crack and eventually ended up living in the streets in Cracolândia. The children were left to themselves with no adult presence. The three boys accepted their so-called fate and became homeless in the streets where they engaged in crime and drug abuse. Sueli was left alone with her youngest sister who was barely nine years old. Suelen herself was only about fifteen. She refused to allow circumstance to determine her life. She refused to consider homelessness as an option. She wanted to take care of her little sister. In this vulnerable state, she got involved with young man who initially appeared to be a godsend but then out to be a nightmare.  He was physically abusive and got involved with drug trafficking. She had a son with him. When she turned 18, she decided to leave him. She packed her bags and left her boyfriend with her child and youngest sister but they had no place to go.

This was about the time the team met Suelen. Yuri was incarcerated and he wanted to get in touch with his sister whom he considered as his only chance for a better life. The team took all the information we had regarding Suelen and searched for her. It took a while but we finally found her taking shelter in single room which was actually rented by another friend. This friend was a physically handicapped man who lived on his disability check which was hardly anything.  However, with the little he had, he opened up his home which was a tiny room for Suelen and her family. This man did this without any hidden intentions. It was out of pure generosity. The team managed to find ways to get Suelen the help she needed and she eventually rented a small apartment in the outskirts of São Paulo. Suelen never asked for a single cent. She worked for everything. Our mission managed to raise some funds to pay for the youngest sister’s school uniform and other educational expenses. Suelen eventually met a younger man whom she married and now they can support the household with two incomes. They earn enough to survive and provide a safe environment for the children but it is still quite financially fragile. Suelen unexpectedly became pregnant and this happened at the same time as Yuri got out of the Juvenile Detention Center. Sueli and her husband opened their tiny apartment up for him.

Everything seem to be going well for Suelen and her family then all of a sudden her long-lost mother showed up at her doorstep looking very pregnant. Suelen was expecting to deliver her child in two months time and her mother was due at the same time. Her mother was still a crack addict and has no intentions of giving up the habit. However, she wants Suelen to take care of her child. She made it clear that she was going to leave her child with Suelen and return to the streets. Sueli and her husband do not know what to do at this moment. However, Suelen knows that she cannot feed another mouth in her household. Yuri needs to return to school and complete his probation before he can get a job. Sueli’s mother is not mentally stable and does not think rationally.

I cited the verse from Job because I have been meeting a lot of Jobs recently. Suelen is a Job. She did not ask or deserve these troubles and sufferings. They just happened. There is no magic wand to wave and change this situation. Suelen and her husband want to get ahead in life but they have to consider what that means. Many of us limit the idea of getting ahead to finances. However, this is not going to happen for them. They are earning too low to even imagine a moment in their lives where they will be financially secure. If Suelen and her husband want to become financially stable they would have to kick Yuri out of the house and refuse to take care of the mother’s new child (her sibling). Only then, they might be able to get somewhere financially but they would lose their souls.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?-Matthew 16:26

Tough decisions await Suelen and her family and she called and talked to us about this. She does not expect us to have the answer. We are grateful for this because we have no answer. However, she wants to know where God is in the midst of it. She is not angry with God. Suelen has gone through enough in this life to know that God is present in the midst of all this. Sueli is a living testimony of God’s gracious presence in her life. She survived the odds to get where she is right now. She has actually ahead of us spiritually. She has experienced God’s goodness in ways which we cannot imagine. Through her troubles, she did not say “no” to Life even when everything around was teeming with negativity. Suelen is a Job and we called to be her friends in this difficult time. However, we don’t want to repeat the mistake of Job’s friends. She asks us to walk with her to discover the courage to say “Yes” to Life. We are going to wait with her to discover God as the foundation of our strength.

We are going to cook with Yuri this week again.