Beyond the wealth and corruption, beyond media attention, needy individuals by the masses fight for survival and hang on to a seed of hope. Among derelict, forgotten, even hellish prisons entrapping often innocent spouses, to the streets teaming with masses, is found an example of selfless love.
On a tight budget, part of the year, Ruth's family raises just enough funds at home in the U.S. to then serve for months at a time in places of need. They become "one with these people" and immerse themselves in language and culture. Music, dance, and creative forms of entertainment bring laughs and joy to onlookers.
Some time ago, Ruth reach out with the idea that chess sets would be a wonderful gift to leave with the people they meet.
The message of hope and life is welcomed in the most unlikely places.
"At the center for at risk youth, the kids were so excited to get the chess boards. Most of them knew how to play and said they were going to set up a tournament. As we were talking, a boy came up and was sad as he told me he didn't know how to play. An older boy put his arm around him and said, "don't worry, I'll teach you", his face just lit up. It was really special. Some of the kids live here, some visit, and in one section it’s like a detention center for kids who have committed crimes. We had a really effective time teaching here and used chess as a platform about the battle of life and making choices that will help them "win". I wish you could have been there.
In another place, they told us how the gift of this chess board has given them something to look forward to each day and helped them so much.
They are serving long sentences in a prison in Southern Brazil. So many guys we talk to tell us the hardest thing they deal with is keeping their minds sane. The conditions are so horrible and unless they have money, they don't get a lawyer to fight for their case, so the hope of getting out is very little. These two guys wrote that getting a game of chess really helped them focus their time and minds.
My dad and I went up to a top layer of a prison way in the back. We talked to a large group of serious gang leaders and really "bad" tough guys (all the prisons here are divided by gangs and a lot of guys can't mix together so we have to go to them separately). We gave them two chess boards for their whole group and their response just blew me away. You just kind of think these tough guys might look down on a game or something, but they acted like we gave them a 1000 bucks! They were really touched and grateful and my dad took a second to explain to them how to set up a round robin type tournament and they wrote it all down and set up a bracket with their names and who would play who. It was really cool and just makes me happy thinking that they will start to put time into something so good. When we share so much with them about the love of Jesus, Gods profound forgiveness for them, how to change their mind, forget their past, engage their will and start to read the scriptures, then giving them the chess boards gives them a practical reminder of all we said so the words come back to them after we leave.
In another place we noticed right away that something was wrong. All the guys were unbelievably thin, way more than any other prisons we had been too. They began to come up to us and ask us if we possibly had any food we could give them! It was just tragic. They explained they only got one meal a day and sometimes not even that. We could not figure everything out, but realized that there was some serious corruption going on between the gang leader, prison guards, and a huge (very evil) church. Anyway, long story short, it was getting late and was almost the hour when no one can go in our out, but we were able to leave, find a grocery store close by, and buy a lot of food to give them. We made it back and gave it directly to the guys so it could not get stolen. It’s tough because we can't really afford extra stuff like this, but in this case we just had to and we know the Lord always provides. We are going back to that same prison on Thursday, and I am going to try to see if I can get some food and fruit from the fruit market donated, as well as what we are going to bring.
We had a beautiful time inside a women's prison the other day. It was pouring rain so we had to cram into a small space but we were able to really touch some precious women who were hurting. I am so grateful to the chess company that donated some beautiful quality chess boards to us that we can give to those we meet. It has been such a blessing and those that receive them are extremely grateful. It allows people in difficult situations to get lost in the game and focus their minds on something besides their pain. We can learn so much from the game of chess. If we just take what life gives us and meet it move for move, we can be defeated. But a strategy for victory requires that we go beyond ourselves and find the unexpected move. We have a flyer that we give out to prison guards, police and military with a chess piece on the front. We use the idea of chess to explain how, often we are put in positions that require us to make difficult decisions. But if we do not repay "evil for evil", but evil for good, we move ourselves into a place of victory and can break a cycle of hate.
We also gave some chess boards out at a really cool event for poor children. I love giving them to like 10 and 11 year olds. It’s amazing here how many kids know how to play but don't have their own board. This one little girl named Isobel, I think she was 9, was so excited to take it home so she could play with her grandfather who taught her how to play on a piece of paper with coins as pieces!"
Here's a photo of Ruth's family. They carry on with their service and we are happy to gift chess sets knowing the lives they are touching.
Here are the small, lightweight chess sets that Ruth is giving away. If you know if a cause where these chess sets could make a significant life impact, don't hesitate to contact us.