Rita de Cassia, a Compassion graduate, gets a kiss from a friend at the Compassion-assisted project where she grew up in Brazil. Rita acts as a "big sister" to her extended family at the project.
When social workers found an infant named Rita, she was bleeding and alone on the dirt floor of her family's home. She was one of the millions of abandonados abandoned children who crowd the streets of Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Her future was bleak. Most abandonados are the victims of violence and rape. Eighty percent are addicted to drugs. Hundreds die alone each day.
But thanks to God's sovereign grace, Rita was not alone.
Rita's earliest memories are of a crowded home for abandoned children. She was grateful for the loving adults who gave her food and clothes and provided for her basic needs. Rita felt secure, but she still longed for a mother to tuck her in at night and a father to swing her in the air. She longed for the day when she would no longer be an abandonado.
A Faraway Family
When Rita was 4 years old, the Sociedade Evangelica de Assistencia Social Casa do Garoto (BR-251) opened in her neighborhood. She was registered in the program, and in just a few months a couple in the United States sponsored Rita and became her first real family.
"My sponsors made such a difference in my life," says Rita. "It was so good to know that there was somebody that cared for me, prayed for me, and sent me letters from a distant country."
Like a Daughter
As she was shuffled through the foster care system, Rita's only stability came from the Compassion student center and the letters from her sponsor. The project director, Pastor Wellington Madureira, looked out for Rita like his own daughter. He taught Bible studies at the project and had the privilege of praying with young Rita when she accepted Christ.
When Rita was 11, a family in Lagoinha adopted her. Rita remained active in the project, singing in the choir and helping the younger children with their homework and leading devotions for her peers.
As Pastor Wellington and other Compassion staff continued to minister to Rita, she came to realize there was still one part of her life she needed to reconcile. Although she didn't remember her life with her biological parents, the abandonment and abuse she experienced as an infant still had scarred her. Rita knew it was time to face her past. It was time for forgiveness.
Rita was 17 when she finally met her birth mother. She nervously twisted her dark hair as she walked toward the small, dilapidated house where her biological parents lived. As she peered into the dark room, tears filled her eyes at the sight of the broken shell of a woman sitting there. She soon learned that her mother suffered from mental illness and rarely had the money for her medication.
"I forgave my parents that day," says Rita. "God changed my pain into happiness. He restored my feelings. I can't understand many things, but I am sure that God knows everything, so I am in God's hands."
Today 26-year-old Rita works as an administrative assistant. Each afternoon she gives Pastor Wellington a hug as she passes the project. Many afternoons she stops at her biological mother's home to visit, then continues to the home she shares with her adopted family. Each night she looks at the picture of her sponsors on a shelf by her bed and thanks God for her patchwork family.
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