I come from Brazil, the fifth of a family of six children, two of whom were born from the previous marriage of my father, who was then left a widower.
I was just one year old when dad left home, leaving behind my pregnant mother who was unable to take up a job because we children were still quite small.
Since we had no close relatives and our father did not contribute to our livelihood, the situation turned critical. Practically we had nothing to eat and many bills to pay!
Mum decided to sell some of the furniture in the house to cover the immediate needs and we remained only with the essential things.
One of my acquired step brothers had a grocery store from where mum took what we needed to eat. But since we couldn’t pay him, he came one day and took away the fridge.
For the same reasons they first cut off our electricity supply and then also the gas. For years we lived using oil lamps and cooking with firewood. Often some neighbours helped us out with whatever little they had.
Meanwhile, our father had three other children with another woman. For us it was really hard not to receive his love, but mum always taught to respect him as our father. Whenever we saw him she’d tell us: “That’s your father. Go to him to ask for his blessing”.
I worked as a street vendor till I was eighteen. Often I hid myself when I saw a friend, because I felt ashamed. I have also worked as a farmhand and a bricklayer. Then, in 2000, I was summoned to work as a volunteer at the Ministry of Justice where, seeing my commitment, they employed me at the Tribunal Secretariat. I even managed to complete my studies and graduate in Arts.
One day, a friend invited me to a meeting of the Focolare Movement to which he belonged. Out there I discovered that Jesus, who had suffered and experienced the abandonment on the cross, could give meaning to my own personal sufferings and to those of my family. I believed that everything could have a meaning, and that my pain had served to make me a more humane person, sensitive to the sufferings of others. This discovery led me and leads me to a personal encounter with God, to whom I decided to dedicate my life, serving my brothers and sisters on the way of the Focolare.
(Contains the testimony of Lizomar Dos Santo)