But God gives hope of freedom from death and decay

Romans 8:20-23 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.

In São Paulo, we lived a few blocks uphill from one of the city reservoirs, Represa Guarapiranga, a sizeable lake surrounded by grass and trees and flowers and birds. A flock of herons occupied an inlet; exotic pheasant-like birds whose name I don’t remember nested on the shore. Cows, horses and stray dogs wandered there (watch your step!). Neighborhood men and boys fished and played soccer, flew kites and maneuvered battery-powered miniature airplanes.

Hungry for green space in our industrial city of 22 million (our house had no yard), our family celebrated Easters with sunrise breakfasts at the represa and on clear nights sometimes glimpsed a few stars. We jogged there and picnicked, enjoying the gracious accent of sailboats and other craft.

Our neighbors were less sanguine about using the represa shoreline. Drugs were sold and smoked. Assaults and murders, kidnappings and rapes were too-often reported. Vagrants bathed and slept there. Soccer fields flooded during rainy season, while mosquitos thrived.

From our upstairs windows, the represa offered a soothing touch of nature amid the concrete and traffic. Such a lovely image—from a distance. Up close—hmm, not so much:

Sadly, I can’t find the photo I took of the Guarapiranga shoreline, but this gives you the idea. Shutterstock: Wipas Rojjanakard

My friend Loide, an architect who worked for the city, long nurtured a vision for our neighborhood shoreline. On a visit several years after Karis and I left São Paulo for Pittsburgh, I discovered Loide’s plans had been embraced and funded! Cultivated flora framed walking/jogging paths, exercise equipment, benches, and concrete tables with painted-on gameboards. The half-mile park hugging the shoreline of “our” represa was fenced, protected and maintained by a staff of guards and gardeners. Hundreds of people, from infants to elderly, now safely enjoyed the reclaimed space.

For me, Loide’s park, infusing hope in a setting of violence and violations, is an image of restoration—what Paul calls “a foretaste of future glory.”

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace.