Brumadinho, Brazil :: An Update

On January 25, 2019, a worst nightmare was realized as the Brumadinho dam collapsed. In the state of Minas Gerais, a dam used by a mining company gave way, killing 166 people, and causing an additional 200 people to remain missing, according to the latest reports. Mudslides caused by mining waste gave rise to fear of widespread water contamination.

ReachGlobal staff member Craig Weyandt was able to be on the scene just after the event, alongside several Brazilian pastors to offer support, prayer, and assess how to partner with the suffering and families of the lost over the long term.  They drove 10 hours out from Rio de Janeiro to be in this small mining town and to simply love people and offer their assistance. Craig is the leader of the ReachGlobal Rio de Janeiro team, and has been in Brazil for nearly 20 years now.

Back in January, when Craig was on the scene, he sent updates, including this one:

“We have been able to talk with, listen to and pray with a number of families and individuals. It appears that in a few minutes Vale will release their updated list of found people both the dead and living. this will be a very intense time for everyone including us. We’ve been asked to go to the municipal cemetery because the recovered bodies now will begin to arrive there and many families will be arriving there as well. Please pray for the families.”

Now that a bit of time has passed, and the crisis is no longer in the headlines, people may wonder what has become of the situation.  This is a common reaction–in the ReachGlobal Crisis Response Ministry Team, they call it the “CNN Effect”; where as soon as it’s out of the forefront of people’s minds, everyone assumes that life has gone back to normal.  Anyone who has volunteered in Crisis Response knows that this could not be farther from the truth–that it is only in the second or third month, when things calm down a bit, that the real work begins.  This is when grief truly sets in for the families who lost loved ones, and this is when despair and financial struggles also truly begin.

ReachGlobal always tries to take a long-term approach with any sort of crisis response situation, and make it about recovering the whole life of the affected people, not just what they lost physically.  Just as we do in all of our city teams and other outreach efforts, we always want to partner with the local church and pastors who are on the ground and known in their communities. We want to offer help to bring healing in the physical, yes, but also emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.

With that in mind, here is the latest updates from Craig concerning the town of Brumadinho:

“The Union Church of Rio de Janeiro [Craig is in leadership there]  is partnering with EFCA ReachGlobal, local Belo Horizonte Church- Igreja Esperança and an NGO called “CADI” to make a difference.  CADI has been contracted by Igreja Esperança and are using a community development assessment tool to determine long term development and care.

Now that the first phase of emergency response is over they have hired CADI, an NGO that specializes in long-term, community development.  They have targeted one poor, residential community called Parque da Cachoeira that suffered high-loss of life and infra -structure damage.   CADI is being paid to do a Community Development Assessment.  When the project is complete on paper the local churches will work to building a new reality for the families and especially the children living in Parque da Cachoeira.

This is an informal partnership where we (the Union Church of Rio and ReachGlobal) are contributing funds to a local ministry that we have met, worked with and trust.”

On a more personal note, Craig shared a story about a particular young boy who lost his father in the crisis:

“Pastor Enio was one of the pastors who was on-site with Craig just after the tragedy.  He was able to pray with a boy named Luiz,  and listen to him as he awaited news about his father at the Vale center for receiving employees and families of employees.  Luiz  shared with him that he called his dad just minutes before the accident. He was asking for money for a hair-cut.  He shared how his dad replied with, “Alright but you better be keeping your grades up!”  As the day went on Enio recalls watching Luiz staring with a profound look of sadness yet fidgety, while anxiously awaiting some news of his dad.   A lasting bond was made between the two as Luiz would return that day to Enio sometimes for a hug and sometimes with just a smile.

A couple of days later Luiz sent a picture of his father to Pastor Enio.  “They found my dad.  The funeral was today.”  What would provoke a 12 year-old boy to communicate a loss so profound to a Pastor that he met for only hours a couple of days before?  The authentic love of Jesus poured out by a man who cared enough to offer real help by leaving behind his own family driving 10 hours to a place he had never been to offer a listening ear, a hug and prayer.  The Lord in his compassionate grace orchestrated this meeting and forever touched the heart of a boy who needed to feel  the love of a father- a father lost as well as an Invisible Heavenly Father, fleshed out by one willing to get involved by “going” in Jesus name.

Pastor Enio and Luiz continue to talk through texting on Whatsapp. Please pray that Luiz  would come to know and recognize the Love of the Heavenly Father.

Please pray for the children living in Parque da Cachoeira  and the volunteers offering real help to re-build this broken community in Jesus name.”

For more information about how you can pray or contribute to the ongoing needs in Brazil, please contact craig.weyandt@efca.org

 

Calling Young Adults! [Summer Apex Missions]

Combine your passion to serve in cross-cultural missions with our passion for developing future mission leaders.

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From June 19-August 4, 2017, ReachGlobal is sending out teams of young adults (college age and post-grads) to locations around the world as part of our Apex mission program. Apex teams will integrate into the local ReachGlobal teams, serving alongside our missionaries while receiving training and equipping for future mission and ministry success.

Let us invest in you while you invest in the cities and countries that we call home.

Find out more about how you can serve this summer in:

Applications are due by April 2017 — however, the programs are first-come, first-serve and may fill up sooner. If God is calling you to go deeper into missions, don’t miss your opportunity to be part of His greater story in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Video: Trek7 – Drew’s Story

As we gear up for three Trek7 missions experiences for 2016 in Latin America and the Caribbean — Costa Rica, Haiti and Peru — let’s take a look back at a previous Trek7 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Trek7 provides college students and recent college grads with seven weeks of hands-on mission experience woven together with ministry training, spiritual mentoring, language learning and cultural immersion. It’s a challenge to get out of your comfort zone and put your faith into action.

Will you join us?

See more info and apply online at myef.ca/trek7.

Braving bullets to reach the forgotten

Church team survives firefight between police, gang in Rio slum

About midnight, the team heads out, almost 100 of them.

They walk single-file down a narrow road leading into a steamy Rio de Janeiro slum called Arará. They head toward the baile funk music pounding through giant speakers in the town square.

They’re crashing a boca de fuma – a drug-fueled party thrown by the local boss. Around them, prostitutes work the square. Dealers sell crack, meth and cocaine openly on tables. Other drug traffickers, many just boys, tote AK-47s.

Suddenly the music cuts out. Traffickers whip out their cell phones, quickly scanning texts. Motorcycles rev up and bolt out of the square.

Then, gunshots. Lots of them.

It’s the BOPE – a military police battalion charged with pacifying drug-controlled slums like Arará and the surrounding barrio, Benfica. As the party vaporizes, BOPE troops hurry to block both ends of the road with tanks.

Continued gunfire sends everyone still caught in the square bounding for cover – inside houses, apartments, storefronts, wherever there’s shelter.

Most of the team makes it out. The seven who don’t scramble to a walk-up lunch counter and hide behind the garage-type metal door.

Amid the mayhem, team member Chris starts talking about Jesus with a 12-year-old boy who’s also pinned down in the shop. Team members pray for the neighborhood. Soon the gunfire stops, and the seven seize the opportunity to get out of Arará.

“For hours afterward, we sat as a team and just said, ‘Wow,’” remembers Craig, a ReachGlobal missionary who was one of the seven.

“The police were firing into the boca from two directions,” Craig recalls. “Eventually you could hear it right outside our door – guns being fired. We didn’t know at this point who they were. The fear was it could be another gang coming, regular police looking for payoffs; it could be BOPE. Either way, I was worried about where we were.”

Burden for the forgotten

The team, mostly from Baptist Life Church based in the nearby barrio of Caju, is doing a ministry they call madrugado do carinho – literally, middle of the night care.

The midnight care outreaches are the brainchild of Fabio, a 31-year-old pastor from Rio de Janeiro who took over Baptist Life Church eight years ago, when it had two people attending. The church now has almost 700 people in discipleship groups.

Caju is home to about 50,000 people, most of them poor migrants from northeast Brazil who came looking for a better life in the city.

It’s known as a forgotten neighborhood. That reputation deeply attracted Fabio, who for years has felt a push from God to share the love of Christ with “excluded people,” and to go to places that other people don’t want to go.

“So whether that’s persecuted countries – that captures my attention – or going into a favela at nighttime, these are places that most people don’t want to go to, and they are neighborhoods where there aren’t many evangelical churches,” Fabio says.

But those drug traffickers need to know that there’s a place in the kingdom of Christ even for them, says Mike, a minister from California who led Chris’ short-term team. The night before the shootout, in fact, Mike talked with five drug traffickers in Arará. He told them that he’s lived in their shoes, and that they can be forgiven for everything they’ve done.

Mike’s history gives him an automatic in with these guys. He left a life of drugs and gang violence 12 years ago to follow Jesus after God miraculously spared him from a suicide attempt.

“I know from seeing the situation down there that the only hope for that area is the church,” says Mike, who has led teams to minister in the favelas for the past five years. “I don’t see the government or the police being able to fix it. The only way you can kill a snake is to [twist] off its head. So I figure if I can get to the top guys and get them to accept the gospel message and bring the rest of their men with them into the church, then there’s hope.”

Earning respect

Fabio’s years of ministry in the favelas and his willingness to tell even the drug bosses there about Jesus have earned him their respect. He has leveraged that respect to the hilt, going so far as to rescue people being tortured for crossing drug traffickers.

The first person Fabio rescued was a young man who had been shot through both hands as punishment for a robbery. People who break the no-stealing code inside a favela will often get fingers cut off or get shot through the hand by traffickers. The traffickers double as enforcers for the drug bosses, whose word is law in hundreds of favelas like Arará and Benfica and Caju, where Baptist Life ministers.

“By and large, the drug traffickers, they respect pastors – pastors who are serious about their work,” Fabio says. “Unless I cross them over, they’re not going to harm me or the church. The fact that I’ve been doing this a long time and understand the way of the favela, I don’t have the same fear I Íused to have years ago.”

Neighborhoods like Caju teem with people involved in drugs – bosses, sellers, and users. Because those people tend be out more in the middle of the night, Baptist Life has made a point of being out then, too – even at the risk of walking into gunfights.

“There are missionaries and pastors there that are absolute modern-day heroes for Jesus Christ, risking their necks every day to spread the gospel to people the rest of the world would just hate and turn their backs on,” Mike says. “And those are the very people who, if they can be reached, will make the difference to turn that country around.”

Pray

  • For the continued mission of Baptist Life Church – that they would be able to expand their discipleship groups into places like Arará and across Rio de Janeiro.
  • That God would use Baptist Life and its discipleship and evangelism ministries to put an end to drug trafficking in places like Caju and Benfica.
  • That God would protect Fabio and his people as they minister in the neighborhoods.

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