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 firstname.lastname@example.org