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

 

Crisis Response in Mexico City

Back in late November, I had the opportunity to go up to Mexico City to get a report on how our long-term church planting team was doing after the earthquake in September.  Their neighborhood is generally one of the hardest hit during earthquakes, and this occasion was no different for them.  During the days and weeks after the 7.1 tremble shook and literally shattered parts of the city, I followed their news closely through social media and our prayer chains.  Being that this team was already on the ground, living in the neighborhood, and functioning in established relationship and trust with their community, it made sense to just aid them in whatever way they needed but not go up and “reinvent the wheel”.  A wonderful recounting of those first hours and days comes from Sam here in this post she wrote for us.

ReachGlobal has an incredible Crisis Response division, headed up by Mark Lewis.  Very shortly after the earthquake, Mark went down to train the Mexico City team on what he calls “The Anatomy of a Crisis” and help brainstorm some ideas on how to assist their community in moving forward with restoration and healing.

By the time of my visit, it was already 2 months after the crisis.  The news had stopped reporting it long before that, once all the first responders finished their work.  I was taken aback at how the city itself, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, had already forgotten its own tragedy.  As humans, we do that though.  We tend to want to get things back to normal, to move on, to reestablish our regular rhythms.  This is fine and all, for those not directly affected by tragedy, but what of the others?  Over 300 people were killed, and it is not likely that the families of the victims forgot about the earthquake within 2 months.  50+ buildings were destroyed, either completely crushed or just so structurally damaged that they were uninhabitable. People were still trying to move out of their homes, and some would never be able to return to their apartments to get any belongings, so dangerous was the state of their building.

On the day that most of the footage in the video was taken, I went with James and Reuben to help in the moving ministry established by their church (the fruit of the brainstorming with Mark Lewis).  We were unable to access the apartment from the front of the building, as it had been crushed, and we had to crawl through a garage door and then through another gate and come in through a back way.  Upon first sight at what was in front of me, my stomach seized up in knots.  We were looking at 2 apartment buildings, adjoined by a garage. One building HAD been 7 stories tall, but was now 5, as the first two floors had been pancaked immediately when the earthquake hit.  I scanned over the wreckage for a long time.  How on earth did people escape from this building?  It looked as though people had just abandoned ship–laundry was still hanging on drying racks, toys and dishes were still strewn about, right where they had been left when their lives were suddenly interrupted.

In the other apartment building, things were far less awful, but still bad enough that everyone needed to move out.  After the earthquake, thieves had come in and looted homes, stealing everything from furniture to valuable jewelry to food.  James and Reuben were able to help a family move their belongings out of their home, and even more importantly to listen to their story.  They were able to offer the hope of Jesus and pray with them, while also offering hands-on, in-the-moment help.

This is what responding to a crisis should look like!  It is a long term process.  There is the initial stage, where you truly must “stop the bleeding”, but then what comes next?  Rehabilitation, redevelopment, discipleship and transformation.  These things are BEST done where there is already established relationship and trust.  Instead of Crisis Response sending in a whole team of their own, they worked with ReachGlobal’s Mexico City team, and even more importantly than them, they worked with the local church in the affected neighborhood and came up with a plan to effectively minister to their neighbors.

There were definitely difficult moments of what I saw before me while in Mexico City. However,  the hope of the Gospel being offered and the way I witnessed the church being the very hands and feet of Jesus, surpassed all else.  Way to go, teams, and way to go, church.

Earthquake in Ecuador: Crisis Response

Following a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Ecuador on April 16, 2016, ReachGlobal Crisis Response evaluated the need and sprung into action.

From Crisis Response:

child with bible“Kids frequently have the most difficult time processing trauma, so our response to the Ecuadorian earthquake is making kids and their families the primary focus. We have a team in Ecuador this week equipping kids’ ministry workers and church leaders with the basics of trauma mitigation. Those workers will then be going out to reproduce this equipping in the context of child friendly spaces.

“Our initial plan is to set up 40-60 of these outreaches that will impact 20-30 families at each location. We’ve set a goal of $25,000, which would allow us to prayerfully see as many as 500 of these outreaches across the affected region.”

For more information about the response and to give online, please visit the Ecuador Earthquake Response page on the EFCA website.

Video: Haiti: ‘Beauty from Ashes’

Within days of the earthquake in January 2010, God called ReachGlobal Latin America and TouchGlobal (the crisis response arm of the EFCA) to Haiti. The initial crisis may be over, but we remain in Haiti because of the overwhelming spiritual, physical and relational needs.

Find out more about our growing ministry in Haiti and accept the call: Pray. Give. Serve.

Having trouble viewing the video? See it on YouTube or Vimeo.

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“Beauty from Ashes” is part of the Moving Latin America Pictures project. It is the third of five videos produced by a short-term mission team of videographers to capture the essence of the ministry and the needs on the field. Please stay tuned as we post a new video each week for the next two weeks.

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CONNECT

haitiresponse@efca.org or haititeams@efca.org

SERVE

Find out about bringing a short-term team to Haiti or serving as an intern. Or contact us to discuss opportunities to serve long-term as ReachGlobal staff in Haiti.

PRAY
  • For the Haitian people — that they would know Christ and His saving grace in their lives.
  • That God would raise up workers for the harvest in Haiti. Pray to see how He might be calling you.
GIVE

Make an online donation to the ministry in Haiti.

SHARE

1000 Words: Learning Amidst The Rubble

Children enjoy a short recess at a local community school in Gressier, Haiti, playing in and around the partially destroyed building that houses some of their classes. A new three-room school building (not pictured), built by short-term teams from ReachGlobal/TouchGlobal, only provides space for some of the more than 120 students that now attend the school.

The community school was founded by Maxo, a Haitian UN worker and ReachGlobal ministry partner, to provide education for children whose parents cannot afford to pay for their schooling.

Photo credit: Nathan Deremer, Deremer Studios

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1000 Words is a column dedicated to photos from the field — photos that capture more than words can say alone. See archives.

Meet Teresa: Reaching Youth in Chile

[Please see “Restoring Hope One Friendship at a Time” for background on the work in the displaced people’s camp in Dichato, Chile.]

For the Pennsylvanian churches that comprise the Mission of Hope in Chile consortium, working with partners on the ground is key to the long-term success of their mission to bring hope to the people and ultimately plant a church in the displaced people’s camp in Dichato.

No formal partnerships have formed yet, but some important friendships have begun to develop.

One of those friends is Teresa Sanhueza, a university student from Concepción (an hour south of Dichato) who trained with YWAM and now ministers to the youth in her local church.

“I completely fell in love with the place and people,” Teresa says of her work in Dichato. “It was the most beaten up by the earthquake of 2010, and I became involved in Dichato by the invitation of Pastor Randy [from Susquehanna Valley EFC]. Through contacts, we met and we talked about the project.”

Teresa enjoyed working alongside the Pennsylvanians while they were in Chile in June. However, she continues to serve in the displaced people’s camp regularly. She has even brought the youth group from her church in Concepción to visit the camp.

“We make friends, chatting with the youth and children,” she explains. “Not just talking, but playing and giving love to them.” Teresa also brings her guitar so they can worship together — youth from Concepción with those from Dichato.

It’s relationships with those young people that keep Teresa motivated to keep making the trek from Concepción to Dichato.

“I asked a small group of young people, ‘What or who is God to you?’” Teresa says. “Generally, the youth at my church in Concepción answer me, ‘He is my life, my all, my best friend, the Lord of Lords, the Almighty…’

“Perhaps I had become accustomed to hearing that answer, but that day in Dichato was different. The response of these young people was silence… nothing,” she says. “They had no words, and not because they were moved, but because God is really nothing for them. He is not important.

“Now they already know a little more of God. I know I need to spend more time at camp, but I see growth, perhaps a kinder love between them. I’m glad.”

Maybe this resonates so deeply with Teresa because she remembers her own story and a time when she thought little of God.

After walking away from the church as a young teenager and rebelling against God and her parents, Teresa was reintroduced to Jesus as her savior a year after starting college.

“At that moment, I decided that I would live my life for God… but it wasn´t as easy as I thought it would be,” Teresa says. “I had a reputation at my college that was harder to restore than I anticipated. There were people of my past who didn´t believe in me. They thought I was crazy for thinking that from one day to another I could change my life and decide to live for Christ.”

But Teresa has experienced personally how God can change one life — how God can go from nothing to everything just overnight.

That’s what Teresa and Mission of Hope pray will happen with the youth (and adults) in Dichato.

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CONNECT

crisisresponse@efca.org or El Faro EFC

SERVE

Bring a short-term team to Chile to help with rebuilding.

PRAY
  • For Teresa and others like her who are investing in the lives of the people in Dichato, Chile — that God would open doors to share the gospel.
  • For the restoration of hope in the people displaced by the 2010 earthquake and tsunami.
GIVE

Make an online donation to Chile earthquake relief efforts.

SHARE