Monday, April 12, 2010

Natural Disaster & Gospel Ministry

We have seen a lot the past couple of days as record rainfall has destroyed many slum communities with flooding and landslides. Make sure you check out our latest photos and videos in the Media and Resources section above. Our emotions have been stirred as we have surveyed the aftermath of the already poverty stricken communities of Rio das Pedras and Sitio in City of God slum. People are in desperate need. Many if not all of their possessions have been washed away or ruined. These friends, without very much to start with, are now trying to make due with even less. It would be impossible for them to carry such a load without the grace of God, and He has called the church into action in order to address the burdens of the downtrodden. (Acts 20:35; Galatians 6:2)

Saturday morning in one of the most impoverished areas of City of God slum called Sitio, we witnessed around 15 moms, some seemingly as young as 16 years old lining up to receive clothes and provisions for their families. These women are often faced with the challenge of raising as many as five or six children on their own because many of the men in this community are either struggling with addictions or selling the drugs themselves. When the mothers either cannot or will not bear the load, the oldest siblings (sometimes as young as five or six) are left to care for the younger ones. It is tragic to see the seven and eight year olds pass around an infant during the church service, all taking their turn holding her. However, after the first church service since the flood waters subsided, a couple of men who confessed to be previously involved in the drug-ring in City of God came around to chat which was a great step of progress.

Yesterday at the church-plant in Rio das Pedras, we saw hundreds of people given blankets, clothes, food, water, diapers, medical care, and other necessities. During the church service, there were easily twice as many attendees than the week before. Children were crammed into two classrooms sitting on the floor for their lesson, and adults were on the steps outside the church listening to the word; it was a beautiful site. But the heavier the burden gets for these people, the weightier the need is for the church to aid and labor at preaching Christ. Currently, they own land next door to increase their sanctuary and classroom space, but not enough money for the renovations.

Restore Brazil is helping as much as possible. This young organization lacking vast resources has been put in a unique position, and it is clear how God has providentially moved us here at the right time to help it grow. As we have surveyed these slums the past few days, it appears as though we are the only ones in the community there to help. Citizens of Rio das Pedras took us into their houses on Friday afternoon to show us the flood waters still sitting on their floor ankle deep. The houses there are built on a swamp, so they are actually sinking as water comes up from underneath the house and rodents infest their mud floors. We saw men wading through waste-deep water to relocate their home supplies onto trucks, a make-shift two by four "bridge" inside a room to get to the bed, bucket toilets infested with mosquitoes, and downed trees ripping through houses. The Church must step in when the people are pushed out, there is no other way. Rio de Paz, a local NGO directed by IP Barra Lead Pastor Antonio Carlos, has also stepped in to assist and advocate for many local slums. Antonio went to Manguinhas slum today to speak with the Homeowner's Association to see how Rio de Paz can assist them, and they will also be advocating for the assistance of the thousands of displaced individuals in Niteroi after the numerous mudslides there.

The need is great, so we ask you to pray intentionally. If in the course of your prayer you feel led to give financially to aid this project to assist these specific local churches in the slums that have been affected by the floods, please email us and we can guide you through the simple process. 100% of your gift will go directly to those in need, no administrative or processing fees. The need is urgent, and the timing is crucial.

It has been a surreal experience for us. We have constantly been discussing the ways that the Gospel can transform a city- through natural disasters, through violence, through poverty, by the work of Jesus Christ. We long to see the church be an agent of transformation in this community. It is great to see the fruit of some of the churches here and to witness God at work helping those that are most at need. Continue to pray with us as we seek to exalt Jesus through all situations and bring joy to the people here.

Praying "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"
Giulian and Christy

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