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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Church in Vila Kennedy

This past Sunday evening we had the joy of catching a few buses to go to a favela in Campo Grande (a city on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro - see map here) called Metral. We arrived and were greated by Pastor Alexandre's wife, Adriane, a joyful, servant-hearted lady who never stopped smiling the whole time we were there. We then met a man appearing to be a tight end for the Raiders, who turned out to be Pastor Alexandre, and a very talkative and clever boy with a full head of dark, curly hair who's their son, Heyman. They were very glad to host us and give us a tour of the small favela where the church is located.

He shared many stories of how dangerous and desperate the area was before the police raid two years ago that pushed the cartel out. It was sickening to hear the stories of men who ruled without concern for life, set free to rampage the community. We observed and heard stories of lookout points, judgement houses, makeshift cemeteries, and bandits who rather than bribing the police to stay out, would taunt them to come in so they could have an arms war. Church services were held amidst police shootouts with the gang members finding refuge on top of the sanctuary roof. During that era this church, Nova Filadelfia, was the only one in the community. No one else would step foot on to these two deadly streets that due to the hold of over a hundred Comando Vermelho (Red Command) bandits, came to be known as the most dangerous slum in Rio.

Eventually, the police came in and took over for good, but Alexandre's church knows better. They know that it was God at work through their many prayers that removed them and has continued to improve the conditions in their neighborhood. As we stood outside the judgement house where the gangs formerly decided on executions, Alexandre said in reflection, "This community is our church." I was impressed by their eager faithfulness to see change they have been a part of in the community. 

It was pleasantly surprising to see a great deal of young men involved in the church which packed out over 200 seats at the Sunday night service. Meeting the church body was a joy as I preached the Gospel with our good friend Paulo translating. We invited Alexandre to the next Restore Brazil meeting and hope to see him and his pastor friends there to encourage them further as a pastor and church planter. We enjoyed our time there and will be praying for their influence in the community.

-G

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