“This is the most dangerous neighborhood we’ll be visiting. A lot of crime, a lot of drug abuse, a lot of gang activity. He says he wants to take you here first,” founder Barbara Hubbard translates executive director Pastor Magioli’s words for me from Portuguese to English, as I sit in the back seat of the dark sedan. I take a deep breath and stare out the window. It’s getting dark as we turn off the main street and make our way into the neighborhood down a precarious dirt road, weaving around potholes. Lining the side streets, ramshackle homes are made of what I assume must be found-materials: plywood, scraps of plastic tarp, bits of aluminum sheeting, large sections of cardboard used as siding.
Pastor Alex is waiting for us inside the church building. He comes out grinning as we pull up. He greets Barbara and Pastor Magioli with exuberance, and smiles and extends a hand to me. He looks younger than I had imagined, lanky with dark hair and mischievous eyes that brighten when he smiles—which he seems to do a lot. I shake his hand and return a nervous smile, trying to ignore the pit in my stomach and the tension in my shoulders I’ve felt since we made our way into Vila Safira. This is my first day in Porto Alegre, Brazil and hanging out in third world slums on freezing cold nights is not something I’ve spent much time doing with my American suburban background.
Alex is going to be showing us around and it’s decided we’ll be taking his car. The humor I sensed in his face is confirmed as we all climb in and he makes a show of taking a hot glue gun out of the center console and pretends to tuck it into the waistband of his jeans for protection. We erupt in laughter and I feel some of my tension dissipate. Alex grins and wraps the cord around the glue gun and tucks it away under the seat.
He drives the streets with the familiarity of both knowing and being known, slowing down to greet passersby and invite them to the service being held at the church later that night. We stop to visit a family from Alex’s congregation who serve by volunteering with the children’s ministry. They invite us into their living room and I notice no difference in the temperature inside from the bitter cold outside. A single bulb hangs in the middle of the ceiling from exposed wiring.
Next we visit the local bakery which is owned and operated by Pastor Alex and his family. Barbara informs me that before becoming a church planter Alex was trained as a baker. They named this bakery “Pandaria Pao Da Vida” which Barbara translates for me: Bread of Life Bakery, a hat-tip to Living Bread Ministries. The bakery is located just outside the neighborhood where the church is, on a thoroughfare across from a bus stop. It has become a popular hub for people to stop in before or after work for a snack or to pick up their daily bread. Alex and his family have dug their roots deep into this community; knowing firsthand the needs of their people and being known for their compassionate ministry.
This is only one snapshot of my time in Brazil this past June, a couple months before I was offered the position of Communications Director with Living Bread Ministries. I was impressed and inspired by all I saw and experienced there. I witnessed our comprehensive ministry models in action; effectively carried out by indigenous pastors and the local church, who have real understanding of the community dynamics in which they minister. Each pastor was serving with their particular God-given gifts, from a children’s clowning outreach ministry to vocational training to guitar lessons to making home visits.
These ministries are making a huge impact in their communities.
But there is still so much good we would like to accomplish.
Our goal is to support our church planters’ visions for outreach into their communities, as well as to plant more churches in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Through much prayer and preparation, we look to match gifted church planters like Pastor Alex with local slums like Vila Safira, and countless communities like it across the world.
We have the right leadership in place with effective training and decades of church planting experience.
We just need your support.
Would you partner with us in this hard, humble work of bringing gospel-light into dark places?
Your commitment to regular financial gifts help us to provide a living wage and continued education and training for our pastors, church buildings for worship services and as bases for our extensive community outreach ministries, materials for these ministries, and as seed money to begin working in new areas worldwide.
We cannot accomplish this without you.