The time our team has spent in Heliopolis, one of the largest favellas in Sao Paulo, has been full of joy and new friendships. We enjoy loading the bus to drive across the city to such a needy place where Jesus’ light shines so powerfully, as people are hungry and desperate for attention and love. This affords us the opportunity to be His hands and feet in very unique ways, as this place is chaotic and intense, filled with people with serious needs.
Heliopolis is a very poor community where many people struggle with unemployment, teen pregnancies, hopelessness, and depression. Death and destruction are commonplace, yet the people seem open and ripe for the Gospel. There are around 120,000 people who live in this section of town. In the section where Iris Ministries purchased a building to establish a new church, the houses are set up in barrack style rows, each one or two-room house sharing a thin wall with the next and set on the same concrete slab. It’s not uncommon for 8-15 people to live in one small room. The men, women, and children who live here seem to be very touched that we want to come and spend time with them. Pastor Dirceu’s heart for fulfilling the Lord’s vision for revival in Heliopolis has been used to establish and expand the hands-on work of the Kingdom in this needy area.
We are involved in several projects in Heliopolis, each day dividing into our SEALS (ministry) groups. Some team members spend the day working on Iris’ new church, as we are converting two neighboring houses into one church building for families. Carl and Tyler have been invaluable as they are removing part of the current structure and building new double doors that will open onto the main street. Andy and his crew are painting the church a bright blue, and Michelle, Missy, and others will be detailing some of the walls with selected Scriptures and symbols.
The other team members are prayer-walking the streets, building relationships with the people and offering prayer to as many people as they can find. We have had the privilege to pray with people to receive Jesus as their Savior for the first time, as well as leading others in prayers of rededication and deliverance. The Lord’s healing power has also been evident in this area, as people have been physically healed as team members prayed for them.
Troy, Tiana, and I stood in the narrow alley outside the house while we waited for the occupant to respond to our knock. We were in our third day of ministry in Heliopolis, one of the largest favellas in Sao Paulo. The door opened, and a young woman peered out. In our halting Portugese (and with some help from our translator) we explained that we were part of a group from America visiting people in the area. The door opened further, and we were invited in. The moment we stepped through the doorway we could survey the entire house. A small stove stood next to the door, and pots and pans hung from hooks on the flimsy particle board wall. The small kitchen was separated from the bedroom by a cabinet and a sheet hanging from the ceiling. Two young children, a boy and a girl, sat on the bed watching a fuzzy television, a modern convenience that seemed very much out of place in the one-room home.
After speaking with the woman and playing with her beautiful kids for a while, we discovered that she was a Christian. The conversation continued and the woman, who had been preparing supper, apologized that her family’s meal was not yet ready to be shared with her visitors. Amazed by her generosity, we assured her that it was fine and thanked her profusely for the offer. As we do with all of the people we visit, before we left we asked the woman if there was anything in her life that she would like us to pray for. She responded by saying that her back caused her a lot of pain. Tiana and I prayed for her while Troy entertained the kids.
After the prayer the woman had a big grin on her face, and with a voice full of amazement she told us that her back was one hundred percent better! After further investigation, we discovered that her back had been paining her for seven years, and in one moment God came in and healed her completely! Before moving on to the next house, we stood together in her kitchen and gave glory to God, praising Him for His infinite goodness and boundless love.
We are also spreading the word and handing out fliers inviting people to come to an outreach we are holding in the community on Wednesday night (June 29th). We are continuing to experience God’s favor as He has opened up the heart of the main unbelieving “influencers” in the favella. This man has invited us to hold this outreach in a large hanger-like structure, complete with stage, where the Samba school meets. With Indian and spiritist undergirding, the Samba school trains dancers to march in parades in the Brazilian festivals in Heliopolis and other areas outside of Brazil. We are very excited about this blessing and are expecting God to reveal Himself in all His love and fullness to these very special people.