Seeing God’s Hand in Heliopolis
It is always amazing to watch God work, but even more so when we are able to see over time His strategy at work in a particular area. God’s hand at work in Heliopolis is extremely evident.
As we reported last year, back in 2002 missionary and co-founder of Iris Ministries, Heidi Baker, visited Brazil. At that time she had a vision of God sending fireballs to the favellas (slums) of Brazil. In May of 2005, when she and her husband, Rolland, returned to Brazil, they sensed it was the time to start the work. Working with Pastor Dirceu (leader of Iris Ministries in Brazil and pastor of Casa de Jesus, his church), God made it clear that Heliopolis, one of the largest favellas in Saõ Paulo, was the place to begin the work. The Bakers gave Pastor Dirceu money to buy property and begin a church in Heliopolis. When the FMI team arrived in June of 2005, the church had not yet officially begun. Casa de Jesus owned two slum houses side by side in one of the blocks of government housing. This was being used as a meeting place while Pastor Dirceu was looking for more property to expand the church and establish a mission training house. Much of the ministry that the FMI team did last year revolved around helping Casa de Jesus establish the Lord’s work in Heliopolis. Last year, FMI and Casa de Jesus put on an outdoor crusade. The was a time of lifting up Jesus and declaring His love and His desire for relationship and drawing the lost into His arms. Those who gave their lives to Jesus began meeting as a body of believers in Heliopolis. Pastor Dirceu has reminded us that much of the work that the FMI team did last year was foundational for Casa de Jesus, the “firstfruits” of establishing the Kingdom of God in Heliopolis.
Before the team left last year, God had led Pastor Dirceu to acquire a piece of property across the street from the existing church building. On this property lived two families, with 11 children total. The place was filthy and had multiple sewage draining problems. One of the mothers wanted badly to sell the property and move, for the well-being of her children. Initially Pastor Dirceu did not feel it was a wise investment. But the Lord woke him up in the middle of the night and spoke to him that if the children could live in the sewage, so could he. The Lord also encouraged him that He would provide a solution to the sewage problem. The next morning Pastor Dirceu called the mother and told her he would purchase the property at full price. The mother was not a Christian but had prayed the night before, “God if you are real, you have to make the man buy this place. And if you do, I’ll serve you for the rest of my life.” The mother has since given her life to Jesus and has used the money to purchase a comfortable house on the coast of Brazil!
Much has taken place since last year. The “filthy” piece of property has been renovated. God gave Pastor Dirceu a solution to the sewage problem that works. The ground floor is being used as the church meeting place. The second floor is currently being used as housing for our team. The vision is to begin a “Holy Given School” of ministry. The plan is to build two more floors so that the ground floor will be the church meeting area, the second floor rooms for teaching and discipling, the third floor for temporary missionary housing, and the fourth floor for the permanent missionary residents in Heliopolis. The old church has been turned into a soup kitchen and a dental clinic. Those working at the soup kitchen feed lunch to about 200 people each day on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The free dental clinic operates on Mondays.
God has given Pastor Dirceu extreme favor with the local people. Twelve years ago the government built Heliopolis as temporary housing with promises of better government housing in the future. This promise has not been fulfilled. The conditions are much less than optimal living conditions for families in terms of cleanliness, size, social environment, etc. They live in one room houses separated from each other by thin walls, thus there is little room and little privacy. The sanitation, water, and sewage systems are sub-par. In addition, many of the parents are unemployed and have little money to provide for their families. This lends to poverty, disease, malnutrition, and the like. In addition, drug trafficking is common, as is sexual promiscuity, prostitution, alcoholism, and the like. Therefore, many families who would love to leave the area do not have the ability to leave. The environment leads to a cycle of unmet needs, neglect, hurt, broken relationships, and little hope. To have a voice with the government, the local people decided to choose a leader to represent them in dealings with the government. The people chose Pastor Dirceu and another church leader named Elena. These two by God’s grace, through much prayer, have made extensive progress. The government has decided they will offer financial credit to 70 families for the purchase of another home. The government will give the families 30,000 reis (roughly 2 reis to 1 US dollar) for a home and require only 8,000 reis to be paid back over the next 25 years. This is one tenth the cost per month to rent something equivalent to what they are currently living in! This doesn’t happen in Brazil according to Pastor Dirceu. It is truly a miracle! In addition, these contracts are being offered in 15 days! Many predicted it would take 3-5 years for the government to fulfill this promise. Moreover, the construction of completely new apartment-like housing will begin where the current housing is located. This will house the other 350 or so families that do not participate in the credit contract in approximately 11 buildings, each no more than 5 stories high. This is scheduled to begin as soon as temporary housing is built in another location so that the families can be moved out while the new construction begins. So within the last year more has taken place than in the preceding 12 years! We all firmly believe this is because of God’s hand being oh so evident in Heliopolis.