A guest post from Pastor Linaldo, pastor of a Compassion church partner in Brazil.
I still remember when I first arrived in this city. The local church needed a pastor, and I thought I would stay for just two years. It has been 28 years since then and I’ve learned to love this city and the people who live here.
When we started a project for the vulnerable children in the community, our classroom was a garage that we rented next door to the church. In this region, rain is a blessing from heaven, but the water used to wet the room. At that time, although we had the motivation, we didn’t have any training or support.
Our biggest challenge used to be people’s lack of perspective for the future. Caught in the chains of poverty and hopelessness, children and their families had no expectation about changing. But we knew that God could change their stories.
Everything got better when Compassion started a partnership with us 10 years ago. Since then, all our volunteers are trained in different topics throughout the year, and we can welcome more children. Every passing year, we have seen the impact of the Compassion centre in the lives of the children and the community. Every time the children arrive at the centre, their laughter fills the rooms and our hearts with joy.
When the pandemic hit our country, everything changed. People had to close their markets, stop going to school and stay at home. We also had to close our church’s doors.
“Every day, I ask God to give me wisdom and the words to encourage my brothers and sisters through our video calls, now that we can’t gather at the church.”
We thought that the pandemic wouldn’t last long. But it did. The neighbourhood where the children live has a lack of sanitation and clean water. How are they supposed to protect themselves from the virus? Water and soap are more important than ever.
Every day, people are losing their jobs and emptying their pantries. Poverty stole the smiles of mothers, fathers and children again. For the families, the fear of the pain of hunger is so much bigger than the fear of the virus.
I still remember the day when a grandmother came to our project to receive a food basket. I asked her if the basket was too heavy and if she needed some help, but she answered me, “It would be heavier if it were empty.” When I heard this, tears came to my eyes.
“When they say, ‘I’m with you. We are in this together,’ it sounds to me as God is saying, ‘I am with you.'”
Every day, I ask God to give me wisdom and the words to encourage my brothers and sisters through our video calls, now that we can’t gather at the church. We lost five brothers from our community to COVID-19, but we couldn’t even attend their funeral.
As a pastor, it was discouraging to realize that our challenges wouldn’t stop. I miss the children’s laughter in the classrooms of the project, and the loud conversations in the cafeteria. Sometimes I feel I can’t take it anymore, but then I remember all of the amazing things God is doing in the middle of this crisis.
Even in the worst days, I’m so grateful because I have my wife and the volunteers fighting with me. I can also see God’s love through Compassion and the sponsors’ support. Because of them, we can feed more than 200 families every month. More than financial support, Compassion’s emotional and spiritual support are fundamental in encouraging me. When they say, “I’m with you. We are in this together,” it sounds to me as God is saying, “I am with you.”
It’s so fascinating to know that people around the world, that we’ve never met, are praying for us and supporting our work. I truly believe that God is sovereign and that we will overcome all this and rise as one.
To pastors across our country and around the world who have served so faithfully in this unimaginably challenging year: thank you.
Photos and field reporting by Sara Navarro. Video by Jonatan Ruiz.