Bringing Jesus to the Voodoo Capital of Brazil

Bruno’s house is made of mud. Cheap plastic chairs serve as a couch. There are no doors in his home, only curtains. The washroom is a hole in the backyard. There is no comfort, no security in Bruno’s home where he lives with his grandmother, Maria, and his two siblings, Bruna and Tiago.

Maria is 54 years old, but she looks much older. Her face has deep wrinkles from working in the strong sun of the region. She works in the field, breaking coconuts for about $1 a day. She’s the only one who supports her three grandchildren—their mother abandoned them with her.

The family lives in Codó, located in northeast Brazil in the poorest state in the country. Despite its 110,000 inhabitants, there is no basic sanitation or even pavement on many streets.

But beyond the physical poverty, there is a poverty that destroys more than what the eyes can see. Codó is known as the capital of voodoo in Brazil. At certain times of year, you can hear the drums of voodoo centres when darkness falls.

“This is traditional here,” said Paulo, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Codó that runs Compassion’s Project Hope. “It is normal to hear the announcement of voodoo celebrations when you turn on the radio.”

Many of the children who attend Project Hope are the sons and daughters of people who are involved in voodoo. Thanks to the project’s work, many barriers between the children’s families and the church have been broken. Doors have been opened to talk about Jesus.

“I want to be a pastor when I grow up,” said Bruno.

In his backyard, there is a mud room full of old boxes and empty plastic containers where Bruno and his brother Tiago play church together. Bruno learned about Jesus at Project Hope. At the project, he is known as the “little pastor.”

Bruno has found help and comfort in Jesus. The streets around his home are dangerous. Drug addicts wander, and Bruno is afraid, especially at night.

“Sometimes I spend moments lying down in the hammock…and I start to pray. I say: ‘God, please, help me,’” said the little boy.

At Project Hope, Bruno has an alternative to the streets. He likes to draw, play and help the teachers. He loves to be at the project, and he spends as much time there as he can. He is smart and talkative, and everyone can see how he is developing.

“When Bruno was enrolled at the project, he was very thin,” said Pastor Paulo. “The food in his house is poor and not enough to supply his developing needs.”

According to the pastor, the food children get at the project is the main reason why parents take their children, although some families do not admit it. Many people in Codó are ashamed to tell the truth about their needs. When they say, “I have food in my house,” the truth is that they only have rice that they can eat once a day. When they say, “I had breakfast,” it means they had weak coffee mixed with cassava flour. Sadly, this is the only meal a day for some. Bruno doesn’t eat breakfast; he only has weak coffee and that is all. But now Bruno is receiving meals to help him grow strong and healthy, besides the care and attention he receives at the project.

The name of the project that Bruno attends is Hope. Indeed, it has given hope to children like Bruno and is bringing the love of Jesus to his community.

By Ana Rafaela, Compassion Brazil

Written by: Amber Van Schooneveld

Amber Van Schooneveld is the Managing Editor of Compassion International's blog.