Paulo Bruhn (back row, wearing tan jacket) and resettled family members welcome new Venezuelan family members to Porto Alegre as they arrive on a Brazilian air force flight. PHOTO: COURTESY PAULO BRUHN
By Christie R. House
Seven ministry partners across Brazil received United Methodist Committee on Relief COVID-19 Sheltering in Love grants to extend their caring outreach deeper into their communities. In a coordinated effort, through the Life and Mission ministry of the national Methodist Church in Brazil, congregations have accompanied vulnerable people through the pandemic.
The Rev. Joana D’Arc Meireles, the national secretary for the Life and Mission ministry, described the climate in Brazil as “terrifying.” “We have hunger and unemployment and many sick people right now, and not everyone has access to good health care,” she said.
With assistance from the UMCOR COVID-19 Fund, more people are finding help in chaotic and uncertain times.
Reaching at-risk and forgotten communities
In Piauí, Northeast Brazil, Teresina Methodist Church has worked to reach an underserved community in a place called Jerusalem. The ministry focuses on ways to improve the lives of children by strengthening families.
An UMCOR grant helped the Teresina Methodists provide hygiene kits, COVID-19 prevention guidelines and basic food baskets. The church registered 40 families for the COVID-19 outreach, which they named “Project New Jerusalem Against COVID.”
Another project grant for Northeast Brazil, in Paraíba, serves a hidden community through the João Pessoa Methodist Church.
The congregation put together hygiene kits in partnership with a Brazilian LGBT association to serve sex workers in the area. “We have been trying to help these women to keep their dignity, their health and hygiene in these times,” Meireles noted.
Also in Paraíba, a grant for a project in Campina Grande supported health professionals and their families as they took risks to contain the virus.
In Piracicaba, São Paulo, an UMCOR grant helped to save lives at Betel Social Assistance Association, a Methodist-founded nursing home, by providing COVID-19 testing and strict adherence to new guidelines.
In the region of Barra do Ceará on the outskirts of Fortaleza, a family-to-family project matched five families, whose adult members were employed, with two other families each, who have lost their jobs. So together, the five families accompanied 10 other families.
Solidarity with immigrant communities
In Rio Grande do Sul, Methodists accompany Haitian immigrants as they adapt to life in Brazil. The Methodist Church appointed Duplan Daniel as a missionary pastor with the Haitian community in Canoas.
Daniel used a portion of their UMCOR grant to invest in livelihood work. “We bought sewing machines to teach a group of young men and women to make masks. This helps them and their families, but they also sell masks. These new skills are an investment in the future, after the pandemic moves on.”
In Porto Alegre, Congregation Wesley conducts an ongoing resettlement ministry. Recent years have seen an influx of migrants from Venezuela. Since 2018, Congregation Wesley has resettled about 150 people.
The UMCOR grant helped 15 families, about 60 people, with rent assistance so they could stay in their homes during quarantine.