In previous newsletters we have focused on the economic opportunities we are working on with families in the Riacho da Porta community in northeastern Brazil. In the context of building relationships with these families, we have also had the opportunity to impact their lives from a spiritual perspective. Renato Cassula gives us a glimpse into the spiritual transformation that’s at work.
What’s the current economic and spiritual situation for communities and families in northeastern Brazil?
The unemployment rate in Brazil has been on the rise and is nearly 3 times the U.S. rate. The lack of economic opportunity, along with political corruption, has been blamed for recent protests in Fortaleza. These issues weigh on families, and especially dads, and often lead fathers into despair and alcoholism. When fathers are drunk, unmotivated and “checked out”, families and children suffer.
Spiritually, Brazil has a history of Catholicism, but over time that has gotten mixed with idolatry and has weakened significantly. The Protestant church has grown, but there are problems here too with heavy legalism in many churches. This is why Jacob’s Well has focused on mentoring church pastors and supporting healthy spiritual communities in the areas we serve.
What issues affect the lives of teenagers and children?
Alcohol and drug use as well as promiscuity afflict teenagers in Brazil. Some of this is due to constant stress many families live under related to economic conditions they face, and also due to a lack of spiritual grounding and support. Children are often neglected by their parents because of issues described earlier.
Can you give me an example of a family that has turned to God spiritually? What has been the result so far?
There is one family that easily comes to mind and lives on the outskirts of Riacho da Porta. The father, Moises, was a heavy drinker and smoker and was not connected to God at all. His work is in agriculture and the lack of rain these past several years made farming almost impossible. Recently he started coming to the church at Riacho da Porta and has turned his life over to God. He was even baptized on April 21st! This transformation is already having a very positive effect on his wife Antonia and their son José.
How can Jacob’s Well have a strong and sustained spiritual impact on the lives of families?
The transformation happens when these families realize that we aren’t going to abandon them but will walk with them through life’s challenges and difficulties. The church in Riacho da Porta and related ministry efforts are tangible ways families can understand and experience God’s love. It takes time and commitment, but the results are real and sustained!