BCM Brazil leadership team

Reaching Recife’s Quarantined Slums

By: BCM Brazil Team with Jeanette Windle

With over six million cases of coronavirus and almost two-hundred thousand recorded deaths, 2020 has been a challenging time in Brazil. BCM’s ministry there, Ministerio Centralizado Na Biblia, or MCB, is based in Recife, northeastern Brazil’s largest urban area with more than four million population. MCB missionaries and volunteer teams reach over ten thousand children each week in Recife’s drug, violence, and poverty-riddled favelas (Rewriting Hope into Brazil’s Written-Off Favela Children, BCM World, December 2017) as well as summer camps, medical, and evangelistic ministries.

Quarantine restrictions have changed how BCM Brazil does outreach. In Recife, as in most of Brazil, schools, churches, and non-essential businesses were shut for months. Bible Clubs and children’s ministry events were shut down completely. Quarantine regulations required that families remain in-doors except when purchasing food or working in essential services.

All of which adds a far higher strain on the hundreds of thousands of families already crammed into tiny concrete apartments or one-room shacks in Recife’s slums. In the favelas, few followed quarantine restrictions. With no school, church, or sports activities, children and youth simply crowded into the streets, playing soccer, blasting music, and just hanging out.

“Thanks be to God,” expresses one BCM Brazil team member,  “that for each new challenge we face He gives us wisdom to overcome.”

Visiting favela families

With children home all day and no public gatherings allowed, BCM Brazil teams began a systematic program of visiting the individual homes of the ten thousand children who attend BCM Bible Clubs in Recife. In each home, emphasis has been on finding out each family’s immediate needs, how the children are doing emotionally as well as health-wise, as well as sharing the gospel with family members.

This program has resulted in many innovative ways in which BCM personnel are reaching favela families right in their own homes. Among these are home discipleship studies, school tutoring, a variety of workshops and classes, family counseling, and more. Volunteer teams have also worked to gather and deliver food, clothing, and toys where needed as well as to provide medical assistance. 

In one favela, a BCM team is holding cooking classes for teens. In three others, classes are being offered in hair care and styling. One BCM couple is giving children guitar lessons at home. With children trying to complete their school year at home, tutoring and basic English classes have been especially appreciated. BCM teachers also visited the schools where their Bible Club children attend to offer encouragement and find out how they can best be of service to the community.

In another community, a BCM leader and team of health professional volunteers began visiting Bible Club families. This has led to an ongoing medical and physiotherapy project as well as fund-raising to help a family who lost their house to fire. Another emphasis has been teaching principles of being an entrepreneur so favela families without work due to quarantine can create home businesses to provide for their families. One mother was able to create her own ice cream business to provide for her family. Along with social and practical needs, every outreach also includes an evangelistic vision to share the gospel with each family.

All of these activities were complicated by team members having to wear masks even while few favela families wore masks or practiced any social distancing or health protocols. Thankfully, God protected the team. A few MCB personnel contracted COVID-19 but all are in good health now. 

Meanwhile, daily life in Brazil has slowly been returning to normal as quarantine regulations have been lifted. In October, BCM Brazil was able to hold its first day camp for 2020. Special guidelines such as masks, extra hygiene, and decontamination were still required. But a full schedule of outdoor activities, sports, and games was successfully carried out.

“It was a great opportunity to share the gospel and to check how people would respond to an outdoor event with a bigger crowd,” explained an MCB staff member.

With this success, additional in-person ministry events are back on the schedule for coming months, including a family camp for both children and parents and a full-fledged summer camp season for children, teens, and young adults January 11-31, 2021 (summer vacation south of equator).

“We don’t know how people will respond to this next camp season,” shared one MCB ministry leader. “There are still many people afraid of the virus. But we’re praying and trusting God that He is in control.”

Pray for the health and safety of the BCM Brazil team as they continue to reach out amidst COVID-19 and quarantine. Pray too for a return to normal for Bible Clubs and other ministry outreaches in Recife’s needy favelas.

Masked day campers

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