Marcio Antonio is a pastor who preaches from the pulpit of a small church built on land surrounded by barbed wire and electric fences. His message is that the faithful need to proclaim God’s power to the “favelas” (Brazil’s notorious slums). An Assemblies of God pastor in the favela of Cantagalo, Antonio knows that most of the residents live on landholdings and do not have property deeds to their houses.
He and his flock are part of a growing trend in Brazil. Evangelical churches multiply in slums and low-income communities. Most of them do not have neighbourhood structures in terms of health, sanitation, transportation and property registration. “The government does not help us, so God is the only option for the poor,” explains Antonio. Marcio was born and raised in Cantagalo. Growing up in those surroundings, like many other poor young people, the lure of easy money drove him to drug trafficking before finding God and receiving a life mission.
It is in poor neighbourhoods and the poorest communities, ignored by the government, that evangelical churches offer social programs such as education, security and economic development. Jeff Garmany, a professor at Kings College’s Brazil Institute, says: “People living in these poor neighbourhoods deal with serious issues such as prejudice, poverty and violence. The inability of the state to adequately address these issues allows churches to grow and reach the people who live in them,” Garmany adds. This is one reason that helps explain the phenomenal growth of evangelicals in Brazil in recent years.
Bible Study: Matthew 25:37-40
AUGUST: PRAY DEEPER for the people of the favelas, that they may proclaim Christ in power and help residents find ways of providing the necessary social structures of health, sanitation, work, etc. Give thanks that “God is the option for poor people”, and often Christians from churches are the only organisations reach out to places like the favela of Cantagalo.