While many churches have services online during the time of quarantine, many families in 12-year-old Maria Isabel’s neighborhood don’t have access to the internet. Elidiomar and Arianne, church planters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, continue to go to their church plant each Sunday. One Sunday, they thought they would just go out and put together a snack for the children, but Maria Isabel insisted that food isn’t enough.
“We need to sing praises to God, hear the Word of God and pray to God,” she said.
Pastor Elidiomar agreed and that’s exactly what happens now on Sunday mornings in the front yard of the church building. Chairs are sanitized, placed six feet apart and the Word of God is preached to Maria Isabel and others.
Maria Isabel started to attend a Bible study in her neighborhood two years ago. She and her siblings arrived without proper hygiene and with torn and dirty clothing. She observed and listened. The neighborhood Bible study transformed into a church plant. Maria Isabel continued to participate, always with younger siblings in tow.
She, her siblings and other kids from the neighborhood arrived each week with a clear neediness, not just for Christ. The behavior of the children was loud, aggressive and disrespectful.
Elidomar and Arianne began to teach about Christ and that those who receive Christ little by little will learn to live as Christ taught. They explained He will transform our ways to His ways. This language helped correct some of the fights among the children.
Maria Isabel always justified her aggressive conduct as just her way, but a few weeks ago, when called out for aggressive behavior she did not justify, complain or yell. She said, “I’m sorry.”
Christ is transforming the lives of Maria Isabel and her siblings. And during these last few weeks, Maria Isabel’s mother has been attending the short outdoor services too.
On the days without a church service, Maria Isabel and the other children spend time roaming the streets and playing outside. There is no social distancing, their houses are small and generally many people live in each house.
My husband, Rick, and I, who mentor Elidomar and Arianne, are helping provide activities for the children to do at home. Each time the kids go to church, they hear a Bible story. They also receive coloring sheets, crafts and Bible story questions to complete at home. This helps the kids keep thinking about Jesus who transforms behaviors, families and lives.
Pray with us that the good news of Jesus will continue to grow in Maria Isabel’s life and that others will choose new life in Him.
Jill and Rick Thompson are IMB missionaries in Brazil.