São Paulo is the capital of Brazil’s São Paulo state. It is richer than the other 25 Brazilian capitals and the most populous — more than 11 million inhabitants. The state is known as the “Brazilian economic motor” because it has the country’s largest industrial park, the most skilled labor, the best infrastructure and the greatest economic production, not to mention the biggest consumer market.
São Paulo also has the best evangelical seminaries and is the headquarters of many evangelical denomination conventions. Because of all these characteristics, it seems impossible for anyone who doesn’t know the Brazilian reality to imagine that in this same city people starve and some have never heard about God.
This is São Paulo. This is the contrast.
Unlike the grandiosity that São Paulo displays, Projeto Casa Criança Viva operates in a small, two-story house on a dirty street — dirty because of the pollution and graffiti on the walls. This child development center serves 150 children in the area.
Food is one of the needs that the center is working to supply to the children, but there is another crucial need that may come as a surprise: most children haven’t heard about God until they enroll at the center.
In a group of 12-to-14-year-olds, most of the children said they previously didn’t have any idea about the Bible or salvation in Christ. This is surprising because São Paulo’s population is about 15 percent evangelical, according to Ministry Information Support, and this number is growing each year. Yet most children who live in the neighborhood this center serves have never learned about Christian values.
Our Complementary Interventions Program for Christian Education is helping to change that.
Because of the efforts of donors, we were able purchase Christian material for 150 child development centers to use in their Christian education classes. The books were distributed among 35,000 children enrolled.
Projeto Casa Criança Viva uses these books not only in its Christian education classes, but also as a compass to direct the other activities of the center. Christian education is offered one hour a week, and all center activities are planned to serve this class.
The teacher prepares the children’s hearts to receive the message during the week, according to the theme that the book gives. If the Christian education theme of the week is “obedience,” the center incorporates that theme in the other subjects taught to the children.
For example, in the physical area, children are taught to obey the game rules; in the cognitive area, children are taught what “obeying” means in language and how to apply it in their vocabulary; and in the socio-emotional area, children are taught the importance of obeying authority, such as parents, teachers and governments.
Many children enrolled at the child development center got their first contact with the Word of God at the center. They had never heard about God, Christ or stories such as the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark or Joseph in Egypt.
Transformation is the best word to define what happens with the children during the class. Parents recognize the difference in the way their children behave.
“It’s very good for Karla to have this class,” says Marta, mother of 11-year-old Karla. “She used to be a rebel and use bad language!”
Before enrolling in the project, Karla didn’t help her mother at home and when she did, Karla became angry. Because of it, Marta had several problems with the rebellion of her daughter.
“Karla’s temper got better after learning about God’s values!” Marta says. Karla now helps her mother washing dishes and taking care of her little brother, Mateus.
Center staff have witnessed the transformation, not just of children, but also of entire families.
Izael is 7 years old and lives with his parents in a small house. Izael’s family life used to be very hard until the conversion of his parents. They weren’t married and Izael’s father drank too much. The parents used to dance forró, a kind of sensual dance very famous in the northeast of Brazil.
The center staff provided Izael with biblical counseling about it. One day, in the Christian education class, Izael received Jesus. A few days later, his parents and his little sister decided to follow Jesus, so the whole family stopped with the forró.
“Our family relationship improved. Antonio and I decided to get married officially and he stopped drinking,” says Izael’s mother with happiness.
Izael’s mother believes the Christian education lessons were decisive for Izael’s conversion. This transformation was so strong in Izael’s life that he has a plan for his future:
“I’d like to be a pastor and teach people about God!”
São Paulo’s most impoverished children live in a reality that only Jesus can save them from, giving them dreams and hope for a better future. The Christian education materials equip our church partners to share God’s Word, often for the first time, with children in need of hope.
“They come here without knowing God and the main difference God makes in their little lives is to put hope in their hearts. They believe God can open doors. They believe in victory.” — Luciana, the director of Projeto Casa Criança Viva