The High Ground: Building A Culture of Peace in Brazil

A history of flooding

Salvation Anglican Church is located in a rough neighborhood. Located outside of any commercial centers, this community is one of “squatters.” Residents here are those who have been forced off land elsewhere and end up here. They claim their land simply by occupying it. 

Needless to say, living in a situation where you fear your land might be grabbed at any moment by someone else does not foster a sense of community!

This land is not very valuable. It is located next to the Paraíba river, which floods often. But it has become home for these residents. An Anglican Church building stood there and served the community. 

When this church flooded, the government gave the community land for a new church to be located outside of the flood plain. But as is often the case, there was no money to rebuild it.

Building a new church

Surprisingly, the community gathered together to find a solution. The government plot was not ideal as it was located far away from the original church and was not convenient for residents. One community member donated her land to the church, in exchange for the government land. She was no longer using all of her land to farm, and her extended family could use the government plot. 

Now on this better site, a church was built with funds from an ARDF grant. When we visited in 2018, we saw a dynamic church on top of a beautiful hill. We met the Rev. Eliane Chacon who has been at this church for 12 years. 

A transformed community

Pastor Eliane reports that she has seen amazing changes since the new building was completed and the neighbors can more easily attend church. They were not, after all, wading through mud on the floor of the church or unable to enter the church at all!

Pastor Eliane told us that before, “They didn’t have a peaceful culture. Violence culture is very common in Brazil.” She went on to tell us of one instance when one woman murdered another over a dispute about a dog! 

However, being able to hold regular services has changed this. Now, the community is much calmer and willing to be in community together. “They understand how important forgiveness is. Their relationships are more peaceful.” Pastor Eliane says this is a direct result of preaching the Gospel! Hallelujah! 

One concrete example is in the number of couples now wanting to marry or wanting their unions blessed. Before, no one wanted to invest in the commitment of marriage. 

“[This year] I will bless 5 more couples because we teach this in the church – how important it is receive the blessing of God in your marriage.”

Looking ahead

Pastor Eliane has future plans for the church. She dreams of creating a space for women to gather during their time off. Currently, women stay in their homes alone when they are not working. Bringing them together at the church will only continue to foster this sense of community.

It is amazing to see what a big difference a local church can make, year after year, in a difficult community. 

Pastor Eliane’s bishop, Marcio Meira, has an explanation: “We believe Jesus can change every thing, in every time, for everybody. But we need sometimes a miracle. Jesus specializes in miracles.”