Monday, 23 June 2014

Prayer for World Cup host cities

The latest in my series on the other side of the World Cup is another post from Mark & Suzana Greenwood. This time it's a series Prayer Points related to the World Cup host cities - please pray during the World Cup for the following cities and issues:

São Paulo – Rede Evangleica Nacional de Ação Social (RENAS) – – is a network of Christians who care about people´s social social situation. Their headquarters is in São Paulo. RENAS is promoting the “Bola na Rede Campaign” – “Ball in the net – a Christian movement that campaigns against sexual exploitation and violence against children and teenagers during the World Cup. “Ball in the netwill develop different actions in all the 12 World Cup hosting cities.

This coming Saturday the youth from Edward and Ana Greenwood´s church will campaign on a square near where they live, giving out leaflets and “vaccinating against violence”. This vaccine consists of talking to people on the streets and ask them if they want to be vaccinated against violence. If they say yes, they are given a sweet. The idea is to bring awareness and bring the subject out into to the open, with the intention of discouraging people who might have come to World Cup with the wrong intention (i.e. sex tourism, which involves a lot of adolescents and children).

Salvador – Large numbers of people in Salvador follow African Traditional Religions, such as Candomblé, or Spiritist beliefs, like Umbanda.  Salvador also has got a strong Baptist Convention, with evangelistic and social work amongst drug addicts, and one of the oldest church based community projects in Brazil – at Grace Baptist Church.

Rio de Janeiro – Rio de Janeiro is where the Headquarters of the Brazilian Baptist Convention (CBB) are. Also there are the Headquarters of the Baptist National Mission Board (JMN) and the Baptist World Mission Board (JMM), all three in walking distance of Maracanã Stadium, where the World Cup final will be held. The National Mission Board will be organizing evangelism during the World Cup in all the hosting cities, in and around the stadia. CBB is also ceding two of its office areas to Christian radio guys from UK and USA, who will be broadcasting commentaries and documentaries, from a Christian perspective, through thousands of relay stations throughout the world.

Recife – Known as the most violent city in Brazil, Recife is a beautiful place, with a traditional Baptist Seminary and a large number of churches involved in Social Action. Another Baptist seminary there, originally a women’s college, the Christian Education Seminary (SEC), has trained hundreds of missionaries and Christian social workers over the years, who now serve God throughout the world.

Porto Alegre – Porto Alegre is capital to the least evangelised state in Brazil, and also has many followers of Candomblé and Umbanda. One of the Baptist Conventions that works in Porto Alegre, the Pioneer Baptist Convention, has as one of its aims that every church be involved in at least one Social Project. The other Convention (Rio Grande do Sul Convention) has a very active women’s ministry.

Manaus – In the headquarters of the Amazonas Baptist Convention, in Manaus, Executive Secretary Pr Teodoro holds a prayer meeting with his staff every day. His work covers a huge geographical area. The nearest major city to Manuas, Tabatinga, on the border with Peru, is 2 hours’ flight away.  The Baptist Convention of Amazonas runs a children´s home for orphans and children who cannot be with their parents. Churches in Curitiba and São Paulo also have children´s homes. This type work has become very challenging recently, due to significant changes in the law. Pray for wisdom for the leaders at this very difficult time.

Natal – Natal is capital to one of the poorest states in Brazil, Rio Grande do Norte, but also has one of the most beautiful coastlines. The Baptist Seminary there, recently set up by BMS missionaries, now enables locals to train for the ministry without moving to other states. Margaret Swires worked there for many years in the Baptist Convention, setting up the Social Action Department.

Fortaleza - Like most Brazilian cities, Fortaleza is a place of extreme inequalities. The international airport, opened just over a decade ago, while helping to boost the economy, is also an open door for sex tourism, similar to what has been happening in Recife for even longer. Local government and churches are fighting against this, however it is a situation with no simple solution. Please pray for Jailma who is heading up the “Ball in the Net” campaign there.

Curitiba – Capital of Paraná, and now one of the better-organized and most developed cities in Brazil, Curitiba was home for BMS missionaries for decades. These missionaries planted many of the churches in and around Curitiba and also developed many Social Projects, as well as working in the Bible College, training ministers. The Paraná Baptist Convention has as one of their aims to plant a church in every prison.

Cuiabá – Cuiabá is the geographical centre of South America, and the heart of the Brazilian soya industry boom. Many people of indigenous origin live in and around the city, and there is a evangelical training college, called AMI, for pastors from a number of different tribes. Folk come from all over Brazil for this specialized training, which understands the tribal cultures like no other college does.

Brasília – Brasilia is Brazil’s capital, where the country’s politicians work. Fighting corruption has been a slogan for the present government, for the opposition and for protesters from the population in general. Brazil has progressed on the road against corruption, however, much still needs to be done. Please pray for wisdom and fairness among politicians, and for the presidential election, to be held in October.

There are plenty of people unhappy with the fact that much public money has been spent on building stadiums.  U$642 million was spent to rebuild the stadium in Brasilia, almost double than what had been planned. One of the points protesters make is that there is not a strong football team in Brasilia, and the odds of filling the stadium for any games after the World Cup are very small.

Belo Horizonte – The Social Department in the state Baptist Convention is the most well developed in the Brazilian Baptist Convention. Simone, who leads it, is very involved in Child Protection work and is, herself, a foster mother. She is also running the “Ball in the Net” campaign there. There are many churches with social projects around the city, and some of the biggest churches in Brazil.

Four of the hosting cities, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Fortaleza, have churches which run the Space-to-Fly programme for children aged 7 to 11.

During the World Cup, these children are enjoying all sorts of activities which enable them to learn more about their country, looking at the maps where the different cities are. Brazil is a huge country, from Porto Alegre, in the South, to Manaus, in the North, it takes at least 6 hours by plane, non-stop. It is not possible to go by road.

At Pepes (pre-school projects designed to help children, especially those in extreme poverty, be prepared to go to school) and Space-to-Fly, children also are involved discussions that help them to see that, even though the World Cup is fun, there is much more to life than football, and Jesus is certainly more important than football.
You can see the article in it's original form here.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Brazilian Reality

The latest offering in my series about the other side of the World Cup is an article from "The Brazilian Canary" himself, Lucas Jorge. A journalism student and blogger based in Rio, Lucas takes us through some of his country's history to help us understand why a football-crazy nation would protest about staging the greatest tournament in the world.
Well, I'm a young Brazilian, my name is Lucas Jorge and I'm only 19. But, I've seen interesting things happen in my country and have also studied a lot about his past. And it is from the past that I'll start to explain the current situation of Brazil and its people.

Since the end of the dictatorship and the beginning of democratic elections Brazil lives a drama. We managed a feat - the end of the military dictatorship - but could not, until now, find candidates to command respect from every state or other governments. Primarily we want a respectable candidate to be president of Brazil.

Tancredo was to have been the first president elected by democratic vote. He would be the first president of Brazil. It would have been... What actually happened was that Tancredo died two days before assuming the presidency of Brazil after the period of military dictatorship, I will not get into conspiracy theories that revolve around this fact, but for an unfortunate irony, Jose Sarney - at the time, party representative who defended the military dictatorship - took over from Tancredo. This was the first drama; the second was with the election of Fernando Collor. With media manipulation, especially TV Globo, Collor won. But impeached. He literally stole the country. After him came Itamar Franco, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Lula and Dilma currently.

You might be asking ... "But Lucas, what does this have to do with the current protests in Brazil and the World Cup?"

Simple! - I say - we Brazilians, since the democratic elections, never had respectable candidates to elect. Be it in elections for state or in elections for President of Brazil. The Brazilian people are tired of being cheated. Living in a country where you can not trust a politician is terrible! Unfortunately, there are a huge list of corrupt politicians here, you have honest account of his fingers on the hand!

Being honest, the Brazilian people are always festive, always lived and enjoyed life with what they have and without complaint, but with the internet - Thank my good God! - the news spread, it has increasingly come to all and with that comes the Brazilian people taking consciousness that it is our country and we, the people, deserve respectable politicians who know how to address the problems that our country has.

Lula, when he was in government, did not. Dilma and Lula were unable to say no to the World Cup and say: "Sorry, our country has other priorities; our country has a horrible education, bad hospitals and a precarious security so can not now invest in stadiums. We have to invest in life, our people! "  Not to mention that Brazil is a big country; there are regions where there is no (yes, you read this right) sanitation. There is no treatment for drinking water, no sewage system ...

So, these are some of the reasons for the revolt of the Brazilian. Football has no fault. Football, it's a sport (and we love this sport so much; I'm Flamengo and Norwich fan!), and the football has not come here and said: "The World Cup will be in Brazil and over!" I and many other Brazilians, we are lovers of this sport. And the sport is not to blame if the Brazilian government, FIFA and other characters "important" were unable to differentiate the priorities of the country that is today hosting the World Cup.

Of course, in any protest there are radicals. People who try to "vandalize" during the protest. And politics too, there are always people talking nonsense. An example is Ronaldo "Fenomeno". He said a lot of nonsense, said police should beat the protesters, said that Brazil does not need public hospitals and stadiums. Yes's true, Ronaldo was a genius on the field, but off the field he has been a big idiot unfortunately, because he remains a very influential person in Brazil.

Speaking of influences, here, one reason for the political drama in Brazil, are political ideologies. Here, in my opinion, we have a problem with political campaigns. In Brazil, there are no "political right and  left" campaigns and yes, there are populist campaigns. Instead of showing the what the candidate will  invest or can do for the country ... candidates try to invest in charisma. Showing the people who are criticizing opponents ... a recent example was Aécio Neves, rival candidate Rousseff, who took photos with Ronaldo Fenomeno (remember what I told you above?).

Well, the truth is that the World Cup is already happening and sure enough, it was not made for everyone, after all, considered to be poor no citizen should have bought a ticket for any game of the Cup. And it's true that everything done in the World Cup in Brazil was done with superfaturamente and corruption. Not to mention that Brazil currently has a huge inflation in the economy of the current government.

It is always worth protesting for their rights, but for the Brazilian, honestly, the best and biggest protest that can be done will be elections, when voting. The Brazilian people have increasingly become aware of the problems of the country and as Brazilians we know, as does anyone who lives here, that the country is good. And that indeed Brazil needs change. Stop being such parents who are "emerging" about 10 years ago and finally emerge and live. Every Brazilian politician says that Brazil will be: "A first world country". I hope so too, and just like in the stadiums, I hope to have hospitals, safety, sanitation and education of "first world" - built to "FIFA standard"! 

It is not a question of whether or not the World Cup, having or not having protests. It is a matter of having a government that respects and cares for the people who elected them.
You can follow Lucas on Twitter (in both Portuguese & English) @NorwichCityFCBR
To read more from Lucas, & hear his podcasts, visit

Monday, 16 June 2014

Hospitals or Stadia? - Take your pick

As part of my series on the other side of the 2014 World Cup, here is a piece written almost a year ago by Mark and Suzana Greenwood.  The couple, who have been involved with mission work in Brazil since 1993, originally published them on their blog on the BMS World Mission website. Used with their permission, they explain about the protests last year and, in the postscript, Suzana reflects on the disparity between what was being done & what some would say was truly important. 

The seventh largest economy in the world, yet the world’s 17th most unequal country – the people of Brazil have a reason to unite and demand change. Whilst a small proportion of Brazilians are exceedingly rich, a huge number are exceedingly poor, and it is this inequality which has caused great discontent and made people flock to the streets in their thousands.
“Imagine the M1, the M2, the M3, the M40, the M4 and the M25 all being blocked at the same time,” says Mark Greenwood, BMS Regional Team Leader for Latin America. “That’s what it was like in Sao Paulo on Friday evening. It was just filled with hundreds of thousands people.”

Excessive spending on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which is being held in Brazil, has acted as a catalyst to encourage all those dissatisfied with the inequality and poor public services in much of Brazil to protest. When billions are being spent on the football stadiums that are springing up across the country, the closure of hospitals and the many living in extreme poverty are harder to ignore. 

BMS’ Mark and Suzana Greenwood and their children Edward and Ana have all taken part in the weekend’s marches, which have been mostly very peaceful. “This doesn’t happen often in Brazil,” says Mark. “It’s refreshing and exciting to see so many people coming together to raise the issues that need to be addressed, and to call for social justice.”

Their united voices seem to be being heard, as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced a series of reforms on Saturday.

The protestors are raising four main issues: health spending, education spending, transport costs and political corruption. It is these issues that Mark tries to deal with in his day job, as he heads up the Social Action Department of the Brazilian Baptist Convention; so it’s encouraging for him and his team to see the masses taking these injustices to the streets and being heard by the country’s leaders.

“It feels like the government realise that something has got to be done,” Mark says. “The streets are buzzing with a mixture of hope and unsure expectations. We’re not sure whether things are really going to change or not, but there’s a sense that everybody is happy to get out and make their voices heard.”
Yesterday, as I was on the bus, there was a traffic jam caused by health care students protesting against the closure of their University Hospital. On one of the posters I read: Just call me “World Cup” and you’ll invest in me!
Walking down the road to take Ana to school this morning, we felt a deep sadness to see an elderly man drinking water from the gutter, just a few streets from the new Maracanã stadium.
With billion dollar investments in Brazil for flashy new stadiums for sporting events, it is difficult to understand why a University hospital has to close, and people need to drink from gutters.
Injustice abounds, not only in Brazil. We pray that the fear of the Lord will be in the heart of government authorities, that they will lead with wisdom and have the right priorities.
We pray that as Christians we will know God's heart and follow his priorities.
Both these articles are available in their original form on the BMS World Mission website:
Please continue to pray for the people of Brazil - maybe the words found in Micah 6:8 will help...
"He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?"

Thursday, 12 June 2014

World Cup 2014 - A beach in Brazil

In 2001 I flew to Brazil as part of a BMS Action Team, a voluntary missionary scheme. I lived & worked for six months in the North East of the country, staying in Fortaleza & Natal. For the next month the eyes of the world will be on Brazil, and at times on the two cities I knew best.
I wrote the following as a two-minute reflection for Morning Prayer at Ripon College, Cuddesdon. Although not based on a single day, I witnessed all the events described first-hand. It is a reality still for those living in poverty, many in the shadow of amazing affluence. So while you enjoy the unique Brazilian atmosphere, spare a thought for those who will be just as passionate about every match, but would have loved the tournament to make a positive impact on their situation instead of lining the pockets of those who already have so much.
 Picture yourself on a beach in Brazil.

The warmth of the sun caresses your skin as you take in your surroundings. The inviting clear-blue sea to your left, the golden sand stretching out in front of you. All around you are people. Beautiful people. Laughing, drinking, playing. The smell of a barbecue fills your nostrils. You feel relaxed, at peace, on holiday.

A movement catches your eye. A small boy, in scruffy red shorts and bare feet runs past and heads off towards the road to your right. You feel the urge to follow him so you walk quickly, the luxury hotels along the beachfront looking huge in contrast to the running lad. He dashes across the road & darts down a path between two hotels. You’re jogging now to try to keep up – you don’t know where you’re going, but following the boy seems important.

He runs across another road, then down an alley. As you slip in behind him and the noise of the traffic fades, a sense of unease creeps up on you.
The alley opens up and you find yourself at the bottom of some large concrete steps. Suddenly the smell of raw sewage catches in your throat. You head up the steps, unsure why. Either side of you are small dwellings – glancing through the open windows you see single rooms strewn with numerous hammocks.
Away from the sea, the heat is becoming uncomfortable. You see a woman feeding a small skinny baby from a dirty bowl of what looks like rice. A blob drops onto the dusty ground – she scoops it up with a finger and thrusts it into the child’s mouth. A small group of toddlers are playing with an empty can. There are barely dressed, with tight skin and swollen, distended bellies.

Then you see the running boy. He has stopped just ahead of you, and turns round. His large, dark eyes meet yours, and for a second his vacant stare bores into you. He takes a small packet out of his pocket and walks into the open doorway on his right. Hesitantly you peer into the gloomy room, where a man is lying on the floor with a small camping stove burning, silver foil resting above it, the contents of the packet now melting on top. The boy turns to go, and the man throws a bottle at him to hurry him along.

You’re heart is breaking, and you feel like asking God why He allows poverty, hunger & suffering; why so many live with so little while the few have so much.

But you don’t, because you realise he may ask you the same question…

Want to know more about Brazil's 'stolen' World Cup? Visit the Christian Aid website.