Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ministering to Brazilian Children

Rio de Janeiro, a Brazilian city of 9 million inhabitants, is one of the most beautifully situated cities in the world. With mountains that come down to the sea and with refreshing ocean breezes that blow in from the cool waters of the South Atlantic, Rio is also home to the world famous 130 foot statue of Christ the Redeemer. Standing atop one of Rio’s many mountains and overlooking the city below, the outstretched arms of the statue are a symbol of love and hope for all people.

But in Rio de Janeiro has its dark side. Much of that darkness dominates in the hundreds of favelas (shantytowns) that are, for the most part, built up on mountains and hills of metropolitan Rio. It is in the favelas that the poorest of the Brazilian people live, because a shack in the favela is all they can afford. Millions of people live in these favelas.

Few homes in the favelas have electricity or water. Only a few of the streets are paved. There are almost no government services. The schools are not good. There are no fire stations. The police do not patrol there. A local drug lord and his gang of narcotics traffickers control most favelas, providing “protection” from outside invasion (by another gang) but also terrorizing and oppressing the local inhabitants.

Violent crime in and near the favelas is common, as are frequent gun battles between rival gangs, or between a gang and the police. During gun battles, innocent people are often wounded or killed. No one who lives in a favela is ever safe, the favela children suffer the most.

The Hidden Treasures Project was launched by the Rio based REINA family of churches. Headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, REINA consists of more than one hundred churches organized in eight districts under its bishop, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Hermes C. Fernandes. (REINA is an acronym for Rede Espicopal de Igrejas da Nação Apostólica.)

Seeking to cure the problems of crimes, violence, and poverty at their source, the Hidden Treasures Project reaches out to the poor who live in many of Rio’s favelas, especially to the children. REINA members, pastors, and deacons work through Hidden Treasures Project to give generously of their time and money to reach out to the “favelados” (favela dwellers) in an assortment of life-building programs.

For example, in association with a university medical school Hidden Treasures organizes groups of medical teams who provide free medical and dental care to the favelados one day every month. REINA church buildings located in or near favelas to provide counseling centers for youth and adults, conduct other educational or recreational programs, and provide employment counseling and services. Hidden Treasures Project also has a fully staffed residential Drug & Alcohol Rehab center.

With so many opportunities to serve poor in Rio’s favelas, the Hidden Treasures Project teams needs all the help it can get from brothers and sisters in Christ from Rio and from around the world., the challenges we face always need more co-workers. Many of the REINA church members were raised in favelas, and are now working their way into the middle class. But the material resources of REINA church members are limited. More school supplies are needed for the children we serve. Musical instruments are need for the music classes we conduct. More computers are needed for the computer skills classes we conduct. Uniforms and practice fields are needed for our soccer camps. And the list goes on.

Please pray for the Hidden Treasures Project as we work in the Lord’s harvest field. Please ask the Lord if he wants you help us, and if so, how.

And how can you help? Consider: One-time gifts and grants can help a great deal. So can regular monthly support. Short-term mission trips for groups of our brothers and sisters from outside Brazil can provide a tremendous boost to our efforts in the favelas. So please contact us through your church if you are interested in working with us. Or, contact us directly at

Thank you!

Bishop Hermes C. Fernandes

Hidden Treasures Project is a church-based benevolent organization in good standing with the Christian Communion International.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Where can we find treasures?

The Hidden Treasures Project is inspired by a parable told by Jesus of a man who found a treasure in a field. In order to possess the treasure he bought the field to get it. (Mt.13:44)

The Apostle Paul reminds Christians that they possess treasure hidden in earthen vessels. Every human being, regardless of nationality, ethnic background or creed, has within himself or herself a valuable treasure ready to be discovered and developed. The treasure is nothing more than the potentials that the Creator has deposited in each and every person.

To survive in this life, people not only need food and drink, they need to find the purpose and meanings of their lives. That is why it isn’t enough to supply a person’s basic material necessities. To be fulfilled, it is essential that a person discovers and develops his or her potential. Only then will his or her life be imbued with the dignity necessary the development of a fulfilled life.

The objective of the Hidden Treasures Project is to help children and adults who live in the shantytowns (favelas) of Brazilian cities to discover the valuable treasure they have within themselves—before crime enlists them or social injustice destroys them.

In the crime-ridden favelas of Rio de Janeiro, multitudes of children grow up without a positive life perspective. Instead they are abandoned. Abandoned, their lives are given to an uncertain future. In uncertainty, they become fertile ground for recruitment into organized or sexual slavery.

The Hidden Treasures Project believes that no one is born a thief. We also believer that no one is born an athlete, or an artist, or a scientist, or a musician. Every human being has within himself the potential for good or evil. So before the potential for evil is awakened in the children of the favelas, the Hidden Treasures Project seeks to take them in and give them the kind of healthy life principles and moral values that will guide them into a productive life. In this way the hidden treasure within these children can be discovered, developed, and put to good use. Through the Hidden Treasures Project, the potential for our children to pass the traditional limits imposed on them in the favelas is limitless.

Beyond merely preaching and teaching the Gospel of Christ to these children, we offer them the opportunity to grow and develop into productive citizens. As our maturing children discover the pleasure of serving their communities the cycle of crime and misery is broken and a cycle of good is created in its place.

Each child has the potential to be a soccer player, an artist, a musician, craftsmen, and a businessman. They only need somebody to give them the ball, or the brush, or the guitar, or the tools, or the opportunity—and teach them how to use it.

We want a better future for this generation of children, and for that reason we need to invest in them. We have no other alternative. Instead of endlessly debating about crime reduction, we have chosen to acknowledge that we--as Christians—have not been diligent to do the positive things that can and will reduce crime. Our failure is evidenced by the existence of thousands of abandoned street children who pour out of our favelas into the streets or our cities.

Healing hands

A social revolution is needed, one that is peaceful, healing, and redemptive. And if we want to promote this kind of social revolution in the World, we must extend our hands to those who are less fortunate. Thus we believe that the same hands we raise in worship to God must be extended to our neighbors in love.

Buying the field
As in the parable of Jesus, for us to obtain the treasure in the field we must first acquire the field. To “buy the field” we have gone into dozens of favelas as if they were our own. We have done so to find the treasure of the favelas, which is the innumerable number of children who need our care. They are our hidden treasures.

What you can do

We need investors who, with their lives or their donations, can become partners in the Hidden Treasures Project. Please consider how you can participate with us in this Project. Be a volunteer and/or make a contribution.

Participate with us in this Project.
· Be a volunteer.
· Make a contribution.

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