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.