Every year in August, Catholic pilgrims leave Uberlandia and the surrounding towns in the interior of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais and head to the city of Romaria for one of the largest religious festivals in the country.
To cater to pilgrims who have been walking for days, Seventh-day Adventist volunteers set up a tent by a major highway to talk to and assist the weary pilgrims.
During the weekend of August 9-11, 2019, Adventist volunteers offered water, juice, herbal tea, soup, bread, cakes, fruit, massages, and medical care. The action benefited about 3,000 people, organizers reported.
“No matter our religious differences, there is Someone who is beyond all that — Jesus Christ, whom we are serving,” said the church member behind the initiative, Wemerson Castro.
Castro said that he first felt the desire to assist pilgrims in 2017, when he was returning from a trip and saw dozens of people headed toward the city. At the time, he said, he prayed and then decided to stop by one of the tents on the side of the road to volunteer to help. When he arrived home, he told his wife, Jhosiane Ferreira, about his experience that day. “I got home and told her where I had been,” Castro said. “Then we prayed together to see what the Lord had for us. We felt God was opening a way for us to raise funds needed to set up a tent.”
At that moment, the Living Water Project came into existence. The name is a nod to the Bible story recorded in John 4, where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well and asks her for water. The woman questions the fact that Jesus, a Jew, talks to her, a Samaritan. In the biblical account, Christ emphasizes that the water He could offer her was living water, which would cause her to never thirst again.
Church member volunteers helped with the preparations. They cleared the site to set up the tent. Volunteers prayed, set up the place to house the pilgrims, and got the food ready for distribution.
Organizers shared that the project received donations from business people and others. “People who stopped by to see what we were doing decided to contribute to the project,” Castro said. “We also distributed copies of [Willie and Elaine Oliver’s] ‘Hope for Today’s Families’ book, leaving with [the pilgrims] a message of faith and love,” he said.