At 99, a Brazilian World War II Veteran Volunteers at Summer Outreach

He is part of Caleb Mission, which has involved thousands in service across the region.

Rafael Brondani, South American Division, and Adventist Review
At 99, a Brazilian World War II Veteran Volunteers at Summer Outreach
Lessons from the past for the future: a World War II veteran inspires a new generation in Caleb Mission. [Photo: South American Division News]

In a room full of excited children in Vitória, Espirito Santo, Brazil, Claudinier Ribeiro da Silva, a 99-year-old former World War II combatant, shares life lessons and knowledge. He is participating in Missão Calebe (Caleb Mission), a summer volunteer initiative focused on education, social service, and community development.

While Caleb Mission mostly enlists young Seventh-day Adventists with a heart for mission during the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere, the 99-year-old veteran has much more to offer than just traditional classes: he shares life experiences that shaped part of the 20th century.

A Long and Fruitful Life

Born in 1924, Ribeiro witnessed some of the most significant events in modern history, as Brazil fought with the Allies in World War II and helped liberate Italy. During the war, Ribeiro says, he learned to develop resilience and courage and to value the importance of peace. Today, he takes these and other lessons to the children attending local summer Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs in Carapina, a neighborhood in Greater Vitória.

“My life has been a long journey, and now I can use what I have learned to help these young people,” Silva says with an affectionate smile. “It’s more than teaching math or history; it’s about teaching values and hope.”

In addition to his talks, the war veteran worked on sorting donations that would be distributed to people need, and he helped put the VBS programs together.

Caleb Mission activities started on January 13 and ran until the 29th. The more than 8,000 young volunteers of Caleb Mission in Espírito Santo were divided into about 200 teams, with approximately 40 volunteers each. Their contributions included health talks, health fairs, and health workshops; blood drives; and cleaning of public spaces. Also, they did house remodeling for people in need and conducted social awareness campaigns. Health professionals also participated, providing medical care. Ribeiro is one of the most experienced volunteers, and his age doesn’t diminish his excitement.

Inspiring Others

“He is an inspiration,” Juliana Loubaque, coordinator of the Caleb Mission of Carapina, says. “It’s an honor to have Claudinier’s support. A 99-year-old who is present whenever he can and is an example of discipline and demeanor,” she points out.

According to Loubaque, in telling his life stories Ribeiro also likes to discuss how to use natural remedies to enjoy a long and fruitful life, take care of one’s body, do exercise, and trust God. Ribeiro also loves emphasizing the importance of eating well and drinking eight glasses of water daily. “I went to war to defend my country, but today I am in the Lord’s army and always ready to serve,” he says.

As the day program winds down, the children say goodbye to Ribeiro with hugs and smiles. Although his time as a soldier is well behind him, he’s still fighting for the education, health, and future of these vulnerable children. At 99 years old, Ribeiro keeps sharing lessons from the past but also hope for the future.

“I want them to know that they can overcome anything,” he says, looking at his young students. “May they be the change they want to see in the world, just like I tried to be.”

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.

Rafael Brondani, South American Division, and Adventist Review