A group of employees of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in southern Brazil left their offices and local churches and spent two days helping people affected by recent floodings. On June 20 and 21, church employees serving at the Central Rio Grande do Sul Conference (CRGSC) traveled to the town of Caraá to distribute food and clothing and help clean debris.
“We have not been able to enter the house for four days,” one of Caraá’s residents said. The town was severely affected by flash floods on June 15 after days of torrential rains. Residents reported that the water reached 6.5 feet (2 m). Furniture and household appliances were covered by water and clay.
The group of church employees split into two teams and traveled to Caraá to assist the affected community. Office staff and pastors joined in removing debris and cleaning up homes. They also brought water, food, and clothing collected by the office, churches, and Adventist schools across the region.
“We regularly carry out actions to help people, but this time, it was important to be together, listen to them, clean their homes, and be there for them, even when sometimes we were not sure who we were helping,” CRGSC human resources director Mirian Fonseca said.
During the two days, more than 40 volunteers helped several homes and countless families with food, water, and clothing. Church leaders and employees donated boots, gloves, and cleaning equipment, as they visited some of the houses affected by the flood. They helped repair furniture and put gates back in their place. They assisted one particular family that had to remove all the mud from their wardrobes and bathroom.
“It was very gratifying to participate in this initiative, knowing that we were able to contribute to alleviate the suffering of some of our brothers,” Letícia Braga, a volunteer, said. “It affected us to witness the devastation, the houses destroyed, and how bridges collapsed. Many people lost everything they had. You can see their pain.”
A Local Church, an Oasis
Since the disaster hit the city, the Rio dos Sinos Seventh-day Adventist Church in Caraá has opened its doors to the community. Church members provided food and shelter to affected families, first responders, and other volunteers.
Church members visited residents to collect clothing and food for those in need. The Youth Hall and the second floor of the church became a place of refuge. “We are here to serve and help those in need,” local church member and volunteer cook Cleusa Nunes said.
Nunes has been preparing food for first responders and volunteers. As volunteers cook, assisted women and men smile, sing, and play. It is an oasis-like atmosphere in the midst of the disaster.
Volunteers said that the joy of those who helped others and those who were helped is a reason for hope and encouragement.
“What struck me the most was seeing the joy and the way people welcomed us,” Nunes said. “Even in the midst of chaos, they were smiling, joking, and believing that everything would be fine.”