While broadcasting on Instagram, young Isabelli Costa, who shares videos on dancing moves, was surprised by a sudden spike in viewers. At the same time, she witnessed a series of comments, all with a similar tone, that began to appear on her feed.
“Call Alice.” “Invite Alice to your broadcast,” wrote users who were watching the live video. Without knowing what was going on, Costa decided to accept the suggestion and share her screen with Alice Tormes, who was one of her viewers.
When she did, Costa was surprised.
“I will explain to you what is going on,” Tormes said. “We came here, all this crowd and me, to tell you that you are a very special person, loved, dear. I was wondering if we can sing a song for you. We only came here to show love for you because there was a Person who loved us first, and that Person’s name is Jesus.”
Costa barely knew how to react.
A second later, Tormes and guitar player Christian Cerezolli performed a song entitled Isso é Amor (This Is Love), which explains why there’s no love like the love of Jesus. As the pair sang, Costa’s eyes teared up. Then the pair read a verse from the Bible and prayed for her.
The initiative, led by young members from the Cascavel Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in southern Brazil, was a suggestion by the regional Youth Department. It encourages young people from Brazil's three southernmost states to stay relevant and share love even during social distancing.
The inspiration for the “invasion” itself came from the Instagram profile of a person who has done something similar in celebrity profiles. Those profiles, which usually include a large number of followers, allow for an increased reach and number of interactions.
In the specific case of young people from western Paraná State, the project focused on choosing “ordinary” individuals.
“Everyone felt that reaching out to lesser-known people provides for an extraordinary outcome,” Tormes said.
Although Tormes launched the idea, it only works when there are dozens — even hundreds — of young people who plan to connect with a specific person simultaneously.
When she decided to try the initiative, Tormes joined forces with Cascavel Adventist youth leader Michel Amarilho and local pastor Marcelo Henrique. From that start, the initiative grew to include other cities across the region.
“My [Instagram] profile is just a personal tool to do this, but it has already become a project that is not mine, or anyone else’s,” Tormes said. “The biggest impact comes from the people who are simultaneously writing positive thoughts to encourage a particular person.”
In addition to Costa, other people have reacted in surprising ways to the group’s initiative, like a father exhausted and sad due to his son’s health problems. “When we got in touch with that man, he said he felt that it was God wanting to give him a special message,” one of the activity organizers said.
For Rodolfo Kalschne, the director of the department that serves young people in western Paraná State, actions such as these should be replicated.
“Tormes’ initiative should be replicated by many other young and faithful members of the church,” Kalschne said. “Today, most people get online and use social networks. We must open ways and alternatives to stay relevant, reaching those users for Christ.”