Across the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when most people are playing at the beach during the hot Southern Hemisphere summer, nearly 10,000 Seventh-day Adventist volunteers decided to make a difference in other people’s lives by serving in their communities. The initiative is part of Caleb Mission, a program across the eight South American Division countries to serve people in need.
Caleb Mission was launched in 2007 to get young people involved in outreach and mission initiatives. As time went by, however, adults and even seniors signed up for Caleb Mission activities, which include, among other things, cleaning main squares and schools, participating in blood drives, and organizing health fairs.
In the central region of Rio de Janeiro, 2,172 volunteers served at 56 different locations during the summer. In the southern region of the state there are 5,286 volunteers, and 2,100 in the north of Rio de Janeiro and the Lakes Region. In all, 9,558 people are using their vacation to carry out the initiative in more than 180 places.
“Our greatest expectation for each Caleb member is always spiritual,” Robson Pereira, Central Rio de Janeiro youth leader, said. “Their involvement in the mission meets the social needs of the community. In the southern part of the state capital, we have little Adventist presence, and we want to make a difference in these neighborhoods.”
In Imbariê, in Duque de Caxias, 272 volunteers served in three different places. Among other services, volunteers are hosting two Vacation Bible School programs for dozens of children. For these Caleb volunteers, age is no hindrance to serving. Proof of this is the service provided by Natalina da Silva de Vasconcelos, who at 82 years old is participating together with her 60-year-old daughter Norma S. Vasconcelos and 23-year-old granddaughter Maria Eduarda F. Vasconcelos.
“I watched stories about the Caleb Mission, and found out older people could also sign up this year, so I wanted to participate,” Natalina said. “I felt so happy about it. I really enjoyed visiting a support and recovery institute, where I studied the Bible with 34 people lodged there.”
Twenty-two-year-old Luana Feliciano Pinheiro moves around in a wheelchair. This year, she participated for the first time with her 15-year-old brother Luan. “I am part of a Pathfinder Club, where everyone invited me to be part of Caleb Mission. For me, being a Caleb member is an unforgettable adventure. After all, helping others is priceless!” Luana said.
In the Vila Isabel neighborhood, young volunteers donated blood and assisted the community in various capacities. In Duque de Caxias, volunteers cleaned around an apartment building and had around 100 children enrolled for a Vacation Bible School program.
In Botafogo, 50 Caleb volunteers cleaned a nearby beach. They also offered a Vacation Bible School program and organized recreational activities and games. They carried out painting jobs around the neighborhood.
In Copacabana, south of Rio de Janeiro, Caleb volunteers delivered water and outreach literature, organized special breakfasts for the homeless, and hosted recreation activities for children, offering a bouncy castle, a treasure hunt, popcorn, and balloons.
“Caleb volunteers are people who love making friends,” Pereira said. “But their strong spiritual commitment helps those who come in touch with them grow spiritually. True miracles happen when God’s Spirit works through them.”