‘The Maranata Convention Renewed My Hope,’ Flood Survivor in Brazil Says

Carolina Calegaro traveled to Brasilia to summon help for her flooded hometown.

Priscila Baracho, South American Division, and Adventist Review

The city of Alvorada in Brazil is part of the metropolitan region of Porto Alegre, the capital city of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. Alvorada was one of the cities affected by the massive floods in southern Brazil that began in late April and whose effects are ongoing.

Against all odds, Carolina Calegaro, a young Seventh-day Adventist science and biology teacher and youth leader at her local church, traveled to Brasilia to attend the 2024 Maranata South American Division youth convention after surviving the massive floods in Alvorada. Even though she and four friends had registered about a year ago, the last week of April brought bad news, and they thought they wouldn’t be able to attend. Due to the pouring rains and the consequent flood, the Porto Alegre airport was flooded and its runways closed indefinitely.

“We had already purchased our tickets, and everything was ready,” Carolina says. “Then, all of a sudden, our plans got thwarted.”

The home where Carolina lives with her mother and sister was flooded. Their bedroom, kitchen, and living room furniture was lost. The family managed to salvage a few items with the help of small boats and a backhoe. “We had never seen anything like this. The water reached our chests,” she says.

Carolina Calegaro (second from right) and other young participants from Rio Grande do Sul pose for a group photo at the BRB Mané Garrincha Arena. [Photo: Priscila Baracho]

Change of Plans

Facing the unimaginable, Carolina thought she would have to cancel. The fact that her family had lost everything left her wondering if she should travel. Also, her mother was going through chemotherapy treatment, and she thought she should stay home. Carolina met with friends to discuss their options, as the airport was closed and many roads in the area had suffered landslides.

With the encouragement of their families, now staying at a rented house in Porto Alegre, the group of young people decided to proceed and travel to the convention in Brasilia. Local Adventist leaders also supported those wishing to travel. “I felt sad and rather pessimistic, but I saw that God was opening doors, so I felt He really wanted us to be at the convention,” Carolina says.

In Alvorada, the local Adventist youth group Carolina leads is organizing a joint effort with other volunteers to clean the homes of people affected by the floods. The group has also visited a shelter in the city to sing and play games. “Carolina is one of those people who has made a difference in our region, and in much of our state,” Adilson Barros, pastor at the Vila Americana Adventist congregation, says. “It is something that ends up reflecting positively on other people’s lives.”

Elmar Borges, Adventist youth ministries director in the Adventist Church’s South Brazil Union Conference, highlighted the importance of mutual support and volunteering in the difficult times that Rio Grande do Sul is going through.

Carolina explains that she feels loved by God despite her ordeal. “Participating in the Maranata convention is like a breather for me, because I felt very sad, but this event is giving me joy and a renewal of my hope,” she says.

“Young people have mobilized to help each other. Many had seen their own homes destroyed, but they decided to step up and help others instead,” Borges says. A total of 300 Adventist young people from Rio Grande do Sul managed to travel to the Maranata convention, he reports.

Participants choose among various options for making donations that will become items to support those affected by the floods in Rio Grande do Sul. [Photo: Gustavo Leighton]

Solidarity Market

During the convention, at the booth of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), participants made donations that became food, hygiene, and cleaning items through a Solidarity Market. Touch-screen kiosks available at the site allowed donors to choose either a single product or a complete kit, so ADRA can continue working to support those affected by the floods in Rio Grande do Sul.

In total, ADRA collected 900 kits during the convention, the agency leaders says.

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

Priscila Baracho, South American Division, and Adventist Review