Love personified: Refugees find a warm welcome in Brazil

By Christie R. House

Love 2 - Hailet
Photo: Mark Greathouse

Layla, a teacher from Venezuela, arrived in Brazil in November 2018 with her nine-year-old daughter, Hailet. They left home because their economic and living situation had become desperate.

Layla and Hailet joined an estimated 4 million Venezuelans who fled deteriorating conditions in their country. Although Layla received money from home, she wanted more independence for herself and her daughter.

The capital city of Roraima State, Boa Vista, is in northwestern Brazil, which borders Venezuela to its north and Guyana to the east.

As more Venezuelans crossed the border into Brazil, the Boa Vista secretary of labor and social welfare set up “Operation Welcome” to coordinate efforts to receive refugees and provide for their needs in army-run shelters. Layla and Hailet live in one of these shelters.

The Methodist Church in Boa Vista, pastored by Augusto Cardias, has been serving the refugee population in various ways since 2016. In May 2019, the Methodist Church in Brazil launched a national campaign called “Methodists welcome and care” to mobilize and organize churches that want to help resettle immigrant families across the country.

The enrolled churches commit to three months of care for a family, covering rent, food and basic necessities, helping with language and finding a job, and directing children and adolescents to public schools. At least seven local Methodist churches already care for displaced families in the states of São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Paraná.

Shade and Fresh Water

As the number of refugees and shelters grew in Boa Vista, the local Methodist church needed partners and resources to continue its ministry. The Brazilian Methodist Church applied for an UMCOR Global Migration grant through the Shade and Fresh Water program, a national Methodist program working with at-risk children and youth with roughly 60 projects across Brazil at any given time.

The Global Migration grant provides funding to support weekly activities and classes at the church as well as meals for women and children from two to three shelters. The grant also funded reconstruction of the roof and flooring in the refectory to provide a safe place in all kinds of weather, transportation services to and from the shelters and health kits for beneficiaries of the program.

Help from friends

Layla took a class to hone her baking skills. She received start-up money from another source to sell her baked goods. She uses the church’s kitchen three to four times a week to bake and then sells her goods in public spaces in the city and in the shelter. This has allowed her to provide for her daughter, who is going to school and adapting well to living in Brazil. Layla also started a part-time job working with children in the shelter.

Emily Everett, a Global Ministries missionary who works with Shade and Fresh Water in Belo Horizonte, visited the Boa Vista project recently. She had a chance to talk with Layla and Hailet and other beneficiaries in Boa Vista. Layla told her, “When I got here, I immediately wanted to resettle, but God has opened the door for me to work here and help the kids and I am so grateful for the church’s help. I will never be able to pay back the kindness you all have shown me.”

This year, through Global Ministries’ year-end giving campaign, you can Give Love to men and women like Layla who have fled their homes to provide for their families and rebuild their lives. Learn more about how to give.


Christie R. House is the senior editor/writer for Global Ministries.

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