BRAZIL: New Record for Nationwide Christmas Food Collection Initiative
Nearly one-third more food donated than expected;
Paulsen thanks volunteers
COMMENDATION: Geraldo Alckmin, presidential candidate and former governor of São Paulo, and his wife, Lu, commend Adventist Church member Sergio Azevedo, who created “Christmas Mutirão” 14 years ago. The program raised 3,200 tons of food this year for local food banks to help Brazilians in need.nationwide Christmas celebration in Brazil brought tears of joy and shouts of excitement from volunteers and national celebrities during the December 15 culmination of a Seventh-day Adventist Church initiative to help those in need.
“Tonight we did the unexpected and broke last year’s record of collecting 2,500 tons of food for the needy. The result tonight is 3,200 tons,” announced Sergio Azevedo, the creator of “Christmas Mutirão—Sharing Hope,” the 14-year-old joint action of thousands of volunteers in local Adventist churches across South America’s largest nation.
The event was broadcast from Rio de Janeiro’s Botafogo Adventist Church to an international audience on the church’s Hope Channel.
The celebration of local community action across the country involved teams of volunteers in local congregations competing in three areas: writing and performing a brief Christmas pageant, choosing a service project in the local community, and collecting food for local Adventist Development and Relief Agency food banks. A jury comprising community leaders and household names from government, business, and entertainment was on hand along with church leaders to serve as the event’s judges. Among those was president of the Adventist world church, Pastor Jan Paulsen.
“What a wonderful achievement we are celebrating tonight,” Paulsen said of the Christmas Mutirão. “What a testament to the power of working together with a shared vision for making our community a better place.”
Mutirão is a Brazilian Portuguese expression used to describe a collective service project.
COMPASSION: Adventist world church president, Jan Paulsen, at the Botafogo Adventist Church in Rio de Janeiro, thanked volunteers and church members for their “compassion” and commitment to serving the community. Williams Costa, Jr., left, an associate communication director for the Adventist Church, translates.“For us, the reward is seeing the smiles of these families and children when we give them the food,” said Benivaldo Ramos, a team leader at the Botafogo Adventist Church. “For some families, it may be the only quality food they have all year. Our reward is giving them a Christmas without hunger.”
The jury recognized a community health project in the Babilonia and Chapéu Mangueira slums in Rio de Janeiro. The initiative has been tested and implemented within the past few months and involves promoting nutrition and seeking the improvement of quality of life.
A presentation of the Rio Youth Choir joined by the children of the notorious and famed 20,000 Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro introduced a social responsibility project involving children reaching out to children.
The presentations resonated with Paulsen when he commended the church: “Christianity without compassion is empty. Without compassion—that deep, motivating compassion of our Lord—our religion is nothing.”
“The most effective Christians are more familiar with the streets of their neighborhoods than with the pews of their church,” he said.
CHOIR: A children’s choir comprising members of the Rio Youth Choir and children of the Rocinha favela district perform for the December 15 celebration broadcast internationally on the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Hope Channel.The celebration broadcast brought numerous declarations of support, pledges of donations, and endorsements for the project. Azevedo, the program’s creator, introduced each juror, inviting them to share how they had participated. Geraldo Alckmin, former governor of São Paulo and presidential candidate in recent elections, was joined by his wife, Lu, and said the initiative of Seventh-day Adventists is an example of leadership responding to poverty in Brazil.
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Milton Afonso also participated. A contingent of film and theater stars, including television actress and comedian Helga Nemeczk, was warmly welcomed by the audience. She burst into tears during her testimony, which included an a cappella Christmas carol and an admission of having an Adventist heritage and being proud of “her” church making a stand for the poor.
This year’s Christmas Mutirão included church leaders from several South American countries, including Peru, Argentina, and Ecuador. Church leaders from the former Soviet Union also participated.
—Rajmund Dabrowski, director of communication, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.