Transition… I confess that this word scares me a little, but we are in constant transition in our journey with Jesus. From time to time, we end seasons and start new ones. The important thing is to know when to end and begin them, so that our time is aligned with the Lord’s time, and we don’t walk in endless circles without arriving at the place and purpose He has for us. And even though transition scares me a little, as it brings new challenges, I still choose to go through it in order to arrive at and live in the place and purpose the Lord has for my life.
After five years of serving with Shores of Grace in Recife, this season came to an end. It was years full of learning and maturing, where my character was transformed through fire day after day (and in reality it still continues)! But throughout these years, I witnessed and experienced a love so deep and restorative, which transforms broken hearts, transforms lives, and is a love that makes the deepest darkness transform into light. I saw this happen in the lives of so many people who had been previously destroyed by prostitution, addictions, and so many other things. How grateful I am to God for being able to participate in what he has done in Recife!
As every season has a beginning and an end, last year the Lord began to tell me that this one was ending. At first, I was a little reluctant to accept, because I loved what I was doing, but the Lord continued to speak with me. After a time of prayer and conversations with our leadership, we understood that God was telling me that this season had ended and a new season was starting for me at Shores of Grace in Rio de Janeiro. So on April 9, 2021, I transitioned to the city of Rio de Janeiro.
And now a new season has begun: full of challenges, new discoveries, and a return to the beginning. Unlike Shores Recife, which is already well-developed in their work with evangelism and discipleship with men and women who came out of prostitution and at-risk situations, Shores Rio is just beginning to develop this work, and this was one of the main reasons for my transition there. At the time I am writing this, it has been exactly three months since I arrived in Rio de Janeiro: three months of many challenges and adaptations, but also three months in a new field with a new harvest – and the harvest is ready, just waiting to be collected!
The first month here was my chance to get to know the base, the people, the work, and what God is doing here. It was also a time for inner reflection, looking inside and saying, “Jesus, align everything that isn’t aligned in you, and give me the tools I need for this new season.” In fact, I’ve continued praying that prayer since then. I dealt with a lot of homesickness and various challenges in the first month. We often think that culture shock only exists when we move across the world, but it’s not true! Brazil is a very large country and has a variety of cultures; each region expresses itself and behaves in a different way. I learn more each day about adjusting to and respecting differences!
Unlike my time in Recife, where I dedicated my time only to our Father’s Love outreach (to men and women working in prostitution), in Rio de Janeiro, I am still helping with this in addition to Street Church and our intercession ministry. In my second month here, I started discipling two women from our Street Church outreach and a man (transvestite) from our Father’s Love outreach, who is currently working in prostitution.
Some notes about our Father’s Love outreach: every week we go to one of the red light districts to talk to the men and women working there. The reality in Rio is very different from what I saw in Recife. While in Recife most prostitutes are working because they are unable to get a job, in Rio Janeiro, most of the people I have spoken with have an academic background or a profession. There are, of course, also those who prostitute themselves because of poverty and still others that are working there because of their life circumstances, but many choose to prostitute themselves because they want to sustain a sophisticated standard of living.
Some notes about Street Church: every other week, we go to a location where several families live, and the majority of people there are children. In addition to this, we are doing weekly discipleship with two women, and one of them is the leader who keeps everything in order there. We have seen through eyes of faith what God is going to do through her life in Rio de Janeiro, and that was one of the reasons we started discipleship with her. It has been a time where God has shown us areas of her life that need to be healed and transformed; a time where Light will overcome the darkness.
In both areas, we have really lived out one of our core values, Urgency and Consistency, very intensely. Just as the beginning of every new journey requires a lot of dedication and effort, our new discipleship relationships haven’t been any different. At times we have encountered some resistance from them, but we know what is really behind it, as Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians. Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and we know that what has come against us are these powers. But we know there is a greater power, which is the power that comes through Jesus Christ, and intercession has been fundamental for those times of resistance. I have been battling through some spiritual warfare, together with my brothers and sisters here, in hopes that through our prayers, the Lord’s kingdom would be established in Rio de Janeiro. We understand that this battle is first won in the spiritual realm and only then can it come into existence in the natural. That is why we pray and act, as He has directed us.
Rio de Janeiro is a place that became known worldwide for its music (Bossa Nova), for Carnaval, and its women’s sensuality (in a very vulgar way), not to mention violence, drugs, and many other things. But I believe in the Lord’s redemption and transformation over this city through His love, and this has driven me to remain and follow what He has called me to do here. It’s not always easy to leave something that’s already working to start something from scratch, but it’s gratifying to know that even though you may be starting from nothing again, you’re living in the good and perfect will of God. It’s the best place to be!
Text by Shores Rio Missionary, Maria Neta
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