We’re going to pick up now where we left off on Monday:
We got up to São Paulo on Saturday evening and met Pastor Hebe at the church there in Moraes Prado. We were in São Paulo from Saturday night though the following Thursday. Most of the ministry that we saw was the result of the ministry of Pastor Nathan Fray, a BMM missionary who grew up in Sao Paulo and returned there. All three of the independent churches we visited had been planted by Pastor Nathan and are now nationalized. He has begun a fourth church, which Emily and I, as well as most of the others on our team, visited on Sunday morning. The Pittmans went to Igreja Batist Betel, where Pastor Ulysses is. Sunday evening we all went to Moraes Prado for a Christmas Cantata, which the four churches had gotten together to put on. It was a huge outreach, and the church was packed full. Brandon Bell and I both gave our testimonies at this cantata (in Portuguese!) and Cleverson gave an evangelistic challenge.
After church we went out for Brazilian pizza with a bunch of young people from Moraes Prado. Before we left for pizza the power went out in the church. We were hoping it would come back on before the morning, but we were told it would not be uncommon for it to be out for quite a while. The restaurant had many kinds of pizza, all very different from what we’re used to. It was AMAZING! We even had a pizza that was chocolate and banana! When we got back to the church the power was back on, for which we were very thankful.
Monday we spent touring downtown São Paulo. What a city! To say São Paulo is huge is an understatement! If I was to relate everything we saw that day, it would take several pages of text, so I’ll try to keep it a little more brief than that. Some of the most significant things we saw included:
* The Catholic Church. The main cathedral in São Paulo is called Catedral da Sé de São Paulo and it was very large and very sad. Below you can find a link to view pictures taken of the Cathedral. The Cathedral is set up for tourism and homage. People come not only as we did, as outsiders to see a building, but also as Catholics from all over the region to worship, confess, and seek penance. We were told that you could buy plots in heaven by giving to the Catholic Church. There was a whole area set aside inside the Cathedral for the sale of what we know as indulgences. It was very sad to see so many people so committed to a façade of demonism.
* Pentecostal Churches. Driving down any given street, we would likely see several Pentecostal churches. Pentecostalism in Brazil is growing rapidly as the Catholic Church begins to decline. There are a variety of reasons for this, but a major thing to remember when we talk about the Pentecostal church in Brazil is that it is drastically different than what we are familiar with here in America. On one of our flights home, we sat next to a humanistic Brazilian economist who explained some things about Brazil from his perspective. He told us that the Pentecostal churches in Brazil have leadership (pastors) who are considered above the law. The major Pentecostal churches are denominational in nature, with one main man at the top of the church. He’s often the one who is broadcast on TV or such. And because of his authority and influence, that leader is usually being influenced by the gangs and drug lords. There are only a few major “brands” of Pentecostal churches in Brazil, none of which are found here in America (although the Assembléias de Deus has close connections with the Assembly of God denomination here in America).
* Favelas. Favelas are the ghetto areas of Brazil. People are moving to the cities of Brazil from other areas and can’t get better land, so they construct houses that are practically on top of each other. We stayed that whole week at the church of Moraes Prado, which is in a favela. These favelas are poor areas, often heavily controlled by gangs. The Brazilian government is trying to clean up many of the favelas before the Olympics in 2016. Both the needs and opportunities in the favelas are many.
* Altino Arantes Building. This building houses a Brazilian bank, but more importantly it is the 4th tallest building in São Paulo. This makes it an ideal place from which to see the city. The top of the building is open to tours, which we took advantage of. Getting to the top of the building was quite a process. There are two separate elevators to get to the top. The first elevator took us up the first 20 stories or so and the second elevator took us up about another 11 stories Then we had to climb the last 5 stories ourselves, up a set of staircases. The view from the top was quite amazing. It was an overcast day when we visited, but we could still see a long way – the view was unbelievable. Every direction we looked we saw nothing but other skyscrapers. We couldn’t even see out to the residential areas – in any direction! To think that the city went out so much farther than we could even see!