A Soccer Gym Transforms a Slum Neighborhood (for the better)
“Everybody is starting to know Jesus”
João Pessoa, Brazil
Read this story in conjunction with our 2019 Lenten Prayer Guide.
Sunday March 10, 2019
Father Souza de Franca leads a church in a rough neighborhood outside of João Pessoa in Northeastern Brazil. This church runs a soccer ministry, similar to that of the House of Hope in Recife, two hours to the south.
“When we first arrived here we saw that there was much poverty here. Wherever the church arrives, the light comes for the people. And not just with the Gospel but with everything that they need. For example, we knew that before we came, the gospel had not been spread here yet. So first, we started preaching the gospel through a soccer tournament that was held in the gym provided by ARDF.”
Similar to Rian at the House of Hope, children in the neighborhood were attracted to the gym and to the opportunity to place soccer. They found so much more.
Pastor Souza was a firefighter before he became a priest! And he jokes that he has gone from putting out fires to lighting fires for Jesus as he endeavors to ignite a passion for God in this community.
The community we visited did not seem like the stereotypical slum. We never felt that it was dangerous or that people were suspicious of us. The church has transformed this community by sharing the love of Christ. And it did this by providing a venue. The gymnasium is a tangible place that attracts the kids and their parents.
The church also operates a school. Both the school and the gym are part of Pastor Souza’s “Two Rail” theology. He explains:
“The Gospel should be spread on top of two rails. The first one is giving to them the bread that comes from the sky, that is Jesus Christ. The other rail is taking care of the necessities of the people around the church. They need material supplies. The gym is the bread that came from heaven. It’s what attracts the people so they can hear the Gospel. People around here are very poor. They didn’t have a gymnasium anywhere around and they didn’t have a chance to learn about the Gospel. But when we started promoting those soccer and volleyball tournaments, people started coming around and knowing about the church, the Gospel, and knowing about Jesus.”
ARDF is honored to have played a small part in the transformation of this community through its investment in the gymnasium.
“This gym has been a blessing for the children because the love of Jesus Christ is being shared. The blessing of this gym for us is so big that the Anglican Church and Gospel of Jesus has spread to the whole community around us. Everybody is starting to know Jesus because of this gymnasium.”