Christland! Wow, that’s a catchy name, isn’t it? Christland is the English translation of a Brazilian ministry called “Cristolandia”. Cristolandia is supported and overseen by the Brazilian Baptist Missions Board. The ministry began when a preacher, Fernando Brandão was invited to speak at a church in downtown São Paulo, Brazil. Fernando got lost on his way and found himself in a neighborhood ironically named Elysian Fields, but which had since been labeled “Cracolandia” (Crackland), a no-man’s land of crack users and dealers in the heart of downtown São Paulo.
Fernando’s heart was broken by what he saw: men and women living, sleeping, and eating on the sidewalks and streets of an industrial wasteland where each day was a fight for survival and a few more Reais to buy crack for that day’s drug high. Fernando determined at that time to do something about it, and together with other Christians they began a project they named “Christland” (Cristolandia) to turn the land of crack into the land of Christ.
If you have the time you can watch a video of Christland’s beginnings in São Paulo. Even if you can’t watch the whole video, watch at least the first five minutes. It’ll give you an idea of the challenges ministries like Christland and Jesus in the Streets face, but also the possibility for dramatic transformation in the lives of men and women bound by the chains of chemical dependency. To all the world, oftentimes even to their families, they are lost. But they are the very ones for whom Jesus came to this world.
Today there are Christland centers in 7 state capitals in Brazil. We are fortunate to have an exemplary center in Recife. They are our main partner in helping men and women to first of all find Christ and the freedom and transformation He brings, and through Him release from chemical dependency and a new direction for their lives. Each center is organized around a downtown location where anyone with need can get a free meal, shower, change of clothing and worship and pray and receive counseling. Those who are seeking to overcome dependency issues, after a brief period of evaluation then proceed to one of the inland centers like Paudalho.
I regularly teach in both the downtown and Paudalho centers where I often run into some of our ex-Derby members. This Monday I spent the day at Christland’s “Center for Christian Transformation” in Paudalho, about an hour outside of Recife. In the morning I taught about thirty interns and in the afternoon the half dozen men who serve as monitors for the group.
These men are so hungry for God’s word! It’s a joy to teach people who’ve learned, many of them the hard way, that the Gospel really is “the words of eternal life” as Peter confessed in John 6:68.
While I was at Christland I had the opportunity to spend some time with our brother Edson. Many of you will remember Edson. He was one of the first men to come to Christ through the Jesus in the Streets ministry. Edson had been on the streets, dependent on drugs and alcohol for seven years when we first met him. The Lord used our ministry, the Boa Vista church, and some special brethren like our sister Ana Valeria to help Edson get back on his feet, get a job, and find a new life.
Unfortunately, after about seven years Edson lost his job, got involved with people who were not a good influence on him, and lost his way. He eventually lost everything he had, wound up back on the street, back on crack and alcohol again. That went on for almost two years. We all continued to pray for Edson, visit with him, and encourage him that the Lord had not given up on him. Praise the Lord, a little over a month ago Edson accepted an invitation to go to Christland. Please pray he, and all the other men in Paudalho will persevere in their new walk with Christ to find the real, lasting transformation that Jesus can bring into our lives.
I’ve asked for prayers for Edson a few times since he fell away. Thanks so much for your prayers! If sometimes I don’t share more of the “bad” news, like Edson’s persistence on the street, forgive me. It’s my lack of faith. I don’t want you to be too discouraged with these setbacks. But, please know that this is a regular part of this kind of ministry. Breaking free from addiction is a long, challenging process, fraught with setbacks. But, with Jesus it is possible. Anything is possible! I can’t guarantee Edson won’t fall back again. But one thing I believe – he will eventually make it. And your prayers are making all the difference in the world.
God bless you and keep on praying!