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Local church saves lives as deadly floods strike Brazil

Local churches have been leading the response after the worst flooding in a generation caused devastating mudslides.

Gideon Heugh | 14 Jun 2022

Destruction caused by floods in Brazil. Credit: Instituto Solidaire

Evandro Alves has seen floods before in Brazil, but never like this. ‘This was the worst,’ he says. ‘There have been three major floods in Recife. However, [our church] is nearly 100 years old, and has never been impacted like this.’

On 28 May, extreme rainfall hit the state of Pernambuco, north-east Brazil. Rivers, streams and canals quickly overflowed, flooding surrounding neighbourhoods. And then the ground began to fall away. The rains triggered mudslides, wiping out many of the poorer communities that are built on hillsides. At least 129 people were killed, and more than 9,000 people were made homeless.

Saving lives

Evandro works for Coqueiral Baptist Church, who have been partnering with Tearfund in the region for 16 years. Flooding has long been an issue with the Tejipió River, and for years the church has been training groups in how to prepare for and respond to emergencies like this.

As soon as it became clear that a huge disaster was unfolding, these groups swung into action to get people to safety – even before firefighters managed to reach the affected areas. Although the work has been incredibly difficult, with many streets and alleys inaccessible, these groups have saved more than 400 lives.

‘We are assisting families who have lost everything they had.’
Pastor José, Coqueiral Baptist Church

Supporting families

The local government has offered help by opening schools to provide shelter for people who have lost their homes. But in Coqueiral, the closest school is more than a mile away. So the church took matters into its own hands, becoming a focal point for people in need and offering food, blankets and shelter.

‘We want to support at least 2,000 families,’ says Pastor José, who leads the church. ‘The situation here is very difficult. I'm not even able to think about tomorrow, I am just thinking about today. How we will respond this morning, how we will respond this afternoon. Because the situation is still an emergency. We are assisting families who have lost everything they had.’

So far, 12,000 meals have been distributed, along with more than 1,569 cleaning kits and two tons of clothing. Through the Brazilian Evangelical Alliance, Tearfund is planning to support a further 80 churches in Pernambuco like Pastor José’s.

Ongoing danger

The response from the church has been extraordinary, but the situation remains dangerous. The rains have continued to fall throughout the week. ‘There are still several points of flooding in the city,’ says Cassiano Luz, from the Evangelical Alliance. ‘[There have been] more collapsed houses and a lot of fear among the population that has already dealt with a great trauma.’

Please join us in prayer for the people of Pernambuco.

Pray with us

‘After such a tragedy caused by the heavy rains, I think it will take a while to use the term “Rains of Blessings” used by the Prophet Ezekiel,’ says Alberto Lins, who helps lead Tearfund’s work with churches in Brazil. ‘This was the first time in my whole life that I prayed to the Lord to cease the rains and for the strong sun to reach our homes, dry our tears, warm our hearts and bring us hope for a different tomorrow.’

Add your own prayers to Alberto’s, asking for an end to the rain, for the sun to dry up the floodwaters, and for new hope to come. Pray for comfort for people who have lost everything. And pray for people like Evandro and Pastor José, who are working around the clock to bring relief to those in need.

  Gideon Heugh


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