Carnival is Brazil’s annual “celebration of the flesh” before the initiation of Lent on the Catholic calendar. It’s a week long party where “anything goes” and every city in the country shuts down allowing full participation by the people.
The Vineyard churches combined efforts several years ago to begin “Christoval”, a retreat for youth, away from the city, with a focus on Jesus and having a lot of fun. It has been a great success, drawing kids toward Jesus and allowing an alternative to Carnival.
This year, the Vineyard churches opened two Christovals, one near Altamira and one near Porto de Moz. Both went really well. Our family participated in the latter, along with a team from our home church from Sunbury, Ohio. More than 80 youth hopped on the Xingu Mission boat for an hour ride from Porto de Moz to the campsite, located on the Xingu River, surrounded by mature rain forest. Over the next three days, they would have opportunity to connect with Jesus through lively worship and dynamic teaching, and also have times devoted to praying for one another. Many testimonies were shared after the weekend about how the experience was life-changing. I would like to share one such story with you.
“Ronaldo” is a 17 year old boy from Porto de Moz who went to Christoval for the first time. He had been a part of the Vineyard Church youth group. Two months ago he burglarized and vandalized two of the missionaries’ homes in this small river town. In these remote Amazon towns, the law is typically enforced in a “neighborly” way. The victim’s neighbors take care of the punishment. Fortunately for Ronaldo, he was caught by the police and his father, who was the ring leader, was jailed. Because of all of this, Ronaldo was pretty much alone the first day of Christoval. Kevin Van Hulle, one of the missionaries who was robbed, went up to Ronaldo and put his arm around him and told him that he loved him and forgave him. Then, at an invitation for those needing prayer, Ronaldo went forward and confessed his desire to give himself more to Jesus. Many youth along with the missionaries put their hands on Ronaldo and prayed for him. It was quite an emotional moment. Renato, one of the Brazilian pastors, asked publically, if everyone there forgave Ronaldo. In one voice, in Ronaldo’s presence, all enthusiastically verbalized that he was forgiven.
Ronaldo being prayed for by Renato (Brazilian Pastor) and Richie (missionary) in the presence of others
Reconciliation and a new beginning was realized in this precious one who had messed up. What a beautiful portrayal of a Kingdom not of this world, one that offers new Life to all who will come, no matter what they have done.