More than 400 people made decisions to follow Christ during our week-long outreach in São Paulo. Drug dealers, gang leaders, men, women and children passed from death unto life. Many were hungry for the Good News.
The response rate to the Gospel was close to 70% among the people we met and saw at our festivals! Well aware of the personal cost of following Jesus, gang members boldly stepped forward and made their decision public. It was amazing! Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Cor. 5:17.
The favelas (inner city slum areas) were extremely dangerous due to un-policed drug and gang activity, and we leaned heavily on our partners, Restoration Ministries for advice and logistics. Many of the staff came from backgrounds of theft, drugs and violence before meeting Christ. The ministry has built a positive relationship with the people in these areas through acts of love and kindness shown to area’s poor families over the years.
New believers are already being discipled, and all of the recent decisions for Christ will have a lasting impact on communities. Eleven new churches have already been established in the favelas and more will be started soon.
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Personal Testimony from Matt Maceira
At the first favela, we were doing a gospel presentation. There was a gang leader and a group of drug users outside the window of the building we were in. They were smoking dope and blowing the smoke into the building we were using. I smelled the smoke and went to see what was up. Tara came with me. We were literally feet from where they were using drugs and we started to pray that they would come to know Jesus. We prayed until the moment we had to go do our drama.
After our presentation, Irini from Restoration Ministries called me outside. She had someone for me to meet. It was the gang leader, the one selling drugs outside.
I started to share my testimony with him, presented the Gospel, and let him know the truth about what Jesus Christ had done for him already. I told him how being a gangster ultimately leads to death, loss of everything and eternal separation from Jesus Christ. I told him how I lost everything, and ended up on the street. From God’s Word, I let him know how much God loved him. Then I asked him the most important question any believer can ask another human being: “Today, do you want to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?” He said yes!
The young man that was with him knew the Lord but had gone back to his old ways. I told him that I understood because I had done the same thing. Today, he could re-dedicate his life to the Lord and turn away from these things. They both made decisions to follow Christ that day!
After I walked away, the gang leader continued talking to Igor, and other staff members at Restoration Ministries. He told Igor, “My whole life, all I’ve been is a gangster. All I’ve ever wanted to be was a gangster. Now that’s all over. I have a new life in Jesus!”
Another day, I was called outside by Pastor William, who wanted me to talk to a group of people. George was the gang leader, and there were five of his drug dealers with him. A shopkeeper also listened as I shared my testimony in great detail. I told them what my life was like before Jesus and what my life is like now with Jesus as my Savior. I shared the Gospel with them and the truth of God’s Word. “While I was a sinner, Christ died for me. While I was His enemy, Christ died for me. And He did the same thing for them.”
After 45 minutes, I asked them if they would like to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. George said, “Here’s the thing, I still hurt people, I still sell drugs, I still use drugs.” I told him, “Bro, it was the same for me. God met me right where I was, using drugs, selling drugs, being a gang leader, and hurting people. So, I totally get it.” I asked him again. “George, today, God says today is the day of salvation, today do you want to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? As soon as you do, all of His promises are in place, just like for me. To anyone that says ‘yes’ to the free gift of salvation, God will accomplish the work He starts in each one of us. He will change you from the inside out.” We prayed with them and each one accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior!
The next day I saw George and he came running out to the street, smiling with tears running down his face. He said to me, “You know, we are connected forever in the heart.” I told him, “Yes, here, and for all eternity!” He hugged me.
Less than 24 hours before, this man had the heart of a stone-cold killer, just like me, before I met Christ. I had a murderous heart. Just like Jesus did for me, He changed everything for George! God’s transformative power took hold of this man’s heart and softened it from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. It was absolutely amazing to behold God’s limitless power!
Throughout the week, we were given opportunity after opportunity. Men, women, and children said ‘Yes’ to God’s love and forgiveness. Gang leaders, drug dealers and those chained in the midst of addiction, moved from darkness to light. It was an absolutely amazing moment in time I will never forget. The Lord is now taking all of my past and using it to bring glory to Himself in the middle of a lost, dying world. –Matt