South American Division

"Without friendship, there is no Christianity", says a man who transformed the community

With his charisma, Cledevaldo implemented the Evangelize Brincando project to talk about Christ to his neighbors.

Cuiabá, Brazil
Dayane Nascimento
SAD 116 %22Without friendship, there is no Christianity%22, says a man who transformed the community

SAD 116 %22Without friendship, there is no Christianity%22, says a man who transformed the community

A field of sand and gravel next to the church, ball, board games, a speaker playing songs from decades-old recordings of the King’s Heralds quartet, willingness, and the desire to talk about the love of Jesus. It was in this way that, in 2013, Cledevaldo Paixão aroused the interest of residents of the neighborhood of Dr. Fábio Leite I, in Cuiabá, which is not only the capital of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso but also is the geographic center of the South American continent.

Paixão had lived there for a long time and the contrast troubled his heart: despite being a neighborhood full of young people, few had heard about the love of God. To change this, he used the only resources he had: friendship and willingness.

The plan was simple: provide leisure activities for young people. With few other options, the community welcomed the offer. Parents accompanied their children. Soon, a significant group of people assembled on Sunday afternoons. Thus, the Evangelize Brincando project was born.

“Before we started and when we finished playing soccer, volleyball, or doing any other activity, I invited everyone to pray. At this time, the rules were dictated very clearly: no bad words, bad behavior, or fights. The activities ended around 5 p.m. and I invited them to come back and participate in the Sunday night service since the church was next door,” Paixão said.

There were years of meetings, fun, friendships, and disciple-making. From the project, a small group emerged. At least seven people studied the Bible and were baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church due to Paixão’s initiative.

“I have always believed that without friendship there is no Christianity. And that in order to make friends we need to respect people's lifestyles, even when we don't agree with the choices they make,” Paixão explained. “When someone brought beer or cigarettes, for example, I gently reinforced that our meetings were different, the space [was] Christian and suggested that they not bring it again. The person came back next Sunday and didn't bring any more.”

Father in the faith

Raysllan Costa lived in a nearby neighborhood, learned about recreation program, and decided to participate. “I remember it was in 2015. I was 15 years old and I definitely didn't want to know about the church,” he recalled.

Costa said he was very shy, with little conversation and that, at that time, he started to have his first contact with alcohol. “But I felt welcomed by those people, who showed me how happy it is to serve God. I was impressed with the fact that there is no competition or that people do not fight during football games,” he noted.

It was in getting to know Paixão that Raysllan became inspired to seek God. “He is very friendly and charismatic. Gradually, I was dealing with my shyness and soon I found myself going to ask for his advice. When I felt lost, he said: ‘don't give up on God. Pray, read the Bible and whenever you need someone to talk to, you can come to me,’” Costa said.

Raysllan started studying the Bible and was baptized about a year later. “I chose January 10, 2016, because it was close to my birthday on January 12,” he explains. “We made decoration and prepared a cake for him. It was very exciting,” recalls Paixão.

Right after the baptism, the boy's mother took the hands of his “father in the faith”, looked him in the eyes, and very firmly reinforced the importance of what had just happened, asserting: “You are responsible for my son starting today!”

Even after so many years, they are still present in each other's lives. “He accompanied me through difficult periods and supported me even when I went to preach for the first time. Cledevaldo is very important to me! He is my father in the faith! With him, I learned that friendship is more than a method of evangelism, it is a gift,” reflects Raysllan.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s Portuguese news site

Subscribe for our weekly newsletter