TT he year was 2017 and an 18-year-old girl was preparing for the entrance exam. The study routine was common to people of that age, but Erika Priscila Silva do Carmo had bigger dreams. A resident of the Terra Firme neighborhood, in Belém, do Pará, Brazil, considered peripheral and with a high level of violence, the place could be scary, but was unable to prevent Silva do Carmo from pursuing her goals.
It was during the worship service at her Adventist church that Silva do Carmo was faced with the opportunity to realize dreams she did not think were possible to achieve.
“I was in my church when pastors Marcos Sousa and Daniel Jennings presented the project Dreaming High to the youth,” she recalls. “It was there that I decided I wanted to participate.”
The initiative is from the Adventist Church's Publications Ministry, known colloquially as “canvassing.” This activity provides opportunities for young people to obtain resources to attend college and, at the same time, share messages of biblical truth, health, relationships, and education, for example.
Between the desire to fight for goals and the achievement of them, Silva do Carmo faced obstacles. The most painful of them, she says, was the fact that her mother did not understand the project.
“[She] thought that this story about leaving home to sell books with several young people was not right, and she threw me out of the house. We went three months without speaking,” she remembers with emotion. "My mother even said that if I followed up with the project, I was supposed to forget that I had a mother and that she was going to throw away my clothes."
In practice, another difficulty that Silva do Carmo encountered was communication. “I had a lot of difficulty because I was very shy, I didn't even know how to speak well, I spoke very wrong and I couldn't express myself properly. I wondered how I was going to get people to buy books from me with that shyness. But I had help from many people to learn.”
Silva do Carmo embarked on her first experience in 2017 and participated in two periods of work lasting five months each. She stayed with other young people who received training for a week and then were assigned to different regions.
“I remember that I left the house the first time with four reais (approx. US $0.72) in my pocket, a toothbrush, soap, and a little shampoo,” she says. “I was afraid, but at all times I also felt that I could trust God and that he would help me.”
Silva do Carmo continues: “I overcame my limitations and my fears and kept going, trusting that this was God's plan for me and that's why I was going to make it. The result was so good that I was a sales leader and led new teams for canvassing. With the money I earned, I started to help my mother with the expenses of the house and food, and managed to regain her trust and forgiveness. My mother also asked me for forgiveness for all the things she told me and said that she was afraid that I would make money and forget about studying."
Exceeding her mother's expectations, after achieving good results in the project, Silva do Carmo saved resources for the realization of another dream: to study outside her state.
“I managed to save money and have money to pay for college, and then I went to São Paulo in search of that dream,” she explains. “I spent a week at a cousin's house and then went to college with money for a whole semester. But I wanted to pay for the whole year, so I decided that I was going to canvass in São Paulo to get the rest.”
And so she did. Not only did Silva do Carmo pay for an entire year of college, but she was also asked to lead a project team in São Paulo. Today she is studying pedagogy at the Adventist University Center of São Paulo (UNASP), Hortolândia campus.
A bigger dream was also possible
Silva do Carmo made yet another promise to her mother, which she could hardly believe was very close to being achieved: to buy her a house with the money from the sale of books.
“At first, my mother didn't believe I could do it, but I knew that God would help me with this dream and we went out to look for a house to buy,” she describes.
It was then that the dream became possible and Silva do Carmo managed to buy the house in cash.
“In this search, we found a house with a very large plot, because I told her that I wanted a space to be able to build a pool. And also, she would have to be close to an Adventist church, because that is how I will be able to achieve my next dream,” she shares.
Her next dream? Silva do Carmo prays to God that her mother will give her heart to Jesus.