The summer pastime of Rio de Janeiro residents, when temperatures can reach over 40°C (104°F), is usually to go to the beach or another refreshing activity. However, almost 10,000 volunteers decided to make a difference in other people's lives during part of their vacation through social efforts with Caleb Mission.
Caleb Mission is a project of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that has existed since 2007. In the beginning, the massive participation was of young people, but currently, adults and seniors, as well as youth authorized by their guardians, also take part. The goal is to implement evangelistic efforts and social activities such as renovation and cleaning of squares, schools, stairways and homes, blood donations, and life and health fairs, among others.
In the central region of Rio de Janeiro, 2,172 Caleb volunteers are working in 56 different locations. In the southern region of the state, there are 5,286 volunteers; and 2,100 in the northern region, as well as Região dos Lagos. In all, 9,558 people are using their vacations to carry out the project spread over more than 180 locations.
"Our highest expectation for each Caleb is always spiritual. Their involvement in the mission provides for meeting the social needs of the communities. In the southern zone of the capital, we have little Adventist presence, and we want to make a difference in these neighborhoods. In each of the 56 points [in the central region of Rio de Janeiro], a strategy was drawn up to reach people in their primary needs, besides preaching the gospel of Jesus' love," says Robson Pereira, youth leader for the Adventist Church in the central region of Rio de Janeiro.
Three Generations of Missionaries
In Imbariê, a district in the municipality of Duque de Caxias, 272 volunteers are divided into three points. Two Vacation Bible Schools are taking place there simultaneously for dozens of children in Santa Lúcia and Jardim Nazareno. For these missionaries, age is no obstacle. Proof of this is Natalina da Silva de Vasconcelos (age 82), who participates with her daughter Norma S. Vasconcelos (60) and granddaughter Maria Eduarda F. Vasconcelos (23).
"I watched on TV Novo Tempo stories about Caleb Mission, and this year, I learned that older people could sign up, so I wanted to participate. I was very happy about it. I really enjoyed visiting the New Canaan Support and Recovery Institute and studying the Bible with the 34 inmates. I am loving participating in Caleb Mission. I hope to participate in others again!" exclaims Natalina.
Luana Feliciano Pinheiro (22) is wheelchair-bound and participating for the first time in Imbariê, with her brother Luan (15). "I am part of the Club of Desbravadores, and everyone was invited to participate in the Caleb Mission. For me, being a Caleb is an unforgettable adventure. After all, helping others is priceless!
In the Vila Isabel neighborhood, they donated blood and offered other services. In Duque de Caxias, in the Baixada Fluminense region, they cleaned the Carandiru condominium and had about 100 children participating in the Vacation Bible School in the same place. In Sarui, they have already baptized a young man; and in Pedras, they have organized a cleaning task force in the neighborhood.
Pastime for Good
In Botafogo, on Sunday, January 15, 50 Caleb volunteers started their clean-up activities on the beach. On Monday, the children from the Santa Marta community started their activities at the Vacation Bible School, which went through the Sabbath, with recreational activities and games from 9–11:30 a.m. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they upgraded the first block of steps of the staircases in the same community, painting the steps handrails.
On January 22, they held a health fair in the community's Arena court, from 9 a.m.–12 p.m., with the presence of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and psychologists with health and dietary specialties. Haircuts and legal advice were also provided.
In Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro's southern zone, volunteers carried out efforts on weekends that ranged from delivering water and missionary books to providing breakfast for homeless people, engaging in recreation with children, and donating hygiene kits for pets. On Sabbath afternoon, January 21, they conducted fun recreational activities for children at the Edmundo Bitencourt square in Copacabana, such as jumping jacks, painting, treasure hunts, and making balloons.
"Calebs are people who make friends easily; moreover, the group's influence helps the spiritual growth of those who joined the project 'by chance.' True miracles happen during the 15 days of the mission because the same Spirit that moved those spies [Joshua and Caleb—see Numbers 13] moves our Calebs in the current mission," concludes Pereira.
This Caleb Mission project began on January 14 and continued through the end of the month.
The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.