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Pa. church builds in Brazil

November 07, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - With 165 million people and a gross domestic product of almost $1 trillion, Brazil is an economic superpower in South America, but one with huge disparities between the beachfront wealth of Rio de Janeiro and teeming slums like Jambeiro.

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About 200 miles north of Sao Paulo is Campinas, a city of almost 1 million. In October, 17 members of the Chambersburg First Church of God paid their own way to venture to that city's Jambeiro neighborhood to build a sister church and minister to its people.

About 70 percent of Brazil's population is Catholic, but a large number of residents belong to no church. The Protestant Biblical Good News Church is small, with about 20 members, according to the Rev. Earl Mills of First Church of God. "There's still a lot of room for spiritual growth in Brazil," he said Sunday.

Eight men from the Chambersburg church worked 11 days to complete the foundation for the church, while nine women spread the Gospel at several events during the visit.

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"If the labor is donated, the first stage will cost about $20,000 for materials," Mills said. A deceased member of the congregation left a bequest that was used as seed money for the church.

The First Church of God paid for the land and the initial construction work, and it is supporting the pastor for at least one year, Mills said. The Church of God denomination supports a missionary from Texas for the church.

The home to about 10,000 families, much of Jambeiro is made up of shanties built from corrugated metal and scrap wood. Mills described the sewer system as "an open ditch."

"There were no windows in a lot of the houses. Some of the area I canvassed did not have electricity or doors," said Sharon Faubel. Where there were windows, many had bars because of the high crime rate, she said.

Tammy Fahnestock, a nurse at Chambersburg Hospital, said houses were surrounded by brick or block walls for security. Faubel, a housewife, said guard dogs were common.

Despite the poverty and crime, Fahnestock said, "We were well-received there. It was truly a blessing." She, Faubel and the other women conducted a clown ministry, performed skits and showed a Portuguese-language documentary film on the life of Jesus.

Throughout Brazil there are millions of street children. Twenty-eight of them live at the Pathway to Freedom Boys' Home, where the Chambersburg women took their ministry. On another day they entertained about 200 children at a church for Children's Day, a national holiday in Brazil, according to Faubel.

Meanwhile, the men from the church were working in the equatorial heat to complete the foundation. That included digging 29 holes 30 feet deep and filling them with reinforced concrete, according to Jerry Byers, a carpet and tile layer on his first mission trip.

Mills said the church has previously sent members to work in Haiti and a Navaho reservation. For the past two years it has sponsored the Chambersburg Project, rehabilitating homes in Franklin County.

Congregation members in Brazil will be responsible for completing the first stage of the church.

"Hopefully, I can go down again in a couple of years and see the result of it," Byers said.

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