Brazil (MNN) -- Brazil is considered to be a developing country. Yet, in the last few decades, Southeast Brazil has prospered. This wealthy side of Brazil is what the rest of the world knows. So why is it a developing
Northeast Brazil is very poor. In some ways, it's a different country altogether.
We spoke with Jose Carrasco, the director of South America for Compassion International.
"The Northeast of Brazil is definitely not like the Southeast," Carrasco says.
"The problem with Brazil is disparity, and also the amount of people that are not part of the success of the economy Brazil has had in the last decades."
Far from the big cities, extremely poor communities exist, similar to the poorest places of Africa and Asia.
"The poverty is really, really amazing," Carrasco says. "The people don't have running water, they have disease, they have infant mortality that is really, really high. And if you compare that with a city like Sao Paulo in the southeast of Brazil, it's like night and day."
This area of Brazil presents no opportunities--educational, economical or otherwise--to its residents. According to Compassion, northeast Brazil has a higher concentration of murders than New York City, Detroit, and Chicago combined. "Poverty brings a lot of bad behaviors," Carrasco says, explaining that years of oppression have stunted opportunity.
The people of this region have very little hope for a better future and a very little sense of worth. Their living conditions have received little attention, and there has been little help. Carrasco says, "Very few people in the southeast of Brazil--which is the Brazil that most of the world knows--understand this and know about this."
These people live in spiritual darkness, as well. One city in which Compassion is working, Codó, is the center of the African black magic religion, Macumba. Carrasco says it is very similar to voodoo in Haiti.
"Black magic happens all over that area, and it's very, very strong. We have brought the Gospel there, and to our amazement (I imagine God had it all planned that way), we have been able to present the Gospel openly.
"It hasn't been resisted...from the different communities. They've been open to the Gospel. We have opened many projects throughout, and we're focusing on bringing the Gospel to them through our projects."
These projects--child development centers--are made possible through partnerships with the local churches. The passion for these people is strong from both Compassion and the churches. Because the churches are small, however, they do not have means to implement the same programs that Compassion has in other areas.
Despite this, the childhood development centers address the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of the children. Parents send their children here because of the opportunities, not caring that the Gospel will be shared. Often times, the children bring back the Gospel to their homes and share it with their families.
Compassion wants to spread the news about this part of Brazil so that they can offer the communities more opportunities for a better life.
Soon they want to start providing programs for children 3-5 years old.
Carrasco says he recently presented the needs of northeast Brazil to churches in the United States and the UK.
This advocacy is key to expanding the ministry in northeast Brazil. "We have done all this and, obviously, I will say that you should do the same--presenting this to more audiences so they will understand the needs of Brazil."
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