December 18, 2007 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil….Rajmund Dabrowski/ANN

A nationwide Christmas celebration brought tears of joy and shouts of excitement from volunteers and national celebrities during the December 15 culmination of a Seventh-day Adventist Church initiative to help those in need.

“Tonight we did the unexpected and broke last year's record of collecting 2,500 tons of food for the needy. The result tonight is 3,200 tons,” announced Sergio Azevedo, the creator of “Christmas Mutirão — Sharing Hope,” the 14-year old joint action of thousands of volunteers in local Adventist churches across Brazil.

The event was broadcast from Rio de Janeiro's Botafogo Adventist Church to an international audience on the church's Hope Channel.

The celebration of local community action across the country involved teams of volunteers in local congregations competing in three areas: writing and performing a brief Christmas pageant, choosing a service project in the local community and collecting food for local Adventist Development and Relief Agency's food banks. A jury comprising community leaders and household names from government, business and entertainment were on hand along with church leaders to serve as the event's judges. Among them was president of the Adventist world church, Pastor Jan Paulsen.

“What a wonderful achievement we are celebrating tonight,” Paulsen said of the Christmas Mutirão. “What a testament to the power of working together, with a shared vision for making our community a better place.”

“Mutirão” is a Brazilian Portuguese expression used to describe a collective service project.

“For us, the reward is seeing the smiles of these families and children when we give them the food,” said Benivaldo Ramos, a team leader at the Botafogo Adventist Church. “For some families, it may be the only quality food they have all year. Our reward is giving them a Christmas without hunger.”

The jury recognized a community health project in the Babilonia and Chapeu Mangueira slums in Rio de Janeiro. The initiative has been tested and implemented within the last few months and involves promoting nutrition and seeking the improvement of quality of life.

A presentation of the Rio Youth Choir joined by the children of the notorious and famed 20,000 Rocinha Favella in Rio de Janeiro, introduced a social responsibility project involving children reaching out to children.

“These children changed the lives of our team,” said one of the presenters.

The presentations resonated with Paulsen when he commended the church. “Christianity without compassion is empty. Without compassion — that deep, motivating compassion of our Lord — our religion is nothing.”

“The most effective Christians are more familiar with the streets of their neighborhoods than with the pews of their church,” he said.

The celebration broadcast brought numerous declarations of support, pledges of donations and endorsements for the project. Azevedo, the program's creator, introduced each juror, inviting them to share how they had participated. Geraldo Alkmin, former governor of São Paulo and presidential candidate in recent elections, was joined by his wife, Lu, and said the initiative of Seventh-day Adventists is an example of leadership responding to poverty in Brazil.

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Milton Afonso also participated. A contingent of film and theatre stars was warmly welcomed by the audience, and included television actor and comedian Helga Nemeczk. She burst into tears during her testimony, which included an a cappella Christmas carol and an admission of having an Adventist heritage and being proud of “her” church making a stand for the poor.

This year's Christmas Mutirão included church leaders from several South American countries, including Peru, Argentina and Ecuador. Church leaders from the former Soviet Union also participated. “We want to see how we could implement this vision in our churches there,” said Guillermo E. Biaggi, treasurer of the church's Euro-Asia region headquartered in Moscow.

President Paulsen said he wished the initiative would “gain a momentum and strength until it is touching lives in every part of the globe.”

A nationwide Christmas celebration brought tears of joy and shouts of excitement from volunteers and national celebrities during the December 15 culmination of a Seventh-day Adventist Church initiative to help those in need.

“Tonight we did the unexpected and broke last year's record of collecting 2,500 tons of food for the needy. The result tonight is 3,200 tons,” announced Sergio Azevedo, the creator of “Christmas Mutirão — Sharing Hope,” the 14-year old joint action of thousands of volunteers in local Adventist churches across Brazil.

The event was broadcast from Rio de Janeiro's Botafogo Adventist Church to an international audience on the church's Hope Channel.

The celebration of local community action across the country involved teams of volunteers in local congregations competing in three areas: writing and performing a brief Christmas pageant, choosing a service project in the local community and collecting food for local Adventist Development and Relief Agency's food banks. A jury comprising community leaders and household names from government, business and entertainment were on hand along with church leaders to serve as the event's judges. Among them was president of the Adventist world church, Pastor Jan Paulsen.

“What a wonderful achievement we are celebrating tonight,” Paulsen said of the Christmas Mutirão. “What a testament to the power of working together, with a shared vision for making our community a better place.”

“Mutirão” is a Brazilian Portuguese expression used to describe a collective service project.

“For us, the reward is seeing the smiles of these families and children when we give them the food,” said Benivaldo Ramos, a team leader at the Botafogo Adventist Church. “For some families, it may be the only quality food they have all year. Our reward is giving them a Christmas without hunger.”

The jury recognized a community health project in the Babilonia and Chapeu Mangueira slums in Rio de Janeiro. The initiative has been tested and implemented within the last few months and involves promoting nutrition and seeking the improvement of quality of life.

A presentation of the Rio Youth Choir joined by the children of the notorious and famed 20,000 Rocinha Favella in Rio de Janeiro, introduced a social responsibility project involving children reaching out to children.

“These children changed the lives of our team,” said one of the presenters.

The presentations resonated with Paulsen when he commended the church. “Christianity without compassion is empty. Without compassion — that deep, motivating compassion of our Lord — our religion is nothing.”

“The most effective Christians are more familiar with the streets of their neighborhoods than with the pews of their church,” he said.

The celebration broadcast brought numerous declarations of support, pledges of donations and endorsements for the project. Azevedo, the program's creator, introduced each juror, inviting them to share how they had participated. Geraldo Alkmin, former governor of São Paulo and presidential candidate in recent elections, was joined by his wife, Lu, and said the initiative of Seventh-day Adventists is an example of leadership responding to poverty in Brazil.

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Milton Afonso also participated. A contingent of film and theatre stars was warmly welcomed by the audience, and included television actor and comedian Helga Nemeczk. She burst into tears during her testimony, which included an a cappella Christmas carol and an admission of having an Adventist heritage and being proud of “her” church making a stand for the poor.

This year's Christmas Mutirão included church leaders from several South American countries, including Peru, Argentina and Ecuador. Church leaders from the former Soviet Union also participated. “We want to see how we could implement this vision in our churches there,” said Guillermo E. Biaggi, treasurer of the church's Euro-Asia region headquartered in Moscow.

President Paulsen said he wished the initiative would “gain a momentum and strength until it is touching lives in every part of the globe.”

Image by Image by ANN. Ray Dabrowski/ANN
Image by Image by ANN Ray Dabrowski/ANN

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