UMVIM Team from St. Paul's UMC Serves Refugees in Brazil

February 14, 2023
One of our conference’s most recent UMVIM international trips was to the border between Brazil and Venezuela, working with the Pela Cruz Methodist Church to serve the needs of refugees moving from Venezuela into Brazil.  This is an on-going partnership among Methodists from diverse backgrounds, uniting to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of displaced people looking for a home.
The purpose of the VIM trip from St. Paul’s UMC in Helena, MT is to continue building relationships with Pela Cruz Methodist church and Pastor Augusto and Pastor Marcia in Boa Vista, Brazil, by continuing helping with their construction of the congregation’s kitchen and dining area, and by joining with them and their efforts of offering assistance and relief to Venezuelan refugees.

Pela Cruz Methodist Church has responded to the Venezuelan refugee situation in Brazil since it began in 2018. At the invitation of Pastor Augusto and Pastor Marcia, VIM teams from Saint Paul’s UMC in Helena have come down. In April 2018, the VIM team partnered with the pastors and responded to the immediate need by giving food to refugees in the park and distributing medicines to those in need. Because of Covid and other circumstances VIM teams from the United States have not come to Boa Vista since 2018. In January 2023 a VIM team from the United States returned to partner with Pela Cruz Methodist Church. Led by Don Skillman and joined by members of Saint Paul’s UMC and others, the group served Pela Cruz Methodist Church by helping with construction of the congregation’s kitchen / dining hall, surveying the Venezuelan refugee situation in Brazil, and running a couple of pop-up clinic for refugees. 

Before 2018, the border town of Pacarajma had a population of 6,000 people, and the city of Boa Vista had 13,000.  Currently, around 450 cross the border every day, and since 2018 more than 100,000 people have passed through the border town of Pacarajma to Boa Vista, and eventually to other parts of Brazil.  
The refugee camps at the border can house 2,000 people. These camps are very overcrowded, with about 5,000 refugees live in the camps in Boa Vista on any given day.
The team also ran a couple of ‘pop-up’ clinics distributing basic medicines, vitamins, and reading glasses to people. More than 300 people passed through these clinics. In one, a man tried on some reading glasses, and then turned to his son to say something. The boy left and returned five minutes later with this man’s Bible. He opened it and said, “Wow. I can read this again! Thank you!!”