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International church in São Paulo: why do we have one?


An international church was needed

In recent years, Brazil has received a great number of foreigners. From all the cities in the country, São Paulo was the one receiving the largest amount of people, with 360 thousand immigrants living and working in the state’s capital. However, there is a lack of spaces adapted to other languages other than Portuguese, in which people can communicate in their native languages or in a more universal language, such as English. Thus, the idea for an international church was born.

People should be able to have a space to call their own and a community in which they can feel at home, even when abroad. Religion has a center role in the lives of many, creating a sense of belonging and a bond that can go overseas. Therefore, it is impressive how few churches with worship service in other languages there is in São Paulo, and even fewer in English.

Until 2023, the Seventh Day Adventist church in São Paulo only had worship services held in Spanish. Currently, a new program is starting in English in the International Church. This is an universal language nowadays, capable of gathering people from different linguistic backgrounds and much easier to adapt than Portuguese, and that is why the designation “international”, instead of English speaking church, was chosen.

International communities in São Paulo

In 2019, the state of São Paulo received over 82 thousand requests for refuge. In 2022, according to DataMigra, a platform of the international immigration observatory of the justice and public security minister, there was an average of 22 requests per day to come to the city, around 8 thousand throughout the whole year.

According to a study made by UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees, in 2020, most of these people live in the city of São Paulo, especially in the central regions. This population is comprised of Venezuelans, Bolivians, Cubans, Haitians, Syrians, Congolese, Nigerians, and Angolans.

It is important to notice, as well, that Brazil has a long-standing tradition of receiving refugees. Therefore, the data regarding newcomers changes every year, as new global crisis emerge.

Besides the refugee population, São Paulo also has the greatest number of economic immigrants in Brazil. Many people move to the city for work, as international business keep growing, or better opportunities of career than they would have in their home countries.

From the 443.406 immigrants registered in Brazil since 2011, 183.608 were in the state of São Paulo. From economic migrant populations it is possible to notice many Chinese, Colombians, Argentinians, and Portuguese populations establishing in the country.

How has the Seventh Day Adventist Church responded

The Seventh Day Adventist Church in Brazil grew thanks to the work of foreigners that lived in the country. The message came first to the south of the country written down in German, and from the intense work of the first missionaries, it was shared to many.

There is a tradition in the church to receive and care for immigrants that is deeply related to its history. As a universalist religion, it is in the core of Adventism to assist everyone and share the news of the gospel with them.

Many initiatives were created in other states of Brazil, such as the international church of Brasília and Spanish speaking temples in the frontiers of the country. In São Paulo, the church board has created a non-profit-organization called Instituto Base Genesis, in the center of the city, to assist refugees coming to Brazil through humanitarian aid.

The number of Sabbath Schools in Spanish, French and English has increased as well in the city, with many churches establishing their own for people to come and study in other languages. A Haitian church and a Spanish speaking church were also established in São Paulo, in neighborhoods where there is a greater number of immigrant populations.

However, a space that can receive people from most countries, with an international approach through a universal language, was still missing. English is a language spoken by many people around the world and the greatest ally of immigrants when they first arrive to Brazil. It has the power of bringing these populations together while offering them a space to communicate. From this perspective the idea of the international church was born.

announcement for the sabbath worship service

How has the project of the international church developed

The need of this space came from gatherings and ideas of some members of the Sabbath School of the Seventh Day Adventist Church of Moema. The church has answered to the challenge and allowed for a worship service to start in its premises, expanding the project already started through Sabbath Schools.

The international church does not have its own building, but it is a space in which people can feel comfortable speaking an universal language, walk around the building knowing they can communicate with others, and create their own community and Sabbath programs.

This project is growing and counts on believers’ prayers and support through volunteering. It is an effort to fulfill the Bible’s commandments regarding foreigners and have cultural exchanges that can benefit English speaking Brazilians as well.

If you wish to know more, get in touch with us.

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Mar 30
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