Drug Dealers Protect the Church

Pastor Bosco and his wife Rosely, were with the Brazilian entourage that visited Spirit of Life last summer. We got to know them and had a lot of fun. On my recent trip to Brazil, I had a chance to visit them and speak at their church.

They live in a new community on the outskirts of Manaus where the sprawling city meets the Amazon Rain Forest. The way new communities are started is quite chaotic. People migrating from the interior of the jungle find some undeveloped land that has access to a road into the city. They claim a spot, build a minimal house with whatever they can find and call it home. Once a few people start building in a place, thousands of other squatters join them.

There is no master plan, just people grabbing what space they can. Paths turn into dirt roads that wind and weave through the the chaos. A boomtown is born. There are no city services, no water or electricity. Someone puts out a table and sells a few basic food staples. It becomes a neighborhood store. Commerce begins.

This is how new communities start and there are a lot of them. The city ignores these places as long as they can. But after a while, they have no choice but to pave a main street through the new community and bring in some minimal services. These are very poor places - very poor. They are plagued with the worst imaginable criminal elements. I just cringe when I see kids in these kinds of communities and imagine what happens to them here.

But somehow, good and decent people survive in these places. They come from the interior of the jungle to build a new life for their families. They persevere against all odds, and over time, some of these new communities eventually become livable. 10 years ago, this was how Pastor Bosco and Rosely's community got started.

Pastor Bosco has worked hard to build a church which is a strong transformative force, lifting up people into new and better lives through the Gospel. It is a light and hope in his community. I saw such joy and energy in the people of his church. Here their lives have been changed. They are experiencing new life and being shaped by God. You don’t have to get after folks to get them to come to church - you can’t keep them away. The hope and excitement here is off the charts.

As Pastor Bosco was giving me the tour of his church, someone need his attention for a moment.

I continued to look around on my own, walking around outside of the building. As I ventured down the length of the building toward the back, Pastor Bosco quickly got me and warned me that the streets and area behind the church were not safe. He told me it was a dangerous drug area. "Really," I said in surprise, "right behind the church?" He said, "Yes"

He told me about an incident that happened to him and Rosely a few years earlier. Someone in their church was going through a rough time and they needed to go visit them. They had to walk through this drug area to. As they were walking, two really rough and dangerous guys were coming towards them. These guys obviously carried weight in this territory. Pastor Bosco didn't know either of them and was obviously intimidated, especially with Rosely there.

As the guys walked by, one of them whispered to the other, "He's the Pastor." Without a word or any acknowledgement, they passed them by. No one bothered them in the drug territory, even to this day.

Pastor Bosco explained to me that the drug dealers protect the church. This is common for many of the Pentecostal Churches. There have been instances where a drug user has broken into a church, stealing stuff to buy drugs. When word gets out, the perpetrators disappear, presumably executed. Word on the street is no one messes with the church.

I had to ask why the drug dealers protect the church? Pastor Bosco didn't know for sure, but suspected the dealers respected their ministry. They can see the life change going on there. After all, the people in the church used to be their customers and some of them might even be members of their own families.

The dealers know that the poison they sell only brings destruction and death. It’s a dead end. But the church, it is bringing life and a future.

Pastor Bosco and Rosely, I'm praying for you and your boys.

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