Pastor Tony’s life could have been a statistic. He could have been just another dead drug dealer on the streets of the City of God. But God intervened in his story. As he joins the Life Impact staff in Brazil, we are very glad that God’s plan for his life led him to us!
Our project leader in Rio found Pastor Tony when she was looking for a way into the City of God. You don’t just walk into one of the most dangerous slums in all of Latin America. The drug cartels control these slums and it is very unsafe for outsiders, no matter how well-meaning, to come in without permission. She found Pastor Tony, a former drug-dealer turned pastor, running a rehab and a small church in the City of God. Because of his connections and the respect he commands in this community, our teams are able to go into this dangerous area to minister to the needs of at-risk children and bring the love of Jesus. We have been able to come alongside Pastor Tony as he works every day to try to save the lives of men and women caught in the deadly drug culture of this favela. His ministry, “Souls at Risk” was born out of his experience as a drug dealer and addict. He knows first hand what it is like to be a soul at risk and also what it means to be wondrously saved.
“We believe that wherever the Word of God enters, something amazing has to happen.” – Pastor Tony
Tony was born in the City of God to a family of drug addicts. Drug dealers were regularly in their home and Tony grew up drinking the beers his parents would send him to buy and smoking the cigarettes they asked him to light. At 14, he was on drugs and working as a drug dealer. He was so addicted to drugs that he would steal to support his habit. He even stole from his sister who gave him money to buy vegetables for her small son. When he came back, high and empty-handed, his sister said to him, almost prophetically, “Tony, I know my brother and the person I see in front of me isn’t him. I know he’s somewhere in you, like a star waiting to shine, and when it does, not everyone will be surprised.” He sobbed and wanted to change but the drugs had too strong of a hold on him. His neighbors and family friends said that the best solution for him was death.
Death almost came for Tony as he, inevitably, stole from the wrong person. After being badly beaten with an iron bar by a drug dealer, he was left for dead and banished from the City of God. He managed to survive but was soon faced with the choice of rehab or homelessness. He chose rehab. God met him during this time when he prayed “God if you exist, change my life story.” God answered that prayer, and for the past 13 years, God has been using Tony’s life to bring hope and change in one of the darkest places in the world.
“Please Lord, help me get one more.” – Desmond Doss from Hacksaw Ridge
Tony is now 30 years old, has a beautiful wife and three young sons. He lives and ministers in the City of God as well as in 19 prisons around Rio. His rehab and church work to rescue people caught in the drug culture, and his ministry “Souls and Risk” works to save those who have been condemned to death by the drug lords. He sees himself and his work as being similar to his hero, Desmond Doss as portrayed in the movie Hacksaw Ridge, as he prays for God to allow him to rescue one more from the very real war going on all around him. When the police raided the City of God in February of this year, it was Pastor Tony who negotiated with the police for the safety of those living in the favela.
He has been the perfect person to open the doors Life Impact needed to launch its prevention project in the City of God and has helped us gain access to some of the most at-risk and vulnerable children in Brazil. He is a great man of integrity, and we are so thrilled to have him joining our staff!
“We see so many people living in prisons without bars, trying to get out, asking for help. So, I told the Lord I’d do what I could and He has led me to where I am today.” – Pastor Tony
How You Can Pray For Pastor Tony
“I have one desire in my heart, it’s to start a local church. For now, our meetings are taking place in my backyard, I’d like to have a real space for our church. So, please pray for this, pray for my life, my ministry, and my family.” Pastor Tony will also be attending Bible school so pray for him as he trains to become an even more skillful minister of the Gospel!