Stories from São Paulo

By Ana Giroto

Ana works for Life Impact Brazil in our finance department. In March, she visited São Paulo with our team, where they walked around the city center and prayed for the children and adults on the streets. She shares below about their experience and the reality we face in São Paulo.

As a local, I know about the drug issues around the city center region in São Paulo. I have been there a few times, but I always rushed to get to appointments.

We would always hear about how dangerous it is to wander around – you could get kidnapped or attacked. A couple of days ago, a young man waiting for his Uber driver was stabbed by a man who lived on the streets.

On Tuesday, I got to take a group of American visitors to that region along with Lana and the Life Impact International team, guided by the Gente de Perto team (a non-profit organization that works with the drug addicts that live on the streets of the city center, precisely around the Sé Square). They told us that we would be safe because they were known and respected (and loved) by those living in Se square. 

As we arrived, we could see a few groups of people walking around and another few taking drugs out in the open. As we moved down to the square, we saw things that even I, as a local, had never seen before. The center was filled with homeless children, teenagers, and adults. Most were under the severe effects of the drugs they were taking. We saw passed-out teenagers and children living on the street for years and many adults who mumbled their words so badly that we could not understand them. Many people came up to us expecting food, juice, and blankets, but we only brought them water, which was rejected by many because it would cut the effects of the drugs they had just taken.

We talked to a few of them, heard many heartbreaking stories, and prayed with them. They were all very open to prayers and even had lists of requests. 

There weren’t many older people. Many looked older than their age, but they were all under 30. There was one man, probably around 40-50 years old, who was respected and usually separated fights between teenagers. A man from the Gente de Perto team told us that he looked after the kids and teenagers there but that they had a fearful respect for him because he sexually abused the boys, which is so sad!

After a few minutes, he showed up where we were gathered and asked for prayers. We laid hands over him and prayed for freedom and repentance. 

One of the last people we heard and prayed for was a man, around 30 years old, who said he doesn’t use the “new drugs” the kids use. He only drinks alcohol and uses cocaine. He was not sober and was very talkative, and we noticed his eyes were a deep shade of red. Pastor Chris started to preach to him. He said he knew all about Jesus and the Bible because he was a worship leader.

He even started to sing a worship song from when he went to church. We prayed over him and declared freedom from his addictions and independence from that place, that he would find the Lord again and use his testimony to heal others.

Lastly, when we were about to leave, we all came together, Life Impact, Gente de Perto, and our visitors, and prayed over each other. We prayed that the Lord would renew everyone’s strength and vision for this fight, and give us the boldness and power to go further in what He has for us. In Se Square are people who are invisible to society and abandoned by the government, but we know that they’re people whom God sees and loves and has not forgotten. We pray that God would open doors for a place to receive and support the minors living in the situations we saw and offer them shelter, clothes, food, and hygiene; God would restore their dignity and lives.

I’ll never forget it!