By Jane Cacouris, who is getting ready to work in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, with her husband Alex and their three children
We are hugely excited to move to Rio de Janeiro. We want to share a little about what led us to this point, as well as our hopes and dreams for the work that we are about to begin.
grappling with injustice
I have a passion for poverty alleviation, which God first stirred in me when I was about 14 years old, at our church youth group meeting. The youth leader asked a mission partner to speak about her work with street children in Burundi. As she spoke, I was overcome with a physical feeling that started in the pit of my stomach and spread upwards. The feeling grew as she showed us images from the slums where she was working.
The feeling became intensely emotional, as I grappled with the injustice of it all – that the children in the images had such a different life to mine. They lacked basic provisions, such as clean water and sanitation, things we take for granted. I’d never felt even a nugget of thankfulness when I ran the tap at home.
By the time she finished speaking, I felt like I was about to burst. She paused and looked around the room – there were about 20 of us – and asked if anyone felt they might like to do this type of work in the future. I shot my hand in the air, and looked around, expecting to see a sea of raised hands. But I was the only one. I realised some time later that it wasn’t that I was wrong, and the rest of the room was right, or vice versa, but that God had put a very specific calling on my life and given me a heart for people living with physical poverty. I went on to become qualified in international development at a postgraduate level and have worked in the sector, mainly on water and environment issues, for around 10 years.
Since becoming a Christian as a teenager, Alex has had a deep-seated longing to see people come to know Jesus, regardless of age, ethnicity or background. He has a heart for evangelism and mobilising Christians for mission.
We both desire to see people lifted out of spiritual and material poverty, and we can see how God has woven our callings together. Jesus crosses cultures, stigmas and socio-economic divides, and we’ve both witnessed this firsthand in the work that we’ve done in different continents. So we are expectant of what God has in store for us in Rio.
Rio de Janeiro reflects Brazil, a country of extremes, with expensive penthouses next door to the poverty of the favelas. Estimated to have the seventh largest economy in the world, 26 per cent of Brazil’s population live below the poverty line. Brazilian society is known for its flamboyant and party-loving lifestyle. However, violence, corruption and the drug trade are stark realities.
We see mission as holistic, in that it has to be the practical outworking of God’s love and grace (social action) alongside evangelism.
We hope to work together in this way. Alex will be serving as associate chaplain with Christ Church, one of a handful of English speaking churches in Rio. He will be working as part of a new team ministry with Mark Simpson, who is also with Church Mission Society. There are approximately 100,000 English speakers in Rio; the opportunity for evangelism is huge. The team is also passionate to mobilise the church to social action within the city’s favelas.
I’m keen to use my experience in urban water supply, sanitation and environmental sustainability – major issues in the favelas. I have also felt God prompt me in the area of gender inequality and the associated role of the Church; in Brazil rates of violence against women are some of the highest in the world.
being called as a family
We are passionate about seeing our children experience and enjoy a relationship with Jesus.
We very much believe that each of our three children has been called to Brazil too, and that they are an integral part of God’s plan for the mission work that we hope to do there. We pray that all five of us will grow and deepen in our relationship with Jesus as we step out on this new chapter in our lives.