In conversation with our team, Edmeia shares an uplifting testimony and talks about the potential for transformation that the church has
By Cleiton Oliveira
Next Monday, September 14, at 7 pm, Sepal will broadcast an exclusive live with Edméia Williams, preacher of the Gospel known, among other activities, for the relevant work developed at Casa de Maria and Marta, a social institution located in the Dona Marta Community, in Botafogo (RJ). Since its foundation in 1990, the house has transformed the reality of thousands of families through Christian love demonstrated in practical actions. Edméia is part of the team of preletores of the Online Sepal Meeting 2020, which will be broadcast on the Internet from 24 to 26 September.
For you to warm up for the Meeting, Sepal has prepared two special contents: the live with Edméia Williams, which will take place at 7 pm next Monday, the 14th, and an interview you follow next.
In the chat, Edméia shares a moving testimony about the beginning of work at Morro Dona Marta, shares experiences that elucidate the potential for transformation that the church has and comments on the importance of the reflection proposed for the Sepal Meeting 2020. Check out!
Sepal: Tell us a little about the history of the House of Mary and Martha.
Edméia Williams: My history with the House of Mary and Martha began on a rainy Sunday while leaving the church. At the time, my family and I had recently arrived from Iraq, where my husband worked as a Petrobras engineer. Back in Brazil, we settled in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
We enjoyed an excellent living condition and attended a community of wealthy people. As she left the car with my husband and children, a little girl about 5 years old approached the vehicle with a box in her hand. Inside, the little one carried some sweets, such as chocolates and gum. Unfortunately, my husband inadvertently went through a puddle of water, and the girl, as she jumped back, fell, spilling everything she had on the floor. My husband didn’t stop and he went on a trip.
At that moment, I felt a lot of shame. The image of the poor girl lying on the ground stirred me deeply. And that’s when I woke up to the ministry. The other day, I went to the place and asked the doorman who that child was. In response, he pointed to Morro Dona Marta, a slum he had not noticed until then.
Although I came to her with great desire to see her face again, I never saw that girl again. From this experience, I came to love the hill to the point of saying to God: “Give me this hill or I die!” I knew I had to do something with kids, and I got involved.
Casa de Maria a Marta was founded in 1990 and aims to offer activities in the school shift to children and adolescents up to the age of 14. There, they receive school reinforcement, dance classes, singing, music, computer science and physical, material and spiritual support. We also give them three meals a day. With this, needy fathers and mothers can work with tranquility, knowing that their children are not alone or released through the favela, but welcomed in an environment of love, respect and dignity.
In your opinion, how does the altruistic attitude enable the receptivity towards the Word of God on the part of the people served? Why can’t the church lose sight of that?As God weaves us in the womb, God gives us gifts, according to Romans 12. When we manifest them to the world, we do not do it for ourselves, but we reflect what the Father has already placed in us. With regard to mercy, for example, I believe that no one is merciful in itself, but because he was born “tempered” with mercy.
As we live in communion with the Holy Spirit, He enables us to use gifts for the glory of God. Our intention is to honor him and not receive applause from the world. Thus, when altruism comes tempered with the love of Christ, it attracts people. In fact, it is through love that we will impress them.
The church cannot lose sight of this, bearing in mind what is written in Deuteronomy 15:11: “There will always be poor people on earth. Therefore, I order you to share your goods generously with the poor and with others in need of your land,” and the words of Jesus: “You will always have the poor in your midst[…]” (Jn 12:8). The challenge is ahead of us, and we will only be able to overcome it by understanding that it is Christ’s love in us that enables the receptivity of God’s Word, not our beautiful language.
“It is Christ’s love in us that enables the receptivity of God’s Word, not our beautiful language.”
How can social work be reconciled with spiritual help?
As we reconcile social work with spiritual help, we cannot lose sight of what everything must be for the glory of God as a consequence of the life we have in the Spirit. In this way, we are able to overcome the difficulties and give ourselves more and more, because we have a greater dynamo, the power from above.
God’s love is what guide us and it is what generates results. There at the House of Mary and Martha, for example, I make a “selection” — in fact, a joke with every child who wants to enter the house: I say that there we only receive beautiful children, but ALL are! I say to each child, “You are beautiful! The Daddy in Heaven made you like this!”
Day by day, little ones and preteens learn that they are special to God. We awaken in them gratitude for being the works of the Father, a truth that reverberates in his being as a whole, from childhood to adulthood. In this, we fulfill the call to plant Jesus on good ground, in which all that is planted gives. When it comes to children, if the seed planted is of rascality, it will give rascality; if it is evil, it will give evil; of prostitution, he will give prostitution, but if we plant Jesus, he will give children of God!
“When it comes to a child, if the seed planted is of rascality, it will give rascality; if it is evil, it will give evil; of prostitution, he will give prostitution, but if we plant Jesus, he will give children of God!”
In this dynamic, children are built in an environment in which they add to the learning and supply of essential items for well-being, such as clothing and food, respect for each of them. We preach and transmit the love of Christ with words and deeds. As a result, children tell their parents what they have learned, impacting the family to the point where parents and children surrender to Jesus, influencing not only every home, but also the social environment.
Since its inception, the House of Mary and Martha has had a significant impact on the community. Once considered the most dangerous hill in Rio de Janeiro, Dona Marta was removed from the list of violent favelas in 2004. In 2008, it had the first Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) with no record of shooting, bloodshed or arrest. Much of the community is evangelical Christian. This is how God has worked there through Christian ministry.
And for those who show openness to hear the Word of God, how does accompaniment, insertion in a community of faith, and discipleship occur?
I am sure that all the evangelical churches that exist in Morro Dona Marta are run by children who left the House of Mary and Martha. Many of them, when learning music or dance, become part of a community of faith in which they can use the gift they have developed. Going to church happens in a natural way, without any referral on our part. As they play, dance and praise in church, parents will watch them and end up listening to the preaching of the Word. As we know, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. As a result, there are many conversions and families transformed by Christ.
Could you share two or three stories of transformation that you have witnessed that reflect the restorative power of God’s Word transmitted by a socially engaged church?
There are a lot of stories, but I’d talk in general not to leave any of them. Today, many of the little ones who once attended the house are architects, nurses, teachers, journalists, physiotherapists, mechanics, leaders of praise, good men and women, genuinely converted Christians.
Since we started, we’ve never lost a child to gangs or drugs. It’s a blessing to see what God does. For all this, I say that the ministry of the House of Mary is Martha is a work of God. We have never had help from the government and, even without great resources, all employee portfolios are signed, all social charges are paid. Thus, God has done the work.
From her own experience throughout the history of the House of Mary and Martha and seeing the results achieved, what lessons have you learned and what can be good insights for Brazilian churches?The first is this: when our hand is open to give, it is also open to receive. “Give it, and it shall be given unto you” (Lk 6:38). The second is that if we are to receive the Kingdom of God as children, we must learn what their hearts are like. I have had an experience in this sense that still thrills me.
One day, in the mid-1994 World Cup, an extremely drunk family father showed up in the slumlooking for his children. He was missing and suddenly started screaming, asking the children’s mother to let him see them. The disrespectful screams bothered the neighbors in such a way that they advised him to shut up, to avoid confusion with other men in the community.
Finally, the children went to talk to their father, including the minor who was about 4 years old. The father told them: “Take a bath and get dressed, because we will take pictures and go to the United States to see the game of Brazil. Then we’re going to be back on the same plane as Bebeto and Romario.” Upon hearing him, the boy went out in a wave and went to the House of Mary and Martha. He had a serious matter: “Quick, please cut my hair!” — asked enthusiastically — “My father said we’re going to the Game of Brazil and traveling by plane with Bebeto and Romário.”
At that moment, God spoke to me through that boy’s mouth! The little, euphoric, said, “My father told me… “My father told me.” There, I realized how the children accept their father’s word without limitation. Like them, we too must trust in the Word of our Eternal Father.
The theme of the online Sepal Meeting in 2020 is based on two interdependent concepts: The question of “Life in Life” and the call for the church to walk in the “backof liquid society”, attracting Christians’ attention to building deep and meaningful relationships. The theme also gained an even more urgent contour in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. How do you see this theme and the reality of the church that is inserted in a postmodern society?
The theme of the Sepal Meeting 2020 is important because this is precisely the church’s call here on earth. The Church, the Bride of Christ, must deepen in relationships. If she stays in superficiality and on the fence, it is because she suffers from Laodicea syndrome, a community that was rebuked for being warm (Ap 3.14-22). This type of church or Christian has the Bible, but he doesn’t read it, he goes to worship, but he doesn’t worship, he calls his brother “beloved,” but when he leaves the temple, he barely remembers him.
“Life in life” awakens us to the reality that we are called to be rooted in Christ. Roots grow in depth. If we are, that is, growing in depth, we remain interconnected in each other, we form one body. The world, of course, will instigate us to live on the surface, for this is the role of a society that has nothing to do with the church. Thus, we are called to stand against this system that comes from Satan’s intelligence.
“We are called to be rooted in Christ. Roots grow in depth. If we grow in depth, we remain interconnected in each other, we form one body.”
What is the expectation you have for the online Sepal Meeting?
I believe that we will be led to reflection on our likeness to God, because today the church is very focused on self-help and self-knowledge. I believe that we only truly know each other when we delight in the knowledge of him who created us, for we were made in His image and likeness. I am sure that the Online Sepal Meeting 2020 will be very rich and enriching.
Did you like the content?
There’s so much more! Write down the information of the two events online and participate!
1st Warm-up with Edmeia Williams, which will be broadcast on Monday, 14/09, at 19 hours. To register for free, click here.
2nd Online Sepal Meeting, which will take place between 24 and 26 September. To learn more and register with special price, click here.