Saó Paulo: A Lighthouse City

Part One: Equipping to Reach the Nations

Saó Paulo, Brazil, is one of the largest metropolitan regions in the world with a population of over 21 million people. The region experienced rapid growth through the industry developed to process the coffee produced on the elevated plateau located an hour and a half from the coastal city of Santos. It became known as the place where good jobs could be found, and people migrated from all over Brazil in the hope of economic prosperity.

Once known as the “Misty City,” the climate has changed due to the growth of the city and the deforestation of the surrounding area. Saó Paulo is the economic and industrial heart of Brazil, while producing over 60 percent of the manufactured goods in South America.

Saó Paulo is a city of immigrants and ethnic diversity, with over 100 cultures represented within its population. Some of the largest groups include Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, German, Arab, Jewish, and the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. The African slaves brought cultural influences to the religion, foods, and customs of Brazil.

She is also a city of tremendous socioeconomic contrasts, with extremely wealthy neighborhoods intermingled with regions of extreme poverty called “favelas.” These shantytowns are regions where drug trafficking, prostitution, murder, and crime dominate the inhabitants resulting in hopelessness and despair.

The challenges for the advancement of the Kingdom of God are many. The traffic and pollution add to the complexity of life in this mega-city. The cost of real estate for building churches is outrageous, and the lack of resources stimulates creative methodologies in church planting. With over 500,000 street children roaming the city, churches are called upon to make a difference through social outreaches and child evangelism. Seventy-five percent of the population is under 25 years of age, demonstrating the challenge of reaching youth through dynamic ministry that will transform lives.

There are also spiritual challenges. Although the majority of the population claims to be Catholic, around 90 percent of Brazilians are influenced by Spiritism through its many forms and expressions.

John Hayes served as a career missionary in Brazil, living in Saó Paulo for many years.

To partner with the Send Light to the Cities project – São Paulo, click here: Project Number 102-9435-010