Monday, February 13, 2017

10 Myths about Brazil that many Americans Believe

STOP! This piece was completely taken from another missionary in Africa who wrote, "10 Myths about Africa that many Americans Believe." It was written so well, and I realized most all of the points, slightly tweaked, were also true of Brazil, and so had to write a post of my own. But please read her article first.

1. Brazil is small (and I know their friends/missionaries in Brazil).

Brazil is about the size of the continental USA. So unfortunately, getting to the Olympics would have been like driving from Indiana to California. Just like you cannot explain Washington State and Florida with the same adjectives, I cannot explain to you Brazil in two sentences. Down south (Rio, Sao Paulo), it is much like developed countries, whereas in the Northeast, where I live, it is definitely a developing country. The same statistics cannot be used for both parts of Brazil. 

2. Brazilians are all poor.
Here you can see a wall divide between the rich high rises and the favelas. In the area we serve, 41% are living in deep poverty (meaning living off the buying power of $2.50 or less a day). But that means 59% are not. And 5-10% of of that 59% are living better than most of my friends in the USA. When trying to explain this to people, I often explain that while the USA has/is struggling with racism, Brazil has/is struggling with class-ism. 

3. Brazil is not clean. 
While I may complain of all the extra cleaning (and bugs) in Brazil, that is due to the climate, not Brazilians being dirty. In fact, most Brazilians take 2-4 showers a DAY. Mostly, we have to make sure the Short Term Mission Trippers who visit stay clean enough to not be seen as the "dirty Americans." Brazilian women work much harder and have cleaner houses (especially given some of their limitations) than I, or most of my friends in the USA, have. 

4. Brazilians do not have access to clothes or shoes.
Even just 10 years ago, this was more of an issue. While I still bring most of our clothes from the USA to Brazil, that is not because they don't have them in Brazil. It is because it is expensive in Brazil (and I am er...frugal). While many can't afford good quality clothes in Brazil, the open market offers cheaper options, and many churches/groups put together bazaars to raise funds and provide more options for needy people, without just being a handout. 
Note: athletic shoes are especially expensive in Brazil. That is why we often still invite people to donate/bring them to Brazil. 

5. Brazilians dress in rags.

Most all of our kids at Living Stones have at least one good outfit and one school uniform (including shoes). They work hard to keep those clothes nice, mostly by not wearing them often. That is why in most of our pictures, you will see many of them barefoot and in torn, old clothing: that is their play outfit. 
In other settings, I normally feel under-dressed, especially going to the mall or a wedding. Brazilians are very fashionable (this almost always includes high heels for women) and love getting dressed up and celebrating any and everything. 

6. Brazilians all live in villages. 
This is Recife, about an hour away from where we live, with almost 4 million inhabitants. Sao Paulo has about 12 million, and Rio de Janeiro has about 6 million.  

7. Village life would be perfect if white people weren't messing it up. 
This is both true and false in ways I am still figuring out. But just imagine with me the first Thanksgiving feast, and all the values that stood for: families coming for religious freedom, people coming for a new start: the new day of opportunities! Now imagine the conquistadors. Rape and pillage and take whatever you can away with you as you abandon. That was Brazil's start, and you can continue to see the habits and effects of this today. 
Much of the charity done in rural Brazil today is simply "band-aid" help, and impoverishes the souls of the people without giving any lasting help or training (This is done by all colors of people). Living Stones is working on long-term solutions through local churches and relationships that are located in these communities. We are building up children who will be able to break the cycle of poverty through the power of Jesus and all the practical work that entails. 

8. All Brazilians are brown. 
This is a random picture from Google of Brazilians. All kinds of colors. They say the USA is a melting pot, but we are much more of a tossed salad compared to Brazil. In poorer areas, there is often a larger amount of darker skinned people, unfortunately. Down south, there more "white" people. It is also interesting to note from my personal experience that being "white" is often determined by the kind of hair you have. 

9. Poverty is Brazil's biggest problem.
Poverty is a problem in Brazil, but not the biggest. I could also argue that corruption (political and in almost every other sector) is Brazil's biggest problem. Violence is also another very disturbing problem. But the biggest problem is not having a personal relationship with Jesus. 

10. Brazil has been evangelized. 
Brazil is a Catholic nation, but most of the Catholicism I have seen does not include a personal relationship with Jesus, it is just something you were born as. Evangelicalism is spreading, but unfortunately, most of that growth is in denominations that stress rules and strict obedience from the masses. 
We work with World Renewal Brazil, where the goal is to reach 200 small cities in the Northeast Brazil area in the next 20 years: these are places where the gospel, as life giving relationship, is not preached. 


  1. I was intrigued by your description of Brazil as a true melting pot, whereas the US is merely a 'tossed salad'. That's an interesting and accurate juxtaposition! Parabéns, gostei! As for the bathing issue, I've told Americans that many Brazilians look on their bathing habits, or lack thereof, the same way they do those of the French.

  2. Excellent observations, Rachel! I agreed with everything and laughed a little when reading the topics 8, 9 and 10. A very good text, as usual! good job! :D