Rev. Celio Ricardo, along with fellow believers and ministers, decided to hold street-corner meetings for families of COVID-19 victims as more cases packed hospitals in Rio de Janeiro.
"We were retreating, but this is the time to attack. This is the time for people to see that the church is here, ready to open its hands and help," Ricardo was quoted saying by the Associated Press.
Since Monday, AP has covered the story of members of the God's Love Evangelical Church and Rehab Center led by Rev. Ricardo praying for COVID-19 patients outside a municipal hospital in Guapimirim, a municipality in Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil. Photos taken by the news outlet show the members surrounding the hospital while laying their hands on the building as they pray.
"The group is trying to bring spiritual support to victims of COVID-19 in Rio de Janeiro with their prayers," said a caption on the photos taken.
Determined that Christ's body must be the leading force for hope, Ricardo, who is also a veteran minister and a street preacher, has talked with other pastors about the Church's response on the global health crisis.
"The church can't sit idly by or stay silent," Pastor Ricardo said.
So beginning in their state, Ricardo and his group joined hands in singing comforting hymns outside the municipal hospital while also offering prayers for the COVID-19 patients and their families.
"God's voice has the power to change the course of this situation," affirmed Ricardo. "I felt it in my heart."
Amid new restrictions in the municipal government's attempt to curb the fast rise of COVID-19 related hospitalizations, Ricardo's group still went out to pray while observing minimum health protocols like wearing masks and physical distancing. They also distributed hand sanitizers.
"The Bible says to take strength from weakness. We sing and pray because our voice can bring assurance of the love of God to those taking their last breaths," said the pastor and prayer leader to AP.
He added that the patients' families had been welcoming to the group so far, and that he intends to visit more hospitals.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the worst hit in Brazil with more than 36,000 deaths. Additionally, the country has had the second largest number of deaths (310,000) since the pandemic began, reports AP.
As for Rev. Celio Ricardo, he has spent twenty years doing street evangelism in Rio while also ministering to God's Love Evangelical Church. He also reportedly manages a drug rehabilitation center.
Living out the salt and light virtue, he and his team would often go to the city's "cracolandias" or "cracklands" where people addicted to substance abuse frequent. On top of praying for them, God's Love Evangelical members would also extend some help like food and a place to rest. AP reports that the group would offer beds in a makeshift shelter and when possible, food donated from local supermarkets.
"Cracolandias," according to AP's source, "are open-air bazaars found in some Rio de Janeiro slums where crack cocaine users can buy rocks of the drug and smoke it in plain sight, day or night."