World Mission Sunday is February 15! To prepare ourselves to celebrate the many ways in which The Episcopal Church participates in God’s mission around the world, we present these blogs from our missionaries.
Guest Blogger: Rachel McDaniel from the diocese of West Tennessee, serving as a member of the Young Adult Service Corps in the Diocese of Southwest Brazil.
Tuesday, January 27th, marked the second anniversary of the terrible fire that killed 242 people in the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria. This nightclub is just around the corner from my new church and office. It was a solemn day around the city; even the sky was crying. In a pause between the showers, I ran out to take some pictures of the front of the former club.
Several students from one of the local universities went out and painted these murals just before the anniversary. There is much unrest in regards to justice for the lives lost. There are many different levels of blame from officials falsifying documents about building codes down to illegal pyrotechnics being used, and very little, if any, jail time has been served by anyone involved.
As I have only been in Santa Maria such a short time, I cannot begin to imagine the pain and loss the people of this city have suffered and continue to suffer. There was a memorial service held Tuesday night that was incredibly touching. The theme of the service was Saudades, Esperença, and Justiça. Saudades does not have an equivalent translation in English, but the closest would be an intense heartache over being apart. Esperença means hope. Justiça means justice. The service began with thousands of rose petals being dropped from a helicopter flying overhead and ended with the release of over 200 white balloons. Bishop Francisco was asked to speak, and while I could not understand as he spoke in Portuguese, it was inspiring to see the families and loved ones of the victims react to his words. Be united in the pursuit for justice. It was wonderfully done.
As my brother passed away in December, it was challenging to be at this service. It was difficult and painful to see the pictures and hear the names of so many young people who died in such a terrible way. It brought my grief to the surface. Somehow, though, it was also very healing to be able to connect with over 1,000 other mourning people. While I certainly did not lose my brother in such a horrific fire at the hands of so many like the grieving people at the service did, I have lost someone recently that I love dearly. I felt closer to the people as we all grieved and celebrated those precious lives. As an outsider looking in at such a personal and tragic part of so many peoples’ lives, I did not feel disconnected and invasive like I know I could have. Instead, I was a part of that service by being able to grieve over everyone’s loss of cherished loved ones. It was a very powerful moment of healing and teaching for me. Saudades to the 242 beautiful souls who died in that fire. Saudade to Ben. No one is forgotten who is loved.