Wilmore resident still as passionate about serving through ministry as when she started 20 years ago
At the age of 16, Stacie Silva boarded a plane with a friend and set out to serve through ministry in Australia. That summer, working with Youth With A Mission, Silva found a calling God put on her heart to work with “at-risk” children all over the world.
Now, Silva spends most of her life in Brazil with her organization, Viva Hope, working with the community and helping provide prevention techniques and life skills for those in need.
“There are not many people that are born and raised here and go into ministry overseas,” Silva said. “I grew up in Wilmore. Junior year of high school, I went with YWAM to Australia. I was in California for 15 days before I went to Australia for two months. God just put a calling on my heart. I always felt called to work with children.”
After returning home for her senior year, Silva traveled to Texas, where she spent three years learning about ministry. She then began to complete her degree through the University of Nations, which required her to learn ministry at different schools across the world for course credit. With a desire to work with youth, Silva traveled to Brazil, where she attended the Children At Risk campus for three months.
“I learned how to work with children who are dealing with situations like war or sickness,” Silva said. “I felt like God said, ‘I want you to stay here (in Brazil)’. I stayed for five to six years and worked with street children. There, I met my husband. After we got married, we became house parents for 30-something street boys. We were a part of the leadership administration team for all houses including boys, girls, those with HIV or AIDS, deaf children and a house for pregnant girls.”
Silva said she and her husband, Sergio, agreed God would use them in Brazil for a while and then send them somewhere else in the world to serve through ministry.
After having their first child, KayleeAna, now 8 years old, they felt led to Norway, where they attended a school to teach them how to not only help youth already in difficult circumstances but be able to teach people about prevention.
“We learned how to work with families and families in ministries,” Silva said. “We felt like God told us we needed this (same type of) school in Brazil.”
The Silvas returned to Brazil and the town of Almirante Tamandare, where they helped pioneer the same program they learned in Norway. They have stayed there for the last five years building Viva Hope, which translated means “Living Hope.”
“Now we work with community development,” Silva said. “We try to prevent these children from being in situations at risk.”
Silva said when they started their program, the town had an abandoned community center, which another American had left behind after needing to return to the states with health concerns.
Silva and her husband dreamed of being able to take the community center over and continue to build their program in Brazil. After being challenged by the leadership team in town, a year later they had their wish. Taking over the building, they were now able to offer a place for the people in town to come together.
“When we first got it, it didn’t have any of the insides,” Silva said. “It wasn’t painted. There was no porch. Crosswoods Baptist Church came and helped us finish and they even divided the upstairs into rooms.”
Silva said when Viva Hope first started, it was only a team comprised of two couples. Now, the team has 16 people helping them serve in ministry. She said they work together to bring the children “INreach” and “OUTreach” programs, such as school connect, construction, evangelism, family visits, adult Bible study, kids story time, sports, courses, aquaponics, local events and kids and adult groups.
“It is hard to reach men,” Silva said. “The one thing with the construction, when we started building things, they would join in. When they saw us working, they said, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ It brought their dignity back. It showed them they can provide for their families, they can dream. It teaches them to work, and that is a good thing. It takes you forward.”
One of the programs that has grown since it was first started is a Jiu-Jitsu program for the youth.
“When we first started, we only had two to three kids,” Silva said. “In our community, if you have a gift, you start a group. A gentleman in our ministry started with boys and he was like, ‘There is just two.’ I said, ‘In time, they will come.’ Now we don’t have enough room for all the kids on the mat. We are building a new sports center so all the kids can come.”
Silva said they are still in need of funds to complete the center. Although they currently have enough to complete the sides of the building, a roof will cost an estimated $2,000, which she is hoping to raise soon.
“In another instance, we had a boy we reached through the community center. The school contacted us and said his whole behavior has changed and wanted to know if we could come and do outreach at the school,” Silva said.
“They said, ‘We have chess boards; there are 25 of them.’ One of the American guys on our team loves teaching and playing chess. So, now we go two times a week and have one-on-one time with a psychologist. He sees the need for extra counseling and works with them. It has opened up doors for us to know more kids. They just need that. They don’t have parents come and volunteer so they are very open for us to come in and be that for the children.”
Silva said, through Viva Hope, her desire is that adults in the community will step up and start to teach the youth, becoming a part of the town’s own success.
“Our goal for the community center, for me, is that we are not always the only ones doing courses or Bible studies,” Silva said. “That we have parents who will be involved and work along with us. That they will take on the responsibility to be their own community workers and reach their community. Some of the kids are now teenagers and they have stepped forward. It is harder to reach adults, but it is possible. We have seen a change in the men as well and we have some girls now who step up and do Bible study.”
For more information, visit www.sssilva.webs.com, or if you wish to donate toward the sports center, visit www.givesendgo.com/VivaHope.