In Brazil, Maria Almerita has served children in her local church for decades.
Published on: 05-13-2021
Maria Almerita remembers that when she was nine, she loved playing in the garden with other children outside her house in Brazil. As they had no dolls then, they played with corn cobs and animals made of papayas and chayotes. Maria would have loved to own a doll, but her family could not afford it.
When she grew up, Maria decided that she would work to make a difference in the lives of other children. Today, at 71, she still fixes and restores toys to donate to underprivileged children. It is a ministry to which she has dedicated the past 10 years, after decades of selfless service.
Maria usually gets damaged dolls and teddy bears, sometimes among the toys other children throw away. She cleans, washes, and sews up the toys, which she then distributes to children and even some seniors. Donations are sent to daycare centers, nursing homes, and underprivileged families not far from her home in Araxás, Minas Gerais.
“All I try to do is to keep people’s salvation in my mind, and [the importance of] leading them to the love of Jesus,” Maria says. “Children, in their purity and simplicity, are captivated by older people’s love, attention, and dedication, and are ready to accept and acknowledge Jesus as their Savior.”
Maria has two grown children and four grandchildren. She acknowledges, however, that thanks to her ministry, she has become a second mother to many children who feel her love and enjoy learning about Jesus. “Working with children is amazing and very rewarding,” Maria says. “I don’t always see the fruits right away, but I know I will certainly see them in the future.”
Love for the Little Ones
Maria began to support children’s ministries in the Adventist Church in 1962 by teaching Bible lessons when she was a teenager. In 1968 she set up an elementary school in the church hall and, for two years, cared for several children and taught them to read and write. “We would help them, teach them, and feed them,” she recalls.
Presently, Maria is still director of children ministries in her local church. Only the pandemic stopped her from in-person work with children. To fill the time during the lockdown, Maria began to create Bible characters by dressing up her dolls. She plans to distribute them to children to help them better understand the Bible stories.
“I feel restless and unhappy, but as I pray to God for things to go back to normal, I feel I can still be of help,” she says.