Renata Maria da Silva Moura’s life was peaceful and organized until a diagnosis of cancer changed everything.
Renata, 28, was living a happy life in Brumado, northeastern Brazil. She worked as a secretary, and her husband, João Batista, to whom she had been married for four years, owned a key-making kiosk.
Renata developed a persistent cough. Prescription medicine didn’t clear it up; in fact, it got worse. Renata found it difficult to sleep and at times she could hardly breathe.
Her neighbor, a nurse, suggested that Renata return to the doctor and ask for more tests. An X-ray revealed two suspicious dark spots on her lungs.
“The doctor mentioned lymphoma and sent me to Sao Paulo for treatment,” Renata recalls. “I wasn’t concerned; I just thought I would get medicine that would cure it.”
The drive to Sao Paulo, the world’s third-largest city, took 20 hours. At the time, Renata had no idea how life-changing that journey would be. The CT scan revealed a large tumor located dangerously between her heart and lungs. The oncologist made it clear that the diagnosis was serious: Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Renata would have to stay in Sao Paulo for 18 rounds of chemotherapy.
Renata and João were devastated. They had left everything behind—her job and family, his business and income—and were living with his sister’s family.
The chemotherapy didn’t go well. Renata’s body reacted so violently that she ended up in the intensive care unit. And when she was able to return to her sister-in-law’s home, she experienced such severe nausea it frightened her nieces and nephew.
I Had Everything
Renata recalled how easy her life had been in Brumado. “We weren’t wealthy, but I had everything I needed: a good husband, a job. I went to parties. My life was organized and calm. Then I was forced to leave it all and come to a place I didn’t know.”
Tears streamed down her cheeks as she said, “It was so difficult living in someone else’s home, so far away from everything familiar. We were spending so much money on medicine and even daily bus transportation to the hospital. We were sinking deeper and deeper into debt from everything. My whole life was disrupted!”
She said she had never dealt well with any kind of illness. “I never visited sick people. Never went to funerals. I refused to see pain. I ran away from anyone who was experiencing difficulty.”
Now she found herself in an oncology unit, surrounded by pain and death. Many of the people who had started treatment at the same time as Renata had died. “I thought I was also going to die,” she sobbed, remembering a particularly difficult day.
“I sat in the hallway, waiting, and I broke down. I felt so hopeless. I was crying so hard, but everyone just walked past me. No one stopped to comfort me. I felt like I was invisible. No one saw my pain. No one cared.”
Not Without Hope
Then a woman stopped beside Renata and said, “Don’t worry. Jesus doesn’t want you to live in pain. You are not without hope.”
Renata cried out, “But you don’t know my pain. No one can change my situation! If you knew, you wouldn’t say I have hope!” Then she began to pour out her story. And the woman kept repeating, “There is hope.” As Renata heard the words over and over, her spirit calmed.
“She invited me to her church, to learn more about the hope I could have, and I tried to attend, but the distance was so great.” Physically Renata was unable to attend church, but she longed for spiritual encouragement. Then she learned about a telephone ministry called Disquepaz (Dial Peace).
Disquepaz is a ministry of The Back to God Hour’s Portuguese-language outreach. A daily Scripture and devotional message is recorded and sent to Disquepaz machines in churches all across Brazil.
Listeners phone a publicized number to hear daily encouragement. They can call a special number given at the end of the devotional to leave a message if they want prayer or spiritual guidance.
Renata called the Disquepaz number daily. Occasionally she would leave a message and a volunteer would call back and pray with her. “They always seemed to return my call exactly when I needed it most,” she said.
Junia Machado, a Disquepaz volunteer in Sao Paulo, connected with Renata frequently. During one of their phone conversations, Renata gave her life to Christ.
“Junia called me and brought me a Bible,” Renata recalls. “She told me about a church near where we lived.”
Growing in Faith
Renata was growing in faith and understanding of God’s work in her life. She also was starting to see God’s care for her in amazing ways.
Her sister Maria, who had moved from Brumado to help care for her, got a job at the church they began attending. João found a job as a substitute doorman in a high-class apartment building. When the building janitor’s position opened up, the building supervisor, who had heard Renata’s story, offered João the job. It included free housing in a safe neighborhood only 15 minutes from the hospital.
Through a special grant from the hospital, Renata no longer has to pay for the cancer treatments, and she receives the anti-nausea medicine at a reduced cost. She and Maria also receive free bus and subway transportation.
There are still many challenges in Renata’s life. After 18 rounds of chemo the tumor has not shrunk, and because of its location it is very dangerous to operate.
“I became very angry at the doctor, who insisted on an operation,” Renata says. “That night I received a call from Junia. She prayed with me. I accepted that I was in God’s hands. That whatever happened, I would be all right.
“The next day I told the doctor I was willing to have the operation, but he said he had been thinking that perhaps it was premature to operate. We needed to wait and see if radiation might shrink the tumor.”
God Is Good
Renata doesn’t know what will happen next. She doesn’t have any illusions that her faith is some kind of bargain with God to let her live. She hopes for a cure. She would love to have children someday and live a long and healthy life. But for now her testimony is that God is good, that he brought a purpose to the pain she has experienced.
The end of Renata’s story has not been written yet. Junia reported recently that the cancer treatment has ended, but there is still a suspect spot between Renata’s lung and heart. Doctors intend to operate, which represents a great risk, but decided to wait a month to see whether the spot will grow.
“She’s constantly demonstrating that Jesus is her Lord and Savior,” Junia wrote. “It is amazing to see her reading the Bible and praying. Please keep praying for her and her husband, João.”
Renata is no longer running away from pain and people who are ill. Now she seeks out others who are hurting, walking around the hospital with a stack of Disquepaz cards. She listens to people who are angry and afraid to die. She tells them about the hope she has found.
Renata is living in a place of peace that far surpasses anything she experienced in Brumado, she says. This peace comes from the eternal hope she has in Jesus Christ.
Disquepaz at a glance
Hopeless? Sad? Lonely? These three simple words, printed in Portuguese on huge billboards in key locations throughout Brazilian cities, invite people to call a phone number to hear a daily devotional message from the Bible. Hundreds of thousands of business cards with the same invitation are distributed by 500 businesspeople and church volunteers. Disquepaz is an inspirational phone ministry produced by LPC Ministries—The Back to God Hour’s Portuguese ministry team in Brazil. LPC is short for Luz Para o Caminho, which in English means “Light for the Way.”LPC records and distributes the daily devotional messages to partnering Presbyterian churches with Disquepaz machines, who then advertise a local number to call. These partners provide trained volunteers who respond to phone messages left by listeners requesting prayer or spiritual guidance. Since this ministry began,
- 230 machines have been distributed to churches, businesses, and universities throughout Brazil.
- additional machines are now located in Mozambique (1), Spain (1), Paraguay (2), and the United States (5).
- an average of 500,000 phone calls are placed each month by listeners who call to hear the daily Disquepaz devotional message.
- each month at least 500 people call the special number to talk with a volunteer.
One caller left this message: “I am grateful for your ministry and message. Please send me the CADA DIA [devotional] booklet. Father God, please bless the ministry of these brothers and sisters.”
Another tearful caller didn’t leave a phone number but assured staff that God was using the Disquepaz ministry to meet her need for God’s Word in her life: “Thank you for your ministry and your messages that comfort me every day.”