‘Where you find no love, bring love yourself, and then you will find love there.’ These words of St John of the Cross were the motto for the 30th anniversary celebrations of the Fazendas, the ‘Farms of Hope’, which have now become an international phenomenon. Tens of thousands of young people – the psychologically sick and drug addicts – have found their way back to healing and a normal life through work and prayer in these Fazendas, and are now bringing this love back into the world with them. Here are three examples:

Luciano was a particularly difficult case. 20 years ago he was dealing in drugs and weapons, stealing cars and jewellery. He was made gang leader, as he had a talent for running operations. In the Fazenda he learnt to see life with new eyes. After a year he completed his time there and they heard nothing more of him.

Then one day, Frei Hans, the Franciscan priest and co-founder of the Fazenda movement, found a donation equivalent to ten thousand Euros on the books. With large sums like this he usually rings up, to thank the donor personally. It was Luciano who answered the phone. It was a joyful moment; Luciano decided there and then to fly from Rio de Janeiro to visit Frei Hans – in his private jet.

He sat up half the night, telling the priest how after the Fazenda he had done a course of studies, then built up a clinic for eye medicine and gathered a team of doctors around him. They were now performing eye operations all over the world. He had succeeded in giving new sight to so many people, not only physically but also spiritually. ‘Just like the Fazendas did for me’, he explained. He was about to travel to Africa, since in Mozambique there were just two eye specialists who could conduct the kind of operations he was doing. They wanted him to perform 2,000 operations there in the space of just a few weeks.

Then there was Ricardo. He was adopted as a small child, but when the first major problems started, his grandmother commented, ‘He hasn’t got that from us.’ So he ran away, lived on the streets, joined a gang and slid into crime. There was a shootout, and he was left wounded, the only surviving member of his gang.

The family courts gave him one more chance. He was allowed to go to a Fazenda. He was just 14 at the time. After a year he decided to stay on; he became a ‘responsible’ (as they call the leaders in the Fazendas), went to school, did his A-levels, studied at university and went into politics. Today he is responsible for combating drugs in one of the federal states of Brazil.

Or again, the young boy by the name of Washington. A victim of the drugs scene in a Rio slum, he came to the Fazenda addicted and deeply in debt. After a year, he asked Nelson Giovanelli Rosendo, the co-founder of the Fazendas, ‘Where shall I go now?’ ‘Go home’, Nelson told him. ‘You know where I come from…?’ ‘Yes. You have found a new life here. Now you should take it back there.’

Since then Washington has set up a stall, where he earns an honest living. He has paid back his debts to the drug dealers and brought more than 50 other drug addicts to the Fazendas and to the chance of a new life.

They are the outcasts and the despised, the marginalised, the victims who have become perpetrators – and they all have a place in the Fazendas. Many come from broken families, where the father was absent, or perhaps alcoholic, the mother desperate, or perhaps a prostitute. They all come from the icy wastelands of society, from the train stations, bridges or canal tunnels of the big cities. They come from places where there is no love and no hope.

In the Fazendas they rediscover their dignity, and not a few of them even find a religious vocation. Thanks to your help, they find open arms, ready to welcome all the children of God. And they pass on this love to others.

This article can be found in Mirror 0214.