I didn’t expect to see that. I was with a team in southern Brazil looking for churches we could help respond to the devastating floods. We stepped inside a small church building. Instead of chairs, the room was wall to wall with cots and mattresses. They had converted it into a shelter for people chased from their homes by the rising waters of the Taquari and Cai Rivers. Church members volunteered to cook, clean, and serve people they did not know – until now. They also collected and distributed relief supplies to the broader community. Their Sunday gatherings were in the homes of various members.

This scene – worship buildings turned into shelters – is repeated over and over across the affected region. Brazil is known to be rather secular, particularly in this part of the country. The churches realize this is an opportunity to show God’s love to displaced people who, once the waters recede, may discover they are homeless. It’s also become the motivation for churches across denominations to be more united than ever before.

Here are some takeaways to ponder. The Brazilian Christians have set their priorities. Showing love to people in distress is more important than their own comfort and convenience. They share their resources with all, not just with friends and fellow believers. That requires sacrifice.

They are adaptable. To respond to the situation, something had to change. The usual routines, meetings, and methods would no longer do. They forged new cooperative relationships with like-minded Jesus followers. Something far greater than disaster relief is under way. Anyone can choose to do good, but only believers do it in Jesus’ name.

They know their identity. A church is not a building or a Sunday meeting. The church is people who identify with Christ in a life-changing way. “If anyone wishes to come after Me,” Jesus said, “he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). To identify with Christ is not for the faint of heart. It is a joyful life of courage, sacrifice, and resilience.

Peter and John were going to an afternoon prayer service at the temple. On the way, their plans changed. A lame man needed help. In that moment, they prioritized love over routine, service over convenience. They engaged, not with silver or gold, but in the name of Jesus. And what a conversation they started! (Acts 3)

What about you and your church? What are your priorities? Are you adaptable? What does it mean to follow Christ? Do you serve in ways that stir up conversations about God’s love, faith, and the gift of eternal life?

We can learn something from the Brazilian Christians. Join me in praying for them and the displaced people they serve. May God flood their and our hearts with His love.