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Becoming Senders: How One Brazilian Church Went Missional
When does a church plant transition from missions-receiver to missions-sender? Sadly, some churches never do. Others struggle to do so, but get sidetracked by the desire for bigger buildings, more members, and greater influence. This article is the story of one congregation in Brazil that faced the same challenges and temptations, but in the power of God’s Spirit made a commitment to make God’s worldwide mission a first priority. The Igreja de Cristo Norte de Goiânia has kept that commitment—in 25 years they have sent 13 of their members as transcultural missionaries, and counting. We narrate their journey so that other churches may find encouragement and practical ideas to make a similar commitment and a similar transition.
When Tom and Libby Fife arrived in Goiânia, Brazil in 1966 with the Brazil Christian Mission, the initial tasks set before Tom were to teach at the Christian Institute of Goiânia (Instituto Cristão de Goiânia) and to serve as pastor for one of the churches in Goiânia. They visited the four congregations of the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ (4Cs) and settled in at Igreja de Cristo da Vila Fama, soon to be renamed Igreja de Cristo—Norte de Goiânia (ICNG). Tom had great hopes for the congregation: that it would become self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating.1 God, however, had even more in mind.
Forty-five years later, the city has grown to a population of over 1.3 million,2 and there are nearly eighty churches of the 4Cs movement in its metropolitan area. This, however, is not a story of church multiplication in a specific area. Rather, it is a story of the worldwide mission of the church. It is a success story about a church that developed from being a missionary recipient to becoming a missionary sender.
Missions on four continents, hundreds of churches planted, and countless people brought to Christ: this is the work that God has accomplished through one small congregation in Brazil. It was simply a congregation with a heart willing to be shaped by God. I share this story in the hope that it may help other congregations to open their heart to the transforming power of God’s mission so that this story may be repeated around the globe.
I should admit from the start that there were also many frustrations and some tragic misdirection over the years when the Holy Spirit’s leading was not heeded. I will refer to some of them briefly. In the end, however, this story revolves around neither the plans nor the failures of the people involved, but around the grace, mercy, and incredible sovereignty of God.3
Laying the Foundation
Tom and Libby worked closely with ICNG from 1966 until 1991. Though their strategy was not written on paper, five consistent elements formed the foundation upon which the congregation would build.
First, there was never to be a mission station.4 Following the example of earlier missionaries David and Ruth Sanders,5 the Fifes moved into a Brazilian-style home to live among the people. More than just a housing solution, this decision emerged from Tom’s missional mindset. During an earlier ministry equipping Mexican leaders for Mexican churches,6 Tom had received a letter asking whether he could cite an example of any Mexican capable of operating a “complete mission station.” Tom replied: “No, but we are not teaching people to operate mission stations; we are teaching them to build churches. Our goal is not a complete mission station anywhere. Our goal is preparing Mexican leaders to plant and lead self-supporting churches.”7 He continued with the same mentality from the beginning of his work in Brazil: he sought to equip Brazilians who would lead the Brazilian church.
Second, with basically only enough support for his wife and five small children,8 pouring money into mission work was never an option for Tom and Libby. Missiologist Jonathan Bonk highlights well the problematic effects that financial arrangements can have on the relations between missionaries and those whom they serve. Missionary prosperity has “an inherent tendency to isolate missionaries from the cutting edge of missionary endeavor, rendering much of their effort either unproductive or counterproductive, or sometimes both.”9 In the case of the Fifes, funds were not plentiful either for the missionary family or for the church—a small congregation in a poor neighborhood. In the sixties and early seventies, few people in the church were literate, and no one had a car. For some time, even the Fifes had no car and used public transportation to get to church. Over time it became evident that whatever resources were given by Tom, Libby, and their children, whether time, money, or energy, they were given as sacrificially as anybody else’s.
The Fifes did indeed give sacrificially of themselves. Tom made repeated church planting trips into the rural areas in the north of the state of Goiás, often taking one or more of his children along. The lasting fruit of these arduous trips would only be seen decades later. In 1969 Libby got the church involved in a benevolence ministry called Diaconia, which provided valuable job skills and language training for those in low economic brackets. Beginning in 1967, Tom also worked with the Association for Christian Literature (Associação Pró-Literatura Cristã) editing Christian books, Sunday School literature, and leadership training materials in Portuguese. As a result of this ministry, some US supporters withdrew their support because they did not consider the publication of Christian literature vital “church work.” When ICNG needed to build a new church building in 1968, the contributions and volunteer labor came from the ICNG members, including the Fife family.
Third, Tom and Libby were convinced that in order to have any impact, they would have to contact Brazilians in their own culture: they would tell about Jesus Christ without implying that it had anything to do with becoming Americanized. The children were enrolled in Brazilian schools and grew up speaking the Portuguese language. Four of them eventually married Brazilians. Brazil became home. Tom and Libby eventually moved back to the US to care for Libby’s aging parents, but to this day they continue to travel and teach in Portuguese-speaking countries. Their incarnational influence would provide an example for future generations of missionaries sent out by ICNG to diverse cultures on four continents.
Fourth, Tom refused to assume pastoral leadership of the church whenever possible. While he was willing to teach and preach regularly, he believed the church should come up with its own leaders. It was only after a sequence of bad experiences with ill-equipped Brazilian leaders that he reluctantly accepted the function of pastor of the congregation during the years 1977–1986. After that time he turned the pastoral leadership of the congregation over to local leadership, while he turned his attention increasingly to Theological Education by Extension (TEE) and other training ministries.
Fifth, Tom and Libby learned from experience that, while they sought to change people’s misconceptions about Jesus, there was no need to change their cultural orientation. This brings to mind Asian missionary thinker Kosuke Koyama’s reflections:
Isn’t it a basic rule of life that one cannot make a contribution unless one is ready to accept another’s contribution in return? Otherwise, “making a contribution” may become only a convenient expression for an egoistic “keeping our contributions to ourselves.” . . . “Giving” is a dynamic theological process which influences both the giver and the given. A tradition cannot “give” something without “receiving” something from others. It belongs to the wonder of the mystery of the Body of Christ, the church.10
Thus the Fifes engaged the Brazilian church in a true process of give and take, and the sense grew that they really belonged to each other as family. Once again the words of Christ were realized in the experience of his disciples:
Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29–30)11
Beginning in 1972, Tom started working with what would become his passion and his main effort until today: Theological Education by Extension (TEE). He began teaching TEE in the facilities of the Christian Institute of Education and Culture (Instituto Cristão de Educação e Cultura) in Goiânia. The following year, however, he started going to the then six Christian Churches/Churches of Christ in Goiânia, including ICNG, teaching all who expressed an interest in theological education. Leaders belonging to other Christian groups in Goiânia became interested in the TEE program as well.
By 1983, at the invitations of missionary Wayne Long in São Paulo and of one of the first graduates from the Christian Institute, Ozório Rodrigues, who was working in Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais, Tom began traveling every three weeks from Goiânia to Brasília, São Paulo, and Belo Horizonte to teach TEE courses. This eighteen-hundred-mile (2,880 km) circuit was continued for four years, and it was during this time that he participated in the Evangelical Association of Theological Training by Extension (Associação Evangélica para Treinamento Teológico por Extensão). There Tom served alongside Jonathan Santos, founder of the Antioch Mission (Missão Antioquia),12 a connection that would play a vital part in the missional awakening to come. As for the churches in Goiânia, local tutors were assigned to keep up with the classes while Tom was away. To this day many ICNG’s members credit their higher academic achievements to Tom’s passion for education and leadership training.
In 1981–1982, Tom and Libby spent a one year furlough in the United States for the first time. The three older children stayed in Brazil. By then two of the children, Robert and Elena, were married to Brazilians and had Brazilian children. Elena lived with her family in Belo Horizonte, and Robert and his wife Derlani were active leaders at ICNG.
During that year, Robert Fife and Gerson Sousa,13 who were elders in the church, carried out the pastoral responsibilities without Tom’s help for the first time. This new generation of leadership had been TEE students since 1973, and their wives had joined in the studies. Thus, the foundation was laid for leadership based on sound biblical teaching in an atmosphere of Christian love and unity—which is a hallmark of the congregation to this day.
Missions Awakening in Brazil
While the new leadership began to find their footing at ICNG, the Holy Spirit was awakening a new consciousness in churches all across Brazil: a world mission awakening. Increasingly, churches began to recognize the Spirit’s continuing role in holistic missions:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18–19)
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Both the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37–39) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20a) constituted the mission of the Church. ICNG had long displayed its love for God and neighbor, but something was still lacking: “Go into all the world.” So Robert and Gerson decided to attend a world mission conference in July 1985. It was sponsored by the Baptist Church recently planted in Morumbi, São Paulo.
At the same time, news started to spread about Missão Antioquia and about the innovative mission program of the First Baptist Church in Santo André. The testimony of the latter, following the renowned model of Oswald J. Smith and the People’s Church of Toronto, was especially encouraging. Their lead pastor, Édison Queiroz,14 spoke enthusiastically about the Christian Education building they had built with what was “left over” after they had first given both to the Brazilian Baptist Missionary Board and to other missionaries they were directly involved in equipping, sending, and supporting through their faith-promise program. World mission awareness was maintained by means of their annual mission rallies, which involved the whole church in their organization.
Far from an isolated example, this innovative congregation was part of a burgeoning missionary movement.15 In a lecture in 2005, veteran missionary Bertil Ekström affirmed that in the eighties “a new kind of mission structure was seen among the mission movements in Brazil. Local churches, following a North American trend, started sending out missionaries and creating their own sending body.” And he added, “This coincided with a decreasing confidence in traditional structures and a criticism against organizational models, especially in the denominations.”16
The most significant demonstration of the breadth and depth of this missionary awakening was the first Iberian-American Missionary Congress (Congresso Missionário Íbero-Americano—COMIBAM) in 1987.17 The conference attracted over 3,000 delegates from Latin America, Portugal, Spain, and other countries for sessions in both Portuguese and Spanish. Robert Fife and Valdecy DaSilva from ICNG were among the one thousand delegates representing the Brazilian churches.
Two mission-minded churches sponsored the COMIBAM: the First Baptist Church in Santo André and the nearby Presbyterian Church in Ipiranga (IPI). The lead pastor at IPI, Oswaldo Prado,18 described COMIBAM with these words:
This missionary encounter was a watershed moment, in my opinion, for the beginning of this “boom” of Brazilian missions. Until then several missionary encounters had taken place, but Comibam established its defining mark in the opening worship when its President, Luis Bush, affirmed in his talk: “From a mission field[,] Latin America has become a mission force.” This phrase that [sic] might seem to be merely rhetorical but it truly caused an awakening of the three thousand delegates.19
It is undoubtedly true that “within the last century there has been a massive southward shift of the center of gravity of the Christian world, so that the representative Christian lands now appear to be in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and other parts of southern continents.”20 However, there hardly could have been a more economically unfavorable time in the history of Brazil for an outburst of world-mission related activities than the eighties and early nineties. While facing an average inflation of forty percent each month for over ten years, there were many who strongly opposed the idea of sending out and supporting cross-cultural missionaries. Finally, in 1994, the government brought inflation under control, but Brazil continues to be a nation with huge socio-economic distortions and inequalities.
Prado recalls that as time passed he repeatedly heard comments from Brazilian leaders and pastors that implied that “this new [missional] experience had nothing to do with our [economic] reality. However, at the same time, the Brazilian missionary advance was incredible and even uncontrollable.”21 It is further noteworthy that most of the churches that have faithfully supported cross-cultural endeavors to the present are medium-sized or even relatively small ones. Although there are evidently exceptions, most of these are by no means wealthy churches.22 The Spirit’s leading did not depend on the economy.
These winds of missional change brought a new level of leadership to the nation. In his lecture “Mission in and from Brazil,” Ekström pointed out:
The national leadership of the mission movement was formed in the 1970s through the mission conferences, the participation of a new generation of foreign missionaries and their emphasis on mission, the arrival of international missions to Brazil and a new awareness of the Evangelical churches of their potential for reaching out to other nations with the Gospel.23
The same influences would shape the local leadership of ICNG in the 1980s.
Mission Awakening at ICNG
ICNG began to send their own members farther afield for ministry training, and two of these had a significant effect on the congregation’s missional perspective. The first was Tom’s protégé, Valdecy DaSilva. After seeing other Brazilian leaders go to Bible colleges in the United States and not come back, the leadership was very reluctant to approve the wishes of DaSilva to do the same. But DaSilva was determined, and it was finally arranged for him to go to Colegio Biblico24 on the Mexican border in 1983. He agreed to work his own way through college, with the condition that he would come back and work with ICNG for at least two years after graduation—bringing his cross-cultural experience of Mexico back to ICNG.
The first member that ICNG sent with financial support was Maria Avanilde Silva, sent to the Word of Life Bible Institute (Instituto Bíblico Palavra da Vida)25 in São Paulo in 1985 for a Christian Education degree. She returned after graduation three years later to implement a Christian Education program.26 Her hard work recruiting and training volunteers and putting together a full curriculum for the youth department would have a long-lasting impact upon ICNG and would be followed up by other members. At least once a month, Children’s Church at ICNG focused on the world mission of the Church. Children regularly heard about cross-cultural experiences and prayer requests, and they participated in the mission rallies both several weeks prior to the event and during its occurrence. In this way world mission became a part of the DNA of the church.
Meanwhile, because of an invitation from the Church of Christ (Igreja de Cristo)27 in Angola, Tom Fife visited, taught, and preached in Angola’s capital city of Luanda in 1985. In 1986, Angolan pastor Arão Canda visited Brazil and shared concerning the situation of the growing church in Angola despite the communist oppression they were still experiencing a decade after independence from Portugal. Initially unplanned by ICNG, Arão was present at what would be ICNG’s very first world mission rally. Tom’s visit to Angola and Arão’s visit to Brazil were just the starting points of a long-lasting relationship between the churches in Brazil and Angola. A highlight of such interaction has been three different students who have subsequently come to the Christian Theological College (Faculdade Teológica Cristã do Brasil) in order to be further equipped for Christian ministry: Lutumba João Pedro, Afonso Teca, and Afonso’s wife Bibiane.28
Mission fervor at ICNG was also growing in relation to local evangelism. Partly as a result of a short-term mission team that came from Word of Life Bible Institute (Instituto Bíblico Palavra da Vida) with Avanilde Silva in 1986, the church emphasized evangelistic activities both in the neighborhood and beyond, even seeking opportunities to plant a new church. The church reflected Wilbert Shenk’s observation:
There is no biblical or theological basis for the territorial distinction between mission and evangelization. To accede to this dichotomy is to invite the church to “settle in” and be at home. The church is most at risk where it has been present in a culture for a long period of time so that it no longer conceives its relation to culture in terms of missionary encounter. The church remains socially and salvifically relevant only so long as it is in redemptive tension with culture.29
Ed Stetzer adds that the territorial distinction between mission and evangelism has been assumed since Gustav Warneck (1834–1910), but “their separation has caused harm to the church. . . . In an attempt to promote the importance of missions, missiologists have often undermined the church by removing missional thinking from its rightful place.”30 Thus, a church “conformed, and conforming to the will of God is one that lives in consciousness of its missional nature. Mission is the motor that drives the church in obedient response to the reign of God in the world.”31 Or, as 1 Pet 2:9 puts it, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
ICNG was growing in its “consciousness of its missional nature,” but that consciousness would soon be tested by a difficult decision.
A Conversion and a Commitment
Igreja de Cristo—Norte de Goiânia (ICNG) had been growing, so they bought a property in order to build a larger facility. The groundbreaking ceremony was on October 5, 1986. The church made plans for a building that could eventually hold five hundred people because they wanted to have room to continue to grow. However, after they laid the foundation and the walls were going up, all the resources had been drained. It did not take long for the congregation to find themselves putting all their time, money, and energy into the building project.
Patrick Johnstone’s Operation World had been published in Portuguese, so ICNG used prayer cards to pray for different nations during each midweek prayer meeting. Some started dreaming of developing a local world mission program. However, due primarily to the construction needs, it was becoming absolutely impossible to think about financing evangelistic efforts of any kind. And to make things worse, even basic needs of people in the church were being neglected.
Thus during the following year an important decision became inevitable. After much prayer, Gerson Sousa and Robert Fife approached the church in repentance and asked the people to follow. Some resisted the change, feeling that they had invested too much in the building to turn back. But despite this resistance, a change of mind actually took hold in the congregation. From that time on, people and the mission of the church took priority over buildings and projects.
The construction proceeded very slowly as permitted by available finances. Meanwhile, the church sent support promptly to the missionaries on the field. The congregation moved into the unfinished building in 1989, but it took nine more years before the building was completely finished. The church continued to grow but there were also some setbacks. At times the unfinished building was an embarrassment. Other times, inflation and the rapid devaluation of the Brazilian currency made it seemingly impossible to keep up with commitments to missionaries on the field.
Nevertheless, this turning point had a great influence upon the people of ICNG. Moreover, the decisions made by one congregation in this decisive stage have affected countless individuals, many churches, an amazing number of people groups, and even several countries in different parts of the world. From that point on, the congregation has fully acknowledged and affirmed its missionary posture. Stetzer’s comments describe their outlook: “God is a missionary God in this culture and in every culture. His nature does not change with location. Therefore, a missionary posture should be the normal expression of the church in all times and places.”32 And Shenk affirms that the Great Commission “institutionalizes mission as the raison d’être, the controlling norm, of the church. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ and a member of his body is to live a missionary existence in the world. There is no doubt that this was how the earliest Christians understood their calling.”33 The Christians at ICNG came to understand their calling in the same way.
The congregation put together a mission team, which rehearsed a play depicting different people groups in need of hearing the gospel, such as those represented by Mexico, Portugal, India, Japan, Arabic nations, and Brazilian Indians. The play also featured major religions such as Hinduism, Islam, and Communism. This play was widely presented to churches related to the 4Cs movement and to other churches in Goiânia as well as in the nearby cities of Anápolis and Brasília. Not only people who watched it but especially those who played a part in it received the impact of its message: the urgent need to do something to make the good news accessible to all peoples who have not yet heard it.
Besides planning monthly services with a mission emphasis at ICNG, the team made itself available to preach, teach, and participate in church services, rallies, and conferences focusing on world mission whenever and wherever possible. ICNG had a thirty-minute radio program twice a week on a Christian radio station at that time. Eventually the program became solely dedicated to mission awareness, something completely unheard of as far as radio programs were concerned. Nevertheless, it had quite an impact. Listeners from diverse backgrounds would learn of the training offered at ICNG and the group study of the correspondence courses created by Missão Antioquia. These courses about the world mission of the church followed the TEE model that the leadership was so familiar with by then. Required textbooks, along with these first lessons, were The Cry of the World and The Challenge of Missions, both by Oswald J. Smith; Patrick Johnstone’s Operation World, and a self-study book published by CEIBEL called Beyond Brazil: An Introduction to Missions (Além do Brasil: Introdução a Missões). Don Richardson’s Peace Child and Bruce Olson’s For this Cross I’ll Kill You were suggested readings. Édison Queiroz’s The Local Church and Missions (A Igreja Local e Missões) on how to set up a mission program in the local church also quickly became a must-read for anyone interested in the subject. At the same time, students were required to begin learning a foreign language of their choice.
Weekly classes on Saturday evenings were followed up with tests and homework, and students were encouraged to take what they were learning to their own communities of faith and try to initiate mission teams in their midst. Some of them not only became supportive of the cause but they also became missionaries after attending Missão Antioquia or other emerging training centers in order to be further equipped. Some of the people who received this kind of training were Marilourdes Linhares, João Santos, Neuza Alves, Kléber Ribeiro, Suzeth, Fátima Silva, Goreth Silva (not related), and Josimar and Maria Helena Coelho, among others. Most of these students of world mission at ICNG will be featured in some way in the rest of this story.
Beginning in 1986, ICNG held world mission rallies annually and sometimes even twice a year. During the first few years, besides the main annual mission rally, smaller week-long events called Vacation Missionary Week (Semana Missionária de Férias) were held during the mid-year school vacation period in July. Together with such rallies, the faith-promise program was also initiated. Alcides Piantola, who was planting a new church in Brasília, was among the first to be supported in this way. Even though the facilities were extremely rustic for several years as the new building continued under construction, some of the most prominent mission leaders in Brazil such as Ken Kudo,34 Josué Martins,35 Wilbur “Gilberto” Pickering,36 Jonathan Santos,37 Waldemar Carvalho,38 and Édison Queiroz, among others, were featured speakers at ICNG during those years. As a result, these rallies became an important and much anticipated event in Goiânia.
Besides the keynote speakers, the rallies also included teams representing mission organizations such as the recently formed South-America Project (Projeto América do Sul),39 Operation Mobilization (Operação Mobilização—OM)40 and their Logos I ship, the YWAM (Jovens Com Uma Missão—JOCUM)41 ministry King’s Kids, Missionary Aviation Fellowship (Asas de Socorro),42 and the team from Word of Life (IBPV), among others. As a result, several members often went, at their own expense, to world mission conferences at Missão Antioquia, First Baptist Church in Santo André over six hundred miles (1,000 km) away in the state of São Paulo, and Wycliffe/SIL (Missão ALEM) in Brasília, among others. This further spurred their interest in joining teams and taking short term cross-cultural mission trips with some of the above organizations.
Patrícia (Almeida) Leroy, for example, who was a key member of the mission team at ICNG during the first several years, joined the OM campaign in Argentina in July 1988 shortly after their Logos I ship had run aground on rocks in the Strait of Magellan. Two years later, she took a ten-day course on Islam, Proyecto Magreb, organized by COMIBAM in Orlando, Florida. And in 1991, after graduating in Nursing and Obstetrics from the Catholic University (Universidade Católica de Goiás),43 she went to Rio de Janeiro for another OM campaign while their Logos II ship was anchored there.
The ICNG members, especially the women, found many creative solutions to offset the cost of the mission rallies. Cakes were baked to be sold on the campus of the State University, homemade jam, snacks and meals were prepared for a fee; yard sales, house cleaning, and car washes organized by the teens were all ways to gather needed funds for such events.
The dedication of the handful of people on the mission team during the first several years was tremendous. Beside their regular involvement in the life of the church, they often spent many hours not only planning and organizing these mission awareness events but also hosting those who came from out of town, preparing meals, participating on the praise and worship team, and whatever else was necessary. At the time of these small beginnings, not everyone in the church shared the vision, let alone the burden, but those who did were definitely willing to go the “second mile.” In later years, several additional teams formed that shared the load.
It is also well worth mentioning that regular prayer played an important role in these activities. By this time the prayer cards for different nations were used as an integral part of practically every church activity, including Sunday services, Sunday school classes for all ages, mid-week services, and, of course, prayer meetings that focused specifically on missionaries and the world mission of the church. People often came half an hour before the main gathering on Sunday just for that purpose.
Through this culture of prayer God raised up several Christians with a heart to support missionaries. For example, praying for missionaries became a strong emphasis of the small group that gathered in Getúlio and Lielcinha Magalhães’s home. Affectionately called cultinho (little worship service), these mid-week meetings were geared toward children in the neighborhood and lasted five years (1987–1991). Djenane Cortez Santos and her whole family were eventually baptized at ICNG as a result of the cultinho. In her own words, focusing on world mission was part and parcel of her spiritual upbringing.44 During that same period, her future husband João Santos began participating in the mission training sessions at ICNG and eventually found his way to Missão Antioquia. João and Djenane did not intend to become missionaries to a foreign culture but rather to send and support missionaries. It was through their influence, for example, that the WestGate Church in San José City, California, sent a short-term mission team to work with Missão Antioquia in July 2005.
In 1996, João Márcio, who had just joined the pastoral team at ICNG, led the church to be involved in REVER,45 a ministry which trains “restoration teams” with the objective of helping people overcome emotional and relational trauma through Jesus Christ. Through the work of the Holy Spirit this ministry brought health to the church and further enabled the church to follow its missionary vocation.
And during the most difficult crises, whether in the national economy or in the local leadership, it was Gerson Sousa who kept the church always accountable to the missionaries they supported, so that those who had been sent out would never be let down. Near the end of 1999, João Márcio became the lead pastor of ICNG, relieving Gerson Sousa of that responsibility; nevertheless, Gerson continues to serve voluntarily on the pastoral team.
Unfortunately, along with all the excitement about world mission, there were always some people in the church who wanted to see the building finished and the church experiencing the same kind of numerical growth and visibility that other churches in Goiânia were enjoying. As a result, several leaders and people who were being equipped for the ministry gradually left the congregation in frustration, especially between 1993 and 1996. They joined other churches in town that were seemingly more dynamic and whose successes in the Christian ministry were more readily apparent. In contrast, João Márcio and his wife Gorete determined to remain active members of the congregation. They believed that God certainly had good plans for this community of faith and they wanted to play their part in those plans.
This transition period was extremely difficult. There were often no more than fifty people present at the main worship services. There were those who even doubted that the doors of the church would remain open much longer. They argued that the emphasis on cross-cultural ministries was extremely exaggerated while the building remained uncared for. It is true that the great efforts to put the finishing touches on the floor, ceiling, and walls during 1995–1997 brought a great boost to the local dynamics of the congregation. However, it is also well recognized now that many of the great accomplishments both locally and beyond are due to ICNG’s faithfulness to its world mission vocation, which never allowed the vision to die out, even during the hardest times.
“They laid their hands on them
and sent them off . . .”46
For more than 25 years now, the church’s faithfulness has borne fruit in the long succession of members that it has sent out as transcultural missionaries. Their individual stories deserve a book of their own; here I will give only the briefest of introductions in order to show the extent to which God’s word has spread around the globe as a result of the Spirit’s work at ICNG. For years the Holy Spirit had been preparing a powerful swell of mission fervor at ICNG, and that swell crested and broke into a wave in August 1985, when Robert and Derlani Fife were called to work with Portugal Christian Mission at the southern end of Europe.
. . . to Portugal
The Holy Spirit had prepared Robert’s and Derlani’s hearts to make such a decision through the church’s search for a full-time minister. Through prayer, they had decided they were willing to leave Robert’s well-paid job at a private school to fill this need for the church, which meant living on only ten percent of Robert’s previous salary. While the church board prayed about it, missionaries Dick and Sarah Robison wrote inviting the couple to help with the new work in Portugal. By this time, their hearts were ready for that kind of a challenge, and both were absolutely sure the Lord was calling them to full time cross-cultural ministry.
This call was surprisingly unexpected at first, but the church quickly showed its support for the Fife’s decision. The congregation believed that world mission deserves the best we have to answer God’s call. Robert and Derlani were among the main leaders at ICNG at that time, and the church dedicated them to God’s mission in another corner of the globe.
Of course, God began to provide in different and often unexpected ways. For example, in January 1987 former missionary Stan Wohlenhaus challenged all present at the American missionary gathering of the 4Cs in Cuibá to adopt the Fife mission to Portugal as a joint project. Each family gave increments of $25 every month. Those contributions continued for several years thereafter, some even to the present day.
However, Robert and Derlani understood it was part of their call to raise support first and foremost among Brazilian churches. Their main goal was a world mission awakening. So, the family visited many churches to share their vision and raise prayer warriors for the mission. Some of those congregations were small and poor at the time. To this day, however, many report that they continue to pray for the Fifes in Portugal every single day, according to the verse imprinted on the very first prayer card which the Fifes used to promote the mission: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf” (Romans 15:30). During the first few years in Portugal, as much as two-thirds of their support came from Brazil.47
Robert, Derlani, and their four children became the first missionaries formally sent out by the 4Cs churches in Brazil. They arrived in Portugal early on Sunday, March 20, 1988. Dick Robison met them at the port of Santos in Lisbon and drove them to Carcavelos where they were able to meet the church gathered to worship that morning. As the children grew, every member of the family had ample opportunities to serve in this small but growing community of faith. This joint effort of Brazilian and American churches and individuals has lasted 23 years.
Robert and Derlani have been active as initiators and/or leaders for a variety of ministries in Portugal and around the Portuguese-speaking world, such as the Support Ministry for Pastors and Churches (Ministério de Apoio a Pastores e Igrejas); a women’s prayer fellowship, Lydia Fellowship International;48 the Portuguese Evangelical Alliance;49 and most recently, a new ministry, Bridges to Life, with the purpose of promoting the unity of the Body of Christ and providing “networking relationships and/or pastoral care for missionaries among the Portuguese-speaking peoples so that the unreached might be reached in their own countries and in the world, through healthy ministers, healthy missionaries, and healthy churches.”50 While based in Portugal, their ministry and experience will continue to extend beyond borders according to their discernment of God’s direction.
. . . to Spain and Mexico
When Valdecy DaSilva dropped his course in Physics and Math at the Catholic University (Universidade Católica de Goiás) to go to Colegio Biblico in Eagle Pass, Texas, in 1983, his intention was to receive a theological education in order to return and serve his own people in pastoral ministry. But while working on the Mexican side of the border, the experience of learning a new language and the exposure to a new culture made world mission an integral part of his vocation to reach people for Christ. His zeal for missions grew during his evangelistic endeavors upon his return to ICNG in the summer of 1984.51 Through his short-term mission trips, but especially through the invitation of missionaries to Spain, Bill and Ginny Loft, DaSilva felt drawn to mission work in Spain. But he first needed to fulfill his commitment to return to ICNG.
DaSilva graduated in 1987 and married Mirna Salazar in Eagle Pass that May. In July, they moved to Goiânia. Representing Mexico, Mirna was soon integrated into the play that focused on unreached peoples and world religions. Meanwhile, DaSilva immediately began picking up Robert’s responsibilities at ICNG as Robert and his family prepared to move to Portugal. During 1988, DaSilva put his efforts toward the resumed building project as well as teaching at the Theological School of the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ (Escola Teológica das Igrejas de Cristo). But in April 1989, when missionary Bill Loft passed away unexpectedly, DaSilva and his family received an urgent call to aid the widow Ginny Loft in the continuing work in Murcia, Spain. Gerson Sousa and DaSilva went into the recently covered but still very unfinished church building that day and had an “Acts 13 experience.” This further convinced Gerson that ICNG should be like the church in Antioch that obediently sent out their most capable leaders as missionaries:
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1–3)
In response to the pressing need, Valdecy, Mirna, and their first child traveled to Spain only a month later. They spent their first month on the Iberian Peninsula with the church in Carcavelos, Portugal, where Robert and Derlani Fife were serving with the Portugal Christian Mission team. This was the beginning of a long and mutually encouraging partnership between the works in Portugal and Spain. Valdecy and Mirna helped plant a church in Murcia during their first two years, then returned to Spain for a second term from 1995 to 1998. Since 1999 they have served as missionaries among the Mexican churches, helping to equip their leadership and spur their interest in supporting and sending out missionaries of their own. Valdecy also completed master’s degrees from Johnson Bible College and Emmanuel School of Religion and serves on the faculty of Colegio Biblico. The family continues to lend their support to the church in Spain by traveling there every other summer. In addition, the DaSilvas continue to make their house in Goiânia available to any minister of the congregation who is in most need at any given time in order to free up funds for the mission budget.
. . . to Mozambique
Former professional soccer player Kléber Ribeiro was baptized in 1988 at ICNG while he was playing on one of the top teams in Goiânia. Supported by ICNG, he decided to go to Missão Antioquia for mission training, then on to plant a church in his hometown, Dianópolis. The he met, baptized, and married Juracema Gomes Araújo. The dream and determination of Geraldo Borges to send a 4Cs mission team from Brazil to the Makhuwa people in Mozambique, then considered the largest unreached people group in the world, soon captured Kléber and Juracema. They spent the next months preparing through internships and the Linguistics and Missiology Course at Wycliffe/SIL (Missão ALEM).
Borges’s own story is inspiring. His awakening to the world mission of the church came through the influence of missionary David Sanders and through a visit to ICNG in the mid-eighties, where Borges was impressed that even the children spoke of how the world mission came before the building project at ICNG.52 Soon thereafter he began praying about doing mission work in Mozambique because of the shared Portuguese language. In 1991 Borges and his wife Sebastiana “Tianinha” took a shipment of typewriters, sewing machines, and fabric to Tete, Mozambique, in the middle of the long-lasting civil war. While there, they visited the Churches of Christ (a cappella) in the Nampula region. They found out that these churches were among the Lomwe people but that there were none among the Makhuwa people. Unfortunately, Tianinha fell ill during this trip to Africa. She never recovered, but encouraged Borges until her last breath to keep on preaching the gospel.
Thus began the dream that would take Kléber and Juracema to the Makhuwa people in October 1996. Borges had done the ground work by traveling to Africa every year since 1991. He was already on location with a vehicle and some other supplies when their plane landed in Johannesburg, South Africa. It then took them five days to drive over twelve hundred fifty miles (2,000 km) to their destination. They had arrived for a four-year term and knew that they could count on Borges’s annual missionary-care visits and possibly those of other Christian leaders.
Kléber had repeatedly said that they were going to work with the Mozambicans and not for them, so the team encouraged new converts to share their faith and plant new churches while letting the changes in cultural aspects take their time.53 This emphasis on local leadership has facilitated phenomenal growth of the church in northern Mozambique. As of 2006, hundreds had been baptized and native leadership had been established in fifty-five locations, thirty-five of which had some kind of a meeting place erected. These churches have sent their first cross-cultural missionaries to the Koti people on the coast and especially on several islands, and to the traditionally fierce Makonde people in the northernmost region of Mozambique. The dream and determination continue.
. . . to the Ianomami Indians
Nara (Coelho) Taets grew up at ICNG surrounded by the mission of the church. Her parents, Josimar and Maria Helena Coelho, were both among the first involved in the mission-focused plays and in the organization of the earliest mission rallies. Josimar’s physical appearance and childhood experiences on an Indian reservation earned him a part representing Brazilian Indians in the mission play. Later, the church sent him and Maria Helena to participate in a missionary conference at Missão Antioquia which focused on Brazilian Indians. The influence was not lost on young Nara.
In 1998 Nara married Elias Taets, who had come from a Baptist church in the state of Minas Gerais. Both Elias and Nara had completed several rounds of theological and missional training, and in October 1999, they moved to Roraima to work among the Ianomami Indians in the Palimi-Ú village, which is over three thousand miles (4,800 km) northwest of Goiânia near the Venezuelan border. Both Nara’s parents and her sister have visited them several times in order to lend support to their ministry. In 2005, pastors João Márcio, Júlio César, and other ICNG leaders had the life-changing, cross-cultural experience of spending one week with them, further cultivating the missional orientation of the sending church. Elias, Nara, and their daughter continue to live and work in the Palimi-Ú village.
These long-term missionaries from ICNG live and work primarily on four different continents: Africa (Mozambique), Europe (Portugal), North America (Mexico), and South America (Ianomamis in northern Brazil). Adding up the monthly support sent to each family, ICNG maintains a world mission budget that is currently close to $12,000 a year. Despite the instability of the Brazilian economy over the years, the congregation has assumed responsibility for supporting its missionaries monthly in US dollars. This means that whenever the faith-promise income is insufficient, which is more the norm than the exception, the church takes money from the general fund to complete their commitment to missionaries. At times, this commitment to missionaries has been the equivalent of over fifty percent of the church’s regular income. As Wilma Sousa (not related to Gerson) recalls, “It is our duty. We, as a church, laid hands on them. We must also take care of them.”54 People and the world mission of the church continue to be the top priority at ICNG.
. . . to the ends of the earth
The list of shorter-term missionaries supported by ICNG over the years is too long to list. But mention must at least be made of those who were baptized at ICNG and who have served as cross-cultural missionaries for at least two years.
Tânia (Curado) DeGrave was completely ostracized by her extended family when she was baptized at ICNG in 1981. Her unstoppable evangelistic fervor brought the mission play to ICNG in 1986 and influenced countless young people to equip themselves for missions. That same fervor took Tânia to the European continent for missions in France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Belgium. She now lives with her husband Theo in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where they find themselves frequently sharing their life in Christ with people who are aggressively opposed to Jesus.
Avanilde Silva, the catalyst behind the children’s mission education program, married missions-minded Tim Bachmann. After no less than seven years of persistent preparation, and supported solely by Brazilian churches, the Bachmanns moved to Guinea-Bissau in January 2002 to do pioneer work among the Felupe people.
Avanilde’s sister, Maria Arenilde (Silva) Carvalho, was baptized two years after Avanilde. Arenilde, too, dedicated herself to missions, primarily through a series of Operation Mobilization (OM) commitments. During one of these 6-month missions she met and married Paulo Carvalho, and together they have repeatedly worked with church plants in Brazil, including three years in Uruguaiana, on the border of Argentina.
It was Arenilde who first invited Neuza (Neto) Peters to visit ICNG. In the first missions play, Neuza played the part of the Indian people in Asia. This experience made a strong impact on her, and she started to do research about India and the spiritual needs of that huge nation. In 1994 she spent her first six-month term in India, and in 2001 and 2002 returned to India with her husband Steve Peters for two more terms. Unable to obtain visas for a more extended period of time, they live in Mansfield, England, but continue to dream of serving Christ on the Indian subcontinent again in the future. ICNG supported Neuza between 1993 and 2002.
As a linguistics student at the Federal University of Goiás in 1986, Eliane Rezende de Ariño understood her call to serve the cause of Christ in some role related to languages. Thus she went to work with newly-founded Missão Kairós as a Linguistics and Missiology teacher for three years in the nation of Colombia. Eliane has continued her graduate and doctoral studies in Linguistics, focusing on the Creole languages of Colombia and Guinea-Bissau. She was also a key influence for mission for many of the youth at ICNG, including young Nara (Coelho) Taets, whose first cross-cultural experience was a three-month research trip through the Colombian mountains with Eliane.
Tom and Libby’s youngest son, Jefferson “Jeff” Fife, was born in Brazil and raised at ICNG. He and his wife Mônica planted a church in the Pirituba area of São Paulo, then another among the Portuguese-speaking population in Peabody, Massachussetts. From Jeff’s experience at ICNG, he believed that any new church should be thinking of ways to get involved in world mission from day one.55 The initial five members of the church all had jobs, so at their very first meeting in July 1994 they decided to send $100 every month to a relative of one of the members who was doing missionary work with YWAM in the Amazon region. Thus began their mission program, which has continued to grow to this day.
Jeff’s vision for missions also continued to grow, resulting in the River of Life Ministries (RLM), which focuses on taking the gospel to the Portuguese-speaking world. As of 2006, RLM had planted 7 churches across Brazil, with a further 7 churches opting to come under the RLM umbrella. The national leaders of these churches are partially supported by RLM during a period of two years, after which the congregation is expected to take full responsibility for its expenses. At the same time, RLM provides each church with discipleship tools and ongoing leadership training. Each church is also expected, from the very beginning, to give ten percent of their income toward church planting and world mission.56 RLM reports that, in 2005, as much as thirty percent of the total given back for this purpose was sent to aid the work of Kléber and Juracema and their team of national church planters in Mozambique.
Not only Jeff and Mônica, but other church planters mentioned in this paper, have shown evidence of four important things which, according to Roger Greenway, the apostle Paul and his co-workers did for the new Christians in their time: (1) they taught aggressively a clear and concise doctrine centered around Jesus; (2) they spelled out a moral system of behavior centered in the lordship of Jesus Christ over all areas of life; (3) they promoted a high level of cohesion and group identity that reached beyond the local group; and (4) they taught about the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of the Spirit-anointed.57
Many others have used their vocations to further the mission. For example, Dr. William Silveira was baptized at ICNG as a young boy and has become an excellent dentist. Not only has he treated missionaries at very low cost as his contribution to their mission but, since the year 2000, he has also been on no less than eleven short term missions trips on a boat that ministers to villages along the Amazon River, over two thousand miles (3,200 km) north of Goiânia.
And the stream of mission from ICNG continues. Each new generation is inspired by the missionary examples of the previous generation, and the fire that God’s Spirit lit in the mid-eighties continues to grow.58
Lessons Learned While On Mission
Twenty-five years of mission have taught ICNG several important lessons:
The world mission of the church must be prioritized above buildings and programs.
Despite the many voices calling for a larger building, ICNG made the firm decision to give first to missions. God has rewarded that decision hundreds of times over, and as a result churches around the world exist to give praise to God. Maintaining that decision required much sacrifice and determination, especially during the decade without a finished building. ICNG has since grown to over 350 in attendance, and continues to prioritize missions first.
Send out and support those with a clear call that is witnessed and confirmed by the community of faith.
The leadership at ICNG likes to say that they are in the business of sending the best that they have to answer God’s specific call, whatever it may be. Each missionary, together with his/her family, that ICNG sent was the best they could offer to God’s call. Likewise, Gerson Sousa was the best ICNG had to answer God’s call to remain in Goiânia. João Márcio and others who have joined the pastoral team were also the best ICNG had at the time to answer God’s call for additional staff.
The resilience and perseverance of missionaries in the face of adversities helps the church to stay the course.
Several missionaries have persevered even when financial support has been inadequate. Their attitude in turn has encouraged ICNG to remain faithful to its commitments at all cost. The snowball effect of this is that the perseverance of ICNG and its leadership in setting world mission as a top priority has been an inspiration to many other Christian leaders and churches.59
Long-term commitments on the part of at least some missionaries are absolutely essential for the continuing health of a world mission.
Unfortunately, there are also many Christian leaders and churches in Brazil today that have become discouraged by the early return of missionaries without accomplishing what they intended, often due to the lack of adequate preparation and/or support. This calls for an urgent response to the need for missionary care among Portuguese-speaking missionaries and their families.60
Close affinity with missionaries who have been sent out maintains the vision to prioritize cross-cultural ministries.
At times when the vision might have become blurred by competing needs, it has often helped for missionaries to have immediate family members and close friends as active members of the congregation. There is no such thing as “out of sight, out of mind.” For the same reason, every time a missionary returns home for any period of time, the flame of world mission is rekindled and burns much stronger.
It is crucial to identify and affirm local leadership as soon as possible.
No matter the missionary’s personality or style of leadership, passing the baton early on is the way to go. If one expects New Testament growth and multiplication, local leaders should be adequately equipped from the start and given full responsibility for the continuity of the mission.
And finally, the Holy Spirit can and must be trusted with the outcome.
Although Tom Fife had always stressed the need for ICNG to be self-supporting, seeing it become mission-minded and strongly supportive of the world mission of the Church is much more than he had ever imagined. Again, only the Spirit of God could have orchestrated things the way they occurred in order for them to have the results as one sees them today. Christian leaders are sometimes guilty of making the attempt to keep the ministry in some kind of green-house state with every detail under complete control. I am more convinced now than ever before that all I have to do is to be faithful to God’s call in my life and ministry and let the Holy Spirit take care of the details. As former translations consultant and teacher of missiology Charles Taber has written, “the Bible does not need to be protected by a nineteenth-century philosophical scaffold; it just needs to be turned loose . . . the national church [is] capable of being guided by the Holy Spirit using the Scriptures.”61
And God looked down and saw . . .
As I reflect on ICNG and its unusual vocation for world mission I am reminded of one of the most celebrated single woman missionaries in modern history, Gladys Aylward. Having arrived in China completely on her own in 1932, she grasped every opportunity to become immersed in the culture and later became a Chinese citizen. After nearly twenty years caring for dozens of war orphans and later serving a local church in evangelism and charity work, the “small woman” of China traveled worldwide to share her experience. In her biography written by Ruth Tucker, however, we find that despite “all the service she had rendered and the fame she had acquired, she was never fully secure in her calling—particularly that God really wanted to entrust a woman with responsibilities he had given her.”62 Her doubts were confided to a friend in her later years:
I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done for China. There was somebody else. . . . I don’t know who it was—God’s first choice. It must have been a man—a wonderful man. A well-educated man. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing. . . . And God looked down . . . and saw Gladys Aylward.63
In like manner, one might rationalize that ICNG was not God’s first choice for what has been accomplished so far for world mission. “Certainly,” one might continue to imagine, “there was some other church. It must have been a big one. A well-educated church in a more affluent environment. But, for some unknown reason, they decided not to answer the call. . . . And God looked down . . . and saw ICNG.”
Robert Fife and his wife Derlani were the first transcultural missionaries sent out by the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ in Brazil. Since 1988 they have served in Carcavelos, Portugal, where they have led a variety of ministries, including Ministério de Apoio a Pastores e Igrejas (MAPI) and the Evangelical Alliance of Portugal. Their passion for taking the gospel to the Portuguese-speaking world is born out in their continuing ministry, entitled Bridges to Life (). The Fifes have 4 children and 6 grandchildren. Robert can be contacted at .
Allen, Roland. The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962.
Beyerhaus, Peter. “The Three Selves Formula: Is It Built On Biblical Foundations?” The International Review of Missions 53, no. 212 (October 1964): 393-407.
Bonk, Jonathan J. Missions and Money: Affluence as a Western Missionary Problem. American Society of Missiology 15. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991.
Bridges to Life. “M. Statement.” http://bridgestolife.net.
Ekström, Bertil. “Mission in and from Brazil.” Address delivered at a joint meeting of the Associação de Missões Transculturais Brasileiras and the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies, 2005.
Fife, Robert. “Member Care for Portuguese-Speaking Missionary Families.” Unpublished paper, 2004.
Greenway, Roger S. and Timothy M. Monsma. Cities: Missions’ New Frontier. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000.
Hesselgrave, David J. Planting Churches Cross-Culturally: North America and Beyond. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000.
Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística. “Capital: Goiânia.” Goiás. IBGE Ciudades@. http://www.ibge.gov.br/cidadesat/link.php?codmun=520870.
Koyama, Kosuke. Water Buffalo Theology. 25th anniversary ed., rev. and expanded. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1999.
O’Donnell, Kelly. Doing Member Care Well: Perspectives and Practices from Around the World. Globalization of Mission Series. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2002.
Prado, Oswaldo. “A New Way of Sending Missionaries: Lessons from Brazil.” Missiology: An International Review 33, no. 1 (2005): 48-60.
Shenk, David W. and Ervin R. Stutzman. Creating Communities of the Kingdom: New Testament Models of Church Planting. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1988.
Shenk, Wilbert R. Write the Vision: The Church Renewed. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2001.
Stetzer, Ed. Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003.
Taber, Charles R. “My Pilgrimage in Mission.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 29, no. 2 (2005): 89-93.
Taylor, Bill, ed. Too Valuable to Lose: Exploring the Causes and Cures of Missionary Attrition. Globalization of Mission Series. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1997.
Thompson, Phyllis. A Transparent Woman: The Compelling Story of Gladys Aylward. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971.
Tucker, Ruth. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.
Walls, Andrew F. The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1996.
1 Tom was at this point unaware of Henry Venn’s classic “three-self” formulation, but this was without doubt Tom’s overarching goal for ICNG and the churches in Brazil. For information on Venn’s ideas, see Peter Beyerhaus, “The Three Selves Formula: Is It Built On Biblical Foundations?” The International Review of Missions 53, no. 212 (October 1964): 393-407.
3 I should also hasten to say that each person, couple, or family that is mentioned here deserves an essay of their own; my treatment of each will be brief so that the larger picture of God’s work may be seen in their interconnected stories.
4 Here, the term “mission station” denotes a permanent mission center that operates autonomously from—or even hierarchically superior to—the national churches. Such was the norm when Tom began his ministry, and in many parts of the world continues to be an influential model.
5 David and Ruth Sanders live in Brazil to this day and are honored members of a totally three-self church in Brasília that they started.
6 Tom taught at Southern Christian College in San Antonio, Texas from 1961 to 1963.
7 Personal interview with Tom and Libby Fife recorded on January 29, 2006.
8 Robert, Fifo, Elena, Thomas (Chico), and Jeff. In 1973, a sixth child was born: Elianne “Ellie” Grace.
9 Jonathan J. Bonk, Missions and Money: Affluence as a Western Missionary Problem, American Society of Missiology series 15 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991), xix.
10 Kosuke Koyama, Water Buffalo Theology, 25th anniversary ed., rev. and expanded (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1999), 146.
11 Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version.
12 Missão Antioquia, located in Araçariguama, São Paulo, was among the very first indigenous world mission centers to be established in Brazil ( ).
13 Gerson began attending ICNG with an older brother, Eudâmidas Sousa, in 1965.
14 Founder and president of the “Acts 1:8 in Action” Ministry (Ministério “Atos 1:8 em Ação”), Queiroz has recently returned to First Baptist Church in Santo André to serve again as its pastor.
15 As usual, it is hard to pinpoint a sole initial propeller of a movement such as this one. Though very scarce, most of the evidence points to a movement of anonymous women praying for the world mission of the Church, especially in Cianorte, in the state of Paraná, immediately south of the state of São Paulo. This is where missionary Barbara Burns arrived in 1969 and began to teach about world mission at the Presbyterian Seminary (Seminário Presbiteriano). Her work strongly influenced the directors of the institution toward a cross-cultural mission awakening. As a result, Missão Antioquia was founded there in 1976. A few years later, in 1980, the founders Jonathan Santos and Décio Azevedo moved the organization to an area in the state of São Paulo which was then named Valley of Blessing (Vale da Bênção).
16 Bertil Ekström, “Mission in and from Brazil,” (address, joint meeting of the Associação de Missões Transculturais Brasileiras and the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies, 2005). Ekström is currently the Mission Commission Executive Director Designate of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA— ).
17 Originally, Congresso Missionário Íbero-Americano, the acronym now stands for Cooperação (Cooperation) Missionária Íbero-Americana ( ), which represents around four hundred mission organizations in twenty-five Portuguese and Spanish-speaking countries.
18 Prado served as pastor of IPI for twenty years and is currently the leader of a SEPAL (the Latin-American wing of OC International, ) team in Londrina, in the state of Paraná, and the coordinator of the Brasil2010 project ( ), a saturation church planting effort originally associated with the AD2000 Movement. His ultimate goal is that churches be planted with a vision for the world mission of the Church.
19 Oswaldo Prado, “A New Way of Sending Missionaries: Lessons from Brazil,” Missiology: An International Review 33, no. 1 (2005): 52, 48-60.
20 Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1996), 9.
21 Prado, 52.
22 Personal interview with Oswaldo Prado recorded on January 12, 2006.
24 Colegio Biblico ( ) has campuses both in Eagle Pass, Texas, and in Piedras Negras, Mexico.
25 Organização Palavra da Vida ( ).
26 Like DaSilva, Avanilde had made a two year post-graduation commitment to ICNG. However, it should also be mentioned that there were others who, in the following years, did not honor commitments such as those of DaSilva and Avanilde. Much to the disappointment of those who had prayerfully sent them off to be better equipped in the Bible College setting, they did not return to ICNG before pursuing other avenues of service and/or secular careers in the United States.
27 This totally indigenous church was born in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa) among Christian refugees belonging to different denominations. In order to realize their unity, they simply decided to have no creeds but the Bible. After the independence of Angola in 1975, the refugees returned home and were officially recognized by the government as Igreja de Cristo em Angola. Missionary Timothy Thomas first made the leaders of this church cognizant of the existence of other 4Cs churches at an interdenominational meeting in Portugal in 1984.
28 Lutumba is the principal of a private school in the Palanca area in Luanda and one of the pastors of a local church there. Teca returned to Angola in March 2003 with a Master’s degree in New Testament from FTCB and another in Theology with Concentration in the area of Christian Education from the Baptist Theological College (Faculdade Teológica Batista de Brasília, ). Besides equipping more people in Angola for Christian ministry, he is on the faculty of the Department of Languages and Social Sciences (Faculdade de Letras e Ciências Sociais) of Agostinho Neto University (Universidade Agostinho Neto, ), the national university in Luanda. At the same time, Teca and Bibiane are helping in the pastoral ministry of another church.
29 Wilbert R. Shenk, Write the Vision: The Church Renewed (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2001), 48.
30 Ed Stetzer, Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 28.
31 Shenk, 48.
32 Stetzer, 22.
33 Shenk, 90.
34 Kudo is the founder of the Cross-Cultural Evangelical Mission “Avante” (Avante—Missão Evangélica Transcultural), a sending agency for Brazilian missionaries serving in Europe, Asia, Africa, and other nations in Latin America. He is also the founder and pastor of the Novo Rumo Church, which ministers within the Japanese community of São Paulo. Ken and his wife Diane have been in Brazil since 1976.
35 Martins is currently on the board of directors of Avante—Missão Evangélica Transcultural.
36 Born of missionary parents in the capital city of São Paulo, Pickering has been on the board of directors of Associação Lingüistica Evangélica Missionária (Missão ALEM, ), the Brazilian expression of Wycliffe Bible Translators/Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), since 1997.
37 Together with Décio Azevedo, Santos was the founder of Missão Antioquia.
38 Carvalho was the founder of Missão Kairós in 1988 and is its current executive director.
39 In 1984, Queiroz was impressed by the fact that there were five countries in South America with a very small number of committed believers. As a result, PAS was born. Fourteen people were equipped and sent to Uruguay and Paraguay that same year. The following year, other teams were sent to Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela.
40 Operation Mobilization ( ) is best known for the inter-continental ministry of its ships LOGOS, now LOGOS HOPE, and DOULOS.
41 JOCUM is an acronym in Portuguese that translates the English acronym YWAM, which stands for Youth With A Mission ( ).
42 Asas de Socorro is the Brazilian expression of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF, ).
43 Patrícia married Guilherme Leroy in 1994 and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Nursing from the Federal University (Universidade Federal de Goiás).
44 Personal interview with João and Djenane Santos recorded on January 9, 2006.
45 REVER is an acronym in Portuguese for Restoring Lives, Equipping Restorers.
46 Acts 13:3.
47 Due to the instability of the Brazilian economy in the nineties this support gradually decreased. Nevertheless, contributions from Brazil still account for some fifteen percent of the Fifes’ income.
48 Lydia Fellowship International ( ).
49 Aliança Evangélica Portuguesa ( ).
50 This is the mission statement of Bridges to Life (“M. Statement,” ).
51 Once again, credit must be given to God who worked through adverse circumstances. DaSilva’s visits and his evangelistic fervor were instrumental in helping ICNG get back on track after a short time during which there had been some stagnation in numerical growth. A substantial decrease in baptisms was noted after about a year (1983-1984) of much emphasis on the pursuit of spiritual growth and better knowledge of the Bible before sharing one’s faith with relatives, friends, and neighbors instead of doing both at the same time. We soon found out that that is not how it works and it took some time for the spiritual leadership to convince the church that it was wrong to neglect the sharing of one’s faith while pursuing spiritual growth and Biblical knowledge instead. In this regard, Shenk and Stutzman affirm that the intention of Jesus is
that every congregation experience the joy of evangelism in its normal life together. This is true of so-called “established congregations;” it is also true of newly planted churches. . . . The discipling church is an evangelistic church. The touchstone of authentic discipleship is the evangelistic vitality of a congregation. New congregations need to concern themselves with leading new believers into a full commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (David W. Shenk and Ervin R. Stutzman, Creating Communities of the Kingdom: New Testament Models of Church PlantingScottdale, PA: Herald, 1988], 212.)
52 Personal interview with Geraldo Borges recorded on January 2, 2006.
53 In this regard Hesselgrave recalls Roland Allen’s (The Spontaneous Expansion of the ChurchGrand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962]) momentous insights into the confidence Paul had in the Holy Spirit to direct the local churches and their leaders:
Paul knew that his fledging congregations would be tested. But he did not believe that his physical presence was critical to their success in standing for truth and moving forward for Christ. He knew that one measurement of faithful service is abiding fruit (John 15:16). Confident that he had been faithful and that the one who had begun a good work would complete it (Phil. 1:6), Paul could depart from a church after a limited time and begin another. He could speak as though his work was done (Rom. 15:18-24), confident that the members of his churches were evangelizing their environs (1 Thess. 1:6-8). His confidence in the churches was matched by his confidence in coworkers on whose shoulders the mantle of leadership was to fall. He was confident that they understood their task and would carry it out faithfully (Titus 1:5). (David J. Hesselgrave, Planting Churches Cross-Culturally: North America and Beyond, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000], 285.)
54 Personal interview with Wilma Sousa recorded on January 5, 2006.
55 Personal interview with Jeff and Mônica recorded on January 23, 2006. In Jeff’s view, failing to make world mission a priority is already a failure in fulfilling God’s purpose for the Church.
56 Ed Stetzer concurs with this approach and explains:
The total amount of money may seem insignificant to the congregation at first (almost a “why bother?” issue), but learning to establish a percentage, to maintain it, and to increase that amount over time will mean that many other church plants and other missions endeavors may go forward because of the young church’s gifts. I personally recommend that the congregation begin by giving 12 percent of every local, undesignated dollar to missions. At the very least, this attitude of generosity teaches by example that congregation members should give their tithe, and beyond. (Planting New Churches, 231)
57 Roger S. Greenway and Timothy M. Monsma, Cities: Missions’ New Frontier, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 50.
58 Thank God this is only a glimpse of what has been the cross-cultural missionary movement in Brazil since its great awakening in the mid-eighties and into the twenty-first century. Many more missionaries were sent out by many more churches from all regions of the country although in different proportions, of course. Research has been done on a national level that shows “surprising developments in relation to the growth of missionary organizations, especially national ones, and the sending of Brazilian missionaries to other cultures . . . the number increased considerably from 880 in 1989 to 2,803 missionaries in 2001, including those who, for some reason, returned from the field and are in our country, identified as missionaries on leave. Beside[s] these we encounter 1,076 other Brazilian missionaries serving in support and administration in Brazil” (Prado, 52-53).
59 Personal interview with Édson Gouveia (Igreja de Cristo de Brasília), Waldiberto Moreira (Primeira Igreja de Cristo de Taguatinga), Geraldo Borges, Lindelma Dias, Moreira Souza (all three from CTM), Flávia Panzea (Missão Cristã do Brasil), and Gerson Sousa (ICNG) on January 2, 2006.
60 I have explored this further in an unpublished paper “Member Care for Portuguese-Speaking Missionary Families” (2004). See also Bill Taylor, ed., Too Valuable to Lose: Exploring the Causes and Cures of Missionary Attrition, Globalization of Mission Series (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1997) and Kelly O’Donnell, Doing Member Care Well: Perspectives and Practices from Around the World, Globalization of Mission Series (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2002).
61 Charles R. Taber, “My Pilgrimage in Mission,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 29, no. 2 (2005): 92, 89-93.
62 Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 311.
63 Phyllis Thompson, A Transparent Woman: The Compelling Story of Gladys Aylward (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), 183.