On June 15, 1997 I made a commitment to prepare myself for lifetime mission service in Brazil. A few years later, in January 2001, I thought I was making good on that pledge to God. I had worked fast and hard for a Bachelor of Ministry degree through Harding University’s School of Biblical Studies program. I had raised support, and to provide for what might be lacking I took a distance learning course to teach English as a Foreign Language in Brazil for part of my support. In February 2001 I married the love of my life, Christiane. A Brazilian (now also naturalized American), she brought companionship and greater joy to my walk with Christ. Together we have two children. Now, a little over nine years after my move to Brazil, we live in New Jersey. What happened?
Much of the specifics I covered in an earlier post. I hadn’t completed all of the preparation I had decided was necessary that evening in June 1997. Further, my perspective was skewed. Ministry to me was not the full-blooded, holistic application of the Good News of Jesus. Instead, it was a matter of correcting people’s incorrect religious ideas and baptizing them into Christ. That was pretty much it.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong and quite a bit right about teaching the Word of God and immersing people into Christ. This work is essential to the mission of God. This along is simply too 2-dimensional. The Good News has the power to deliver people from sin and sorrow, but it needs to be lived out in diverse ways to reach people in all conditions of life. This message of God coming in the form of a servant should inspire disciples of Jesus to their own works of service, declaring in word and deed that the kingdom has come, the new creation breaking into this world bringing with it new life and the promise of a future hope in resurrection and New Heavens/New Earth.
The world needs this word. Brazil needs this word. The powers and authorities need to be reminded, however they might deny, mock or ignore, that God alone is sovereign and Jesus is Lord.
What on earth am I doing in the United States? At this point, I would say I am coming back to myself, realizing that recovery from past hurts needs to be brought to closure and preparation for the future needs to take place. At the same time, I am more than a little worried. Time has passed. Does God still have a place for me in Brazil? Looking through photos my brother-in-law Marcelo sent of church activities this year in Uberlândia, I see familiar faces, but also quite a few unfamiliar ones. Things aren’t as we left them in late 2003 when my wife and I moved our family to the States. She
and our kids have been back there twice since then. I haven’t returned yet. It feels as though something inside me is preventing it.
In 2012 the World Convention is scheduled to take place in Goiania. This event, held every four years, is the global gathering of people from churches with roots in the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. I’ve said often that I plan to attend. I hope I’ll be able to do so. Now, though, another thought is crossing my mind. What if 2012 marked my family’s return to the mission in Brazil?
Pray with me on this, would you? Discernment is needed, and answers won’t come overnight.
Here’s the song I heard in church that evening in June, 1997 during communion. At the time I didn’t understand the words, but it spoke straight to my heart. When I learned the meaning of the lyrics, which speak of power misused, justice for the downtrodden and a call to look up to “the Just Judge,” I was in awe but not too surprised.