By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil – In the 33 years Wayne Jenkins has participated in mission trips to Brazil, 26 times while representing Louisiana Baptists, he has seen multitudes saved, including 2,568 this year, and 65 church buildings erected, counting the three added in July.
But one of his most special memories took place this year when his grandson, J’Von, was baptized – the first time a member of the U.S. team has done so in Brazil.
Already a believer before the summer mission trip, J’Von had not followed through with baptism. It was while experiencing God’s presence during the mission trip that he felt compelled to take that next step of obedience.
His father, David Denton, pastor of Highland Baptist Church in New Iberia, baptized him in the team hotel pool.
“Two years ago I had two grandsons make professions of faith while on a mission trip and now to have J’Von follow through with a decision is an added blessing,” said Jenkins, director of evangelism and church growth for Louisiana Baptists. “God does a work in the lives of those who go on mission as well as those we go to minister to.”
Denton said J’Von had been exposed numerous times to the Gospel but finally grasped the true meaning of it during Vacation Bible School at Highland Baptist Church in June.
“We had asked him before about making his decision public but wanted him to take that step when he was ready,” Denton said. “During the week of our ministry in Brazil we asked him again about making a public profession of faith and he responded by saying ‘I think I would like to be baptized here, in Brazil.’ It was wonderful to be able to experience this with family and friends around. I know it was a memorable moment for him.”
Jenkins, Denton and his son were among 87 men and women who were on mission in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, as part of a Louisiana Baptist-led evangelism outreach effort. By the end of the group’s mission trip in mid-July, 2,568 people had proclaimed Christ as Lord and Savior.
The U.S. group joined Brazilian Baptists to construct three churches, operate medical and eye clinics, hold Vacation Bible Schools, conduct street evangelism, run sports clinics, cook for business leaders and give drama presentations in schools and outdoor venues. The majority of the U.S. team were from Louisiana, though others hailed from Alabama, North Carolina, Texas and Utah.
Whatever the need – eyeglasses, volunteers, or money to purchase construction supplies — Jenkins said God was generous to supply.
“God always provides everything and everybody you need to do all He has called you to do,” Jenkins said. “When it comes to people and resources, He will provide what you need.
“We began praying He would provide the people,” he continued. “When we were at 87, I thought we didn’t have enough and financially we were a little short in some areas. But God came through and provided all we needed to share the Gospel.”
Joey Zagar was part of a construction team that witnessed 18 people accept Christ.
His first mission trip to the country, Zagar helped build a church alongside his combined team of Americans and Brazilians, starting work at 6:30 in the morning and ending most days at 7:30 p.m.
At the start of the project, the team heard some in the community express doubt that a church could be built in a week. When the finishing touches were completed by the sixth day, these neighbors were completely stunned.
“I saw the building’s importance as the people in the community came together to worship,” said Zagar, a member of First Baptist Church in New Iberia, who witnessed Brazilians accept Christ in the new facility. “It was then I felt the Spirit moving and I understood why He had told me to go.”
“God’s Word was spread throughout the community,” he said. “I saw many people working long hours and through it we saw evangelism, fellowship, ministry, discipleship and worship taking place in a community that was receptive and loving.
“It showed me Philippians 4:13 in action — ‘I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me’ — because there is no way we could have accomplished what we did without God’s power and might.”
Although the trip was Zagar’s first time in Brazil, for others like Lisa Breaux it was a return visit to the country. In fact, for her it was the 17th time to do missions there.
Breaux served on the cooking team, providing meals for church members, U.S. volunteers and even the hotel staff where the team stayed, and a number of them accepted Christ.
Breaux estimates they fed about 180 people at three churches as well as 100 hotel personnel.
“At the hotel, several of the staff spoke to us on the side after we cooked for them and asked for prayers on different things they were dealing with,” said Breaux, a member of First Baptist Church in Lafayette. “When you cook for people, it breaks down barriers and walls and shows them you are sacrificing your time with something precious to you.
“You can then share that as good as this food is, you are going to be hungry again tomorrow,” she said. “We explained that the Bread of Life will leave them full and I think that message really connected with people.”
Next year, Jenkins says they will need at least 130 people willing to work in the difficult area of Minas Gerias, south of Belo Horizonte.
The state is the size of Texas with multitudes of cities without a Baptist or evangelical work, he said, adding that the area has fewer believers per capita than Saudi Arabia. While the team will be doing some of the same ministries as this year, additional ministry and evangelism opportunities will be added in order to share the Gospel in this unreached area.
For information about joining the team next year, please contact Wayne Jenkins via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.