By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
MONTES CLAROS, Minas Gerias, Brazil – Serving the Lord sometimes involves walking up and down nine flights of stairs for three days because the hotel’s elevator is broken, as is the hot water heater, which means no hot showers to comfort aching bones.
Serving the Lord sometimes means a delayed flight from Alexandria, which means missed connections in Dallas, Miami and Sao Paulo, in turn, only to find at journey’s end a resilient people eager to hear the truth of God’s love for them.
Serving the Lord in Brazil this July meant being part of a team of 130 children, teens, adults and seniors who as a group led 4,400 people to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
“It was a blessed experience because of the spiritual receptivity of the people,” said John Galey, pastor of Poydras Baptist Church in metro New Orleans. Galey was a first-time participant in the Brazil mission trip led for 29 years now by Wayne Jenkins, LBC’s director of evangelism.
“They want to hear what you have to say,” Galey continued. “We were, all 130 of us, functioning as a team with one purpose: to partner together to serve the people of Brazil, to equip the pastors, encourage the believers, and lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We were all there for one purpose; that built unity among the team.”
Participants in this year’s Brazil mission trip – from Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Utah, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida and Oregon , with the majority from Louisiana – served in a variety of ways. There were VBS, medical, sports, drama, street witnessing, in-home visiting and construction teams.
Carlos Mesa, missionary pastor of three Hispanic congregations in Shreveport, Bossier City and Haughton, participated for the 14th year in the Brazil mission trip for two reasons, he said: because it’s his calling, and to serve as an example to the people he leads in northern Louisiana.
“I do not know if we would have had more than 4,400 professions of faith if it weren’t for the assistance of these young people who volunteer to translate for us,” said Mesa, who speaks Spanish and English but not Portuguese, the language of Brazil. “This particular group of people is the future of Brazil.
“There will be some pastors come out of this,” Mesa continued. “They heard so much of God’s word this week; they showed so much dedication. I know how difficult translation is. This is the kind of spirit I encountered over there.”
About 15 of the 50 or so volunteer translators were from Igreja Batista de Redencao [Redemption Baptist Church], where Christian Gillis is pastor. Most of the translators were in high school or college. About 20 came from the city of Belo Horizonte, six hours east. All were volunteers and many paid their own expenses, Jenkins said.
“The mission trip is a partnership between our SBC missionaries, David and Laurie Bleadsoe, Brazilian Baptists and the team he brings,” the LBC evangelism director said. “All come away with a greater appreciation of the work and a shared learning experience.”
The sharing was two-way.
“There was one lady from the church; she was always the first one there and the last one to leave,” said Casey Sidwell, from Oregon, who volunteered on the medical team. “She was the sweetest lady ever; I learned from her to be more patient and giving, to put others before yourself.”
In addition to the volunteers who went to Brazil, others contributed with finances or, in the case of First Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove, Utah, about 1,100 handmade salvation bracelets.
“I passed them out to the VBS teams, street witnessing teams and everyone,” said Steve Sidwell, a block mason from Utah, who went to Brazil for the seventh time this year to build one of the three churches that were constructed, painted, and readied for worship within a week’s time.
“A man came up to one street witnessing team, showing his bracelet,” Sidwell continued. “They thought he just wanted another one, but when the translator came up, they learned the man was saying, ‘I’ve had this bracelet for a year. What does it mean?’ He accepted Christ that day.”
Galey said he went to Brazil, his first international missions trip, because he was convicted by the words of Acts 1:8 to be a witness locally, regionally and to the uttermost parts of the earth, and then in the mail came a plea from Wayne Jenkins, reporting the need for 21 pastors for the Brazil trip.
“No one in this [Poydras] church had ever taken an international missions trip,” Galey said. “God gave the opportunity and supplied the resources. …
“I made a lot of friends – in Brazil and from the U.S.,” Galey continued. “The Lord willing, I want to go back next year and want to take more people from Poydras with me.”
Lisa Breaux of First Lafayette and the cooking team provided a typical Cajun meal for the mayor, who invited dignitaries to his home to eat. “He is extremely influential,” Jenkins said. “That Cajun meal opened a number of doors.”
The next Brazil mission trip is set for mid-July 2014; the cost is to expected to be less than $3,000, including a couple of days at the end of R and R. For more information contact Jenkins or his assistant Syd Smith at 318.448.3402.