By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
POUSO ALEGRE, Brazil – A Louisiana Baptist-led mission team took the 2018 statewide Harvest emphasis international, resulting in 3,212 Brazilians repenting for salvation in July.
“Numbers matter because they mean people,” said Deanne Denton, a trip coordinator and member of Highland Baptist Church in New Iberia. “Numbers mean changed lives. Numbers on this trip mean churches in that area can take those contacts of people who accepted Christ and follow up with the new believers through the year. That is always amazing to see because the people are very responsive.”
Denton was among 130 men and women who were on mission in Pouso Alegre, Brazil, as a part of an evangelism outreach in the country July 6-17. Some remained in Brazil two additional days to see the country.
While there, the teams participated in street evangelism, Vacation Bible Schools, drama performances, sports clinics, cooking demonstrations, construction of churches and a school, and conducted medical, dental and eye clinics. The mission group included other volunteers from Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
Denton said there were some ups and downs during the mission trip, but God was in control of it all.
On the one hand, a week before the trip only seven translators had been secured for the entire group, well short of the goal. However, an additional 20 translators were signed up just days before the team’s arrival in Brazil.
On the other hand, the medical team had a surplus of volunteers, so a group of medical students scheduled to work in the clinics were redeployed.
“Some of those students found themselves not as busy, but they were flexible and chose to minister in a different way,” Denton said. “The medical students went into the neighborhood and knocked on doors to win people to the Lord.”
Yes to Jesus
Craig Beeman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Winnsboro, said his first mission trip to Brazil reminded him that people need God in Louisiana and around the world. He witnessed the power of that concept first hand when he shared Christ with someone in a city park.
When Beeman first asked if he was a Christian, the young man said, “Yes.” But he was contradicted by a buddy who told Beeman the fellow was not a believer and that he needed Jesus.
“I was shocked that his friend basically shared the young man had just lied to me,” Beeman said. “So, I pressed him and asked if having Jesus in control of his life and having his sins forgiven was something he wanted to do. He said, ‘Yes.’ I then shared with him we have to somehow tell God that is what we want Him to do. I shared with him a prayer expressing that and asked again if that is what he wanted to do. Again, he said yes.
“There is nothing like hearing a ‘Yes’ to Jesus,” Beeman said. “We prayed and his body language visibly changed when he raised his head. That is what sharing the Gospel is all about – people coming to Christ. The trip was so encouraging that I am planning to return next year. Oh, and in-between now and then, I’ll not give up in sharing Jesus with those here in Louisiana. Seeing God at work in Brazil reminded me that He is the same God at work in Louisiana.”
When he found out that more than enough volunteers were serving with the medical clinic, Christian Oliver and a few other medical students ventured out into the community to visit patients in their homes. They also used the opportunity to present Jesus to them.
During one of the home visits, Oliver established a relationship with a young man named Mateus who came forward to profess his faith in Christ during a worship service led by the team at First Baptist Church in Campanha. Oliver, who is a student at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, had the privilege of walking with him down the aisle.
“It was rewarding to be a mouth for God,” said Oliver, who attends Highland Baptist Church in New Iberia when he is not at Yale. “There was nothing I could have done to speak in the reach of my own power since there was a language barrier, but I knew God was the one who spoke to him.”
Myrtle Patin and her husband, Joe, helped build a church and painted a school. The principal of the school was touched by the love expressed by team members, and she repented and turned her life over to Christ during the dedication of the new house of worship.
“It is always a joy to see someone come to Jesus, but to see a leader of young people change to a path that can affect all of the young people she will come into contact with, and have an influence on, really is exciting,” said Myrtle Patin, a member of Lincecum Baptist Church in Pollock. “She was with our team all through the week as we painted her school free of charge. Many Brazilians came by and commented that no one there would have done that for free. So I think that selfless act showed that there was something special about Christians that she needed in her life too.”
Holy Spirit Driven
Brent Johns enjoyed serving in Brazil alongside his mother, Sue, son, Bradley, and daughter, Breanna. His mother, who attends the First Baptist Church in Graceville, Florida, served on the eye glass team while the rest of the family, who attend the First Baptist Church in Houma, helped with sports clinics.
“My wife and I have always wanted to do missions and evangelism with our children, and give them the opportunities at an early age to do that,” he said. “We can tell them all day long how important it is, but doing it together helps them to see it’s real.”
During one of the sports clinics, six college-aged men watched from a distance as the team taught the youth in attendance how to improve their basketball skills. After the clinic was over, the Holy Spirit moved and brought five of the young men under conviction of their need for a Savior.
“They sat in the stands and when we shared the Gospel with the younger students, you could tell they thought it was silly,” Johns said. “When they left, we played a game with them and when we were done, we shared with them. This time they listened intently. No one is ever a lost cause. God has a way of changing a heart.”
Wayne Jenkins, who led his 34th trip to Brazil, led several people to Christ throughout the week. But by the time he was scheduled to leave the country, Jenkins was unable to fly because of complications with cancer.
With the help of a Brazilian congressman whose wife accepted Christ after hearing Jenkins preach many years ago in the country, he was able to navigate through government red tape to arrive back in Louisiana a few days later.
“All those seeds planted those years ago God used, in His grace, in my Dad’s life now,” Denton said. “It was a blessing to know of the growth in faith of those to whom you have ministered. The congressman and his wife were a part of a church plant that began in their home. The blessing came full circle when the same people, into whom my father had spoken life, were able to minister to him in his time of need.”
Though he faced challenges, Jenkins also experienced the blessing of receiving special recognition for his evangelistic work in Brazil.
Marcio Alexandre de Moraes Santos, executive director of the Minas Gerais State Baptist Convention, presented Jenkins and Texas pastor Dwight Lowrie with awards that recognized them as two of the top 100 influential persons in the area of evangelism in Brazil.
They were given medallions marking 100 years of Baptist work in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil. Jenkins retired in early 2018 as evangelism and church growth director for Louisiana Baptists. Lowrie has helped coordinate the trip for many years and is pastor of Liberty-Eylau Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas.
For information about joining the Brazil mission team next year, please contact Wayne Jenkins at 318.446.3242, or David Denton at 337.365.5471.