When Evangelism & Church Growth director Eric Hoey heard Brazilian pastor and world mission leader Jonas Furtado do Nascimento say, “God brought you here,” it took his breath away.
“Those words made the whole trip worthwhile,” Hoey said. “(It was) like seeing the hand of God orchestrate our travels for something far greater than we imagined.”
Hoey — along with Ray Jones, Evangelism ministries coordinator, and Dennis Smith, World Mission regional liaison for Brazil and the Southern Cone of Latin America — went to Campinas, Brazil, in late August for a church-planting conference. It was attended by a small delegation of pastors from Igreja Presbiteriana Independente (IPI), a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) partner church.
After the two-day conference, Jones, Hoey and Smith had the opportunity to meet with additional mission partners. At the Graduate School of Theology at the Methodist University of Sao Paulo, they met with faculty members to discuss opportunities for Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) evangelists to share experiences of discipleship with Brazilian colleagues.
They also visited a United Presbyterian Church of Brazil congregation, where they gave a mini mission conference. “We were especially moved by the testimony of two young men — twins — who were extremely poor and living in precarious conditions,” said Smith. “Their deep enthusiasm for mission and their energetic participation in the three hour service was incredibly meaningful.”
The men wrapped up their trip worshiping together at an IPI church pastored by Jonas Furtado do Nascimento. Jones preached at morning worship, Hoey preached in the evening and Smith taught Sunday school. The next morning, during a final visit to IPI headquarters to learn more about IPI evangelism projects, Nascimento addressed them.
“You know that a sector of the IPI proposed breaking relations with the PC(USA) over the issue of ordination standards. I have prayed hard that the Spirit would move in all our hearts to maintain our mission partnership,” he said. “I believe God brought you here as a sign of new ways that we can work together.”
“It was providential,” Hoey said. “None of this would’ve been possible without our partnerships and without our mission co-worker translating, introducing us to each other. We were there to learn about disciple-making. God had a bigger cause of strengthening our Presbyterian partnerships for the sake of Christ’s mission in the world.”
Hoey and Jones would like to create opportunities for evangelism leaders in the PC(USA) travel to Brazil to do and learn mission —and share their experiences — with mission partners.
“They have much to teach us about disciple-making,” Jones said. “Their passion to reach people through cell groups, mentoring and mission is evident.”
Nascimento and the IPI are sending missionaries to the driest places in Brazil to drill wells, bringing water to meet the needs of the people with good news of the gospel. The IPI is also expanding its Amazon River ministry to bring medical supplies to people in underserved areas.
“They’re going into river communities where the government isn’t meeting needs and offering a floating clinic and school” said Jones. “I’m blown away by the vibrancy of their faith. They’re going where the needs are, integrating evangelism and justice. We have much to learn from our Brazilian partners.”
Added the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s World Mission Director Hunter Farrell, “The Brazilian church continues to be a blessing to U.S. Presbyterians and we look forward to many more collaborative efforts in Brazil, the USA and beyond.”