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Brazil's Rising Generation

In Brazil God is raising up an army of world-changers with a passion to proclaim the message of Christ

Editor’s note: As the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro commence, ministry teams from the Brazil Assemblies of God have the opportunity to share the gospel with people from around the world. The Fellowship, with roots stretching back 104 years, has consistently sought out creative avenues to proclaim the good news to the next generation. This archived article from the Pentecostal Evangel World Missions Edition reports on that unwavering mandate.

The largest, and growing, Pentecostal movement in the world, the Brazil Assemblies of God Fellowship has no secret method for effective evangelism. Believers simply follow the same strategy modeled by the New Testament church: reaching, planting, training, and touching people with the love of Christ.

Brazil has a rich missions history, but believers are not satisfied looking to the past. A young generation of missionaries is rising to continue — and even expand — the work.

John and Doris Lemos served as missionaries to Brazil for over 50 years until Doris’ death in 2009. Since then John, now 88 years old, encourages younger pastors and leaders to stay faithful in following God’s plans for evangelism. His gleaming eyes reveal his passion for ministry.

“God is especially good at opening doors,” he says. “He is making lots of blueprints. When you work for God, don’t do things on your own. Ask Him to give you His plan.”

Raised in Brazil, John knew early on that God had called him to reach his own people. Seeing the need for greater training among believers, he tried to gather support for a Bible school. His efforts were initially unsuccessful until one pastor finally stepped up to help him. Together they made plans to open Biblical Institute for the Assemblies of God (known as IBAD) in Pindamonhangaba, Brazil. The school started with eight students in a small house, and every year enrollment grew.

“Brazil was very backward in education,” John recalls. However, opportunities improved over time. John and Doris wrote Sunday School materials that were used across the country. Greater availability of materials opened many doors to spread the gospel. Today, IBAD has 170 full-time resident students and more than 9,500 students who study long distance.

John’s son, Mark, is continuing the legacy of training students for ministry. Missionaries since 1989, he and his wife, Helba, serve at IBAD alongside Brazilian faculty and staff. They are committed to the school’s original vision: to prepare pastors for churches that are self-supporting, self-propagating and self-sustaining. Today, IBAD is fully indigenous — supported and led by Brazilians. Mark also travels and speaks in churches, and Helba works with hundreds of pastors’ wives across Brazil.

IBAD has graduated more than 5,000 students. More than 400 of the 2,000 Brazil AG missionaries are IBAD graduates and currently serve in 31 nations of the world. God is using graduates from IBAD to make a difference in their world. The following are just a few examples.

The four walls seem to shake with the enthusiasm of people singing. Sitting in the tiny one-room church in south Brazil, Manoel Jose waits for his turn to preach.

The 25-year-old is not much taller than 5 feet, but his passion for the lost is enormous. He paces and sweats as he preaches about not forsaking our first love, Jesus Christ.

Manoel is one of many in Brazil’s rising generation.

Born in Maranhao, a state in northeastern Brazil, he grew up working with his family in the fields. None of his five siblings is a Christian.

At 14, he read a flier about how Noah’s relationship with God prepared him for the Flood. At that time, many Brazilians believed that the earth would be destroyed in the year 2000, and Manoel was eager to find a way to escape destruction. While working in construction, a Christian co-worker invited him to church, where he committed his life to Christ. Eventually his parents also accepted Christ.

Manoel had a desire to know the Scriptures. He says he longed for “the sense to shine the light on theological issues in the church.” At 16, he moved more than 500 miles away from home and found work as a gardener. During the next five years, his local pastor put him in charge of a small congregation. Seeing his commitment to ministry, the pastor provided financial support for Manoel to attend IBAD.

Manoel is confident of his call to be a pastor, but the road has not been easy.

During his first year at IBAD, he felt overwhelmed and considered giving up. At his lowest point God gave him a vision in which he was standing in a dry place that was filling with water. As he sank helplessly in mud he cried out, “God, if You get me out of this, I’ll do Your will!” Immediately, he saw himself again in a dry place with ships sailing in the distance. One ship had no captain, and another ship had a sick woman as a passenger. Manoel sensed a renewed call from God to shepherd His people and minister to the sick and needy.

At IBAD, Manoel is learning to do just that. He believes pastors in Brazil must develop strong personal relationships with people, which involves more than standing on a platform or sitting behind a desk. He also feels that more believers need to reach out to the needy. He is committed to seeing these changes with the Lord’s help.

When Wilza was 5 years old, her parents went to Portugal as missionaries from Brazil. Growing up in a nation that was only 1 percent evangelical, she was confronted daily with the need to share the gospel. Even as a child, she was determined to follow in her parents’ footsteps.

Uvalisson Faria is a pastor’s son from Brazil. At 17, he tried finding work in the United States, but eventually he moved to Portugal. He and Wilza met at the church Wilza’s parents pastored. They married in 2005.

Four years later, Wilza’s love for missions began burning stronger in her heart. As she and Uvalisson prayed, they knew God was leading them back to Brazil to attend Bible school. Selling everything, they came to IBAD, not knowing if they would be able to stay. With four pieces of luggage and no steady income, they settled into an empty apartment. Families began giving them furniture, and a church offered to help pay for their schooling.

“We came here without knowing what was going to happen next,” Wilza shares. “It’s not easy to go to a place on your own, but it’s worth it.”

Marcos Fialho had a contracting company in New Jersey. Committed believers, he and his wife, Gisele, served in a Brazilian-Portuguese ministry for more than 10 years.

Gisele’s grandfather, Teodoro Towkan, was a pioneer of the Brazil Assemblies of God who came to the country as a missionary from Poland in 1923. Gisele always felt called to missions, but as a child she remembered people telling her, “You don’t want to be a missionary. They go hungry.”

God continued to stir the Fialhos’ hearts for missions, and at last they made the decision to further their ministerial training at IBAD. The decision was not easy. “God told me, ‘I’m taking care of you,’” Gisele shares.

Marcos now serves as the missions director at IBAD, and he and Giselle minister frequently at local churches. Their daughter, Catherine, wants to be a missionary to Northern Asia.

Joyce da Silva’s mother knew for a long time that God had chosen her daughter for special use in the ministry. While growing up in church, Joyce sensed God leading her to work with children and youth.

For 11 years she served as a missionary to Switzerland alongside her brother. Together they began a ministry to Brazilians, and many people came to Christ. At the time, they led the only evangelical group in Geneva. Today, however, there are more churches.

While in Switzerland, Joyce’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Those in the young church in Geneva began praying, and the Lord did a miraculous healing. When the cancer returned five years later, the church prayed again. Once more Joyce’s mother was healed.

During this time, however, Joyce’s father walked away from the Lord. Joyce struggled to understand why she was involved in a successful ministry in Switzerland, but her own father was spiritually lost.

Eventually, God led Joyce back to Brazil to study theology at IBAD. Shortly after classes began, her father rededicated his life to Christ.

Joyce now has a vision for the young generation of Brazil. “I really want to win the youth,” she says. “God has called me to reach out to those who are struggling with their home life and help them discover who they are.”

Pedro Jonatas lives in Itapipoca, a tourist city along Brazil’s northern coast. He was the manager of a construction hardware store when God called him to go to Bible school. At the time, the only thing he owned was a motorcycle, which he sold to pay the bills.

“Most of my parents’ generation didn’t go to school,” Pedro shares, “so they’ll believe anything they hear — even bad theology. Some of these people are especially hard to reach. They travel in groups from city to city, beating themselves in the name of religion. I want to teach people how to better understand God’s Word.”

Though pastoral ministry initially was his goal, since being at IBAD he now feels God leading him to be an evangelist. “Within four walls, we do very little,” he says with conviction. “It will be better for me to be an evangelist.” His vision is to unite the youth attending area churches and send them to rural, mountainous areas of Brazil to witness.

Part of Pedro’s ministry vision involves outreaches of compassion. He says, “If someone is hungry and you tell them, ‘Jesus saves and the kingdom of God is here,’ they will answer, ‘OK, but where?’” To preach about Christ but fail to reach out with compassion for the needy is worthless, he believes. “The Great Commission doesn’t just go after the soul, but after the whole man,” Pedro adds.

“The Holy Spirit can give me strength, reveal His will for my life, and shine His light so that I may know how to speak only the truth and write only what I should write," Pedro says. "We know the Holy Spirit is a Person who enables each of us for a certain purpose. You can look through the Old and New Testaments and see how the Holy Spirit enabled people to do God’s will. I want Him to enable me put into practice what God has put on my heart.” 

Pedro’s words echo those of many students at IBAD. They come from humble circumstances and remote locations. Often they are looked down on by society. Yet under God’s leading and anointing they are rising up — an army of world-changers with a passion to reach Brazil and beyond with the message of Christ. Their enthusiasm and commitment serve as both an example and a challenge to arise and move forward to reach the lost.

Pictured: George O. Wood (left), general superintendent of AG USA, greets José Wellington, general superintendent of the Brazil Assemblies of God