Mentoring Budding Missionaries
In 2013, the couple accepted an assignment as missionaries in residence at Southwestern Assemblies of God University. Since that time a decade ago, 57 students who have graduated from SAGU have gone to the mission field. Nelson is director of SAGU’s World Ministries Department as well as Intercultural Studies chair.
“We came here because we felt it was time to multiply workers around the world,” says Nelson, 57. “On the field, we saw many people on short-term trips called to full-time missions.”
“This is now a long-term mission assignment for us, connecting students to missions,” says Rennae, 53.
The bilingual couple teach the class, “The Church in Ministry and Missions,” organize a dozen mission-focused chapels annually, and oversee the student-run Southwestern Missions Association on campus that arranges community outreaches. The on-campus missionaries also coordinate a dozen student-led summer mission trips.
“Through the missionary-in-residence program of AGWM, for the past 20 years SAGU has seen its long-time focus on missions go to another level,” says SAGU President Kermit S. Bridges.
“No one should leave this campus without asking, How am I called to God’s mission?” says Nelson, who served on the AG Executive Committee in the Dominican Republic. His parents immigrated to the U.S. from Brazil in 1960.
The pair invite current and retired missionaries to campus to speak at chapel services and as guest lecturers in class.
“A conversation with a missionary can spark a call for a student,” says Rennae, who is studying for her doctorate in intercultural studies through Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.
Prayer likewise is emphasized, with Nelson and Rennae leading student gatherings each week: Monday for the world and missionaries; Tuesday for campus needs; Thursday for athletes; Friday for Muslims; and Sunday for leaders.
“A heart for the nations begins with prayer for the nations,” Nelson says. “We want students to learn what it means to be Kingdom-centered in their connection with God. The one request Jesus asked us to pray for was for workers because He knew the spiritual battle involved in getting workers to the harvest field.”
SAGU students through Southwestern Missions Association partner with various community nonprofit organizations in this city of more than 43,000 residents, including a pregnancy care center, refugee ministry, homeless ministry, an afterschool student mentoring program, and a gang prevention organization.
Nelson and Rennae first met each other during a missions convention at Nelson’s home church, Glad Tidings in St. Petersburg, Florida. Both went on mission trips with the late AG evangelist Steve Hill, noted for preaching at the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola from 1995 to 2000. Nelson and Rennae have been married 33 years and have four sons, ages 30 to 21.
ON THE FIELD
Jordan G. Wright and his wife, Michelle, are among those SAGU intercultural studies graduates now serving as full-time AG world missionaries. Jordan, from Arkansas, and Michelle, from Texas, met here at SAGU, where they both enrolled because of the missions program. Both spent much time involved in the Southwestern Missions Association, with Jordan serving as president.
The couple, who married in 2016, heard missionaries speak, went on various student-led mission trips, and headed prayer meetings.
“SAGU creates an environment for students to hear God’s voice and catch His vision for mission,” says Jordan, 29. “We had opportunities to lead in ministry — and sometimes opportunity to fail.”
Classes proved vital for AGWM training, preparing for itineration, and adjusting to culture shock in the Wrights’ current role as missionaries. They arrived in Indonesia seven months ago and are in language school. Eventually, Jordan wants to be a Bible school teacher.
Both Jordan and Michelle sensed a missionary calling as teens, with Jordan saying he heard clear direction from God at 16 about going to Indonesia — a country which he knew nothing about.
After graduating from SAGU in 2015, Jordan spent 5½ years as youth pastor at Heritage Church, which Michelle attended growing up in Wichita Falls, Texas. He also earned a master’s degree from Fuller Seminary. The couple have two daughters, 3-year-old Leann and 10-month-old Lilly.
“Nelson and Rennae both invested in mentoring us outside the classroom,” Jordan says.
Michelle, who graduated in 2016, says Rennae helped her as she led a ministry to domestic violence and human trafficking victims in the Dallas area.
“Rennae was an important mentor in weekly meetings,” says Michelle, 29. “She was always encouraging.”
PHOTO: Nelson and Rennae de Freitas are in their 10th year teaching at SAGU.
LOWER PHOTO: Michelle and Jordan Wright are on the mission field after graduating from SAGU.