Obedience to God’s Call
God calls His people to go to the ends of the earth to share the good news of the gospel. We would like to think this call is primarily to the safe places. The easy places. The not-too-dirty or painful places. But often, His call puts His followers directly in the dark, difficult, poor, and dangerous places. And it is in those broken places that He changes lives. That’s exactly the experience He planned for a group from Brentwood Baptist who traveled to Rio, Brazil a few months ago.
What Only God Can Do
In early October 2014, 33 people made up a team that flew to Rio to host a medical clinic and help with the construction of a school building in Chapadao. This is a slum in Costa Barros, an area of Rio that is known for violence. This trip was the first time a group of visitors ventured into this community. The Lord called them to this place and these people and He had incredible plans in store for their time there.
Sharon Fairchild, Mission Journey Minister at Brentwood Baptist, led this team. She and her husband lived in Brazil for over 27 years so she is very familiar with the people and culture of this country. For the past 17 years, Sharon has worked with Pastor Douglas, a man whom God is using in significant ways. The people of the community know Pastor Douglas and love him. His ministry in the heart of this slum has paved the way for much of what God is doing now in the area.
The school the team helped build actually stands in the exact location where child prostitution was a horrible reality.
From Darkness into New Life
Now, instead of children experiencing abuse and terrible conditions, the school provides hope and new life. In this unique school, children are tutored after hours in their school work, taught English, music, martial arts, and other helpful skills like sewing and how to wait tables. Learning these skills helps prepare these children for good jobs to further their future. Children are also fed and cared for through this school. For those children recovering from a history of abuse and prostitution, the school also helps restore relationships and reintegrate these children into their families.
Pastor Douglas’ church sits right beside the school. Together, these buildings provide a beacon of hope and transformation in an otherwise dark and hopeless place.
From Physical Needs to the Spiritual
The other major aspect of the mission journey in October was to provide a medical and dental clinic for the people of Chapadao. Each morning, by as early as 6:00 a.m. there were typically 50-75 people already in line for medical care. In addition to meeting the physical needs of the people, the team also met spiritual needs by sharing the gospel with people as they waited in line.
Terry Smith’s role during the medical clinic was exactly that. He and his interpreter, Norma, stood at the entry point of the line and shared the gospel with 4-5 people at a time. Often, the people would be distracted by their anxiousness and great need for physical help and wouldn’t engage much in the conversation with Terry. But normally one or two people at a team would be very interested in the message of hope he shared through his interpreter.
A Message of Hope
By the time the team ended the medical clinic, Terry and Norma witnessed 99 people accept Christ as their Lord and Savior!
One of the biggest lessons Terry learned as he shared the gospel is the importance of discernment to see and understand where the Holy Spirit was leading. God must direct you as you share. Terry says that he saw firsthand the example in Scripture of the parable of the sower. He learned that you must be diligent in throwing the seed and realize that much of it will not reach a harvest. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not your victory or loss. It is God at work.
By the Leading of the Spirit
Sometimes God will reveal the victory to you, but often He will water that seed long after you’ve shared the gospel with that person. When asked what he would tell others about sharing their faith, Terry explains, “Be prepared. Know the Word. Be able to use it as the Holy Spirit leads. Be open. Be vulnerable and be pliable to His leading. It can be exhausting, but is unbelievably rewarding.”
Overall, 199 people became followers of Christ as a result of the obedience of this team as they loved the people of Chapadao and shared the gospel with those they encountered.
God is Still at Work
Since the team has returned home, Pastor Douglas has continued to disciple the new believers and baptize many of them as they continue to grow and understand their new lives in Christ.
When reflecting on the presence of the church and school in Chapadao, Sharon Fairchild explains that the church is “a breath of God for that community.” It offers “hope where there is no hope and peace where there is no peace.” For so many children and young people in Chapadao, their future would only include a life of drugs, prostitution, and hopelessness. Because the life-changing power of the gospel is being shared with the people of Chapadao, lives are being changed and hope is being restored. The church and school are a beautiful picture of light shining in the darkness.