Guest post by team member Eric Sams:
This April God blessed our team with an opportunity to train pastors and leaders in Brazil. Supply and demand is a concept that drives the business industry, and this is true also for missions and theological education. In Brazil, there is a concentration of supply that is geographically distant from the demand. Between April 1-8, we saw this gap close in Altamira, Brazil.
I am thankful to share about God’s grace during this trip. A group of three men from the US, Matthew Gilpin, Bobby Braswell, and myself, traveled to Northern Brazil. Upon arrival, we found a growing metropolis that had grown up after a hydroelectric dam was built. Our task was to lead the ﬁrst of nine one-week trips to this area to train local leaders. Our team had the honor of covering the topics of Leadership and Pastoral Ministry, the Personal Spiritual Discipline of Bible intake, and a Survey of the Old Testament. The following eight trips will cover the rest of the theological encyclopedia along with other valuable topics for godly leadership.
Travel to and from Altamira, Brazil required around 24 hours each way. We were joined by career missionaries who shared our passion for this ministry. The work remaining in Brazil is vast and multifaceted. The country is comparable in size to the continental United States. However, many portions of the country require days of travel to arrive at your destination. In these remote locations, unreached people groups (UPGs) abound. The people our team found were such an encouragement to us.
Our contacts were a combination of the local Baptist association and the Baptist seminary, which is located several hours away in Belém. The association’s relationship with the local churches and leaders was impressive. Representatives from the IMB were present, giving assistance in translation and identifying opportunities to reach the nearby indigenous peoples.
God demonstrated His goodness on this trip. We met many brothers and sisters who are hungry for the Word of God and are seeking to reach their communities for Christ. Altamira has grown from less than 10,000 in population to nearly 100,000 in a few short years. This growth has brought opportunities for outreach. The churches desire a strong foundation in order to reach this increasing population. The cooperation of four entities made this trip happen: Reaching and Teaching International Ministries, The International Mission Board of the SBC, the Equatorial Baptist Theological Seminary in Belem, Brazil, and the Altamira Baptist Association.
The local association provided good training facilities and invited the church leaders to attend. The relationship between the association and the churches was an encouragement to witness. The President of the association was a kind brother who demonstrated the love of God time and time again. The facilities composed of rows of wooden desks in an air conditioned room with tile ﬂoors. The A/C was a treat in the rain forest-like weather of Altamira’s rainy season.
The daily schedule was composed of four training sessions. Two typically fell in the morning while the other two were in the evening. Each session was followed by a time of questions. Matt Gilpin from Millen Baptist Church in Millen, GA opened the morning sessions with teaching about Leadership and Pastoral Ministry. He covered the characteristics of a pastor and the calling of a pastor. The students responded well with good discussion after each session, which was an encouraging sign that they were listening.
Bobby Braswell of the Middle Baptist Association in Georgia ﬁnished up the evening sessions covering the Personal Spiritual Discipline of Bible Intake. This focused on the theology and practical skills behind the daily study of the Bible. Bobby brought a good punctuation to each day by looking at the goodness of Scripture and how to ingest it. In between these two sessions were two sessions on the Old Testament Survey. These sessions covered the text and themes of Scripture from Genesis to Malachi. I taught most of the books, but I was assisted by two IMB Hands On missionaries, Austin Blansett and Jensen Woodie. These men are giving a semester to international missions in Brazil, and they helped out greatly. I am thankful for these four men for the time and teaching they devoted.
One struggle with short-term trips is that time is a limited resource. But God was gracious to us, giving stamina not only for the teachers but also the students and translators. IMB missionary Mark Johnson and another IMB family, joined us in Altamira. Mark and Jonathan translated the teaching with passion. God blessed these men greatly and blessed us all through them. The pastors and leaders in attendance were sweet brothers and sisters in Christ. With only four days of teaching, we had to pack a lot into the time we had. The students responded with even greater hunger. Long days of teaching were welcomed with eagerness. The attendees' questions following the teaching sessions were thoughtful and demonstrated a digestion of the material.
God blessed our team through the study of His Word and its application, the building of relationships with a great group of Christian brothers and sisters, and the hope of future work that will come. Our prayers are:
- for the IMB family who is praying about moving to Altamira, Brazil to be better located for ministry among their people group
- for the growth of these Brazilian leaders in knowledge and discernment
- for reaching the people of Altamira and the surrounding peoples for Christ
I am thankful for the ministry of Reaching and Teaching and the opportunity to serve with great brothers and sisters in Christ. I look forward to hearing of the continued work that will come from future trips as the Lord allows.