January 27-30, 1997
Belo Horizonte, Brazil
It might have been the most unusual opening to an AD2000 missions conference ever! Over 4,000 Brazilian young people competed with 370 pastors and missions leaders for the 2,500 seats available in the Lagoinha Baptist Church in Belo Horizonte, Brazil's third largest city. The atmosphere was electric as lively Brazilian praise music was interwoven with enthusiastic moments of prayer and intercession. Young people and adults sang, prayed, laughed and cried together during the two hour service. The one hundred national flags hanging from all parts of the building reminded everyone of the ultimate purpose of the event: "all of us doing our part to reach the unreached peoples spread around the world."
In actuality the reason for such an unusual gathering was that this was the joint opening of two twin congresses: both with objectives rooted in the AD2000 movement. Generation '97, calling together nearly 3,000 young people from all over Brazil, will provide 5 days of training and Biblical challenge, leading to a Saturday night grand finale in one of Brazil's largest soccer stadiums. At the closing, more than 10,000 young people are expected to be present.
The other congress is Belo '97, for which so many Brazilian pastors and missions leaders have been anxiously waiting, ever since returning from GCOWE '95 in Korea. But one shouldn't be misled by the smaller attendance. The 370 adults participating in Belo '97 are many of Brazil's key pastors and missions leaders, the men and women who have made key contributions in the expanding missions movement in this spiritually dynamic country. In fact, not only did most of them participate in GCOWE '95, but the great majority also plan on participating in GCOWE '97 in Pretoria. So this is a very strategic gathering of leaders.
The Belo '97 congress will last for three days, during which time the group will hear about the status of the Brazilian church, the progress of the Brazil missions movement, and the growth of Latin American missions as a whole. Seminars, track meetings, gatherings by geographical regions will also fill the schedule of the upcoming days. Key discussions will revolve around issues like "Maximizing the Adopt A People Movement", "Increasing Intercession for Missions" and "Mobilizing New Missionaries".
So, in reality the two congresses share so much in common. The theme song of the evening, "Give your best to the Lord; He gave His best for you" could be sung by both groups with equal fervor. Both the young people of Generation '97 and the adults of Belo '97 could both equally embrace the goals and challenges of the Joshua Project 2000.
And that's why both groups listened so attentively as Luis Bush gave the keynote address. Drawing from his years of growing up in Brazil, Luis used his Portuguese to carefully explain to the packed house of 4,000 (plus the extra 1,000 in the adjoining room) exactly what the Joshua Project 2000 really is: (1) a plan (2) of cooperation (3) focusing on the 1739 least-evangelized ethnolinguistic peoples around the world (4) with a view to establishing a church planting movement (5) through "adopt a people", intercession and missionary mobilization.
The culmination of the evening was a call to commitment. John's vision in Rev 7:9 of the redeemed around God's throne from every people, tribe, tongue and race became extremely vivid as nearly all present came to their feet as a demonstration of their commitment to help bring Rev 7:9 to pass by a sincere commitment to the Joshua Project 2000. Young people and adults alike stood together in silent commitment, sharing together that moment of reflection and decision.
Over the next days, both congresses will continue but in different locations. The 3,000 young people of Generation '97 will meet in the city, discussing what it takes to be responsibly committed to the missionary movement. Organizers of that event are praying that this will be the beginning of a nation-wide movement which will culminate in 50,000 young people committed to missions by the year 2000.
The pastors and key missions leaders of Belo '97 will meet in a government recreation center and will discuss the "sending" side of the missionary task. The thousands of young people present this opening night will certainly keep the upcoming discussions from becoming too "theoretical". After all, these missions leaders might have just been standing next to a future missionary whose life will be deeply impacted by the discussions and decisions to come in the next few days of Belo '97.
Belo Horizonte, Jan 28, 1997
by Ted Limpic, OC International Missionary to Brazil
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