January 27-30, 1997
Belo Horizonte, Brazil
After an emotional opening night, which included 3,000 Brazilian young people in a church completely packed out, today the delegates to Brazil's Belo '97 congress got down to serious discussions and strategizing during this, their first full "work" day.
Those visiting the congress site must have wondered how the delegates could concentrate on such serious issues being housed in such a beautiful, vacation facility. The countryside around Belo Horizonte (Brazil's third largest city) is beautiful. Plus, the warm summer weather made that swimming pool look a little too inviting.
But "work" they did. After a morning Bible study and praise time, the first morning was spent listening to three insightful lectures designed to update the delegates on (1) the status of the Brazilian church; (2) the changing role of the Brazilian woman in Brazilian missions; and (3) the growth of the missions movement around Latin America.
Bringing the first lecture was Ariovaldo Ramos, Brazilian church leader. Ariovaldo described the Brazilian church as (1) a church which is experiencing much harvest; (2) a church which needs to develop God-birthed strategies; and (3) a church that needs to develop more of an infra-structure and better train it's missionaries.
During the second lecture, Geruza Rodriguez, wife of pastor Ricardo Gondim Rodriguez, brought a lively study of the changing role of the Brazilian woman in missions. She traced the heroic roles of women in world missions history, the woman's role in world missions today, and finally the role of the woman today in Brazil.
The third morning lecture was delivered by Rudy Giron, president of Comibam, a Latin missions organization geared to fostering cooperation amongst mission-minded churches and mission agencies throughout Latin America. Rudy talked about the remarkable ways that God has been blessing the missions movement in Latin America, commenting that since 1970 the number of missionaries from Latin American countries has grown by 5 times. According to Rudy, the missions movement in Latin America needs: (1) a change of mentality in realizing that Latin America has changed from a mission field to a missions force; (2) new wine--God's Spirit infilling us; (3) God-given tools and strategies; and (4) cooperation on a continental level.
After lunch, the delegates re-convened in discussion groups based on AD2000 tracks. The discussions were scheduled to last only 90 minutes, but some continued for most of the afternoon as delegates discussed, often emotionally, the need to reach all of Brazil with (1) the vision of the Joshua Project 2000 and (2) the vision of the needs WITHIN Brazil, both in terms of the 139 Indian tribes which are totally untouched by the Gospel, but also the 222 municipalities that have less than 1% evangelical presence.
The evening meeting began with two special reports. "Wake Up, Deborah," is a movement which is now sweeping Brazil and has recruited 20,000 mothers to be praying 15 minutes daily for (a) salvation for their children, (b) the return of Brazil's youth to the church and (c) that God would raise up 50,000 young people committed to missions. Interestingly, this idea was planted at GCOWE '95 in Korea when one Brazil pastor was struck by the following simple phrase during a worship service: "Lord, we thank you for the mothers who have prayed for us."
The second special report was on "Professionals in Mission", describing efforts currently underway to encourage Brazilian professions to use their professions either as full-time tentmakers or as a springboard for missions involvement during business trips and vacations. Note: the stronger Brazilian economy is now making this a very relevant issue as more Brazilians are traveling internationally.
The rest of the evening was totally dedicated to hearing the reports of what happened in the afternoon with the track sessions. Highlights included : 1. Mobilization of Women (they're needing to structure a bit more, considering the 20,000 they've already mobilized); 2. Research (sharing surprising data on the most recent census numbers revealing that Brazil is not as evangelical or evangelized as previously thought); 3. Saturation Church Planting (presenting the challenge of planting 150,000 new churches in order to reach all of Brazil); 4. Unreached Peoples (on how missionaries serving outside Brazil has skyrocketed, but those reaching the Indians within Brazil has remained static); 5. United Prayer Track (on the need for reconciliation between nations).
Belo Horizonte, Jan 28, 1997
by Ted Limpic, OC International Missionary to Brazil
and Larry Kraft, OC International, Brazil
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