This summer, I get to return to my second home – Porto Allegra, Rio Grande du Sul, Brazil and my awesome friend at Word of Life. If you are curious exactly what goes on when students invade Brazil?
Take a gander at our 2005 trip. It is a pretty awesome trip. This year we are not only taking students but we are taking our own kids (Cooper, Camber, and Cayden).
My first trip to Brazil was back in 2001. I met Thomas and Agnes for the first time as well as their missionary team. Over the last 9 years we’ve watched the ministry grow and grow. I’ve been down there 6 times. Thomas and Agnes have been stateside probably that many times as well. There hasn’t been a year go by when we didn’t connect with this ministry in some way.
They minister in the region of Brazil called “The Missionaries Graveyard.” Average lifespan of a missionary there is around 18 months. The occult and a mix of Catholicism and Voodoo are the major religions. Public and private schools shut out any kind of ministry.
Thomas & Agnes have been there 18 years and are from that region. Thomas had a simple plan for the work.
First, create an outdoor educational experience that no schools could afford – soccer camps, adventure camps – and make it ridiculously cheap for schools to experience it. Zip lines, climbing adventures, sport camps, ropes course, nature education, English camps – all part of the ministry. And because they are supported by US churches, they can offer these opportunities for next to nothing. Schools are lining up to experience what WOL offers. Thomas makes it a point to have poor schools come on his dime as well.
Second, be clear and consistent with the Gospel. Always. When schools sign up, Thomas is very clear with the administration – “You know why we are doing this, right? We want to make sure you understand the reason because we aren’t the real Hero, Jesus is. Let me tell you about Him.” Then every kid that hits the campus gets to hear the reason why they were able to enjoy that experience – because of Jesus. A couple of professional soccer players have heard about WOL and now they show up and tell students about Jesus as well.
Third, grow our own staff. Thomas is a people-developer person. The staff at WOL all have grown up inside the ministry. They are both products and producers of the vision. Listening to Thomas talk about discipleship (with his Brazilian accent) is like getting a drink of water from a fire hydrant. Read this here — you’ll be blown away. It’s pretty simple (not easy) – win the lost, grow them up, train them to lead others to Jesus, release them back to the wild.
Fourth, take this vision and training to local churches throughout the region. Thomas knows that his organization can’t do all the work. It’s crucial that local churches grow and embrace students so that the gospel can take root in the culture. And to that end, he and his team are investing in churches by training them how to do student ministry, how to do a small group Bible study and disciple teens.
In fact, this last piece of the puzzle is the center of Thomas’ latest push. He is building a dorm and some classrooms to establish a ‘seminary’ for student workers in southern Brazil. It would be the only theological training center located within thousands of miles. That’s part of the reason we’re going down this time. To figure out how we can help, what we can do.
We take off in late June, I’ll be bringing more updates the closer we get.