Brazilian pastors emphasize serving community
By David Wiebe
Drawing from his travels to visit Mennonite Brethren churches around the world, ICOMB executive director David Wiebe offers insights on faith.
“The pulpit is no longer central to church life and outreach. We now serve and help the community as the foundation for church growth.”
These comments from pastors I visited in Brazil signaled a change in direction for the country’s Mennonite Brethren church. In the MB conference, called COBIM, this approach is taking root. Pastors are willing to admit the relative weakness of sermonizing and compensate with relevant ministry. What humility!
I first met Emerson Cardoso in 2014. His church runs an orphanage, a drop-in center for at-risk teens and unwed mothers and provides food and shelter for the neediest. His church had just purchased a sports arena so they had room to worship but also to use sports to reach youth.
I met Reginaldo Valim, intercessor and healer. He introduced me to Sister Ivone, one of the first persons to accept Christ in her town. As a teacher, she had great influence, showing people the way to Christ. Today, the church has 60 members.
We walked to the home of a woman suffering from cancer. Reginaldo was the special visitor and Sister Ivone provided ongoing support and care. I was privileged to observe their ministry and join them in prayer that day.
Later, speaking with a COBIM leader, I shared a major concern related to one of our churches in ICOMB. He said, “We’ll pray with you for that. Reginaldo has a special gift of intercession, but we as leaders will intercede on your behalf.”
Today, Emerson Cardoso is the president of COBIM, with a dedicated team of leaders who understand the holistic direction they are using.
Their blended approach reminds me of Winds of the Spirit (Herald Press, 2012). It records responses to questions about faith and discipleship posed to 18,000 Mennonites in 10 countries. It turns out Anabaptist churches of the Global South today have more in common with the church of the first three centuries and the Anabaptist movement of 500 years ago than they do with contemporary churches in Europe and North America.
I saw those elements at work in Brazil in our own family, COBIM. They witness with power to a fear-based society. They give Christ’s honor to people suffering from shame. Prayer and service in the name of Christ happens everywhere.
This is the gospel witness in Brazil by our Mennonite Brethren family. Glory to God.
David Wiebe is the executive director for the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB), aka the global MB denomination. He enjoys expanding his palate while meeting ICOMB friends. He’s tasted ceviche (Peru), potato-zeppelins (Lithuania), goat (Congo) and dog (Thailand).
Photo: David Wiebe (right) with Reginaldo Valim and Sister Ivone.
Did you know?
- Reginaldo and fellow COBIM leader Paul Duck will speak to the ICOMB Thailand 2017 mission and prayer consultation in March.
- Mennonite Brethren in Brazail existed in two national conferences (German and Portuguese) until 1995 when they joined to form COBIM. COBIM numbers about 48 churches with 7,300 members in five regions and 17 new congregations.