Nine members of the Newbold community joined colleagues and lay members from the South England Conference (SEC) on a two-week mission trip to Brazil from 15 October – 1 November.
Eight students were accompanied by Dr Bjørn Ottesen, Head of the Department of Theological Studies, and Pastor Rafael Luz from the SEC, on the trip, which included visits to Adventist organisations in São Paolo and an evangelistic mission trip in the country’s north-east.
The series of evangelistic talks, held in Benevides north of Belém; a major northern city, was the culmination of a longer campaign of meetings and Bible studies held by some of the local Adventist churches. The campaign saw over 500 attend the eight-day series of meetings, held in 11 separate churches, with the majority of the visitors being non-Adventist.
“Newbold has a good relationship with the Church in Brazil, with many young people and several of the Church’s leaders having studied on the Newbold campus. Church growth is incredibly strong in the north of Brazil, and it is an area where we felt we could really contribute to the evangelistic efforts of the local churches,” said Dr Ottesen.
The group also undertook studies in the homes of people who attended the talks. 34 baptisms took place at the end of the series, and an additional 16 people came forward to request baptism in the future. It is expected that many more will also make decisions for Christ as the local Church continues its ministry.
Dee Edwards, a postgraduate Theology student who led in the organisation of the project, said she had a wonderful experience preaching in the small church she served in. “People were keen to listen to the messages, and they were so warm and welcoming. It was a joy when a number decided to get baptised by the end of the week. It was an amazing opportunity to experience evangelism somewhere very different from my own context and learn about their challenges,” said the former President of Newbold’s Ministerial Society (NMS).
Dee participated in a mission trip to Mexico through ShareHim in 2015, and this was part of her inspiration for initiating the trip to Brazil through the NMS. “I believed that if Newbold organised its own mission trip it would have a powerful impact on the students’ spiritual and learning experience, and that it would be more meaningful than simply going on a trip with a provider such as ShareHim. When I discussed my idea with Pastor Luz, he agreed and suggested Brazil as a potential location. To see that vision come to fruition has been a marvellous experience, and has made all the hard work and persistence worthwhile. I am excited to see where the College will be going in the coming years, as mission and service continue to be a part of the College ethos and culture,” said Dee.
A special effort was also made to enhance children’s ministry. One student, Clebson Braga, led a programme for children in one of the churches, and around 40 children joined in, eager to take part in the lessons. Clebson used very simple resources to run activities that made a positive impact on the spiritual growth of the children who attended, many of whom were also non-Adventist. Another student, Ruben Gaspar, helped the church he served in starting a Pathfinder Club.
Dr Ottesen said that the purpose of the trip was to learn about the Brazilian culture, specifically about the Adventist Church within that culture. “Furthermore, we also wanted to contribute to people learning about Jesus and the Adventist message through preaching and visiting with them,” he said. “We wanted to take our students to a place where they could experience people making decisions to become Christians and Adventist – in Brazil this usually happens in a shorter time frame than we are used to in a Western European setting.”
Newbold students also stayed at the Amazon Adventist College (FAAMA) while in Benevides, about an hour’s drive north of Belém. FAAMA is an Adventist institution that offers elementary, middle, and higher education, including Theology. Dr Ottesen taught a series of classes for theology students on the Church’s response to current European Culture, and Newbold students had the opportunity to promote Newbold during the University assemblies as well as to interact with the FAAMA students.
The group also visited the São Paolo campus of the Adventist university UNASP, which has almost 6,500 students; Novo Tempo, a 24/7 media centre that broadcasts television and radio across Brazil; and Casa Publicadora Brasileira, the Adventist publishing house in Brazil, which in addition to producing more volumes than all the other Adventist presses around the world combined, is also one of the top ten publishing houses in Brazil.
“To actually do ministry is more of a learning experience than learning about ministry in the classroom,” said Dr Ottesen. “You need to experience it to fully understand it, and you need to be practice it over and over again to develop necessary skills. One of the end goals in Pastoral education is to help individuals understand how to lead people to Christ. This trip was also a significant spiritual experience for our students. They witnessed both answers to prayer and God’s work in people’s lives.”
Several of the students who participated in the trip said they would love to return to preach a longer evangelistic series. One student stated that he “loved every minute of the experience” and felt that he was “learning so much”. Another experienced a growth from 30 to 70 in the week he spent at his church, through the outreach he was able to carry out. Another said that, while he felt he was not much of a preacher, he had the “joy of seeing the congregation’s enthusiasm” to hear what he had to say.
“For me it was also a wonderful surprise, that, despite being told that Brazilians only wanted traditional sermons, how much the people we met enjoyed the more contemporary Christ-centred presentations. My translator told me he also wants to use the same approach. We went feeling we had much to learn from the Brazilians, but I quickly realised that we had much to learn from each other,” said Dee.
Pastor Alastair Agbaje, Newbold’s Chaplain, was also heavily involved in organizing the trip. “Newbold is the only institute of higher education within the TED,” he said. “This is why we continue foster a focus on misson as well as encourage a high standard of academia within the College community. I am so proud of this group of students and staff, and it was a pleasure to be a part of the planning team. This experience has visibly changed and transformed the lives of all who participated and I hope that this mission trip will become an annual activity.”
The group had raised around £2,500 to undertake some work in the community of Belém while they were there, but the necessary materials did not arrive in time so the local churches will continue this work with the donation.
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