Above photo: The opening worship service for Brazilian alliance missionary orientation in the Dominican Republic
“Christ for all! That is how we can define the Alliance Project. From February 28 to March 14, 2021, on a trip to the Dominican Republic, I had the great opportunity to accompany eight IELB pastors and their families in language, culture and mission training. What a challenge! What learning! More than a special moment, as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) and The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) joined forces in this project to bring the love of Jesus to different peoples and cultures. I thank God for the pastors of IELB and from different parts of the world who have accepted the great challenge of serving different peoples and cultures in the mission. God be praised!” –Rev. Heder F. Pieper Gumz, Vice-President for Mission Expansion for the IELB. (Quotation translated from Portuguese to English)
The Alliance Project that Pastor Pieper is referring to is an exciting new chapter in LCMS Latin American mission history. The IELB, a daughter church of the LCMS, is all grown up. She is sending eight missionary pastors and their families to South Africa, Uganda, the Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay, in partnership with LCMS Mission. New young seminary graduates and experienced pastors make up this eager group. Four pastors will serve LCMS missions in African countries and four in Latin America.
After months of preparation, the new Brazilian missionaries and their families, a total of 18 people, arrived in the Dominican Republic for orientation in late February. Over the ensuing weeks, they attended classes on missiology, language, and culture. Even the young children had daily lessons to prepare them for life in a new and different culture.
Portuguese is the Brazilians’ common language, though most of the missionary pastors speak at least some Spanish, and others are also fluent in English or German. Missionaries from both church bodies communicated with bits and pieces of the languages they knew, with an abundance of hand gestures, facial expressions and translation tools on their devices. Innumerable mistakes and much laughter often commenced during conversations.
Some of the most critical learning took place as the new Brazilian missionaries interacted daily with the seasoned LCMS missionaries living in the Dominican Republic and those visiting from Africa. They asked questions, visited various mission congregations and cultural sites, and cooked and ate local foods. The joys and challenges of living in a developing country were daily experiences. Missionaries shared the thrill of meeting new friends and communicating with them in a new language. Conversely, they persevered in the face of the overwhelming exhaustion that comes with processing a different culture. Dealing with language barriers, unusual foods, sleepless nights, mosquitoes, noise from car alarms and street animals, or unhappy tummies was difficult, but they coped.
During the initial days of orientation, teams from the LCMS and IELB, including the presidents of both church bodies, were on-site to observe the process and to work together face to face. A leadership team from the Africa region was dispatched to the island to join in these meetings. The goal was to discuss and decide how best to move forward with the ongoing support and care of current and future missionaries.
The IELB is now developing its own missionary support plan based on the LCMS’s network support model, in which missionaries build a support network and communicate regularly with those supporters. The missionary family unit returns to visit congregations, individuals and reconnect with family and friends roughly every two years.
The Brazilian church has sent individual missionary families over the past years. Now she is committed to this new and much more significant responsibility of supporting and caring for eight family units spread across seven countries in Africa and Latin America.
Regional Director for the LCMS Latin America and Caribbean Region, Rev. Ted Krey, said, “Joining hands with our sister Brazilian Lutheran church in placing their missionaries alongside ours shows that the fruits of our missionaries from 120 years ago have grown. The tiny mustard seeds have grown to where Brazil is sending eight pastors to seven different countries to work alongside our missionaries. What a blessing to have these dear brothers join us shoulder to shoulder to bring Jesus and His Gospel for the forgiveness of sins to this generation and the next.”
The Brazilian missionary families completed their orientation and have begun arriving in their countries of service, thanks be to God. We pray that the Lord of the Harvest would lead and guide the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil as this growing church body sends these and future missionaries into the world to spread the Gospel, plant Lutheran churches and show mercy. God bless them all.