Read letters from Bob and Keiko Butterfield
April - Tearful Departure
February - A Positive Difference
October - A Portuguese Thanksgiving
August - Good News and GREAT News
June - A Holy Spirit Experience
Spring - Learning to Reach Out
March 17, 2011
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 325
Rev. Bob and Keiko Butterfield
Mission co-workers in Portugal since 2004
Serving at the invitation of the Igreja Evangélica de Portugal
About Bob and Keiko Butterfield's ministry
Bob and Keiko work in Abrantes, a rural region in the middle of the country that has a depressed economy and a significant population without an active church affiliation. Bob serves three small parishes, assesses community needs, and is establishing a plan of outreach for the region.
Since the Presbyterian Church in Portugal has pledged to be non-proselytizing, Bob and Keiko have to offer their Christian witness in ways that conform to that commitment. “For me that will take some getting used to,” Bob admits.
Bob describes Portugal as “an old-fashioned country struggling to redefine itself and find its niche in the European Union and the global economy.” He hopes to help Presbyterians find “modest but recognizable ways to improve people’s lives and provide some vision of what the country might become.” Such an effort, Bob insists, will require a deep trust in God and a willingness to work with others to achieve common goals.
Known by history students for its global maritime power in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal lost much of its wealth and status due to an earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755, the Napoleonic Wars, and the independence of its wealthiest colony, Brazil, in 1822. Today Portugal supports an advanced economy and a relatively good quality of life, but its per capita GDP is the lowest in Western Europe. About 85 percent of Portugal’s 10.7 million citizens are Roman Catholic. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Portugal has a membership of approximately 3,000.
About Bob and Keiko Butterfield
Bob Butterfield says if he wore a sign that described his life and ministry it would read: “Under construction but open for business.”
He is always open to serving God in new ways while remaining faithful to the task at hand. “Some people are content with who or what they are and with what they know and just proceed steadily on that plateau,” Bob says. “I am definitely not like that. The pattern of my life is one of seeking to grow and change and to follow the example of Jesus by becoming more self-differentiated and clearer in my commitments.”
Bob’s pilgrimage has led him from a decade of parish ministry to seminary teaching in Brazil, then back to parish ministry and now to his role as evangelist/community organizer in Portugal. His wife, Keiko, has been a devoted partner in ministry. “I am Japanese and have lived outside my country for the last 33 years,” Keiko notes. “Wherever my husband and I go, I try to help him by taking the time and making the effort to care for people we meet. That is what I feel called to do.”
Bob brings to mission service a gift for learning languages, a talent he discovered as a young teenager. “After going to seminary and graduate school, focusing on biblical studies, I realized that the best use of my gift would be for me to serve as pastor/teacher/organizer in a country whose language I knew so that I could talk with the people there about what is central to my life: the gospel of Jesus Christ and what it means for our life together,” he says. Bob is fluent in Spanish, French and Portuguese and conversant in several other languages.
Keiko acknowledges she is not as gifted in languages as her husband, but she communicates in ways that transcends words. Says Keiko: “The joys will come in nonverbal ways: a certain look on a person’s face, a touch of their hand, a smile, a kind act.”
Bob is striving to live up to his philosophy of being “under construction but open for business.” He says his inspiration for this goal is found in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—good, pleasing and perfect.”
Keiko says one of her favorite verses is Luke 1:30, where the angel Gabriel tells Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” “I like this verse because it reminds me that I, too, have found favor with God—not because of anything I’ve done, but just because God has chosen to love me and bless me,” Keiko shares. “It also assures me that Bob and I don’t have to be afraid to do whatever God calls us to do.”
An ordained United Church of Christ minister, Bob had served as pastor of UCC congregations in Illinois before entering Presbyterian mission service in 2004 to teach at the Theological Institute of Bahia in Brazil. When their three-year term there ended, he returned to the United States and served two UCC congregations in Iowa as an interim pastor.
Bob holds a Ph.D. in biblical studies and an M.Div. from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. He has an M.A. in French from the University of Chicago and the University of Paris, and his bachelor’s degree is from Roosevelt University in Chicago.
Keiko grew up in Chiba Prefecture, just east of Tokyo, Japan. Her work experience includes 16 years of service with the Japanese Consulate in Chicago. She is also a clinical massage therapist and operated her own massage therapy practice. The Butterfields are parents of three adult children.
Bob – June 28
Keiko – May 29