A letter from Marta Carriker in Brazil
Dear friends and family,
I once again had the opportunity to join a group from the Presbytery of Mississippi who visited their partners in the Presbytery of the Northeast (PRENE). This was a longer trip, renewing old friendships and evaluating new opportunities to continue to work together. You may remember that in the past the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil had several projects to reach different areas in Brazil. One of them was the Northeast, what was called the Sertão Project. Even though this project has run its course, there are still “mission fields” in the area under the national church and under the Presbytery. The partnership between these presbyteries has helped build churches, build cisterns, and start schools for children. On this trip there were five representatives from Mississippi, the president of the PRENE, Pastor João Batista, and a representative of the Evangelization Secretariat (ES) of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Pastor Jonas Furtado do Nascimento. I was their translator.
We left Natal on the 19th after a short visit to Pastor João Batista’s church and went inland to the dry interior badlands known as the “sertão” in Brazil. Altogether we visited 11 congregations, worshipped together with them and enjoyed the beautiful music and sometimes the dance of their young people. In many of them there were baptisms and professions of faith. Many of these congregations are not organized churches yet, having been around for fewer than 15 years, but all of them have that goal. The congregation in João Pessoa is much older, so they are thrilled that their growth should soon make it possible for them to become self-supported.
In the town of São Sebastião, George and Linda Bates and the Brazilian missionary, Elaine, wept together because the water purification system and the preschool that formerly benefited that community are no longer in use. Elaine tried to get help from City Hall and from other possible partners but was unable to reopen the school. It was closed a few years back for lack of funds. Even so, in the evening we participated in a beautiful service in which the young people sang and danced. I invite you to pray for this neighborhood that schools will be available for the children so that they won’t be victims on the streets.
In Malta, thanks to the new missionaries, Juliano and Tatiana, sent by a local Independent Presbyterian Church in southern Brazil, the Yellow House will soon be reopened for activities for the whole community. It was wonderful to realize that the national church is getting involved by encouraging partnerships that reach out from the richer Southern areas to the more deprived Northeastern Brazil.
We also visited communities that received cisterns built in partnership with the Presbytery of Mississippi. In one of these communities near Cajazeiras a family received us warmly by serving us fresh coffee and cheese that they had produced. They told us that the same church from southern Brazil that is supporting the work in Malta had visited them in the past and had worshipped in their backyard. They had fond memories of the time they had spent together and seemed open to the gospel. We bought some of the beautiful crafts produced by Lan, the wife, and Raimundo, the local missionary, and promised to return and teach them about the Bible.
In Natal we received some information about the Missionary Training Center from the current director, Themis. She reported that 85 percent of the 65 graduates from their program are on the field as missionaries, some having become pastors. The training program is undergoing curriculum changes, so let us pray for Themis and her added responsibilities that have affected her health. She is still the treasurer of the presbytery as well.
I have recently been appointed to help provide pastoral care to the wives of the Brazilian missionaries of our partner denomination. The Evangelization Secretariat has a goal to provide better training for their missionaries, to improve their salaries, and also to care for their families. As I am a missionary who has been involved in the care of missionaries for a while, they felt I would be a good choice. I was thrilled. During this trip I was able to spend time talking and praying with all of them except for Livia, who was traveling. This was a very rewarding first step in a relationship that will continue to be developed with them.
Even though I am only the translator on these trips, I feel tremendously blessed to have made so many friends in Northeastern Brazil and also in Mississippi, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I look forward to seeing them each time and to witness what God is doing in the interior badlands. When we go back to the same locations we can see all that has been done in the past to bless these communities. We realize that even if some of the programs, like the preschool, could not continue as long as we had hoped they would, all the people who benefitted from them in the past made them worth it. It gives me great joy to see that this partnership has lasted for more than a decade. Some of the young people in São Sebastião were these children. There is true love and interest for and from friends that we keep up with in the Northeast!
I thank you for your support, which makes this possible, and I invite you to continue to be a part of this ministry through financial support, your prayers, and involvement in person as you come to visit Brazil. Please remember to pray with us for the congregations to become churches, for the maturing of new Christians, for the training of missionaries and pastors, for more cisterns to bless the families in the interior badlands, and for schools for the children.
May God continue to bless you as you remain faithful in His service wherever He may have planted you,