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A letter from Farris and Thelma Goodrum in Brazil

April 24, 2010

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
(Jeremiah 29:11)

Dear Friends,

Greetings from the beautiful island city of Vitória, capital of the state of Espírito Santo in southeastern Brazil. After spending a couple of years of uncertainty concerning our future in Brazil, we were pleased to receive an invitation to work with the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (UPC). The seminary of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil, with which we had been associated in Londrina, closed at the end of 2009 due to the financial difficulties of the denomination, and this coincided with a decision of that denomination to depend less on help from PC(USA) mission co-workers. The above verse from Jeremiah was helpful in reminding us that our lives are in God’s hands, and that God has a perfect plan for our lives.

We arrived here in mid-January, after getting our son Michael settled into an apartment in Londrina. Michael turned 18 at the beginning of January and learned shortly afterwards that he had passed the highly competitive entrance exams for the State University of Londrina. We are proud of him for passing these exams on the first try, and although we hated to leave him behind in Londrina, we know that he is enjoying life as a university student in the town where he has lived since he was five years old.

A view over rooftops and treetops with water in the background

The view from our apartment in Vitória.

We made the two-and-a-half-day trip from Londrina to Vitória by car, enjoying the beautiful countryside on the 1,000-mile trip. We had planned to stay in a hotel room while apartment hunting in Vitória, but learned upon arrival in Vitória that it had been arranged for us to stay in the vacant apartment of a couple from the UPC. It was a wonderful place to stay during the process of looking for an apartment to rent, which took us five weeks. The apartment where we are now living has a beautiful view of the ocean, port, bridges, and city streets. We have been blessed with a very nice place to live.

Joel is 12 years old now, and in the sixth grade. We are pleased with the way he has adapted to this new situation. All of us have been warmly welcomed into the life of the churches of the UPC.

A group of people standing to have their photo taken; Thelma, Joel and Farris are standing to the right of the group.

Thelma, Joel and Farris with the pastor and some members of a United Presbyterian Church in Vitória.

Our assignment with the UPC was to teach in their seminary in Vitória, and to be available to contribute in the areas of music and Christian education in the eight churches in the Presbytery of Vitória. We have been disappointed to learn that the future of the seminary here is also uncertain, due to the financial difficulties of the denomination. We hope and pray that God will provide the means to keep it open, as does the leadership of the UPC here in Vitória. Thelma and I are not teaching in the Vitória seminary yet, as they are making changes in the curriculum while planning for future possibilities in these uncertain times. Thelma has agreed to teach a course for a professor who was not able to teach this semester at a seminary extension in Colatina, a town about two hours from Vitória by car. She will make this trip once, and sometimes twice a month, for long teaching sessions on the weekends. Thelma is also working in the local offices of the denomination, here in Vitória, for three mornings each week.

I have been asked to teach musical activities in the churches. A concert is being planned so that the community can get to know me and learn the activities that I will be offering. I will be directing choirs and bell choirs, as well as teaching music theory, choral and congregational directing, and piano lessons. Organizing musical programs, along with other musicians in the churches, will be a regular part of my activities. Eventually I hope to organize teacher-training workshops in the churches as well.

The United Presbyterian Church of Brazil has an interesting history. A group of more than 50 pastors, and several entire synods and presbyteries, were expelled from the very conservative Presbyterian Church of Brazil in 1978 because of theological disagreements, the desire to ordain women, and a strong ecumenical outlook. A new denomination was formed with the dream of being ecumenical, open to the full ministry of men and women, and engaged in social justice. We have been impressed with the UPC and by the dedication of its pastors, all of whom have other full-time professions due to the fact that the denomination cannot afford to pay its pastors a full-time salary.

Thelma, along with several others, will be representing the UPC at a gathering at First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-17. The two denominations with which the PC(USA) has a partnership, the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil and the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil, will have representatives at this gathering. From Atlanta, Thelma will proceed to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be among the representatives of the UPC who will attend the 10-day meeting of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. We appreciate your prayers as Thelma travels to the States to take part in these conferences.

This is a time of transition for our family, and we ask for your prayers as we adjust to this new and challenging situation. We appreciate your support and your interest in our work here in Brazil, and ask for your continued prayers. Thelma joins me in sending special greetings.

In Christ’s service,
Farris Goodrum

The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 298

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