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A letter from Thelma Goodrum in Brazil

August 10, 2010

Dear Friends,

I am writing to let you know about the recent opportunity I had to represent the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil, with which we are now affiliated, at two conferences in the States — the “Brazil Mission Network,” which met at First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, from June 15 to 17, and the conference of the newly formed “World Communion of Reformed Churches,” which met in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from June 17 to June 26. This second conference was the result of the joining of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Reformed Ecumenical Council. I went to these conferences, as one of several representatives, to share information about the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil, to learn about these organizations with which we have a partnership and to translate for those representatives who did not speak English fluently.

Photo of a men wearing a clerical robe and stole standing with other people.

Brazilian delegates with the Rev. Peter Jonker of Woodland Christian Reformed Church.

The conference of the Brazil Mission Network was the result of members of the PC(USA) who work with, or have interest in the work of, its two partner churches, the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPC) and the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (UPC). It was interesting to meet with active missionaries, retired missionaries, Brazilians, and supporters of mission work in Brazil, especially since we had worked with the Independent Presbyterian Church since 1989 and were recently invited to work with the United Presbyterian Church.

A man and three women wearing bright yellow shirts

The Rev. José Roberto and other Brazilian delegates at the "stand" in Grand Rapids.

The purpose of the Atlanta meeting was to gather and provide information about the Brazilian Presbyterian denominations that partner with the PC(USA) as well as to improve the relationship among all three churches.  It was a pleasure to be able to represent the UPC, along with its moderator, the Rev. Enoc Wenceslau, and its first secretary, the Rev. José Roberto Cavalcante, as well as Anita Wright Torres, who is a deacon in the UPC of Brazil, and whose parents, Jim and Alma Wright, were missionaries with this denomination.

I went directly from Atlanta to Grand Rapids to participate in the World Communion of Reformed Churches, which was truly a “world communion,” with representatives from all around the world. Conference activities were translated into English, French, German and Spanish. Many churches represented had stands in a display area, and the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil was well advertised, with information pamphlets about theological education, mission and evangelism, and social commitment. There was even daily information about the results of the World Cup games in progress, which brought a lot of people from around the world to our stand!

Photo of Thelma standing with two men, one of which is wearing native American clothing.

The Rev. Enoc Wenceslau and Thelma with Richard Twiss of the Lakota Sioux Nation

Other activities included worship services with local congregations (for all of the 1,000 participants in the conference!), with meals at the churches or in the homes of church members after the services. Our group was invited to have lunch with Rev. Peter Jonker and his wife and family, and we had a wonderful meal and even watched Brazil play in the World Cup on TV that afternoon. Another enjoyable activity was the picnic at a park for the “Gathering of the Nations Powwow,” with worship, dance, and program presented by American Indians who were participating in the conference.

Besides the union of the organizations that resulted in the formation of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, committees met to discuss and seek direction for solutions to the problems of violence, poverty, equality for women in the leadership of churches around the world, Christian unity, ecumenical commitment and many other important issues. Along with many gatherings in small groups there were also daily worship services, which were marked by an atmosphere of unity based on the fact that we all, although different in many ways, worship the same Triune God.

The conference website posted daily pictures of the activities and video-streamed the services, so my family, who had remained in Brazil, was able to keep up with my activities while in Grand Rapids — and even saw me singing in the choir during the last worship service! It was nice to return home when the time came, but I was grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil, our new hosts in mission service, at the two conferences.

Farris joins me in sending greetings, and in expressing our thanks for your interest in our mission work in Brazil.

In Christ’s service,

Thelma Goodrum

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

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