Teaching Trip to Brazil by John and Elizabeth Oakes 8/15-8/26/08

Report on Teaching Trip to BrazilAugust 15-26, 2008 Rio de Jainero Aug 16-18 

            It took my daughter Liz and I 24 hours to travel from San Diego to Dallas, to Sao Paulo, switching airports in order to fly to Rio de Jainero.  We are pretty tired, but thrilled to see this most beautiful city.  Rio de Jainero is a city of eight million with a massive harbor and perhaps the most memorable physical location of any city in the world.  This includes spectacular Corcovado Mountain which pushes out of the middle of the city to 2400 feet, topped by the massive statue of Jesus, Cristo Redendor.  We were able to visit the top of this peak, as well as taking a gondola up the unforgettable Sugarloaf Mountain, a 1000 foot high spike of granite which is right at the opening to the huge harbor of Rio.  We were also able to visit Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.  The city has a feeling of Old Europe, as it was founded by the Portugese in the 16th century.  It has the feel of a city which is a bit past its glory days, as the financial capital has switched to Sao Paulo, but it is very charming with its wonderful food, beaches and friendly people.


            We were met by Samuel Santos, as well as Nei and Christina Silva at whose house we stayed.  On Saturday PM I spoke to about 100 on Daniel.  On Sunday I spoke to about 270 on the topics Who is My Brother and From Shadow to Reality.  The church is a little under three hundred members.  Surprisingly for its size, it has no full time ministry staff, but is lead by a group of men who share the preaching and lead the different regions.  Despite this, the church has been growing and is outward focused in this very worldly city.  They had not had a non-Brazilian guest speaker in seven years.  Obviously, they need encouragement and visits from outside.  The church was planted almost twenty years ago and there are a number of fairly mature Christians.  Many thanks to Marco who drove us all around this most photogenic of cities.  Elizabeth and I already feel very welcomed to the laid back country of Brazil.


            On Monday, after a little accident at the beach requiring three stitches to my head, we are off to the very religious city of Salvador.

 Salvador August 18-19 

            The flight to Salvador from Rio is almost two hours.  This city of 3.5 million is near the eastern tip of Brazil in the sugar-growing area of the country.  It is located on a large peninsula which juts out into the Atlantic, with 60 kilometers of beautiful beach.  Americans have never heard of this romantic city, but Europeans come here often.  It is quite hot here, even though it is “winter.”  Such a distinction is not very big this close to the equator.  The city was founded in 1538.  It was a center of the slave trade and the plantation system of the Portugese.  We enjoyed seeing the spectacular old city of Salvador which sits high above the Atlantic, with winding, narrow streets and buildings from the 16th and 17th century Portugese period.  The city has an African feel.  The food reminds me more of what I ate in Nigeria than in Rio de Jainero.


            The church here has 80 members.  It is led by Izildo and his wife Rosanna.  There are no full time workers and the church is fairly isolated, as they get very few visitors from outside.  Nevertheless, their faith and warmth is wonderful.  They desparately need visitors from outside for fellowship and Christian teaching.  I spoke on The Problem of Pain and Suffering which strikes a chord here in a region which struggles with poverty.  We had fun touring the city with two sisters, both of whom are named Pricilla, as well as Rosanna.  The city is somewhat dangerous, but our hosts took great care of Elizabeth and me.  We want to come back when we have more time.

 Recife August 21-22 

            A one hour flight, landing at 2:00 in the morning, brought us to the city of Recife.  This city of about three million is right on the northeastern tip of Brazil.  It is about as close to Africa as it is to Sao Paulo.  The city was founded in 1536 by the Portugese, but it was also occupied by the Dutch for many hears beginning in the 1600s. This gives the city a unique feel.  One highlight is Olinda, which means, literally “Oh, Beautiful!”  This is the original settlement of the city on a high prominence, from which one has a fantastic view of this beautiful city.   It is a city of many beaches.  It is the cultural and economic center of Northern Brazil.  Having said all that, the city is quite poor.  This part of Brazil is the most depressed economically.  Millions have migrated to Rio and Sao Paulo for better opportunities.


            We stay with a young couple named Renato and Dominique.  We are quite surprised that in this church of about 50 members there is not a single one who speaks English.  We have to get by on speaking Spanish and the little Portugese I have picked up.  Fortunately, a missionary from another Church of Christ in the city named Dennis has graciously offered to translate my messages or the church meetings could not have been held.  Dennis was on the original team to Sao Paulo twenty years ago.  The church has many singles and college students and very few children.  On Wednesday I speak on From Shadow to Reality and on Thursday on From Shadow to Reality.  This group is ravenously hungry for deeper Bible teaching as they are young, inexperienced and quite isolated from the sister churcheds.  Please consider visiting Salvador or Recife to encourage and be encouraged by these small but faithful churches.  While we are here, the US beat Brazil for gold medals in men’s and women’s beach volleyball and in women’s soccer.  I have to be careful not to play that up too much, as Brazilians are passionate about their country’s sports teams.

 Sao Paulo August 23-26 

            From Recife back to Sao Paulo is a three hour flight.  This is a large country!  Sao Paulo is the preeminent city in South America.  It is the economic heart of Brazil, with somewhere around 25 million inhabitants.  The city has a spectacular number of skyscrapers—more than any city except perhaps New York or Hong Kong.  It is a city of stark contrast, with spectacular skyscrapers along Paulista Boulevard and wonderful architecture and beautiful cultural centers scattered around the city, but also with large favelas, with squalor and grinding poverty.  Elizabeth and I like the food here, especially when we ate at a churrascaria—which is Brazilian barbecue.  I also enjoyed the traditional simple meal called feijoada, which is rice, beans, meat and a very rich blend of pork and black beans.


            Our wonderful hosts here are Ettore and Sandra Macciantelli.  There are about 1500 members of the church here with four sectors and 12 regions.  Fortunately, while we are here, Brazil beat the US for the gold in women’s volleyball. This takes off a little pressure from me as an American.   As evidence of how Brazilians love to party, when the US men’s volleyball team beat Brazil for the gold medal, there were fireworks going off in the city at 3:00 in the morning.  Only Brazilians celebrate even when they lose. 


The church here seems stable, but they are still getting their legs under them and are seeking a unified vision of where to head next. There are many needs in Brazil which they want to meet, but they must take care of local needs first.   I spoke on Friday in the South on Church History, to the West and North on Science and God and From Shadow to Reality, Sunday AM to metrosul on Daniel and in the East Sunday PM on The Bible, From God or Man and From Shadow to Reality.  Thanks to Bruno and Marzo for translating.  I find a lot of interest in deeper study of the Bible and in the teaching ministry in general in this church.  On Monday I spoke to the staff on the Holy Spirit.  Liz and I are, understandably quite tired and ready to go home.


John Oakes

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