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Reaching Brazilian Villages by Bike & Canoe

“People often base their idea of church on a Sunday service—a small, one-and-a-half-hour time frame—but we like to emphasize one-on-one discipleship, which keeps things really alive and strong.”

That’s what Bruce says after spending the past 33 years as an Encompass global worker. He and his wife Lisa have worked in all kinds of ministerial roles such as church-planting, but right now their focus is on training leaders. 

Throughout their 25 years of ministry in Brazil, they’ve trained many people, but two of them became leaders of a church-planting movement that mobilizes others to do the same. Their names are Soares and Antonio.

Soares came into the picture when Bruce was teaching a course on evangelistic Bible studies. Bruce required his students to apply what they had been learning, so one of his students started a one-on-one Bible study with Soares. At that time, Soares was a member of Brazil’s military police, which had a reputation for being corrupt, but the seed of the gospel was planted in his heart and started to germinate about a year later. 

After Soares gave his life to the Lord, he became a regular church attender and started using those same Bible study methods with his friends. God ended up using Soares to lead 17 of his military police colleagues to faith. Soares also trained his fellow church members in replicating these kinds of studies with their friends. He became so on fire for God that his church eventually chose him to become their pastor. God then used their church to plant several new churches in the surrounding areas.

Antonio had a different story. As a physics teacher, he never had that same magnetic personality as Soares, but instead had a bright mind and a knack for strategic thinking. When he first started attending Bruce’s training, he lived almost an hour away, yet still showed up regularly. After studying together for a couple years, Antonio finally caught the vision and started mobilizing everyone he could in his church to lead evangelistic studies with others. 

Then God gave Antonio a desire to reach the smaller, more remote communities in his area, so he assembled a team of about ten people to ride bikes with him from village to village and share the gospel. It’s been about ten years since their first evangelistic bike route, and they’ve kept up that tradition every year since then—often multiple times a year. Sometimes they even have to load their bicycles onto canoes and cross rivers just to reach their destinations. 

Bruce says, “If you saw how far these bikers traveled to share the gospel, you might say they went as far as Timbuktu, but in Brazil they use the phrase ‘Casha prego,’ which means ‘End of the world.’ It makes me tired just looking at the map and seeing all the places they go!”

Last year, Pastor Soares accompanied Antonio on one of his biking trips, which marked the beginning of a new partnership between the seven churches in that region. Now they’ve been discussing how they can cooperate further to help each other fulfill their missions.

Though God blessed Soares and Antonio with different giftings, He gave both of them a passion for investing in the lives of leaders to facilitate transformation. Now that God has led them to work with each other, they’ll be able to go even further together.

Jesus, thank you for blessing me with my unique set of gifts. Please show me how I can use them in partnership with others to be even more effective in carrying out your will.