By Carl Stagner
Though its roots are in church tradition, today’s festivities of Mardi Gras tend to reflect the worst of culture more than the person of Christ. In Brazil, the celebration of Carnival has similar Christian roots but, like Mardi Gras, hardly resembles its origins. Thankfully, as the Church of God in northern Brazil continues to grow, so does its influence on the culture, especially in the city of Itaituba. Missionaries Jonathan and Beth Todd have been blessed to witness firsthand the mighty move of God in recent years, which has resulted in a good problem to have—they need more pastors.
“Virtually every community in Brazil has a Carnival celebration,” Jonathan Todd explains. “Five years ago in Itaituba, the Church of God pastors decided to offer an alternative to Carnival for the community. Through the efforts of several congregations working together with a unified vision and focus, they started an event called Desperta. During the five days of Carnival, the churches, through the effort of Desperta, focus on evangelism and outreach with each evening focusing on music and preaching. Some of the biggest names in Brazilian Christian music have come to Desperta. Thousands attend every night, many are saved, and other churches have started bringing their youth groups.”
This regional revival experience has touched every level of society. Even the government and the media in Itaituba have been affected. The days of a big Carnival event in town have passed, and now the community cultural calendar highlights Desperta instead. Local government encourages people to attend the Christian gathering, and the media is by no means absent. “The director of their largest TV station is a member of the church, as are a couple of reporters,” Jonathan notes. “So, Desperta gets a lot of air time.”
While Desperta is certainly one of the most exciting and influential events of the Church of God in Brazil, it’s really only a manifestation of what God has been doing in the hearts and lives of the believers for many years. Itaituba, surrounded by rainforest, is home to several Church of God congregations, each committed to Christ and community transformation. Among such ministries are after-school programs, a medical clinic, and a popular farm and retreat center. The Church of God congregation in Boa Vista, near the border with Venezuela, is actively helping refugees acquire visas, find housing, and obtain food. And, due to the growth of these congregations, the need for pastors is also growing. Thankfully, God is calling more young men and women into ministry, which also resulted in the expansion of the seminary.
“The Church of God in Amazonia is focused not only on meeting the spiritual needs of the communities, but also the physical needs,” Jonathan explains. “Our churches are growing at a rate that is about 30 percent per year. We have more church planting opportunities than we have pastors. The Church of God in Amazionia feels called to planting at least one church per year, with a focus of having at least one congregation in each of the seven northern states of Brazil by 2023. Additionally, we have so many young men and women being called into ministry who need access to formal theological and biblical training. Beth and I are part of that through the seminary. To this point, the focus on pastoral training has been teaching courses at the seminary. They run for eight weeks at a time. However, this is changing because the seminary, too, is growing.”
Please pray for the Church of God in Brazil as they continue to grow and seek new leaders. The Todds anticipate the completion of their home assignment so they can return to the task to which God has called them in Brazil—teaching, training, and equipping these ministers to lead a growing church. Learn more about Jonathan and Beth Todd, and discover opportunities for support, at https://www.chogglobal.org/team/jetodd/. Learn more about the ongoing church planting project and how you can be a part of it at www.chogglobal.org/churchplantinginamazonia.