An Inviting and Abiding Relationship

by Juan Sarmiento

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11:28-10

With sixty-two Brazilian congregations serving an estimated population of eighty thousand people that trace their origin to that country, the Orlando area was the location for a mentoring retreat for Portuguese speaking pastors from May 14 to 17.

The purpose of the gathering was to seek spiritual renewal and to acquire skills for preventing and dealing with the reality of burnout in ministry. Within an environment of grace, trust and mutual support, we shared about, among other things, the challenges associated with ministering interculturally and among highly mobile immigrant communities, dealing with family conflict, physical exhaustion, and depression. Participants came from five different U.S. states as well as Brazil.

We were wisely guided by José Carlos Pezini, Portuguese-Language Ministries Coordinator for The Outreach Foundation. I had the privilege of being among the presenters along with Rev. Wesley Porto (New Hope Presbyterian Church, PC(USA) and trustee of The Outreach Foundation), Rev. Darcy Caires Jr. (Christian Community Church, Presbyterian Church of America) and Rev. Lucio Pinheiro (Presbyterian Church of Brazil).

The commitment to cross-cultural mission on the part of Brazilian churches was very present during our time together. In addition to a visit by Rev. Oswaldo Prado, who is a seasoned mission executive and minister of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil, we also had a pastor who dedicated years serving among the Chinese diaspora and another who has been significantly engaged in service in different indigenous people groups.

These were some of the comments that we heard towards the end of the four days:

“Re-encounter, reorientation and prevention. My soul was waiting for this moment.”
“Last week I experienced a panic attack while giving counseling to a couple. These days helped me understand that if I am not well, I will hurt not only my ministry but also my family.”
“It made it much clearer that I need to improve my physical, spiritual and emotional health and also helped me understand how to do it.”

With support from congregations and individuals that contribute to The Outreach Foundation, Brazilian pastors are being reinvigorated to lead missional congregations that witness to God’s transforming grace. Four years ago, SARA (“serving” “helping” “refreshing” and “befriending” in Portuguese) was created with the purpose of mobilizing and equipping pastors for the promotion of spiritual formation through retreats and ongoing mentoring relationships. There are now close to five hundred pastors that have come to be part of SARA in Brazil. Having been invited to hold similar retreats here in the U.S. (in English) and Portugal, as well as in Mexico and Panama (in Spanish) there are plans for holding a second retreat in Portuguese in Orlando during the month of November. I am truly grateful for how SARA’s ministry is building the capacity of the church for telling about the Christ that continues to invite the weary to come to him and find rest.

Juan Sarmiento
Associate Director for Mission