Brazil #5: Whatever the distance, God goes with us

by Juan Sarmiento

Berenice Brasil is an influential person in her home village of Amandio, a remote town of around 86 families in the margins of one of the seasonal tributaries of the majestic Amazon River. She is the leader of the congregation that Manaus Presbyterian Church (IPM by its initials in Portuguese) started.

Rev. Djard Cadais Morais who serves as one of the pastors at IPM took on the challenge to navigate a challenging section in order to make initial contacts and begin to share Christ’s message. Berenice was among the first to respond to the invitation to receive God’s grace in an evangelistic gathering that he conducted. It was during that same meeting that she also announced publicly her decision to no longer be available for those that sought after her witchcraft. From that point forward, her influence in the village would be different. Through its Missionary Training School, IPM provides her and other leaders with basic skills through intensive one-week long classes that take place twice a year. Since canoes and boats have been the only modes of traveling for Berenice, the church also provides her with enough Dramamine to help her deal with the sections that require to travel by bus. She speaks highly about how the training school has helped her gain greater knowledge of Scripture and become equipped for service. Berenice was identified as the leader of the new congregation and many in the village, including her husband Jose, have come to faith in Christ.

Berenice joyfully introduced our group to some of the people under her loving care and instruction. She also shared how, through the Missionary Training School, she has been challenged to identify and begin work in neighboring villages with no churches. One of the villages where she frequently goes is a four-hour walk from Amandio. She begins her journey at 4am in order to arrive by 8am. Berenice then spends most of the day making visits and leading gatherings before walking four additional hours to go back home. She finds encouragement by reflecting about how God was with the people of Israel during the time when they traveled in the desert on their way to the promised land. “In the same way that God helped them for 40 years”- she ponders- “God is with me during my 4 hours walk.”

I thought that Berenice’s experience of God’s presence in her journeys was particularly evocative as we at The Outreach Foundation celebrate our 40th anniversary. She reminded me that God goes with us, whatever the distance may be. Meanwhile, a new congregation has now been started by Berenice, even as she continues to offer her loving guidance to the church in Amandio.