Three events took place this last week that allow a glimpse into how the world changes. After finding the story behind the events, I remind myself and my friends about tools for acting out our hope and contributing to the good of the world. Continue reading
My main responsibility, after trying to be a loving husband, father, and grandfather, is to help coordinate the people in Martureo who are creating a Brazilian Center for Missiological Reflection
I have copied here for you the report from our Martureo site about some of our accomplishments in 2017. In Martureo we understand how important it is for Brazilian mission practitioners to carefully consider how they give witness to Christ and participate in his mission in all spheres of society. And I am very pleased with what we were able to accomplish.
Martureo Assessment September 2016
I have just finished doing an assessment of the work done by Martureo over the last couple of years. This has helped me figure out where I can contribute in my new responsibility as Executive Coordinator. When we finished this Assessment, we were actually quite amazed at how active the Brazilian Center for Missiological Reflection, Martureo has already been, and are encouraged by the response.
The work of Martureo made visible
|Courses have been well attended.||The first missiological issue Forum involved Brazilians in the challenge of quantifying the mission task.|
|Books–translated, published– and well received.|
|Marcos is receiving more invitations to speak at conferences than he is able to accept.|
|Series of 10 video series on Islam. The first three were viewed by 40k people and widely shared in social media.|
|Articles are read, commented and shared.
The response to Martureo in numbers Continue reading
Olympic travelers were told to get to Rio’s Galeão airport 6 (yes that’s 6) hours ahead of their flights today. The airport is expected to be crowded today. But not as crowded as the streets of Rio. Rio traffic is notoriously congested, full of people who live there and want to get where they need to go.
Those airport instructions, just like the geography in my blog title, have little to do with Brazilians.
Rio is definitely not emptying out today. And if you identify with the idea that “the Olympics are over and I am going home”, then you aren’t from Rio.
But you did just get through an amazing 15 day opportunity to learn about Brazil, even if Brazil is not the place from which you enter and know the world.
In Rio, the party is over and for the moment, there is lots to clean up and put away. Life will probably go back to where it was. Back to work. The old rules apply again. Special, temporary rules let drunken American goldmedalist swimmers abuse Rio’s reputation to hide their own violence, irresposibility and arrogance. But now they are gone. The old rules are back. Brazilians can manage their own violence again along with daily lives of both victims and perpetrators, in big cities where many people struggle to survive.
For Cariocas Rio is home! Rio is not a place to go home from. It’s their starting place! It is a Brazilian place from which to know the world. And religion has a lot to do with the place from whence they start. I wrote four blogs at the beginning of the Olympics, in which I tried to point out what would not be visible in the media coverage.
I wrote four posts about how Brazilians enter the world from a uniquely religious place:
- Brazilians enter the world as religious innovators. Brazilians are much more diverse religiously than a pie chart can portray. They have created, and exported new varieties of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Spiritism.
- Brazilian Christianity is perhaps more evangelical, protestant and pentecostal than it is Roman Catholic . But don’t get confused. You cannot map Brazilian Christianity to the same labels as American or European Christianity. Brazilians are so innovative. They transform anything they receive and make something Brazilian out of it. Evangelical, Protestant, Pentecostal and even Catholic mean something very different in Brazil from what they mean in the United States and Europe.
- Brazil is the world. Like Americans, Brazilians draw on a history of immigration, mixing of cultures, for their religious innovation and outreach. Differences in sources of migrants and relations between them go a long way toward explaining how they engage the the world with a different perspective on religion.
- In Brazil, evangelicalism is a form of resistance. In their attempt to follow Jesus into a world of exploitation and oppression, Brazilians are constantly inviting exploited and oppressed people to join them in following Jesus. I told one story about how they used the Olympics to resist the powerful global forces that perpetuate all kinds of injustice in Brazil.
In the global north, we don’t begin our relation to the rest of world from a perspective of intentional and outspoken religion. That would be too aggressive and show our lack respect for other cultures, religions and for non-religion. Instead we often begin from our geopolitical and commercial project. Our soldiers are ready to go anywhere in the world to fight for democracy.
In the humanitarian space, international institutions (like FIFA and the Olympic Committee), promote “tolerance” by managing or banning expressions of faith, as if faith were a performance enhancing drugs. The global north enters the world with post-colonial sensitivities. It wants to avoid a repeat of the time when a particular religion was associated with global (colonial) power. The result is a kind of secularism in which religion is a private, personal matter.
Not so with Brazilians. Religion is up front, it is a starting point for many. Not having the power to impose religion colonially or legally on the world (or on Brazil for that matter) they enter the world from a different perspective. Human flourishing is to be pursued in a world of religious diversity. Personally, I think theirs is a great foundation for finding a way and giving testimony about Christ in the religiously diverse global context. Life in the wide world involves making claims about God, and expecting to talk about the differences. Brazilians are happy to discuss and argue religion, beliefs and practices, and rarely will you hear of religion as a reason to kill people. Tolerance plays differently from Brazil. There it does not silence religion; and it does not have the power to surpress the claims of religious rivals.
Brazilian soccer superstar Neymar is outspoken about his Christian faith, despite pressure from FIFA to keep his religion out of the public view. He regularly celebrates his victories with a head band that says “100% Jesus.” But last year FIFA pictures of the Barcelona victory in the European Cup had airbrushed the words off of his headband.
For Cosme Rimoli a sports writer for R7 — a Brazilian media outlet that is tied to one very powerful, but marginal, religious group–FIFA is the one that is being intolerant. In his article he made a very important observation about religion in Brazil.
“The player is an evangelical. As a boy, he often used the same headband to thank Jesus Christ. But now Neymar is feeling the brunt of religious intolerance. It’s one thing to use the headband as a young man, in Santos. After all, Brazil is a secular country that accepts all faiths. It is common here for a Jew to be friends with a Palestinian. A spiritualist to be married to a Umbanda. There is tolerance. Crimes committed in the name of religion are rare.”
Just because he invokes Jesus, Neymar does not get a free pass, though. After the game, he was filmed in an ugly and aggressive exchange of words with a fan. Evangelical leaders responded today by calling themselves to greater integrity. Felipe Fulanetto wrote on his Facebook page:
Integral mission not concerned only with executing the entire mission of Christ in all of society, but also with the integrity of the evangelist in mission. Mission without holiness is like the wind, it emits sound, but it only lasts for a time.
Cassiano Luz, the leader of the Brazilian Cross-cultural missions association, posted:
A dichotomous perspective has grown in our midst that will produce a religion full of speech but lifeless. This is a warning first to myself. We need to think of how to address this issue in our families and churches.
So, after Brazilians hosts the world for the Olympics, Brazilian evangelicals who are thinking about the world do so with serious introspection. They want to pay attention to who they are and how they follow Jesus in the world.
The Olympics were a great opportunity to revisit their connection in the world. Flavio Ramos wrote about that connection, in light of the Neymar controversy, ” Jesus não quer marketing, ele quer testemunho e andar de modo digno do evangelho ~ Jesus doesn’t want better marketing, he wants (lived) testimony and living in a manner that is worthy of the gospel.” (my adaptation for clarity).
During the Olympics, the banner on the Martureo Facebook page asked “Rio 2016: what might this encounter of Brasil with the world mean in terms of the mission of Christ?”
For months to come, Brazilians will be working on this question. Indeed, they have already been working on it.
This is what we are talking about when we talk about “Missiological Reflection.” Missiological reflection is what we in Martureo want to see more of. That’s why we are the Brazilian Center for Missiological Reflection. If we do it right, when Brazilians reflect on the mission of Christ, it will make a positive difference in all the world, and in our own. In different ways, we are participating in Servo de Cristo Seminary and with South American Theological Seminary (SATS) during the the next couple months, as they focus Brazilian missiological reflection on the mission of Christ in two particular global contexts: first, seeking “new paradigms to giving testimony about Christ among Buddhists” and, then, following Christ into mission in the context of human movment and global diasporas.
The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio are in full swing. The visibility of the Olympics on NBC is limited. You could get the impression that the USA is taking home all the gold!
Some Brazilians are making visible some hidden aspects of a global event. They are seeing, and showing the Olympics through their religious, evangelical commitments. (I have written about these commitments in posts over the last three days, that you can read, if you are interested).
Brazil is visible to the athletes primarily the Olympic village, but from a different perspective than we see through NBC. One former student of Christian Academy of Guatemala is competing for Guatemala. On Sunday night he streamed live, and we could see as he moved from the Olympic village to Maracanã.
Tourists from around the world are seeing Brazil from yet another perspective, depending, perhaps, on where they get to stay. Today’s paper in São Paulo had a long article about the Penthouses and Mansions that smart Carioca’s rented out. One went for $40,000…a night!
Some see the world gather in Rio from a place of exclusion.
But there are many Brazilians who have found courage in Christ to confront sexual tourism and exploitation of adolescents in the name of Christ. And this is one way international visitors will discover the visibility of Brazilian evangelicals, particularly if they don’t get the chance to drive through neighborhoods and see all the buildings that house churches.
One Brazilian movement has been praying and preparing for several years to go this month to the Plazas and Venues where Olympic visitors will gather or circulate. They are trying to be visible and speak out on behalf of sexually exploited kids whose lives are destroyed through global connections that come together at events like the Olympics. I hope you will take a minute to read the report from Bola na Rede about their first day on the streets. I have put this article into Google Translate for you so you can access it in “good enough” English.
Bola na Rede is an amazing movement. The vision of Bola na Rede is to confront the sexual exploitation of adolescents–particularly in the context of construction of venues (money and concentration of workers) and the realization of global events (One of the themes of Brazil and its interaction with the world has been through the lens of sexual exploitation).
The movement mobilized churches throughout Brazil to pray and to find helpful teaching in the Bible and to recognize the context. They taught churches to ask God to use them to rescue adolescents from exploitation, culminating in the Olympics. In the process, many churches have had to confront the sexual exploitation within the churches. It has been quite a journey to prepare for this engagement with the world.
They are now making themselves visible, so that the exploitation will be visible, too, and vulnerable adolescents can come out into the light where they be protected and rescued from exploitation.
Did you see the opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil?
As expected, they put on a beautiful show. I liked how they focused on how Brazil relates to the world. We got to see representations of how the world made Brazil, how Brazilians transform global culture for their use and how Brazil’s struggling eco-system and struggling economy reflect global realities.
Highlights for me included the artistic portrayals of the contribution of Africans who came to Brazil involuntarily as slave labor
and the art in the portrayal of Japanese immigrants and their contribution.
Just as during the first two days, I am trying to share things that the Olympic coverage might not tell. In today’s theme–Brazil is the world–I want to call attention to the connections between Brazil and the Arab (not necessarily Muslim) world. Some say that there are more Lebanese living in Brazil than in Lebanon. Brazilian fast good includes kibe, esfiha, shawarma, not just hamburgers and chicken nuggets. And I am told that Brazilian food is easy to get in Beirut. The two best hospitals in São Paulo are fruit of migrants from the Ottoman Empire: Hospital Einstein (where our daughter Angela was born) is a Jewish Hospital. Hospital Sirio-libanés has Arab roots. Before 1948 the lines between the Jewish and Arab communities was not very clear. Even today a web-site carries on the difficult tradition of telling their shared story. https://judeusarabes.wordpress.com
If Brazil has been made with the help of Arabs and Jews since the beginning of the 2oth Century, Brazilians are also interested in Israel and in the Arab countries. And the spiritual perspective that runs so deep in Brasil helps inform that interest.
As a Brazilian form of evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity has grown, and has involved many Arab Brazilians, Brazilians have reached out into the Middle East. And Brazilian experience helps shape how Americans think about Christian mission in the Middle East as well. Ed Smither is a professor of Intercultural Studies at Columbia International University and he has written a book that is used here, but that is about Brazilian missionaries and how they live as Christ followers among Muslims.
If you are interested take a look at Ed Smither’s Brazilian Evangelical Missions in the Arab World.
Tonight the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio should be very special. Brazilians know how to throw a party and they know how to Bring people into their shared life, into their community. Be prepared!
We were welcomed into the lives of people, into whole families and into church communities when we lived there. So much so that we will feel like we are part of Brazil, and estranged members of several families.
As I mentioned yesterday, there is much to say about Brazil that might be overlooked in the coverage of the Olympics. It is not just quaint information about religion or spiritual practices. Brazil is much more diverse religiously than anyone can get their mind around. And there is no way to live in Brazil without engaging with the active religiosity/spirituality of the Brazilian people.
More significantly, the Olympics remind us that Brazil participates in the becoming of the world, and Brazilians engage with the world, primarily from their religious place, experience and see the world through a religious lens.
When I first went to Brazil in 1971, “evangélicos” made up 5% of the population (there were 5 million then). Today, there are 45 million Brazilians identify as “evangélico”.
Today, nearly 25% of Brazilians identify as “evangélicos”. It does not however, translate over to English very well. Evangelical in USA has political connotations and more clearly defined “theological boundaries” than in Brazil.
More importantly, the vast majority of evangélicos in Brazil are NOT the fruit of American or European evangelical missionaries who taught Brazilians to “believe like us”. Most of those who call themselves “evangélicos” in Brazil are from churches and movements that we do not have in the USA, or if we have them, they are here because they have sent missionaries here!
And a good number of them we might call “sects”, or “name it and claim it” preachers.
One more thought. It might be easy to conclude that a lot of “sheep stealing” has been going on, turning Catholics into evangélicos (including groups that we might simply call Protestant, Pentecostal, or Charismatic here). But that might also be inaccurate. Many were not practicing Catholics, but followed an animistic, or “pagan” outlook. Many have become evangélicos, not to be forgiven of their sin, but because their gods were not powerful enough, and they turn to Jesus and the God of Israel for their help. In addition to all this,over these 40 years the Catholic church itself in Brazil has changed. It has been affected by all this religious change. Many have “become” Catholics in practice, who were Catholics in name only, and Catholic practice has changed to include more Bible reading, more practical life-changing teaching, creating community and being a prophetic voice in society.
The pictures are intended to help you “see”–to get an idea of how all this is “written” on the landscape in which the Olympic games are taking place.
Tomorrow the Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
You probably know that Lois and I lived in Brazil from 1977 to 1986 where, as missionaries, we provided support to pastors and leaders in the rapidly growing numbers of churches.
A lot has changed since then, but we still have dear friends in Brazil, and I have begun working there again.
The Olympics coverage may or may not tell much about religion in Brazil, so I thought I might highlight the “spiritual” side of Brazil, to broaden your view of what you will see on TV.
Brazil is a VERY religious place, and diverse.Most Americans think that Brazil is strongly Catholic, but that is a mistake. The circle chart of Brazilian religious identities is misleading.
Brazilians are much more diverse religiously than that chart lets on. In addition to the mostly Christian religions that immigrants brought and the Islam and animistic religions that slaves brought with them, the religions of the native peoples of Brazil have also had a strong influence on the social fabric of Brazil.
Brazilians are innovative religiously. They have invented many new and unique religions. And they have created new varieties of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Spiritism and mixtures of them. Some of the spirituality is deep and meaningful, and some of it seems quites strange to us. And Brazilian religions can be found around the world.
When Brazilians think about how they participate in God’s mission they are “doing missiology.” Hopefully the work of thinking will help them to do some good. If they are successful we are all likely to benefit.
- The implications are global–because Brazilians from many Christian groups add to the numbers of Christ followers who are attempting to follow God’s call in almost every country of the world. They are doing the kinds of things that you and I like to support: helping people out of poverty, training young people, using sports to shape the lives of kids in urban and rural settings, training people in job skills, rescuing people from sex-trafficking and worse, meeting medical needs where there are no doctors, training new followers of Christ and training leaders for they communities, and so much more.
- The implications are personal–for both the families who move away from Brazil, and for the families they meet and serve. Brazilians want to work for the good of the world, and invite people to follow Jesus. The friends of the missionaries, back in Brazil, are learning about, and engaging constructively, in the lives of people in other parts of the world, in other realities, bringing greater understanding among peoples.
- The implications are “discursive”–that is when Brazilians think, from their experience, from the Biblical story of the gospel, and as Brazilians, they are providing all of us with new perspectives and better understanding about the mission.
- They add new ways, and new words, to help all of us get our hearts and minds around what God’s mission is and how He works to bring salvation and justice to the ends of the earth.
- They add new ways and new words and new paths of service that renew the possibilities for some of the older mission sending countries (such as our own) can respond more fully to God and to His call to all to participate in His mission.
So the idea behind Martureo, the Brazilian Center for Missiological Reflection, is that much good and much harm can be, and has been done by the way Christ’s followers think about, prepare for, do and support the missionaries who enter our troubled world from Brazil. Better thinking about mission, thinking about mission that is more connected to the conversations about mission in other parts of the world and in other times in history, and thinking about mission that is “more Brazilian” are keys to tipping the balance toward doing more good.
So, in Martureo we work with influencers and doers. Martureo does not send or train missionaries. The influencers are the ones who organize and lead the process to train, support and send missionaries from Brazil. The doers are the people that some call missionaries. They are the ones sent by churches and mission agencies and who work for the good of their neighbors both near and far.
We publish materials that help these leaders think clearly about the mission and how they involve themselves in it. We teach. We do research and publish the results. We gather people to discuss progress, problems and solutions.
We trust that this will help all of us understand better the God who loves us, loves humanity, gave himself for us, and called us to be his people.
The world is changing, and I am excited to join a team of Brazilians who are leading some of those changes, as they follow God into His mission. I recently accepted an invitation to become Executive Coordinator at Martureo: the Brazilian Center for Missiological Reflection. Of course, it sweetens the deal to know I get to travel to Brazil regularly!
There are actually several cool things that excite me about this new inistry. First, I have been preparing for it all my life. I first went to Brazil almost 45 years ago. After college, Lois and I moved to Brazil where we began our family and learned to serve.
Second, this time I will be building upon the outcome of answered prayers. When we first went, many friends joined us and prayed that Brazilians would one day participate in global missions. Now thousands serve, all over the world, and invite people to follow Christ and work for justice and peace for all of humanity. Martureo was founded by Marcos Amado to promote evaluation and reflection on the meaning and practice of mission from Brazil.
Third, this is building a new future. A new generations of Brazilians is creating pathways for service and, for years to come, many people will continue to follow Christ along them! Martureo is their tool, created by and for Brazilian leaders so they can grow in their service to Christ and participate in His mission. And I get to join them as they figure out how to do it.
Fourth, I am especially excited about serving in a Brazilian organization under a Brazilian boss. It gets complicated to explain, but this means I will change organizations. I leave my US-based mission agency–United World Mission. Now my work grows a Brazilian agency–Martureo.
If you would like to join me and support this new generation of Brazilians, or support me as I work with them, you can make tax-deductible contributions to Martureo. You can chose to make a monthly commitment or to make a one-time contribution.
Alternatively you can mail a check to:
PO Box 480
Wheaton, IL 60187
I need your prayers more than ever. It was a definitely a huge privilege and honor to receive this invitation to coordinate the work of Martureo. But it will be one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my life. But I am excited about investing my life with new generation Brazilian Christian mission leaders.
I have just returned from my first trip to Brazil for working in Martureo. Read the full blog post about Martureo, and my participation in it.
Please pray for me in this new venture, and stand with me.
Timothy Halls (and Lois)