September 6, 2022

ECO Deepens Relationships in Brazil


By John Terech, Executive Director of Operations, Rev. Dr. Jen Haddox, Director of Global Engagement and Rev. Barry Gray, Pastor at Kirk of the Keys

Ministry Partnerships in Brazil

By John Terech, Executive Director of Operations

In November of 2015 I had the privilege of traveling to India with the Outreach Foundation’s Jeff Ritchie to explore mission opportunities there.  Along with me were Don Everts and Brian Stewart.  There we met up with local missionaries and another group of travelers from Brazil.  Jose Carlos Pezini was also on the Outreach Foundation staff and he was with a couple of elders and the lead pastor from a Presbyterian church in San Jose do Rio Preto.  While our combined efforts to find some mission opportunities came up short, this trip allowed me to build relationships that now, after 7 years have blossomed into real ministry partnerships.  I’ve traveled to Brazil 5 times now, on invitations from Pezini and many leaders of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Brazil (IPIB).

  You may remember our National Gathering in Houston a few years ago when we had the President of the IPIB as a visitor.  Pastor Joao Luis Furtado still leads the denomination, and this past August invited me and Jen Haddox as guests to their General Assembly, marking 119 years of ministry for that denomination.  It was there that they gave me a document to bring back to our Synod Executive Council outlining a great ministry partnership that we might explore. 

I’m excited for what the Lord might do with this partnership as we look at church planting, discipleship, theological education, and other areas where we can help each other in Kingdom building.  Recently, a group from the Presbytery of Florida also visited several churches in Brazil affiliated with the IPIB and their report was encouraging.  God is up to something.  I encourage you to explore what opportunities might be there for your church!  Or consider supporting one of our Brazilian church plants in ECO located in Texas.  Engage with these new opportunities!

Connection in Christ

Rev. Dr. Jen Haddox, Director of Global Engagement

It was coffee break time, and we grabbed a tiny cup of espresso, a sweet treat, and scanned the room for a spot to park for a few minutes. Gathering in the room were other 50 female pastors
from all around Brazil, eagerly connecting with one another at the very first gathering of women pastors for the Independent Presbyterian Church in Brazil (IPIB). Tina Hosler and I were just
overwhelmed as one by one, the women would walk up to us, grab us by the shoulders, and look deeply into our eyes. It was as if they were bursting to say something, but knew we wouldn’t be able to understand each other because of the language barrier.

At the second coffee break of the day, we knew to have our interpreters nearby. The women were eager not just to thank us for coming, but to tell us how our messages had spoken to their hearts, uplifted, challenged, or healed them in some way. They shared how they had experienced similar obstacles. Tears streamed down faces, and laughter erupted as we connected. Clearly, the Holy Spirit was at work connecting us despite the culture and language barrier. Joy became tangible in our midst!

Connection is at the heart of God’s mission. While the whole world is disintegrating because of the effects of sin, Jesus unites and brings us together. When Jesus commands his disciples to “abide in me” in John 15, he invites them to also abide together, and says “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15: 11). Of course this is something we strive for in every local expression of church. But, it is especially poignant when we cross cultures and abide with brothers and sisters in Christ.

The women pastors who gathered in Maringa, Brazil this summer experienced this gift! The gift of joy that comes from the Holy Spirit as we gathered in meaningful ministry and fellowship time. I came home from this week in Brazil brimming with hope and a profound sense that I had been with the Lord.

I’m excited about ECO’s commitment to make this kind of friendship connection in ministry a hallmark of our global church relationships. Our solidarity in God’s mission with the global church is grounded in our commitment to abiding together in the life of Jesus.

Florida Presbytery Discerns a Global Partnership

Rev. Barry Gray, Pastor at Kirk of the Keys

Florida Presbytery is so excited about having a partnership with the Igreja Presbyteriana Independente Brasil (IPIB)! After a season of discerning potential partners, Florida Presbytery sent a team of 6 people to Brazil June 13 – 20 to gauge their interest in having a ministry partnership
with us and with ECO. Our team consisted of Alan Neff – Satellite Beach, Matt Prince – Kirk of the Keys, Brad Klostreich – Palm City, Wagner Vieira – Grace Community Church, Boca Raton, and we even took Drew Thomas from Reading, Pa. to join us based on his interest in Brazil. Jeff Winter recruited the group, and he asked me (Barry Gray – Kirk of the Keys) to lead the team.

Led by our guide Jose Pezini, we visited with the denominational leaders and the leadership of the seminary in Sao Paulo and received a warm welcome and the assurance that ECO and IPIB were a great match for a partnership. After meeting with the leadership we began a tour of some of their churches and new church plants.

Everywhere we went we found sisters and brothers in Christ who were excited about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and very open to partnering with us to learn from each other how to do the Lord’s work better. We were so blessed to see the many different ways they are reaching out to the lost and the unchurched and realized that we can learn a lot from them.

Every church and church plant we visited sated us with local delicacies and plenty of Brazilian coffee as they talked about their calling from God and how they ordered their ministry to be as effective as possible in reaching as many as possible for Christ. My 2 favorite stops were at ALVO Lugar de Vida Church where they have built a beautiful dojo next to their leased building to teach Ju Jitsu as an outreach and a means of discipleship to all the high rise condo communities in a very fast growing
area of the City of Marilla, and The Arena Zona Church plant in the City of Presidente Prudente where my heart connected with Pastor William and the congregation there.

It was in Presidente Prudente that Drew preached at the Arena Zona Church on our last Sunday morning and I preached at First Presbyterian, the mother church, that evening. We were asked to pray for their leadership team and they prayed for us. What a glorious time we had in both
churches! It is my hope that as we now have begun to put together an official partnership with the IPIB that other ECO churches and presbyteries will join us in this exciting endeavor.

I’m so excited that I’ve started learning Portuguese so that when I go back I’ll be able to have some face to face conversations without needing an interpreter.

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