Leading by example

The Standard September 18, 2019

Pastor Djard, in charge of the church’s mission in the geographical area along the Amazon River where we visited, met our group of five at the airport at 1:15 in the morning Saturday and rode with us to our hotel. He joined us for breakfast at 7:30 and afterwards spent an hour and a half describing the mission, philosophy and organization of their church in Manaus, Brazil. At 4:00 we went with him to the English worship service which he led. It was attended mostly by young people. The church offers various opportunities to learn and practice English, as most young people have a desire for that. After worship Pastor Djard and his wife ate dinner with us at a nearby restaurant and hours later he headed back to the airport for the 1:15 AM arrival of the group of 19 from Indiana who eventually traveled with us for five days and six nights on one of two of the church’s medical/dental boats.

We thought the timing was odd when late in the morning on Sunday the lead pastor met with us to elaborate on what God had been doing in Manaus, the Amazon and beyond. It turned out that the Sunday evening service was their most attended while Sunday morning was generally used for Christian education. It also did not escape our attention that a lead pastor of such an enormous congregation was glad to devote a few hours to a group of five very average lay leaders and pastors from the United States. Pastor Francisco told us more about the four “seasons” of the church’s calendar year – Sowing, Cultivation, Harvest and First Fruits – based on Jesus’ Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. One example was that during Sowing from February to April they presented an Easter musical called “Passion for Life” eight times with a total of over 14,000 in attendance.

That Sunday evening Pastors Djard and Francisco helped lead the worship service in a large but modest sanctuary, converted from a car dealership, with rows and rows of 2,6000 white plastic chairs. Afterwards we boarded the boat in the dark with our personal bags as well as over 25 large suitcases filled with donated items. At dinner time, the captain of the boat and the Brazilian nurse named Edevanete served our first meal onboard. Through the week we saw that they too were incredibly humble and willing to help. It was explained to us that we should look on the posted chart to see our designated meal after which we would help wash dishes. When I looked to find my name I noticed that Pastor Djard was scheduled to wash dishes just like the rest of us.

Each day he walked us through the schedule, explaining things along the way. He led the ones who met with church leaders in each of the four villages and who visited homes. It would have been understandable for him to have had a room to himself in order to gather his thoughts and prepare.  Instead, he also shared an 8’ x 9’ bunk room with three people.

As recorded in Matthew 23, Jesus spoke against the religious leaders who only were performing rituals and tasks to be seen and admired by people. They wanted the place of honor and to be greeted with respect. Jesus offered a different approach. “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

With 90% of the people involved in the church committed to small groups, a homeless shelter for men, a home and camp for Venezuelan refugees, a residential missionary training center, the boat ministry and countless other outreach programs it was refreshing to see the clear and tremendous impact of servant leadership in Manaus and along the Amazon River.

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