Church Planter - France
After graduating from Bible School in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, David and his wife were called to France. Along with another Brazilian missionary, David is currently helping to pastor a new church plant in one of France's major cities. By focusing on the devopment of the local church he is pastoring, his desire is to see native French pastors raised up and sent out for the establishment of more biblical churches throughout the country.
Testimony of my Conversion
From birth I was raised solely by my mother, along with my brother who is one and a half years older than me. We lived near the beach and our life was consumed with surfing, which my mother, my brother and I all did. When I was 13 years old my mother was transformed by the Gospel and began to attend a Presbyterian church. From that time on, I was impacted by a sort of fear of God.
From time to time I visited my mother's church, and this is where I had the first of two significant spiritual experiences in my life. I compare this experience to the first of the two touches Jesus gave the blind man He healed. That day, I was overcome by a deep sense that it is in Christianity that all truth resides, and that interaction with God was what gives meaning to life, and pleasure and peace to existence. This period, however, did not last long, because I was very attached to my non-Christian friends and I had not established close relationships with the church. For nearly five years I had a very distant relationship with Christianity, until, through many trials, I began to have a sense of my profound lack of God.
At the age of 19, I decided to reconnect with the church through the encouragement of an old friend who had become a Christian and had shown great transformation. He was part of a church nearby and I started to participate in some meetings. My participation in the meetings, however, did not allow me to find the peace and joy I had once felt from God. I considered myself so unworthy of God's presence, despite having known the truth, and I was afraid that God would not ever allow me to enjoy fellowship with Him.
Despite this fear, in one of these meetings a man I had never met encouraged me to continue seeking the Lord. He said that I should persevere in seeking, and that God would hear me. His words strengthened my confidence that the Lord would hear me. So I searched further for the presence of God. Although I had never developed a habit of reading, my hunger for God, now accompanied by great hope, became so great that I not only read the Bible, but also another book by J.I. Packer in a very short period of time. Even though I had a very limited theological understanding, the book served as an even greater motivation to seek after God.
During a night of prayer in the church, I experienced my greatest and most indescribable visitation of God, where I was made to understand that my great prize was the adoption I had been seeking. I started to have a greater love for Jesus Christ and the Church. After that night, I realized that the Holy Spirit was creating in me a supernatural power to resist the temptations that in the past I could not overcome. I felt Christ really living in my inner man, and despite the countless tribulations throughout my life at that time, I was able to endure it with peace and joy; inexpressible and full of Glory. It was not merely my reasoning that was touched; I developed a strong compassion for the lost, a compassion that I had never before felt in my heart. This is when my blindness was healed.
Call to Ministry
Shortly after my conversion, I started to organize prayer meetings in my home. Initially it was with only a few Christian friends, since I did not yet have many Christian friends. I then started inviting some non-Christian friends to those prayer meetings, and they all had many questions. Soon the meetings became a bible study group. For me it was a very natural inclination to share what I had found with my friends who were still lost. These meetings became a means of evangelism where people were asking many questions about the truth, and it had a big impact on me.
All my life I always wanted to help people who searched for advice or counsel, but I was so fearful about what to say because I didn't have an authoritative basis on which to speak the truth or offer correct advice. I was always much more an observer than a talker, and people saw me as shy because of that. But now that I had the truth of the Gospel and the authority of the Bible, I knew that I could speak of it with confidence. Yet I still felt incapable and I realized that I still lacked a higher level of theological training. So I went back to the church my mother attended and there I came across an overwhelming source of biblical knowledge. I began to take notes on all the sermons I heard and I participated in all the Bible study meetings. A great thirst for knowledge of the Bible came over me.
I constantly called upon the pastors of my church to help me prepare my Bible studies, and I started helping with the youth ministry at the church. Soon the lead pastor approached me and invited me to a weekend with his two sons and his wife at the beach, where he spoke to me about very obvious signs of my pastoral calling and suggested that I enroll in a seminary to get my degree in theology. During this period, other people from different Christian communities had also spoken to me of the possibility of a ministerial call, saying that they recognized certain evidences. I took it all to the Lord in prayer and soon decided to enroll in the seminary.
At the time I was dividing my schedule between my commitment as a professional surfer and my studies in industrial design in one of the best universities of Rio, where I had a 90% scholarship because of my financial situation. My ministerial call began to weigh heavier on my heart, and I knew that entry into seminary would require more time than I had available. I had to leave one of my two main activities. Thus, a delicate decision arose before me; should I give up industrial design school or professional surfing?
By the grace of God, with the advice of my pastor and the agreement of my mother, I decided to stop design school and maintain my career as a surfer. My pastor offered the following questions as criteria for my decision: “Where have you had more opportunities to preach the gospel? Which proved to be more of a missionary field?” I am glad I made this decision, since I later came to work for 8 years as the Christian Surfers Coordinator in Rio, seeing much fruit by our Lord's grace.
The Bible School lasted for 4 years, at the end of which I was completely and actively engaged in the life of the church as a youth leader, preacher, and Sunday school teacher, serving as part of the leadership of the local church as well as working with the Christian Surfers. During this time I also met my wife. In October 2009 I was ordained as a pastor.
The Call to France
God brought together many different factors that led to our calling to France. For a long time I had felt a missionary calling, especially for unreached nations. As a professional surfer I have had many cross-cultural experiences and opportunities for evangelism on short trips. During my theological preparation I had a professor that was a missionary pastor from Portugal. He was regularly showing us the need in the unreached countries of Western Europe, like France, Portugal, Italy and Spain (today he is working in Spain as a missionary). He was also explained apologetics to us using the post-modern European cosmovision as a background.
Furthermore, shortly after I had entered into a relationship with my future wife, she moved to France for her studies in Industrial Engineering. We had a long-distance relationship for three years before our marriage. During that time she was involved with the GBU (University Bible Group) at her university, leading evangelistic bible studies. I had the opportunity to visit her on several occasions and was amazed at the spiritual thirst, oppression, and need of that land. Paris seemed to me to be very hollow; it promised and pretended to be very deep, but had nothing meaningful to offer. It created in me a sad feeling that echoed in my heart. The need was clear and although we mentioned France in our prayers, we didn't yet have plans to come start a ministry in France.
My wife got her degree and came back to Brazil. We got married and spent one year living in Rio. It was a period of many changes in the local church, our financial lives, and in my wife's career. My marriage and commitment to the ministry required a salary but the church's budget was very tight. Since our finances were still too low, my wife searched for work and was offered a job in Goiania, a city 820 miles from our hometown, Rio de Janeiro. Really, we were forced to make major decisions in the midst of a very tough time in our lives. We submitted those decisions to the Lord in prayer and received some direction from Him.
We did not feel called to plant a church in Goiania and we knew that if we were going to have to move to such a distant place, we should consider an unreached area. We put France before our Lord. Since my wife's degree is very valued in France she applied for a job there, and I applied for a master’s degree in Apologetics. In prayer, we waited for God to open doors. She got the job and I was accepted by the seminary, and we came to France with the blessing of our local church. We recognize that this time was very cloudy, but from then on our Lord has been progressively and strongly confirming our calling, making clear that this is where He intends for us to be.