Bom dia! Nothing like a cheerful bit of Portuguese to launch another sunny day on the south Brazil campus of IAP. Karen and I were blessed to spend a week with the students and faculty of this college (and elementary school and academy), sprawling across rolling green cornfields as far as the eye can see. Our host and my translator, Marcio Costa (academic dean—who with his wife Jane and their daughters Stephanie and Giovanna were members here at Pioneer as he worked on his PhD), invited me to lecture for what they call “Theology Week”—a concentrated week-long focus on pastoral theology for the 125 theology majors in the school. The theology program is just two years old, so these 125 students will no doubt double in number in the next two years when all four years of the program will be on campus together.

The natural beauty of this campus was matched by the exuberant reception we enjoyed with these six score young pastors-to-be. Alive and well and very much committed to plunging into pastoral/evangelistic ministry they are! Nobody speaks much English. But they easily connected with all the “Americanese” I tried to translate into Portuguese. Having spent three weeks last summer with our evangelistic team in south Mexico, I figured that my broken Spanish might fare well among these Portuguese speakers. But alas, while the similarities work for those fluent in either Spanish or Portuguese, for a novice trying to negotiate the tricky sound-alikes which are in fact not-alikes was a humorous disaster! These young college students took particular delight in teaching me how to say Ayo estou felees ain estar com voosays, gulizada which means “I’m happy to be with you guys” (trust me—that is hardly how it is spelled—only how it sounds—a scribbled down practice I use wherever in the world I travel on mission). What they got such a kick out of was getting me to use the word gulizada. Apparently it’s a colloquial slang word for “guys” that sounded quite acceptable but entirely out of place on a visiting American pastor’s lips!

You can quickly pick the theology majors out of the crowded lunch time cafeteria—they’re the ones dressed in dark suits, white or pastel shirts and usually red or maroon ties, as you can see in the attached picture. Devoted, inquisitive, very much focused on the lectures we shared, spiritually committed to Christ and their eventual ministry, and yet thoroughly youthful and western in their constant “selfies” and contagious laughter—these theology majors bode well for the future of the church in Brazil—a church that continues to explode in growth across this largest country on the South American continent (fourth largest country in the world—larger in land mass than the US without Alaska and Hawaii).

Challenges for Brazil? Political and economic turmoil right now, a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, the burgeoning moral deficit western cultures face, and the presence of a dominant national religion (Roman Catholicism) that will increasingly contest the advance of the Seventh-day Adventist church. The tallest cathedral on the continent towered four blocks from our 17th floor hotel window in Maringa—a uniquely cone-shaped edifice visible for miles, dramatically lighted at night, a perpetual reminder of Adventism’s mission to the world: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Our church in Brazil isn’t the church with the tallest and brightest nighttime cathedral, but it belongs to a movement passionately committed to shine the light of Christ into the darkest night of the world no matter the cost—a task these young theology majors clearly are eager to embrace. God help them and us.