When is it time to hand a Western mission structure over to the local church? Michael Prest reflects on changes in the national church in Brazil
As the church in many parts of the majority world continues to grow, so the relationship of Western mission agencies with national churches changes. So, when do mission workers hand a mission over? A striking example for us has been in Brazil.
UFM workers have served in Brazil since 1923, initially as part of the Heart of Amazonia Mission before the formation of UFM in 1931. In North East Brazil, UFM has worked since 1967 in partnership with two other Western mission agencies – SAM Global from Switzerland and Crossworld from the USA – in a collaboration called MICEB.1
It is wonderful to reflect on all that the Lord has done in and through many who served sacrificially in the years that followed. What a joy, for example, to see the growth of AICEB2, with which so many mission partners served – a Brazilian denomination now numbering nearly 600 churches. Over recent years, numbers of Western mission workers in Brazil have continued to decrease. All remaining UFM mission partners in Brazil have been serving in Brazilian churches and projects, under Brazilian leadership. With this natural transition, the need for the old Western mission structure of MICEB became increasingly redundant.
Transition to national leadership
It was a privilege therefore, to be part of a special nationalisation conference for MICEB in November 2021, held at the SCEN3 Bible College in Sao Luís. The leadership of MICEB was passed from the three Western mission agencies to Brazilian leaders from the AICEB denomination.
The mission has not closed, it has simply changed – no longer sending mission workers in, but out! The vision of the new leaders is to see MICEB operate as a mission arm for AICEB, helping send Brazilian mission workers within Brazil and abroad.
The vision of the new leaders is to … send Brazilian mission workers within Brazil and abroad.
The nationalisation process has been long – it takes time to carefully work through so many years of history and the structures of a work that have developed over time. Yet, praise God for this new phase in the story of MICEB. May God continue to raise up many workers for the harvest field from Brazil. To God be the glory, great things he has done!
Group photo above: Handing over to the new MICEB leadership team, with new President, Pastor Fabio Oliviera.
Opportunities for future partnership
The Brazilian leadership are keen to build on the rich history of MICEB and pursue ongoing partnerships with UFM, SAM and Crossworld. Some possible areas for future partnership could include:
- offering mission placements for Brazilian Bible college students to test mission gifts overseas
- linking Brazilian and UK churches and pastors for mutual learning and prayer
- assisting in mission training for Brazilian mission candidates
- partnering to provide pastoral support for Brazilian mission workers serving in Europe.
Please pray for these discussions and exciting opportunities!
Photos: (main): nathalia-segato/Unsplash.com.