News Articles

Church gives CP a multi-national boost

SILVER SPRING, Md. (BP)–“Without missions, a church is just a social club. Without missions, there is nothing you can justify to members. Without missions there is nothing to give to the church. Without missions, it’s just about you.”

Samuel Rozolem, pastor of Nations United Baptist Church, is unwavering: “I believe that’s the only reason a church exists, to do missions.”

To Rozolem, the Cooperative Program is a vital missions channel for the multi-national Nations United congregation in Silver Spring, Md., less than 20 miles from the White House.

“I support the Cooperative Program. It was of great help for us when we started as a church,” Rozolem said.

But Rozolem goes deeper in his CP commitment: “I believe in the visionary leadership of the Cooperative Program. That’s why I am very committed to support it…. I believe in the work Southern Baptists do.”

Rozolem added, “Everybody here [at the church] says the same thing. This is what I teach them in the new members classes.”

Nations United commits 10 percent of the offerings it receives to reaching people nationally and internationally through the Cooperative Program and 2 percent for local missions/ministries.

Nations United was started in 1995 by Jerry DeOliveira at the request of Brazilians in government, military and health care work in metro Washington, D.C. DeOliveira had moved from California to Richmond, Va., where he worked in personnel recruitment for the International Mission Board. He drove 150 miles each way, each week, to establish Nations United. Rozolem has led the church since 2005.

Today, of approximately 250 people who participate in Sunday morning worship at Nations United, about 80 percent are Brazilian, 10 percent Hispanic and 10 percent Anglo. Internationals include people from Turkey, Portugal and various Latin American and African nations.

The focus of the church is to educate the members about missions, equip them to do missions and then send them out on mission, Rozolem said.

“Jesus told us to do this,” he said. “He gave us the Great Commission, to reach out to all people….”

At an early summer service, 15 people were baptized as Nations United celebrated “The Great Commission Day” with a parade of the national flags of every nation represented in the church family.

“It was a total of 12 flags! Then we read the Great Commission passage in the different languages,” Rozolem said. “It was a powerful moment in our church. The whole church shouted praises to God in that service, as we felt a deep sense of purpose being accomplished.

“A church should be made up of people from all nations and all races and all colors and all tongues. It’s what the Bible says,” the pastor continued. “When this church started, it started with this vision, to have people from everywhere, to go to people everywhere.

Nations United’s vibrant music ministry includes singing in different languages and styles during services. Rozolem’s wife Andrea, meanwhile, leads a children’s ministry that engages youngsters from an array of cultures.

“I believe it’s very easy to just give money and say, ‘Go, do the job,'” Rozolem said. “So we decided to not only give the money but give hands-on in missions also.”

Missions starts in the community, with the deacons using the 2 percent of the church’s offerings to meet immediate needs of people, such as paying for rent, utility bills, prescriptions or food.

The greatest immediate need for everyone in the church family — in addition to having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ — is to be connected with people who know and care about them, Rozolem said. For that reason, a meal is provided after every Sunday and Wednesday service, with rotating groups — families, Sunday School classes, the youth — doing the cooking in what is known as the church’s kitchen ministry.

“You can’t believe how important this is,” Rozolem said. “When we fellowship, we get to know people. This is true with the cooking and with the eating. We have time together with each other, and we minister with each other. To bond in fellowship, it’s really important.”

In mid-September each year, Nations United hosts a “Festa Country” on its 1.6 acres of land in a residential area just west of U.S. 29, also known as Columbia Pike, a major artery into downtown Washington. “It’s a huge campus we have, with many trees; it’s beautiful,” Rozolem said.

Festa Country this year included a mechanical bull for adults and a variety of inflatables for youngsters. “We do cookouts, all types of typical Brazilian food,” Rozolem said. “We do music. Our church has quite a few musicians, so we have music all day long. We do drama. We do competition games. And we invite the whole community to come.”

Every year the Brazilian General Consulate sets up an itinerant office at Festa Country so people can renew their Brazilian passport or a Brazilian visa or secure any other document or information relating to Brazil.

“We have more than 500 people come to the church today for this,” the pastor said on Sept. 18. “They get to know the church, to see the church environment and see who we are and get to know us. They watch the drama. They listen to music. There’s ushers all over the place, greeting them and getting their names. Then we call them, thanking them for coming to the event.”

Calling people is a significant part of Rozolem’s ministry, and he encourages all the church’s deacons and pastoral assistants to do the same. A bivocational pastor, he works in the mornings at the salvage yard he owns. Afternoons and late into the evenings are spent in Bible study and on the telephone since most of his congregation works during the day.

Calls are placed to visitors to thank them for coming to Nations United and to engage them in conversation that might result in a return visit — or to Holy Spirit-directed “divine appointments” that would lead them to Christ.

Rozolem and the pastoral team also call people who weren’t in church on Sunday to check on them. Having grown the church from about 135 people to its present 250 in worship on Sunday, Rozolem and the pastoral team notices who’s there and who’s not.

And he calls people he meets during the course of his daily activities, at his salvage yard or at the grocery store or other business. He makes friends, he says, and lets the Holy Spirit do the rest.

“The best part of the Christian life to me is to be able to have this intimate relationship with Jesus Christ,” Rozolem said. “To have this ability to feel His presence, to see Him personally involved with your life, to me this is the best part.

“There are some experiences we go through in life that you cannot have without being a Christian,” the pastor continued. “When we go through difficult times or discouragement, when we feel defeated, nothing is working, no one is paying attention, what can happen? Most likely, nothing good if you’re not a Christian. But if you are a Christian, suddenly we see things happen, we see He’s present, that He’s watching and that He cares. To me, that is the most precious thing, to have this personal involvement of Jesus Christ in my life. Knowing anybody can have this relationship with Jesus, that’s what I tell people about.”

Rozolem’s — and the church’s — next challenge is the construction of a new worship center. They’ve been meeting in a converted house and the house next door they later purchased but have outgrown the space. There’s enough land to build, but the $3 million cost is daunting.

“Someone called me from Boston a couple months ago, when the economy was really going south,” Rozolem said. “He was telling me all this, and then asked, ‘How’s business in Maryland?’ ‘It’s booming,’ I told him. ‘There’s a lot of people who need Jesus in this town.’ … I believe if we build a larger place we can reach more people for Christ and disciple more people and do more missions for the Kingdom.”
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal for churches in the Louisiana Baptist Convention.