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In Brazil’s interior, volunteers lend a hand

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions, Nov. 30-Dec. 7, focuses on missionaries who serve in South America as well as churches partnering with them, exemplifying the global outreach supported by Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. This year’s theme is “GO TELL the story of Jesus”; the national offering goal is $170 million.

RECIFE, Brazil (BP)–Six months after arriving in the coastal city of Recife, Brazil, International Mission Board missionary Keith Jefferson felt led to work among the Quilombola people of Brazil’s interior. Two dozen missionaries were working in Recife but none 450 miles away.

When he first set foot in a quilombo (village), Jefferson was shocked by its isolation.

Established by fugitive African slaves in the 1600s, the remote villages originally served as safe havens.

While Keith and his wife Deborah are the only IMB personnel working among the Quilombolas, volunteer teams assist the couple from Houston’s First Baptist Church in carrying the Gospel to the villages.

For the past four years, volunteers from Hyland Heights Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., have taken annual trips to the villages, offering eye and dental clinics along with Vacation Bible Schools.

“It’s exciting,” says Rick Magee, administrative pastor at Hyland Heights. “You start getting to see the same people over and over again.”

After returning to the same three villages for the past three years, Magee understands the goal of making disciples who will lead their own people to Christ.

“The people who will have the most credibility are the nationals, not a foreigner with a foreign idea,” Magee says. “So it’s critical that the nationals [disciple] and [multiply] themselves.”

For the Jeffersons, the time to reach the Quilombolas with the Gospel is now.

“My wife and I are overjoyed because somehow we know that God has given us this awesome task,” Keith says, “and that we are His people for this time to speak to the Quilombola people.”
Kristen Hiller is a former overseas correspondent with the International Mission Board. To learn more about how volunteers can be involved in reaching South America for Christ, go to samregion.org. Visit going.imb.org for general volunteer opportunities. Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering can be made at www.imb.org/offering to support the International Mission Board’s more than 5,300 missionaries worldwide, including Keith and Deborah Jefferson in Brazil.

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  • Kristen Hiller