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.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (BP)–It’s become a family affair.
Missionary Phil Kesler takes Brazilian believers with him when he shares the Gospel, in a strategy called Churches Multiplying Churches (Igrejas Multiplicando Igrejas). They learn from him and gradually take the lead. Meanwhile, Phil mentors other leaders, resulting in a continual multiplication of the number of people spreading the Gospel and training others to do the same.
That is what happened when Kesler’s four children -– Bethany, Anna, Carlos and Aline -– started accompanying Phil and his wife Donya on church-planting endeavors. They learned from them, joined in the efforts, then gradually took a lead in accompanying and encouraging others to share the Gospel.
At age 9, Anna went with her father into the favelas (slums) of Campinas to start a Bible study. She taught the children Bible stories while Phil taught the adults.
When the family moved to Foz do Iguaçu, Anna and her father planted another church together. It began meeting under a tree, then in a shack and finally a larger rented space.
“She has led countless people to the Lord,” Donya says of Anna, now 19.
The Kesler family also led a backyard Bible club every Saturday at a Brazilian school in Foz do Iguaçu. Donya, dressed as Dizzy the clown -– complete with ‘Pippy Longstocking’ hair and red nose -– cruised around in her Ford Escort to carry children to the Bible club. The car always filled up quickly -– one trip was never enough.
“Half [the children in the car] were speaking Arabic and the other half speaking Portuguese,” Donya recalls.
Five children from Arab families accepted Christ, but many of the Muslim girls who participated in the Bible club had to stop attending once they reached adolescence. It was considered inappropriate for them to associate with the boys, Donya explains. Their families wanted them to instead learn about home life and how to teach their future children about Islam.
Unknown to the Keslers at the time, their oldest daughter Bethany began going to Avenida Brasil, the busiest street in Foz, with some of the children from the Bible club to share the Gospel with other children. Bethany, who rarely left home without a notepad and pen, had written an evangelism guide for the children to use.
Phil soon learned of this and decided to drive them there himself.
“Phil would drive all the kids to Avenida Brasil, park the car and then sit there and wait,” Donya says. “When the students ran out of Bibles and tracts, they were able to come back to the car to replenish their supplies.”
Phil’s travel throughout the country as an ethnic ministries coordinator in conjunction with the Brazilian Home Mission Board often takes him away from home, which can be hard on the family. But Donya says the family knows they are doing exactly what they’ve been called to do.
“I know that … no matter how tough it has gotten at times, I have never wanted to be anywhere else but where God put me,” Donya says.
To learn more about Churches Multiplying Churches, go to missionsnow.sambrazil.org. Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering provide vital support to the International Mission Board’s more than 5,300 missionaries worldwide, including Phil and Donya Kesler in Brazil. Go to imb.org/offering for more information.