reetings from Tokyo, the most populous metropolitan area of the world!
My wife, Lais, and I were born and raised in Brazil. We met during college and married soon after graduating. We stayed in Brazil for about eight years while Lais worked as a physical therapist and I was a school chaplain, church pastor, and then the youth director of my conference.
We were comfortable in Brazil. But we began to feel a burden to go to the uttermost parts of the world to share Jesus. When we heard that the South American Division would be sending 25 missionary families overseas, we expressed our desire to serve. We put our lives in God’s hands, and soon we were on our way to Mongolia!
When we share our stories about serving abroad, people often want to hear fascinating things about the country. But for us, everything was about the people. We visited their houses, ate their food, won their confidence, learned about their needs, and ministered to them. So, we were able to experience beautiful connections with them. We looked for an unreached area in Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital city in the world, and were able to start a new group of believers there. People were hungry for the gospel, and many gave their hearts to Jesus!
While we were doing community service and an evangelistic series in a neighborhood called Nisekh, I met a woman named Yanjin. She was 81 years old and had never heard about Jesus. The first time she heard His name was when I shared the story of a young virgin who became pregnant with the most special baby who ever lived.
“What is the baby’s name?” Yanjin asked from the first row of the auditorium.
“His name is Jesus,” I replied. I could see her eyes sparkle. No doubt the Holy Spirit was already working on Yanjin’s heart.
Every time I drove into the Nisekh area, I could see a tiny house on a faraway hill. I imagined a family living in it that had never heard of Jesus, and I wondered how the gospel would ever reach them. I began praying that God would send someone to them. But after a while, I thought, I must go first. So, I again put my life in God’s hands and said, “OK, God, send me.” I tried to find the house several times, but I never could. After a while, I quit trying, but I did continue to pray.
One day during the evangelistic campaign, Yanjin asked me to come to her house. “I want you to meet my family,” she said. I agreed, and we set out walking. We had walked for forty minutes in freezing weather when she suddenly stopped and pointed to our destination. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
On seeing Yanjin’s home, I became emotional. That was exactly the house I was praying for! My wife and I had been struggling about whether we had made the right decision in coming to Mongolia. Now, I had my answer. I snapped a photo (see photo 2) to remind myself of what I was thinking that very moment: Never doubt that God is leading in your life. This is God’s mission; He is in control!
I met Yanjin’s family, and we started a Bible study group in her house. After a few months, she accepted Jesus as her Savior and decided to be baptized, becoming the first Adventist in her family. But her story doesn’t end there. We left Mongolia in 2019, but Yanjin became a missionary and brought others to Jesus, including some family members and neighbors. Ironically, that isolated house on the hill that once represented “the uttermost part of the earth” in my missionary journey became the first small group in that unreached area to worship Jesus.
During Yanjin’s baptism, she turned to Lais and me and said, “Last winter, you gave me coal. The coal was very good for me because it warmed my bones. Even though the cold is over, your love still warms my heart.” What a privilege and honor it is to share Jesus’ love with the unreached people of the world!
After serving in Mongolia for five years, we returned to Brazil to teach missiology at the theological seminary in Bahia. Again, everything was great, but after a year and a half, God said, “Let’s put fire in their hearts again.” Our hearts burned to return to the mission field. Soon, we accepted a call to lead a missionary team that aims to start a Seventh-day Adventist disciple-making and church-planting movement in Tokyo.
The culture and challenges of Japan are quite different from Mongolia’s, but our experience is still all about the people and the way God is leading His mission. We’ve made many new friends who have never heard about Jesus, and we’re already sharing our testimony with them, using words when necessary!
To learn more about Mission Unusual—Tokyo! visit m360.tv/s2034.