Reaching a New Generation in Rio

By Raul Ortiz

Miguel Fleck, a 68-year-old successful businessman in Rio de Janeiro, in late October, prayed that God would give him a sense of ease and peace. He then headed from his house to the nearby State University of Rio de Janeiro.

Under the bright Rio sun, he sat down on a bench and prayed for the students who entered and exited through the university’s main portal. Watching their faces, he asked God to lead him to those who were seeking a relationship with God.

It’s not every day that Brazilian students talk with a stranger, let alone with someone who is much older. But as Miguel struck up conversations with them that October day, and on two other occasions in November, they all responded to him with warmth and receptivity.

During the conversations, Miguel asked them what they thought about God. He listened. Then he asked them what they thought about the Bible. He listened again. Then he asked them if they would be interested in participating in a small group meeting to read the Bible more carefully.

“In the three times that I’ve gone to the campus, I spent about two hours each time talking to students,” said Miguel. “And in that time, nine of them agreed to study the Bible with me. God has a lot of people in that place!”

Miguel and his wife, Claudette, are now in the process of forming two study groups with this new generation of Brazilian students. They want to keep the groups small, to keep it personal and relational. They envision the Gospel taking root in the hearts of the students, to see them become laborers for Christ, and to see the Word spread to many others through them.

Before starting this campus effort, Miguel began sending email to his friends around the country asking for prayer. He has also been sending updates about what’s happening at the university. As a result, Miguel’s forays on campus have been a Spirit-filled, God-powered partnership with many people in the 52-year Brazilian Navigator movement.

Miguel says prayer is the key. He is motivated by the truth of Ephesians 6:12, which says: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

“Even with prayer, we know how difficult it can be (to reach people with the Gospel),” said Miguel. “Imagine what it would be like without prayer.”

Miguel himself is an example of God’s work through spiritual generations. In the early 1970s, as a young college student in southern Brazil, he met Jim Petersen, who started the Navigator work in the early 1960s. Jim, along with his friend and colleague, Aldo Berndt, started to read the Bible with Miguel. Miguel soon came to Christ and started a life-long contribution to God’s work in the region.

Working with people has always been on his heart. As a college student, Miguel decided to go through his business administration course at a slower pace. That way, he said, “I could get to know more of the students around me.” In 1980, he moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he and his wife initially went through some rough financial storms. Life started to change in 1994, when Miguel and Claudette built a successful sales business that continues today.

Throughout their history, they have worked hard to advance the Gospel in personal ways among secular friends in Rio de Janeiro.

Miguel says that recently God had been prompting him to reach out to a new generation of Brazilians.
“I was feeling a deep inquietude,” he said. “I realize that I’m getting older and that I’m going to die. I don’t want to feel like I haven’t left anything good behind. So, I decided to try and start a new generation of students.”

Please pray that God would nurture the seeds that Miguel and Claudette are planting among students in Rio.    


Raul Ortiz is the Regional Director of the Navigator work in Latin America. For many years, he helped pioneer the Navigator work in Uruguay. Today he and his wife, Paty, live in their native Mexico.