By Mike Shamy
The eyes of millions of football fans all over the world will soon be focused on Brazil, the host of the 2014 World Cup. It’s bound to be one of the biggest news stories of the year.
But there is another story happening in Brazil, one that won’t make the evening news. It’s the story of the Navigator ministry in Brazil, which began in the early 1960s when Ken and Carol Lottis and Jim and Marge Petersen moved their families to Brazil during a military coup.
Despite many obstacles, God used them to bring a new generation of Brazilian university students to faith in Christ. These students graduated, scattered around the country, married, and built families while carrying the Gospel to friends and colleagues.
Now a new generation of believers faces a dramatically different Brazilian culture. How, in twenty-first century Brazil, can the vision cast by the first generation be carried forward? How will this new generation model the Gospel among today’s unbelievers? What will help them continue to grow into mature disciples?
Fortunately, the Scriptures provide guidance. Luke, writing Acts 11, records the story of the Gospel’s expansion geographically and ethnically from Jerusalem to Antioch. The way these first-century believers responded provides us with valuable insights for our contemporary challenges.
In Acts 11:22-26 we see a vital function: the role of alongsiders. We see this crucial role modeled by Paul’s co-laborer, Barnabas. Studying the work of Barnabas helps us understand an important factor for sustaining a generational movement. What exactly did he do?
- He recognized and affirmed what God was doing among the believers.
- He encouraged people in their relationships with God.
- He served as a ligament, connecting people and resources.
- He taught from the Scriptures, protecting sound doctrine.
- He provided an example of Christlike character.
Almir and Mitzi Pigari, a couple serving as alongsiders in Brazil, are good examples of what Barnabas demonstrated in his life. Almir and Mitzi stand by their friends in personal ways, supporting, teaching, and connecting.
Almir and Mitzi travel around Brazil to encourage groups in numerous cities. For example, they drive about 300 kilometers once a month to spend a weekend with young professionals in São Paulo, helping them integrate the Gospel with work and life in a city of 20 million people.
Mitzi’s role is crucial. As an experienced mother and wife, she is able to counsel and encourage the younger women in the struggle to balance work and raising children.
In all this, Almir believes that they have one primary role: to encourage people to stay focused on an intimate relationship with Jesus.
“If they remain in Jesus, they will be fruitful. Without that focus, it’s easy for us to be consumed by the world and to lose perspective,” Almir told me.
I give thanks to God for the many alongsiders like Almir and Mitzi in Brazil who have sustained the Navigator movement over three generations. I encourage you to watch a short video about the Navigator work in Brazil, which features Almir and Mitzi, at this link.
Mike Shamy was born in New Zealand. Mike and his wife, Audrey, became Navigator staff in 1980. From 1989 to 1996 Mike led and coached ministries in New Zealand. In 1999 he led the U.S. Metro Mission. In 2004, Mike joined the International Executive Team and is the link person for Latin America.