Multiply partner Paulo Sergio talks about God’s call to Vila Bela in Brazil.
PAULO had just got married, was ordained as a pastor and had a son. With his family, he settled in Brazil and bought a brand new house. Everything seemed to be going well, until God called him out of his comfort zone.
Vila Bela, an important Brazilian municipality on the Bolivian border and flanked by an Amazon tributary, the Guaporé River, has a definite African ‘feel’ about it as most of the inhabitants descend from former African slaves. Vila Bela was founded by the Portuguese in 1752 and abandoned by them in a time of plague; surviving African slaves, often badly abused and downtrodden by the Portuguese, then re-established the town. Today, many in the region still live in poverty although gold mining and cattle ranching have brought prosperity to some.
A few years ago, a Brazilian couple, Paulo Sergio Silva and Vania Cristina, sensed God’s call to this challenging district of Brazil and today Paulo is senior pastor of Multiply partner, BCM (Brazilian Christian Mission) in Vila Bela.
Paulo’s parents were Christians and he was baptised at 14 and filled with the Holy Spirit when he was 16. One year before his baptism a friend of his mother prophesied to him that he would be a pastor. This was not what Paulo wanted!
When he was 22, working as a radio announcer and illustrator, a US pastor invited Paulo over to study at a Bible College, but he refused – in his own words, “Like Jonah, I was called but unwilling!” Meanwhile, he enjoyed success at work but still felt unhappy and unfulfilled; he ended up living in Europe for over seven years where he worked with the Salvation Army in France and attended an American Bible School in Portugal.
Paulo and familyBack in Brazil, Paulo got married, was ordained as a pastor and had a son. He continues the story: “We had just bought a brand-new house and furnished it in just the way we had dreamed about, but in my heart I knew one day God would send us off as missionaries. On a mission trip to Peru I sensed God was sending us to Vila Bela. I felt indescribable anguish: moving out of our brand new and fully-paid house, especially in the very year we had moved in, made no sense to me at all. Living in Vila Bela definitely was not in my plans; it was the last place I would imagine we would be told to go. Also, I personally had no invitation from any church to pastor there.
“I visited Vila Bela before taking any decision and I tried to comfort myself, thinking that God was just testing me as He did Abraham when he was asked to offer his son Isaac and that I would end up hearing, ‘You don’t really need to sacrifice’.
“I was told that the main BCM church had been without a pastor for years; that made me feel sorry for them but I also felt it was their problem, not mine!
“We had no better choice but to obey. We ended up moving to Vila Bela. Then Vania got seriously ill and our son, João Paulo, had a hard time fitting in to his new set-up and I was depressed. Finally, I realized that my heart was wrong; reluctant obedience is not the same as heart-felt submission. I submitted my all to the Lord Jesus and, immediately after that, I felt a strong desire to pastor at BCM. My family and close friends prayed together and, not long after, I was told that some people at BCM were praying for me to become their pastor too.
“Being obedient and truly submissive to God turned our moving to Vila Bela into the best thing that could have happened to my family and me. We were so well welcomed in BCM, the church is being renewed and people are being saved, delivered and healed.”
In 2013, Multiply partner Desmond Thomas, from the Ministry of the Word, Freetown, Sierra Leone, visited Paulo in Vila Bela and led the Portuguese descendants in the church into repenting and apologising to the African descendants of the slaves. This made a significant and positive impact on the spiritual atmosphere of the district.
“God is not interested in just actions,” continues Paulo. “He is interested in attitudes as well. If we are merely obedient but not submissive we will end up suffering. This is not because God is unkind; it is because the extent of our spiritual authority over evil powers and situations is directly connected to how much we are in submission to God. That’s why it is written in the New Testament: ‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ James 4:7 (KJV) Let’s submit from the heart and then enjoy the victories Jesus has gained on the cross for us!”