First Presbyterian continues its Brazilian mission
By The Rev. Dr. Jim Dunkin
For The Salisbury Post
First Presbyterian Church has a core value that seeks to follow Christ in mission work far beyond Rowan County. For 20 years TWAM (Teens With A Mission) have built houses in Mexico. For 10 years the church has participated in a medical mission to Mwandi, Africa completing over 500 eye surgeries.
And this summer will mark the 10th anniversary of disciples being engaged in mission work in Rio Verde, Goias, Brazil. This missional relationship has become stronger each year and marking the 10th anniversary will be the most ambitious project yet, a medical/dental clinic in a severely impoverished area of Rio Verde, the suburb of Dom Miguel.
In 1933 the Presbyterian Church in the United States established a medical mission in Rio Verde through sending a missionary, Dr. Gordon. He coordinated the construction of a hospital that still functions for Rio Verde. Over the years that relationship faded away, but ten years ago that relationship was renewed. Presbyterians from this area of North Carolina began traveling to Rio Verde and making a difference for that community.
In the past 10 years First Presbyterian Churches of Salisbury and Asheboro, Thyatira Presbyterian Church and Prospect Presbyterian Church have constructed: a hospital chapel, a sanctuary and home for the pastor, a community center in Dom Miguel, which includes a school for young elementary children (275 students and 100 on the waiting list), a space for worship with 200 attending, a home for the pastor, and a program that feeds 200 families each month with 40- pound packs of food.
Our son, Matt, created a documentary of this feeding program in Dom Miguel, which is supported by Hunger funds from Salem Presbytery in North Carolina. At least 30 disciples from First Presbyterian Church of Salisbury have participated in this mission over the past 10 years.
Pastor Eudoxio Santos and his wife Lucia of Rio Verde have built a strong relationship with the Presbyterian Churches of North Carolina. Pastor Santos serves as the hospital chaplain, pastor of Villa Rosalina Presbyterian Church, and founding pastor for the Presbyterian Church at Dom Miguel. The Santos provide magnificent hospitality to the Presbyterians from North Carolina each year, as they work tirelessly in serving the people of Rio Verde and Dom Miguel.
Two years ago I was honored to baptize 58 people in one worship service in Dom Miguel. Every person had attended classes for three months preparing for their baptism. Over 100 persons have now been baptized in this new congregation.
Dom Miguel barely existed 10 years ago with a population of less than 1,000 residents. Most of the population now exists on $1 per day. In ten years the impoverished area has grown to 10,000 people. The city gave the land that houses the school, church and feeding program to the Presbyterian Church in Rio Verde. There are no medical or dental facilities in Dom Miguel and families travel a great distance to receive basic medical help.
After several meetings in 2010 with the Mayor of Rio Verde, the Secretary of Health and the Secretary of Dentistry the city has now agreed to staff the medical/dental clinic with doctors, nurses and workers IF the Presbyterians from North Carolina come to build the clinic. In the midst of their disbelief that Presbyterians would come to their country and community to do this task, they have assured us that without our help this clinic would not be possible.
In December I traveled to Rio Verde with our son, Matt. He is now working on a short film about the project to build the medical/dental clinic. The film includes interviews with the Secretary of Health and the Secretary of Dentistry, as well as interviews with people who live in Dom Miguel expressing their need of the clinic. Other churches will be invited to be part of this mission as the clinic will be built over the next three years.
The churches must fund the construction of the clinic, with a projected cost of $25,000 for each year. I would be happy to speak to any group in Salisbury who might be interested in learning more about this meaningful mission project.
At the end of Matthew’s gospel Jesus told his disciples to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus did not say that we are to go into all the world only when the economy is strong. He simply charged us to GO. In the same moment he gave us the greatest promise we could ask for, to be with us always, especially going into “all the world.” It is an honor to lead a congregation who continues to affirm that core value of ‘reaching out with compassion to a world in need.’ Dom Miguel is waiting for a new chapter of compassion to be shared by followers of Jesus Christ, and one that will truly make a difference, all the way from North Carolina!
This Sunday there will be a preliminary meeting at First Presbyterian Church of Salisbury, in the Education Building at 5 p.m. If you have any interest in this mission you are invited to attend.