True confessions. I thought I was evangelistic until Ocimar turned the
tables on me. I also thought I didnt have much prejudice left. Boy, was I
Ocimar is a self-employed house painter from Brazil. As he painted five
rooms for me (okay, he did one twice, because I changed my mind on the color),
Ocimar moved from being a cultural curiositya living example of the world
coming to my doorstepto being a friend.
At first, I was simply fascinated to hear the musical tones of his
Portuguese as he spoke to his helper. Then I noticed his work ethic. High
standards. Excellent workmanship. Discipline. Fairness. Good communication and
a zeal for customer satisfaction. All good stuff. But, inside, I found myself
squirming, and I questioned my heart: Why was I surprised?
One evening my eye fell on the answerphotos of a 125-year-old house built by
my great grandfather, an immigrant from Germany who married an Englishwoman. Im
proud of their courage and gumption in moving to Texas, establishing a ranch
and helping tame the American West while serving God. Englebert Haags house
still stands, along with my impression that European immigrants of that era
were hard-working folks with high ideals.
Flash forward to 2004. Ocimar is one of many modern-day immigrants I know.
And thats just itso many newcomersso much change everywhere you look. Before my
denomination encouraged me to see the world at my doorstep as less of an
invasion and more of an opportunity to participate in worldwide evangelism, I
wondered about the population shifts taking place on our continent. Maybe I
even feared them.
Experiencing Ocimars work ethic helped a lot. Then he challenged me even
more. Would I come to his Brazilian church for a family wedding? The invitation
wasnt out of the blue. He knows I travel (23 countries so far). He knows Im
interested in South America (I gave him a book Id written about a Southern
Baptist missionary who opened up Peru for Christ in the 1920s). Most important,
he knows I follow Jesus, his Savior, too. Without much arm-twisting, I said
MapQuest led me to a strip mall with shops of Brazilian goods and a small,
neat space serving as their church. I was in for many surprises. As guests
discovered this was my first visit, they presented the gospel to meand with a
passion and fervor that almost made me blush. As with Ocimar, living their
faith is joyous. And, if this wedding was their only opportunity and by any
chance I didnt know Him, they jumped in. I never saw more seamless sharing of
Christs direction in peoples lives as these Brazilians chatted about their
families, work and move to North Americahow He drew them here.
I saw the churchs only art, a painting depicting how the Word of God came to
Brazil with an American missionary. It shows a red, white and blue eagle
landing on a Brazilian flag that covers a table; in his talons is a Bible. The
painting is dedicated to the missionary and has a scripture, 2 Corinthians 3:17
where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Another aha moment:
these people found freedom in the Truth, not by crossing our borders.
As the reception ended, my new friends exchanged business cards and email
addresses. So another prejudice toppled: all immigrants are strugglingtaking
rather than giving. I realized these people (and I know that newcomers come in
all flavors and varieties of circumstance) are wired, theyre up-to-date, theyre
on the cutting edge, contributing and producing. And why wouldnt they be if
they had the courage and gumption to move here, establish businessesand serve
Ocimar confided that, as an entrepreneur, he feels grat- ified to invest
himself in the movement of God in North America by evangelizing, starting
churches and making disciples. Here, a Christian has more a sense of ownership,
of planting and growing, of making things happen.
Ocimar opened my eyes and helped me shed some outdated notions. He showed me
that missions involvement is 360 degrees, not just us reaching out to the
unsaved. It can be the saved encouraging the saved to make the next leap. It
can be Christians learning from Christians by crossing boundaries and seeing
possibilities. Thanks to Ocimar Im more excited than ever about the mission
field thats arrived at my doorstep.
Join On Mission as we begin a series of articles over the next
several issues looking at various people groups and population segments,
explaining how we can reach these newcomers to North America. Turn to page 14
for the first one entitled Planting Seeds Among Internationals.
Carolyn Curtis, editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC