The Fiel Conference, Brazil, October 4-11 2008
Editoria Fiel is the organization that runs the Fiel Conference each year, which was begun twenty-four years ago by Richard Denham, Sr., an American missionary to Brazil, for the purpose of edifying ministers and promoting Reformed literature in Portuguese-speaking countries. Eighty attended the first conference which has now grown to 1,300 attendees this year, including some pastors’ wives and children. They have translated more than two hundred books, including several of mine. They plan to do Mary’s book on kindness (Mary Beeke, The Law of Kindness: Serving with Heart and Hands, Reformation Heritage, 2007) and five more of my books in the next two years.
At the headquarters, workers were busy loading up 25,000 books and all the office equipment, to bring to the conference site – a resort three hours away in the mountains. More than half of the books would be sold throughout the conference. The lives of many ministers – including a number of Assembly of God pastors – are being changed by these books. Other speakers, including Stuart Olyott, Phil Newton, and Sam Waldron arrived throughout the day. In God’s kind providence, all three of these speakers were personal friends. I’ve done several conferences with Stephen Olyott in various places around the world, and also did a conference for Phil Newton’s church in Tennessee a few years ago.
On Sunday morning, I preached for the Grace Baptist Church, pastored by a capable, godly young man, Gillson. We spent a few delightful hours over lunch with Earl and Joanne Metz, a very spry 80-year-old couple who came to Brazil from the U.S. about fifty years ago. Earl worked for GM. He taught English a while, and they began mission work. They were very involved with Fiel from its inception. Earl believed it was important for the Fiel staff to have more of a bond than simply working together. So he built a 24-unit apartment building overlooking a beautiful valley. Earl and Joanne are so positive, sweet, godly, and perceptive. We found out at the end of the meal that she had been in the emergency room three times that week for an allergic reaction. Yet they insisted we were not a burden. By the time we left, we felt we had known them for years.
Sam Waldron preached for us in the evening. Afterwards, we had a delightful dinner and fellowship together with the other speakers at the home of Tiago, the hands-on manager of Fiel (see below).
On Monday morning, we drove to the conference site at the Hotel Monte Real Resort in Aquas de Lindoia. The conference began on Monday evening and went through Friday morning. Each of the major speakers gave three plenary addresses, and Mary gave two addresses to the women. Our translators were outstanding. The benefit of participating in a conference with multiple speakers is that our own souls are nourished as well. A special bond develops between speakers and attendees as the glories of the gospel are extolled, encouraging stories from Scripture are explained, and practical wisdom for the ministry is shared.
The people (approximately 1,000 pastors, 200 wives, and 100 children) were hungry and responsive. We made many new friends, and deepened our relationship with several others whom we had met years ago at the Puritan Project Symposiums. It was so good to see Dr. Manoel Canuto and Rev. Josapha again. What dear brothers in the Lord they are! I was particularly happy to meet Bill and Mary Barkley for the first time. They have been in Brazil for several decades and have single-handedly established a publishing house, ‘Publicacions Evangelicas Selecionadas,’ that has translated and printed more than two hundred sound Reformed books into Portuguese! They’ve done a great number of Dr. Lloyd-Jones’s books, as well as a number of Puritans. Presently, they are doing my little book on the Puritan view of adoption (Heirs with Christ) and are considering doing Meet the Puritans.
We also visited at length with a principal of a Christian school who would like to establish ties with American schools for a student exchange programme. Another man wanted advice on opening more Christian schools in Brazil; we will put him in contact with my brother Jim. We met several men who are interested in coming to our seminary. One 22-year-old young man is working hard to save his money to come to our seminary after he completes his college degree. We had fascinating conversations with a number of American couples who are in their 60’s – 80’s who have been serving as missionaries in Brazil for decades.
Richard Denham, Sr., also in his 80’s, was unable to attend the Fiel Conference for the first time this year because his and his wife’s poor health kept them in the U.S. His son Rick is very involved, but he also travels back and forth between Brazil and U.S., running his business. Tiago oversees the operation of Fiel and reports to Mr. Denham, Sr. every day. Tiago is a former lawyer who left a lucrative position to work on the Lord’s behalf for Fiel. He is both very talented at organizing the book-publishing and the conference as well as very humble, kind, and willing to serve. The whole staff exhibited this wonderful attitude of servanthood.
This is one of the best conferences we have ever attended. We are really impressed with what God is doing in Brazil – especially with the hunger of hundreds of pastors for learning and experiencing Reformed truth. It is so exciting to see that many Brazilians are open to hearing the gospel. This conference and the cause in Brazil has great potential for the future if the Holy Spirit continues to bless it.
I have often told Mary that Brazilians are warmer and more affectionate than any nationality of people I have ever met, but now she had the joy of experiencing this firsthand. They excel in love. We might well call them ‘the heart people’!
Before we left the conference, Rick and Tiago asked to meet with me. They would like to inject more of the practical Reformed experiential emphasis our heritage has to offer into the Brazilian scene, so they asked me to come back to do the conference again in two years. In preparation for that, they want to translate four more of my books, plus Mary’s book, in the next two years. This was an exciting and humbling meeting. Who can tell what the Lord will do in Brazil if this trend of interest in the Reformed faith continues?
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