A sad story of gospel handicaps

Sao-Luis-do-Maranhaoby J. Randal Matheny, editor

This morning I talked by phone with Rolfe, a young Brazilian evangelist who, with his wife Valeria, began a new work in a state capital in northeastern Brazil. By themselves, this newlywed couple moved thousands of miles away from family and friends in March of 2012 to a city that had never been touched by churches of Christ.

They believed it was important to offer the gospel of God’s true grace to those who had yet to hear the word of the cross.

Rolfe refused some generous American help because of their doctrinal differences and because he believed that Brazilian churches should take part in the work. He was able to get some churches and individuals to commit to six months or a year of support.

And off they drove in their car, loaded with all their worldly goods.

Now, however, after a year and five months, Rolfe and Valeria have lost 80% of their support.

The evangelistic outreach they had established, the School of the Bible, had to be closed. The small congregation had been meeting there as well. All the work Rolfe had invested in renovating the rented space — laying tile, painting, building tables, hanging the sliding doors — was left behind as he turned the small area back over to the owner.

The congregation began meeting in their small apartment.

The work goes on. Rolfe and Valeria are glad to be serving the Lord and sharing the gospel, even with their tenuous finances. They have a commitment that, when the funds dry up, they will turn to some tent-making activity to provide for their needs. But they know that such an option will greatly limit the time and energies they will have for evangelism and edification.

Like many evangelists and teachers, Rolfe sees money as a tool for the gospel, not for personal gain or comfort. All he wants is to do the work he feels called to complete.

My wife and I are headed to the USA Wednesday in an effort to replace support that we are losing this month. But Rolfe and Valeria barely have funds to pay their bills, much less travel in search of support.

Somebody will probably comment that they were foolish to pick up and move so far away with such a weak base of support. They might even be right.

But how many are waiting for everything to fall into place before doing the will of God, before taking the gospel to others, before speaking to someone who has yet to hear that salvation is available for free?

We can barely cross the street to speak to a neighbor. We hardly think about how we can reach our colleagues at work for Christ. With our air-conditioned houses, late-model cars, and latest technological gadgets, Americans are, of all peoples in all times and places, best situated to go with the gospel, but our possessions weigh us down and our self-interest keeps us from seeing the great spiritual needs around us.

All the while, cities and nations continue without the gospel, evangelists and missionaries like Rolfe labor under great and unnecessary handicaps, and the Lord looks down from heaven on such a situation. What must he think of us?

(Read about how to give a hand to Rolfe and Valeria here.)

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