Brazil: From the River to the City to the World

 . . And they will declare My glory among the nations.  –Isaiah 66:19

After attending college in Tennessee, Rick Denham worked in the contemporary Christian music industry, representing bands that included D. C. Talk and Third Day. But after receiving an urgent call about his missionary father’s near death, Denham realized his days in business were numbered. Though his dad recovered, Denham felt called to return to Brazil, to continue the work his family established decades ago—FIEL (faithful).

FIEL had its roots in China after World War II, before the communist takeover in 1949. Denham’s grandparents had to leave their early mission work in China. They studied missions in Argentina while seeking God’s direction for another country in need of the gospel. Their return trip to the states required boat travel that included 900 miles along the Amazon River. Their burden for that spiritually barren region led them to return and establish a mission church in a small river city, and later, the first evangelical bookstore in the state of Amazonas.

A vision to reach the Portuguese-speaking world with sound biblical truth eventually took the Denhams south, to Sao Paulo, the hub of Brazil’s growing economy. The resulting publishing arm of their ministry, Editora FIEL, produces and distributes books and resources. Their goal is to train spiritual leaders in Brazil and other countries where Portuguese is the official language—Angola, Mozambique and Portugal.

Together for the Gospel

Brazil includes half of the land area and population of South America and has the world’s largest number of Portuguese-speaking people. It has more Catholics than any other country, yet Spiritism (mysticism) is a predominant tradition, and the two religions blend together in practice. Operation World (2010) statistics show the dramatic emergence of evangelicals in Brazil since 1960. But sound theology has been slower in coming. Rapid growth in the numbers of Christians brings a greater need for trained leaders.

Rick Denham has been an eye-witness to the phenomenal growth and the increased opportunities to influence Brazil and Portuguese-speaking areas of the world for Jesus Christ. Speaking of FIEL’s earlier years of ministry, he says: “We used to sell books from the back of our bus, which had a projector to show movies.” After Denham’s 2005 return to Brazil he prioritized building a website to facilitate global needs for theological training. Editorafiel.com.br has become one of the largest websites in the Portuguese language.

Forging partnerships with ministries like Desiring God has enabled FIEL to offer a wealth of content to their online community of around 25,000 subscribers. They follow Desiring God’s example of giving away content by internet. Denham says: “This approach was a new ministry concept. Desiring God pioneered this giving rather than selling ministry.” FIEL’s website offers conference material, thousands of articles and more to visitors—for free.

Desiring God shares original files with FIEL—enabling them to insert Portuguese subtitles in high-definition. One example is Piper’s Blazing Center series, which, at this writing, has had 35,353 plays on FIEL’s website (including 3,000 downloads in one weekend). A further reach occurs when FIEL offers back their subtitled work for use by DesiringGod.org for those seeking Portuguese language resources.

FIEL also sells affordably-priced books in Portuguese through their website and in the few Christian book stores in Brazil. FIEL began publishing books by John Piper in Portuguese in 1995, the same year Piper spoke at FIEL’s annual leadership conference. The translations include: For Your Joy, God is the Gospel, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, Finally Alive, and more.

Going Global

John Piper plans to attend FIEL’s October, 2011 conferences, traveling with Bill Walsh, Desiring God’s Director of International Outreach. Walsh says, “FIEL is, by far, our strongest ministry partner in the Portuguese language. They’ve done the most—and done it well.”

The conferences will bring national and international teachers together in Brazil to encourage many who minister in difficult places. The influence could potentially generate much greater use of FIEL’s website resources.

To reap a spiritual harvest in today’s world Denham believes that seeds must be planted by offering good resources for raising up national pastors and leaders. FIEL offers virtually all of their teaching resources to the global online community.

“It’s a whole different vision for today’s generations,” says Denham. “Acting locally, but thinking globally. And Desiring God was one of the first to do this. They get it.”

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