Last night I said goodbye to a friend.
Pastor Ronnie and his family had been part of my life since September of 2015, when they showed up in worship and he let me know he was looking to plant a Brazilian Baptist congregation. Central had been one of several churches identified as possible locations by a fellow ABCNJ pastor, and we were the first church his family visited. We hit it off instantly. And Central fell in love with our new partners as we got to know Ronnie, his family, and their small congregation. The church, called IBC, began meeting in Central’s facilities in December of 2015 and had their “official” opening in February of last year.
Of course there have been hiccups along the way. The Brazilian congregation tends to be night owls 1, while our predominantly Anglo congregation likes to keep things on the early side. We have a sound system which is designed to handle some moderate output, which is suitable for the Anglo Congregation’s needs, while our Brazilian brothers and sisters like things loud — which is putting a strain on the equipment. Many of the folks in IBC aren’t comfortable speaking English, no one in Central speaks Portuguese.
W2, and we’re offering English for our Brazilian brothers and sisters. The goal is for us to become one family in two congregations. We bless each other in many ways, and hope to do so for years to come.e are working on dealing with our hiccups so we can do ministry together. Central has moved events later to accommodate our Brazilian family members, IBC is looking to up the wattage of the sound system to better fit their needs before our whole system goes kablooey, a good number of folks from Central are attempting to learn Portuguese
Sadly, for the next (hopefully) short while, Pastor Ronnie and his family will have to watch our work from afar. Their immigration process had been in limbo for several months, and this past Wednesday their lawyer advised them to return to Brazil to bring it to a speedy conclusion. Their last legal day in the country was today.
Their flight left at 6 AM.
Ronnie told IBC last night, and they were understandably heartbroken. The pastor of IBC’s sponsoring congregation, a Brazilian church in Newark, came to offer reassurances. I echoed his comments by reminding those gathered they were part of a larger family — not only would Central stand with them, but our wider ABCNJ family as well. I sent out updates to the Central Baptist community and got several replies. A few were even able to come and join with our grieving brothers and sisters.
In Ronnie’s absence a member of IBC will stand in as the shepherd for the people. I think he’ll do a great job and of course he’ll have my support. As saddened as I am by this turn of events 3, I have to say how proud I am to be associated with IBC, Central Baptist, and ABCNJ. The responses I got from Central ranged from prayers for Ronnie’s quick and safe return, queries if we should try to raise air-fare funds, and half-joking offers to hide Ronnie and family in their homes. ABCNJ asked if a letter of commendation would help speed up Ronnie’s process. IBC’s members expressed their gratitude for all Central had done for them, they knew they were loved and would be ok until Ronnie was able to return. What God has begun here will be seen through to it’s completion.
But during this forced separation I will miss my friend. God-speed, Ronnie, may you be returned to us soon.