June 15, 2011

17 CN: Adventist Pastor Overcomes Drugs, Baptizes 940 in One Year

Adventist Pastor Overcomes Drug
History, Baptizes 940 in One Year

Shares story of triumph at South American Division Ministerial Council

BY JAEL ENEAS, South American Division

Those wondering if miracles still occur today can draw reassurance from the story of a former drug addict, now a 38-year-old Seventh-day Adventist pastor in the northeast corner of Brazil. Led by the Holy Spirit, Luis Antonio Cardoso Couto baptized 940 people last year in the town of Viana, in the state of Maranhão.

His colleague in the same state, Pastor Lucas da Silva Carvalho, 26, has an impressive testimony as well: he crosses dunes, rivers, and deserts to shepherd 1,300 members and 24 congregations in the city of Barreirinhas, also in Maranhão. Both men shared their stories during the South American Division’s Ministerial Council, which drew 4,000 Seventh-day Adventist pastors to the city of Foz do Iguaçu, in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná. Newcomers to the ministry account for 19 percent of attendees; these pastors seem both motivated and adventurous.

2011 1517NewsBrazil2

DEDICATED PASTORS: Brazilian Seventh-day Adventist pastors Lucas da Silva Carvalho, left, and Luis Antonio Cardoso Couto, right, faced challenges in their ministry. Pastor Lucas has to traverse difficult terrain to minister to 1,300 members in northeast Brazil, while Pastor Luis had to overcome a drug abuse problem and go through seminary training before baptizing 940 people in a single year. [PHOTO: SAD]

During his drug use, Couto said, he heard a voice saying, “This is not your place”—that he was not intended to remain a drug user. As he put aside drugs, the voice said, “You have to have Bible studies, and when you break free, I will make you a blessing.”

He was baptized at the Seventh-day Adventist church in Ponte Rasa, in 2000. After that, Couto was a literature evangelist, and then became a theology student at the Centro Universitário Adventista de São Paulo, graduating in 2008.

Although his district covers only 43 miles (70 kilometers), Silva, a 2009 graduate of the Adventist School of Bahia (IAENE), relies on a jeep-pulled four-wheel boat and horse to reach the villages of Atins, Mandacarú, St. Ignatius, and Ponta do Mangue Sorrel, a hamlet where there is a wooden church that needs to be rebuilt every time the tide rises.

Both men agree it is a privilege to be a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, and that the ordination to the ministry “brings greater responsibility, apart from confirming the calling of God.” Ordination generally takes place after four years of service, following an evaluation process. Silva told his colleagues: “Do not neglect your personal devotions. Without it, you will not have power.”

In reflecting on his experiences, Couto, grateful, said he continues to hear the “voice of the Holy Spirit” that kept him out of drugs. And he concludes: “Allow the power of God to merge with your human efforts. God has a thousand ways to act for you.”