‘If I’m with Jesus, that’s Enough for Other People to See Him’

How a Brazilian teacher searching for purpose found it on the other side of the world

Anne Seixas, South American Division, and Adventist Review
‘If I’m with Jesus, that’s Enough for Other People to See Him’
Renato Costa Carvalho Filho left his hometown and life in Brazil to live out his mission calling on the other side of the world. [Photo: courtesy of Renato Costa Carvalho Filho]

Geographically, more than 10,000 miles (16,000 km) separate Pelotas, in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, from Bangkok, Thailand. But the distance didn’t prevent Renato Costa Carvalho Filho, 36, from leaving his hometown to serve as a missionary teacher in Thailand more than a year ago.

“For a long time, I had been praying and asking God for a mid- and long-term plan for my life,” Renato says. The answer to that prayer came in a sermon preached by Dieter Bruns, director of Adventist Volunteer Service for eight countries in South America, when he was speaking at Renato’s local church. The pastor used the very same words of his prayer. Renato took it as a message from God.

Bruns says he believes God can use various means to speak to people, but it is essential to make an individual decision and preparation. “Don’t expect signs. If you feel the desire, somehow God is already working with you,” he says.

Renato is a teacher with a degree in education and English literature studies, and he taught English as a second language for some years. And then he saw on the Adventist Volunteer Service website the possibility of becoming a missionary abroad.

A Struggle for Change

Before making that decision, Renato’s life was complicated, he says. After earlier years of battling drug addiction and failed businesses, he had reached a point that he ran out of money even to pay for his meals. Now he would have to think about paying for his passport, visa, airfare, and language tests.

Initially, Renato says, he applied for a project in Egypt. After a few weeks with no response, he sent an email and was told to look for another location. That’s when Bangkok popped up. The Thai capital escapes the mission stereotype. Renato was selected to teach at an Adventist school that serves high-income families which otherwise have little contact with Christianity.

Given his financial situation, traveling there seemed impossible, but miracles happened, Renato says. “In three months, I finished all the paperwork and, by late 2022, I embarked on my new life.”

“I wondered several times how I would be able to talk about Jesus to those people,” Renato says. “In my mind, it was the poor who needed my service.” On his first day at his new job, Renato already had his answer: what he needed to do was to display Jesus in his daily life. “I understood that I needed to take care of my relationship with Jesus. Pray, study the Bible, walk with Him. When I’m working, when I’m traveling, or when I’m playing sports. If I’m with Jesus, that’s enough for other people to see Him,” he said.

By the time he decided to become a missionary, Renato had been free of drugs and alcohol for nine years, but he was still searching for a purpose. It was only when he spent time on the other side of the world, living the mission experience, that he understood what it really means to live for Christ. Now he plans to study theology. And in the long term, he hopes to continue serving people far from his home. “That’s my mission,” he said.

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.

Anne Seixas, South American Division, and Adventist Review