A desire to be relevant to other people and participate in practical outreach prompted Luana Collen, 22, to leave her social work studies at a Brazilian university to spend a year in mission.
“In 2018, when I was 19 years old, I participated in an outreach project close to my home [in southern Brazil] for the first time,” Collen said. “Now I have decided to leave my region and live this experience in the Amazon.”
Collen is one of 36 young people taking part in the 2021 One Year in Mission (OYiM) project in northwestern Brazil. Each one left home, work, or college to live the experience of being full-time missionaries in the region.
The initial training program usually takes nine weeks, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this time it lasted only five weeks. Training is intensive and started early with cleaning the training facilities, helping in the kitchen, and taking Bible classes, among other activities, educational psychologist Eunice Bertoso, who is also a volunteer and coordinator for the first stage of the project, explained.
Bertoso shared that being a missionary in the Amazon rainforest was a lifelong dream for her, from the time she used to hear mission stories as a child at church. As soon as she and her husband retired, they decided to volunteer in the region.
Training of the OYiM missionaries took place at the Northwest Mission Institute (NMI), located close to the Amazon city of Manaus. The facilities, surrounded by nature, foster fellowship with God and provide volunteers with the first chance to reach out to residents in the area and experience some of the challenges of being a missionary.
Ronivon Santos, a pastor and NMI director, explained that the facilities also welcome other groups of missionaries. “The Amazon is a region where the need for missionaries is great, so we coordinate several concurrent long-term and short-term mission projects,” he said.
The intensive training that young volunteers get as soon as they arrive seeks to prepare them to continue serving in a specific community in the Brazilian states of Amazonas, Acre, Roraima, and Rondônia, leaders said.
“It’s exciting to see young people give up so many things to be missionaries,” Anderson Carneiro, youth leader in the region and OYiM coordinator, said. “The graduation at the end of the training period heralds the beginning of a dream come true for each one of them.”
“I have no words to describe the joy of receiving this diploma,” Elane Cavalcante, 18, said. She will serve at the Canumã community in Amazonas. “Perhaps this is one of the most important graduations in my life,” she added, visibly moved.
Several regional church leaders attended the graduation ceremony, including the president of the Adventist Church in northwestern Brazil, Sérgio Alan Caxeta. “Our region includes inhospitable, still unreached places,” Caxeta said. “These young volunteers are now part of an army of evangelists.”
On May 31, the young volunteers left the place to travel to their Amazonian communities, where they will now apply all that they learned to reach others for Jesus.