My name is Steve Butcher, Sr., and in 2004 I had never heard of the phrase “short-term mission”, but for me, the answer, to why go, was simple: the Lord compelled me;“I just knew I had to do it”.
The Lord had impressed upon me the vision of taking the typical “back row” American Christians to Brazil, of all places! The mission, was all about people just like I had always been, Christians who needed to exercise their Christianity in a “real” way. The concrete way given to me by the Lord to enliven the sleeping members of the Body of Christ was to build village churches on the Amazon River. The Lord instructed me to work for an almost never heard of organization in Brazil called Paz. The fact that I knew no one in Brazil at the time, that I had never gone further south than the Caribbean, and that I had never built anything, didn’t seem to matter to God. I knew I had to go, and I knew life for me would never be “sleepy” again, at least not until I fulfilled my marching orders.
Well, to my shock, nobody in Brazil wanted me! I came to meet people associated with PAZ, Project Amazon, but they were fairly unimpressed with anything I brought to the table, which admittedly, was not much. I did not want to simply go to Brazil, without a team, to experience the Amazon River, first hand as Paz suggested. I did not want to just send a check as they had also suggested. My vision of bringing short-term mission teams to Brazil to build a whole church from the ground up in a week was deemed impossible by the good people of Paz. I had not been given a specific building plan by the Lord, and according to Paz it took months to build a church out on the river.
And I would know that, if only I actually would come! Over the next 30 months, the Lord humbled me. The Lord had brought the various leaders of PAZ, one at a time, to my house in Rochester, NY, to visit, just so I would know that, even in the face of my dynamic personality and forceful presentation, I would still be rejected. I now knew the leaders of PAZ by their first names. I had tried mightily for better than two years to create some enthusiasm in the Paz leadership to no avail. Surely this would be enough for God. I tried, right? Still I felt I would have no peace without done all that I could do, even if it seemed to make no sense to me. The only thing left was for me was to finally and completely trust and submit without reason. The Lord had told me right from the start that I would have to put myself under the direction of PAZ. And they at PAZ had all told me, all along, I needed to go to Brazil, but I wanted a commitment from them before I got on a plane. So it was finally clear to me, the one last thing to try… was blind obedience. I bought plane tickets.
OK, so there was a little internal kicking and screaming, but I was on the plane to Brazil! It was March 2007 and I had boarded the plane out of obedience; and that had to count for something, right? The Lord says He prefers obedience to sacrifice, and in this, I felt, He was getting both out of me at the same time, kind of a two for one deal. The Lord had told me some two years ago to bring a team of Americans to build churches on the Amazon. But I only had my wife in tow; she is sweet, but hardly a team. It all seemed like a waste of time and money, but I went anyway in order to at least fulfill the command “to go”.
We were to go first to the mission house in the city of Castanhal, Brazil, run by the pastors, Scott and Michelle Toth. We arrived in Castanhal early in the morning on Sunday. After taking most of the day for food and rest, it was time to go to the 1000 member PAZ Castanhal church. Only a minute or two into the service and my heart was broken, for the sake of the Lord and for the Brazilians. In the weeks to come, both in the city and in the villages we visited out on the Moju River, [a tributary of the Amazon River] we witnessed such an unfettered joy in the hearts of the people for God that I felt privileged to be there with them. You sometimes will see a display of Christian self sacrifice, and you sometimes will be witness to true joy in the Lord, but not usually at the same time, and not usually as a general state of being. In Brazil, and especially out on the river, Dianna and I saw self sacrifice with joy, in abundance. River pastors would work all day in their gardens and then, three times a week, walk 10 kilometers into the jungle to bring the word of God to attentive people. We had met what we came to think of as “important” people.
Their importance did not come from what they possessed or who they were and so it could not be credited to them by the world’s standards. Their importance came from their uncompromising service to Jesus. Dianna and I were hooked. There was no way we were not going to help these people. And so in His graciousness the Lord gave Pastor Scott Toth a prophetic word for me, which the Lord said to him was in response to the obedience and humility that I had finally shown in coming to Brazil. The Lord would now tell me how to build the river churches just as he had told Noah how to build the ark, which was a very big deal to me, as I had complained to God that it was not fair to tell me to build something and not show me how as He had done with Noah. Within hours I was shown a building method which uses concrete panels for the walls. The panels are light enough for one person to lift and cheap enough for our budget and are manufactured right there in Castanhal!
The dear church worker who was my guide to this new method is a Portuguese speaker that I never would have met had I not gone to Brazil. What do you know, obedience to God really works! Fast forward to October 2007. By the grace of God, ten brave North Americans with the help of half a dozen Brazilians have built our first building in Brazil. It went up in just five days!
The second church was built in November 2008 on the Moju River at a place called Alca Viaria. The second team was from Faith Temple Church of Rochester, New York.
The third church was built in March 2009 on the Para River (the southern extension of the Amazon River) on an island called Arumanduba. Each time the buildings are getting a little better. The Lord had shown me from the beginning that the pattern of building would be perfected as we built.
The A.R.C. churches are solid, functional, and less hot than the old style of church construction. And they are completed in less than five days! When we build a church for a village community, we are quite literally bringing to them God’s answer to their long-term prayers.
There is no better feeling in the world than to be an instrument in the hands of our Father when He chooses to bless His children. It is the privilege of a lifetime to be present in the midst of their praise and thanksgiving for what the Lord has done.
The American team joins with their Brazilian brothers and sisters at the very first service held in the new church. The new pastor is installed, the sick and unsaved come up for our prayers, and yet again we are used by the Lord. It is Christmas, it is Easter, it is Thanksgiving, it is glorious!
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. After he said this, he was taken up… (Acts 1:8-9a NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come! We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us… (2 Cor 2:17 and 2 Cor 5:20a NIV)
I know you feel the call to be His witness. It is part of who you became when the Holy Spirit came on you. You will never escape the feeling of being unfilled in your destiny until you become one of Christ’s ambassadors.
A.R.C. is not the only way to fulfill your marching orders, but it may be that you are reading this right now because you have been directed to do so. Contact us. Let us help you fulfill your call to the nations, and your adventure in Christ. You will never be the same!
Steve Butcher, Sr.