We arrived in Campo Grande in January 1979—the same month that it became the capitol of the new Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. We lived there three and a half years before returning to the US, but in that short time we made friends that have lasted a lifetime.
Pastor Jonatan de Oliveira was the pastor of Primeira Igreja Batista in our day. He had a heart for missions. Primeira Igreja supported their own missionaries to many small towns in the interior of the state and Mato Grosso to the north where cattle ranches and soybean fields gave way to the great Amazon rainforest.
Recently Steve had meetings in Brazil. “Come with me,” he said. “Who knows if we will ever have another chance to return to Campo Grande.”
We have been back several times over the years. Our enthusiasm for the city has sent several friends—Brazilian, Mozambican and American—there to minister along side those who taught us so much in our few years in Brazil.
When they learned we were coming, former students organized a Saturday afternoon churrasco (barbecue Mato Grosso style.) We spent a delightful evening with the extended Bonfim family. Seu Chico has passed away, but Dona Arsedina is going strong at 89. She gave me a huge hug. Pastor Jonatan (also 89) was at the churrasco with his wife Alice and his daughter, one of our students thirty years ago. Other former students appeared. “Remember me?” Once we heard a name, the younger version of the face usually came back. Digitized versions of our old slides let us laugh at how we have changed.
Campo Grande has loomed large in our lives and ministries. It is hard to imagine that we lived there only three and a half years. It was hard to say good-by. I have this image in my head of a bulletin board in heaven where people post notices of reunions. I look forward to the churrasco we will have there when we can hear all that God has done in the lives of those who have touched ours so deeply.