From Street Child to Street Preacher

When I was 5 I ran away from home; my father was an alcoholic and would have killed me. I spent the next year and a half living on the streets of Brazil.

Ronaldo is Westminster’s most recent MDiv student. An experienced missionary called to serve the church in Newcastle, his life story is at once disturbing and inspiring.

"The police can’t arrest little children; they just beat them up and let them go. My life as a little child became about drugs, theft and robbery on behalf of the criminal gangs that vie for control of Brazil’s streets. I witnessed stabbings; I saw people setting others on fire. And then one day a woman stopped me and offered me a place in a children’s home.

"There is a saying in Brazil: ‘Education is everything’. That was not my experience. What transformed me was not the children’s home in itself; it was the word of God. That woman not only helped my social welfare; she introduced me to Christ."

A new creation, Ronaldo’s overwhelming desire as a young man was to spend and be spent for his Lord, and his first missionary call was not long in coming. For seven years he and his young wife Fernanda witnessed faithfully to Christ in Nepal – a land where being baptised could mean a violent death. They also founded and ran a shelter for children at risk. Six fruitful years in Romania followed, and then a return to Brazil for evangelistic outreach and training. With 22 years’ missionary experience, and now speaking five languages, why is Ronaldo committing to further study?

"The people of Nepal are simple and open; this facilitates sharing the gospel. The UK is a hard mission field; people are highly educated but influenced by post-Christian philosophies. The UK had its opportunity; it abandoned the gospel. The church seeks to be ‘relevant to the culture’. Parents failed to teach their children Christianity; a generation has grown up ignorant of God. There is profound need.

"I need to be well prepared and equipped. I cannot come here with the same theology that I took to Nepal; we presented an easy gospel, an easy truth. People in the street were asked to accept Jesus and would simply say ‘yes’. The missionary would proceed to get them to pray a prayer and would write home to speak of another three converts that day. Amazing for the missionary, but these people had simply added Jesus to Shiva and Buddha. It didn’t work for the people of Nepal; it won’t work in the UK.

"The one thing common to every nation is sin. When we bring the gospel we are bringing the fear of the Lord. The UK has wealth and education, but only through the fear of the Lord will repentance come. God commands all people everywhere to repent. Repentance is for every nation."

I ask Ronaldo what his approach to evangelism is now.

"I follow Jesus’ strategy, which is to relate to people: I go where they are, stop everything, focus on one person at a time. I find creative ways to turn the conversation to spiritual things. I use the law to address the condition of that person before God: we are all sinners, no matter how good we consider ourselves to be. Then – and only then – do I present grace: Jesus himself.

"I don’t believe in restoring culture. I believe in proclaiming the gospel, which will play its role in restoring culture.

"I want to see the gospel flourishing again in this part of the world. Brazil has been so blessed by missionaries who came to serve our nation. Some of them are still there today, serving faithfully. I want to see the British church returning to mission beyond its own shores, as before. I want to provide training – a school of evangelism – with people all over the world joining British people in being trained. Many will stay here, but the idea is to have people equipped so that they will go and make disciples of all nations, obeying the command of Jesus himself."

A Brazilian Street Child with a vision for world mission. May God send more Ronaldos into his harvest!

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