A Hero of the Faith
If someone offered you a job position in which you would have to move to an isolated village, in a wooden house, with no electricity, no telephone signal, no running water, and no salary, would you consider it?
Hundreds of jungle pastors and their families have chosen to live in some of the most remote places in obedience to the call God has placed upon their lives. For the last several years, it has been our call to love and support them as they seek to take the Gospel to people who have not yet heard the good news.
The American and Brazilian staff of JMI were blessed to have served many years alongside Pastor Lázaro, his wife Lili, and their four children in Cinturão Verde. A man we grew to love and deeply admire. A man who from a young age was introduced to Brazilian Vudu throughout his childhood by his parents. However, by Christ’s love and power, Lázaro was saved from it all at the age of 18 in 1984. Naturally, his choice to follow Christ caused a distance between him and his family. Lázaro was beaten by his brothers, his family would keep food away from him, and eventually, his family moved away without telling him their new address, not even giving him the right to pick up his belongings and clothes. From his early days Lázaro lived like the passage in 2 Corinthians 12:10 “…for Christ’s sake, I rejoice in weaknesses, insults, needs, persecutions, anguishes. For when I am weak, I am strong.”
In the face of so much persecution and suffering, Lázaro was strengthened in Christ. His knowledge and love for Him grew as he kept participating in the local church, singing in the choir, attending prayer meetings, studying the Bible, and maturing in his faith. One day he was invited to be a pastor’s assistant in a congregation in a neighborhood in Manaus. In 1994, he began his missionary journey and started his work in Careiro Castanho, and then Santa Rita do véu (extreme west in the Amazon), then onto Itapé -Açu. He finally returned to Careiro Castanho – Cinturão Verde, where he lived and ministered for over 20 years.
JMI had the privilege to visit Cinturão Verde several times with our mission teams to be with Lázaro and his family, serving in his church and at the village school, JMI helped him build. We provided medical and dental assistance, walked for miles with mud up to our ankles to visit and pray with the families he loved so much. Lázaro always made room in his church for the little ones and the young people, and hosted camps for the youth to keep teenagers out of trouble. Imagine a man who sacrificially loved his family, served his people like they were his own, and invested his days in sharing the hope of Christ with those around him.
Since we started training pastors in 2011, Lázaro and Lili faithfully attended our Annual Jungle Pastors’ Conference each February. It seemed the conference fell on his birthday every year. We ended up making it a tradition to celebrate as one big family! In February 2020 at our 9th Annual Jungle Pastors’ Conference, we received the heartbreaking news that our dear Lázaro had been diagnosed with lung cancer and it had gone to his brain. Our entire team and the whole group of pastors cried out to God during that week and asked for him to be healed. As the conference ended, part of our team got to visit him in the hospital before flying back to the US where we prayed over him and loved on his family.
Lázaro was in the hospital for a couple of weeks and our staff in Brazil organized the best medical connections possible. They visited him and Lili regularly and accompanied them to his examinations. I, Sarah, will never forget standing in the hallway of the hospital with his daughter Priscila and his son Eli as he was leaving for brain surgery, we gathered around him and I lay my hand on his forehead, holding back tears, asking the Lord to watch over him and heal him completely.
A few days later the Lord did heal Lázaro in His own way and gave him a whole new body in glory. Lázaro was a dear part of our JMI family in Brazil, and he will be deeply missed, but we celebrate his legacy and the many years we were able to share serving the Lord together. While he was here living out his calling, JMI stood with him.
As God calls faithful men and women to take His Word to places that we could never go, we want them to know that the Lord has not forsaken them in their obedience, but that He is with them through it all. While Lázaro was giving his life to the cause of the Gospel in the Amazon, I am grateful we were there for him – loving, encouraging, equipping, serving, eating and praying together, celebrating the last several years of life, and helping him not give up on his calling given by the Savior he loved so much.
We are grateful for this good and faithful servant, and friend.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8
– Sarah Rodrigues, Amazon National Director