From Mission Plant to Mission Partner
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil have been walking together for 120-plus years.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil’s (IELB) long history begins with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The first LCMS missionaries arrived in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost state, in 1900. They prioritized the training of pastors so that just four years later, the Instituto del Buen Jesús, which later became Seminario Concordia, was established. The seminary now has hundreds of alumni serving in every Brazilian state, other Latin American countries and even remote villages on the African continent.
Their zeal for mission outreach is evident in the rapid growth of the IELB. Today, the 250,000 members of this partner church body worship in some 2,000 locations across the country. Each day, 20,000 students stream into 39 Lutheran schools. For college-bound students, the Lutheran University of Brazil provides an excellent education.
From the beginning, the LCMS was methodical in its approach, making necessary logistical changes but never compromising on doctrine. Early mission work in Brazil spread to Argentina in 1905. The focus in both countries was on reaching German-speaking immigrant families, many of whom had come from Russia. World War II was a catalyst for change; teachers in Brazilian classrooms were required by law to teach classes in Portuguese. The LCMS embraced the change and expanded outreach to those who spoke other languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese.
For over 70 years, the Brazilian church has benefitted from the outreach work of Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM). More than 100 radio stations carry the program “Five Minutes with Jesus.” Additionally, LHM offers Bible correspondence courses, digital outreach and in-person contacts to reach people with the Gospel and connect them to the local church.
The desire of the IELB (formerly called the Brazil District) to send missionaries worldwide was apparent in the 1950s, when the church worked with the LCMS to send the first Brazilian missionary to Portugal. This work resulted in the birth of the Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1956. The IELB partnered with the LCMS again in 1997 to send missionaries to Angola, Africa — and nine years later, to Mozambique. The Confessional Lutheran Church in Angola and Concordia Lutheran Church in Mozambique have grown from those missionary efforts.
The walking together of the two church bodies has continued until the present day. Eight Brazilian missionaries, including new seminary graduates and experienced parish pastors, were sent to serve alongside LCMS missionaries in Latin America and Africa in 2021. This was a collaborative effort, with leadership from both church bodies working to prepare, support and care for these new missionaries — known as alliance missionaries — called to serve in Uganda, the Republic of Congo, South Africa, Uruguay, Panama, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
The Rev. Ted Krey, regional director for the LCMS Latin America and Caribbean region, said, “Joining hands with our sister Lutheran church in Brazil to place their missionaries alongside ours shows the fruits of our missionary efforts of over 120 years. The tiny mustard seeds have grown to where Brazil is sending eight pastors to seven different countries to work alongside our missionaries. What a blessing to have these dear brothers join us shoulder to shoulder to bring Jesus and His Gospel for the forgiveness of sins to this generation and the next.”
In addition, a new Lutheran hymnal in Spanish has been produced and will soon be available across Latin America. The Bible Society of Brazil, though not affiliated with the LCMS, will work closely with LCMS missionaries and church workers to distribute the hymnal to churches in various Latin American countries.
We thank God for the blessings of the partnership with the IELB and the abundant fruit of the collaborative work we share. We also give thanks for the countless souls who have heard the Gospel and are now our brothers and sisters in Christ.
LCMS missionary and communication specialist for the Latin America and Caribbean region.