“God placed me in the valley of the shadow of death – and on both sides, there were only rock cliffs,” said Felipe*, a Brazilian pastor who recently received help at Oasis Counseling Center. Tucked away in the beautiful high plains of Brazil, Oasis provides a refreshing retreat from the hurried urban life style of pastors and missionaries. It counsels missionaries, pastors, and their families so that they can remain in their ministries longer and healthier.
Felipe, a pastor from a large church in a wealthy suburb of Rio de Janeiro, came to Oasis for counseling after suffering a breakdown in his personal life. About three years ago, God led Felipe to the Rio de Janeiro church community and renewed his desire to minister to people. He thought things were going well for him, but soon realized that wasn’t true. “I did not resolve my chains of emotional necessity, shame, fear, and guilt. At that point, I recognized my most cruel kidnapper was frustration. I arrived at the bottom of the well. My life funneled down and I was trapped at the end of the funnel.” Felipe’s marriage was in jeopardy, and he was living with his son and daughter-in-law, unintentionally causing stress in that relationship as well. Church members and friends encouraged Felipe to seek counseling, which he resisted at first. “God used the people around me to corral me into the corner of making a decision. I felt a great deal of anger because they would not let me make my own decision,” he said. “But then I realized I really was not in any condition to continue forward.”
Felipe arrived at Oasis with no hope, but he did resolve to be there “unarmed” and unencumbered by outside distractions. “I did not take any books, the symbol of intellectualism behind which I had hidden for many years; nor my notebook computer, a symbol of my isolation because I would bury myself in it; and not even social attire, a symbol of my personal and theological conservatism,” he said. Felipe chose to cloth himself in t-shirts, Bermuda shorts, and flip-flops as a symbol of being “unarmed”.
When the Oasis staff introduced themselves by giving their personal testimonies, Felipe was shocked. His pride told him that these hurt, bruised people still in the process of healing could not possibly help someone like him – after all, he was a professor of theology, an author, and a pastor of a large, successful church. But that very day, God broke Felipe’s pride by reminding him of the Scriptures that say, "Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important,”1 Corinthians 1: 26-28 (NLT). Felipe dropped his “weapons” of intellectuality and ministerial pride and allowed the counselors to guide him. “I completely opened my heart, let go of my professor’s mind and put on the mantle of a student, a learner,” he said. “I left my proud heart by the wayside and permitted myself to be broken.” Felipe is now walking in the direction of being cured, thanks to the help he received at the Oasis Counseling Center.
-Written by Bill Bacheller, TEAM missionary in Brazil
-Photos provided by Bill Bacheller
*not his real name