Brazilian Evangelical Missions in the Arab World: History, Culture, Practice, and Theology

by Edward L. Smither

Pickwick Publications (imprint of Wipf & Stock), 199 W. 8th Ave., Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401, 2012, 272 pages, $24.80.

Reviewed by Dave Broucek, international ministries director, South America Mission. 

Ed Smither’s work represents a mature evangelical description of Latin American missionary efforts. Earlier narratives of missions from south of the border exulted in Luis Bush’s bold declaration, “From a mission field, Latin America has become a mission force.” Smither has no less admiration for the Latin missionary movement, but his description is more “thick” (to use a term from qualitative research) and more nuanced. 

Before it was a published book, his work was a Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Pretoria. Smither is professor of intercultural studies at Columbia International University, Columbia, South Carolina.

His interest in Latin Americans serving in the Arab World was piqued by an experience in the souk. Let him tell the story:

…I was hosting Julio (not his real name), who was in the process of moving his family from Latin America to join our work in North Africa. While visiting the souk one day to buy gifts for his family, I was struck by how the shop owner largely ignored me (even though I was translating for Julio) and wanted to communicate directly with him. It was only after a half hour that he could be convinced that Julio was not North African.

As a mission practitioner turned mission scholar, he began to ask questions. How did Brazil go from being a mission field to being a country that sends out evangelical missionaries? What does it mean culturally to be a Brazilian evangelical missionary in an Arab context? What are the characteristic mission practices of Brazilian workers, teams, and organizations? How do Brazilians describe their strengths and weaknesses in mission in the Arab World? How are Brazilians thinking theologically about missions? How is this theology relevant to the Arab-Muslim world?

To seek answers, he read extensively in the anthropological literature about Brazilian and Arab cultural values. He delved into Latin American mission history, theology, and practice. He gathered data from forty-five Brazilian transcultural workers and ten mission leaders. 

You will learn about the emergence of Missão Antioquia, Missão Kairos, PM International, Junta de Missões Mundiais da Convenção Batista Brasileira, Interserve-Brasil, and CCI-Brasil. 

You will encounter Brazilian and Arab perspectives in such aspects as race, economics, time, communication styles, family, friendships, hospitality, and spiritual worldview. You will read what Brazilian cross-cultural workers themselves say about their experience in these areas. 

As expected, there are many affinities between Latin culture and Arab culture, but not in every respect. It is as difficult for Brazilians to learn Arabic as it is for any westerner. 

The strengths of the book are the extensive literature review, the clarity of the writing, the voice of Brazilian missionaries, and the description and appreciative analysis of Brazilian mission theology. 

The author’s findings led him—and me as one who also admires South American missionaries and missiology—to a deeper appreciation of the divine preparation of Brazilians (and other Latin Americans) for their irreplaceable contribution to God’s global cause. 

EMQ, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 240-241. Copyright  © 2013 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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