Mission in New Jersey, Brazil Style
By Melissa Dixon
At 15 years old, Lourdes Magalhaes answered a call that would forever change her future and the lives of countless people she would encounter over her life.
A determined Brazilian girl from the poor community of São Paulo, she and a friend decided to start a Sunday school to offer children hope among harsh realities. On the first Sunday seven children attended. One year later, there were over 160 faithful participants.
Today, Rev. Lourdes Magalhaes uses the same determination to lead her congregation in Harrison, New Jersey, as a missionary for the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. Though her chosen path may seem obvious from a very young age, it wasn’t an easy one.
“After my father died, I had to help support my family,” said Ms. Magalhaes. “I chose to study languages in college because I knew I could get a job.”
And she attended Faculdades Capital in San Paulo, earning her degree in language with an emphasis in English, Portuguese, and Latin.
In 1987, Ms. Magalhaes moved to London to further study English and cross-cultural communication. While there, she felt God calling her back to ministry. She began seeking out theology programs but had no idea how she could afford to begin one.
God had it all figured out, though.
“Everything just fell into place,” said Ms. Magalhaes. “A friend of mine worked with a trust that helped students from third-world countries study theology. I sent them a letter, and that same day he called me and said, ‘Lourdes, we are going to pay for you to attend school the next two years and help you with your living expenses, too.’”
Ms. Magalhaes started the educational journey which would help form her into the strong pastor she is today. After five years in England, and with her theology studies complete, she returned to her home country.
“I intended to continue working in the church as a layperson, but wanted to prepare myself better, so I went to divinity school in Brazil, and one day my Bishop called me and said, ‘We want to start the process to ordain you.’”
Ms. Magalhaes began her pastoral life leading a congregation in Brazil, but in 2008 she would embark on a new adventure when she was asked to serve as a Global Ministries missionary in the United States.
Today Ms. Magalhaes leads Davis Memorial United Methodist Church, a largely Brazilian congregation in Harrison, New Jersey. Whether making hospital visits or counseling members, she is grateful for the chance to lead this ever-growing church.
“The thing that keeps me going is seeing the need. The need is so great,” said Ms. Magalhaes. “More so, it’s seeing how God works in people’s lives.”
Rev. Lourdes Magalhaes is a Global Ministries missionary serving through the National Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministries.