Although it is located in the middle of the Amazon rainforest and is accessed primarily by boat or plane, the northern Brazilian city of Manaus is hardly remote. The capital of the state of Amazonas, Manaus has a population of more than 2 million, making it the seventh most populace city in the country, and because of its location in the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world, it attracts a number of Brazilian and foreign tourists who come to admire the unparalleled diversity of plants and animals.
However, though it may not be remote, Manaus has been largely unreached by theological education. Though a Baptist seminary previously operated there, it closed when the missionaries serving as its professors were reassigned roughly two decades ago. Since then, God-called men and women from the northern region of Brazil have lacked a nearby institution at which they could receive theological training for service in the ministry.
So, as far as access to theological education is concerned, Manaus was indeed remote. Until now, that is.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s motto is “Preach the Word, Reach the World,” and one means by which the seminary reaches the world is through Global Theological Innovation (GTI). GTI is a program of the seminary that aims to strengthen theological education around the world by forming strategic partnerships with seminaries and Baptist conventions overseas. Southwestern has formed nearly 100 GTI partnerships worldwide, three of which are with three key seminaries in Brazil (in Rio de Janeiro; Recife, Pernambuco; and Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais). These three seminaries now serve as regional anchors for bringing theological education to the uttermost parts of Brazil.
One of the specific areas being reached through these GTI partnerships is Manaus. As part of the partnership between Southwestern and the seminary in Rio, the previously-closed seminary in Manaus has begun to teach courses as an extension of the Rio seminary. Theological education, therefore, is now more accessible to this previously “remote” region of the country.
During Thanksgiving Break last fall, Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions at Southwestern, taught an intensive ministry course at the seminary in Manaus. Forty students attended, some traveling long distances in order to do so. Sanchez says he was impressed by their deep commitment to impacting their area with the Gospel and planting churches even in the most remote villages of the Amazon region.
“The students participated very enthusiastically in our class discussions and greatly encouraged one another as they spoke about the challenges they faced in reaching so many villages that are only accessible by boat down the Amazon or the Black Rivers,” Sanchez says. He adds that, numerous times during his visit there, the students expressed a profound sense of gratitude that Southwestern President Paige Patterson and First Lady Dorothy Patterson “have not forgotten them and are willing to send professors to help train their professors and other key leaders in their convention.”
Seeing the seminary in Manaus as a representation of what GTI can accomplish, Sanchez notes, “We are not only strengthening existing seminaries but are enabling some seminaries to reopen and some new ones to be started. … With precious little on our part, we can do so much to enable seminaries to greatly expand their efforts.”
Indeed, through Southwestern’s partnership with the Rio seminary, an extension center has been opened in Manaus, and now God-called men and women from the northern region of Brazil have better access to theological education. This will ultimately lead to better-equipped ministers of the Gospel bringing the good news of Christ to parts of the country that may truly be regarded as “remote.”
Integral to GTI’s ministry are Champion Churches—mission-minded congregations that partner with an overseas seminary in order to meet that institution’s needs. While GTI handles the academic side of things, Champion Churches cover the practical—providing library and technological resources, teaching courses, funding students, etc.
To learn more about GTI or to become a Champion Church for a seminary like the one in Manaus, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.