Brazilian couple come to Norwich on long-term mission
Brazilian couple Paulo and Cláudia Mussi arrived in Norwich to live as long-term Christian missionaries working with Portuguese speaking people in the city, and the wider community around Mousehold. Jenny Seal reports.
Paulo and Cláudia Mussi, from Anápolis in Brazil, have left a 10-year mission in Portugal to come to Norwich to work alongside Norwich Central Baptist Church, to serve Portuguese speaking people and the local community around Mousehold.
Paulo and Cláudia have been in full time ministry for 21 years. The couple met in São Paulo when Paulo was studying to be a Sergeant in the Brazilian Air Force and married in 1990. In 1997 Paulo heard God call him into full time ministry and he decided to leave the Air Force.
The decision wasn’t easy. The life they had was comfortable and familiar. Both had been brought up in military backgrounds, plus they had three young children and no family living nearby. Paulo waited six months for God to confirm the call to Cláudia. Then one day Cláudia said: 'God told me this is his plan, so let’s go.'
Paulo said, 'We started life in dependence on God. In that moment in 1997 we already knew that our call was to other countries - to go on mission. Not only to be a pastor, not only to be a minister, but to go out to other places.'
Since then both Paulo and Cláudia have gained theological degrees, and have each developed effective ministries. Paulo is passionate about teaching the Word of God, while Cláudia’s passion is sharing the Christian faith with children and young people.
Cláudia recalls, 'In Brazil we were part of a team that started to plant a church with children, and through the children we reached the adults. It was a social work, that we set up under a tree, trying to reach the people in the neighbourhood. The parents were not there, just the children because we offered a story and some food and things like this.
'Later the families started to attend because the children started to change their way of life. The fathers and mothers came to see what they were learning. And so we started to build the walls and have the church meet there. And it is there today.'
When their parent church established a Mission Board Paulo and Cláudia started to go on mission, first within Brazil, and then Peru and other places.
They moved to Portugal in 2008. Even then the option of coming to Norfolk was on offer. In 2006 Jorge Damasceno, who is now a minister at Park Baptist Church in Great Yarmouth, was sent from the same Mission Board in Brazil, to start a project with Portuguese speaking people in Dereham. He invited Paulo and Cláudia to work on the project. But as a family they felt it wasn’t the right time.
'During that 10 years,' Paulo said, 'almost always when we talked with Jorge he was inviting us again. But we understood that God wanted us in Portugal at that time.'
In Lisbon, Paulo was an Assistant Pastor of a Baptist church and worked in partnership with a seminary, the Instituto Biblico Português, where he coordinated and taught a programme in theology for small groups around the country. Cláudia supported this work and also taught Evangelical Christianity as part of the Religious and Moral Education in a public school.
Despite both having developed successful ministries and everything going well, in 2016 Paulo and Cláudia say everything changed. Their daughter Patrycia had moved to Dereham and they came to Norfolk on holiday to visit her. They met up again with Jorge.
Paulo said, 'At that time we were in Jorge’s house talking about his mission and our hearts were moved. And we thought, okay it is the time. Let’s pray about this, but we think this is the time.'
And so in March 2018 Paulo and Cláudia arrived in Norwich to set up home in the manse of what was, until last year, Silver Road Baptist Church. The church building on Mousehold Avenue in North Norwich is now part of Norwich Central Baptist Church, with plans for it to be developed into a community facility.
Cláudia says, 'It is a different time for us because there are so many things that we left in Portugal – two of our sons we left there. It is a new situation for us not having children living at home. To not speak the language, to not have our material things.'
She continues, 'I believe that God doesn’t need us here; not here or in Portugal. He can raise up anyone that he wants in his own country. But if he is permitting us to be here, there is something in our lives that God wants to work in and through. And this has given us peace.'
Cláudia states that her biggest challenge is to learn to speak English and she will soon be starting an English+ course at Holy Trinity Church. As a naturally communicative person, Cláudia is finding it particularly difficult not to be able to talk to people. She describes Paulo as her ‘Google Translator’ and he jokes that 'very soon she will be speaking and I will have lost my place!'
Although fluent in English, Paulo is also cautious about saying the wrong thing. He said, 'It’s a way that God has to show us that we depend on him. "‘You don’t know everything. You’re not as ready as you think you are."'
The first steps that Paulo and Cláudia expect to take is to start a small weekly Bible Study in their home for Portuguese speaking families living in Norwich but connected to Park Baptist Church’s Portuguese service in Great Yarmouth. They will also be part of a working group at NCBC that develops the use of the building on Mousehold Avenue.
Paulo said, 'We want to serve, that is the main point for us. We don’t know everything about the reason why we came. But we know that God wants us here and we are here to serve the church, to serve the Portuguese and English people.
'I didn’t come here with a big plan, something that will reach England, will make amazing things. No, I don’t have this in my mind or in my heart.
'But I know that God has something to do through our lives and in our lives in this place. We are here to discover what it is and to be ready to do things that God wants us to do. And good things will happen, I think.'
This article first appeared on Network Norfolk and is republished with permission