The First Missionary to Bolivia
26 years ago, Aurinete (Nech) Macie was 21 years old and single. Since the age of 15 she believed God was calling her to be a missionary, but this Sunday, when Pastor Nanato asked if there was anyone willing to become a missionary and go to Bolivia, Nech said she would go. She was the first missionary in the IDPB to leave Brazil to share the Gospel in another country.
Rosangela also volunteered and would be Nech’s partner. She was also single and 21. They bought their own tickets and traveled from Manaus to Cobija in northern Bolivia. Cobija was a very poor place - desperately poor. Nech and Rosangela were shocked at how primitive life would be for them. Their house had no running water. They would have to carry water for all their needs. It was also unfurnished - no table, no chairs, no beds, no refrigerator, only a two burner stove. Rosangela was so discouraged that she wanted to return home immediately fearing she couldn’t live in these conditions.
But Nech and Rosangela stayed. They built a table and several chairs. Nech had some money, enough to buy 2 beds, put a downpayment on a refrigerator and buy a Bible in Spanish.
Except for their strong sense of calling and trust in God, these two girls were totally unprepared to start a mission work. Neither Nech or Rosangela knew any Spanish. They didn’t receive a salary from their church. Many days all they had to eat was a single egg which they spit between them. When they didn’t have an egg, they would have beans. They barely had enough resources to survive. They were two young single ladies in a strange land.
Nech and Rosangela persevered by faith and the grace of God. From time to time they would get a letter with a donation from a friend. One such letter paid off the refrigerator. Every donation was literally an unexpected life saving answer to prayer. Unfortunately, this is how it was to be a missionary in those early days.
And there were dangers. One night two men stalked their house. They cut the electricity to their house which fortunately woke the girls. They began praying. One of the men knocked open the door. The girls' screams brought the neighbors to help. The two men fled and they were safe, but the trauma of that night left them fearful to sleep in the house. Another Brazilian in the area named Ruth, heard of Nech and Rosangela’s situation and invited them to stay at their missionary base. They stayed 2 months.
With all of this hardship and trauma, it's hard to imagine how they could have done any ministry. In their first 6 months they learned Spanish. They began working with children, having services, established small groups. For more than a year, their ministry in Cobija flourished. It was difficult, but Nech and Rosangela persevered.
Rosangela decided to return home. Another missionary named Grace came to be Nech’s missionary partner. After 6 months, God brought a young pastor, Paulo Bento (Pastor John’s wife, Herminia's, brother) to make a supervisory visit to their mission. That was not his only reason for coming, he asked Nach to marry him. After 2 1/2 years, Nech returned to Brazil to marry Pastor Paulo. Together they founded and co-poastored a church in Manaus with a thriving ministry for 19 years. The mission work in Cobija only lasted a short time after Nach left and then it closed.
The reason I share all these details is to show the great sacrifice missionaries make for the opportunity to take the Gospel to another culture. It’s lonely, difficult, discouraging, dangerous work. Success is hard to measure. And yet, young adventurous Christians continue to answer the call to the mission fields. They are the premier servants in the kingdom of God.
I asked Nech how she feels about her early missionary experiences. She realizes her work in Cobija brought the Word of God and salvation to the lives of many, but that experience was preparation and training for the rest of her life in ministry. God indelibly shaped her understanding of trust in God’s care, compassion for the lost, what sacrifice means, and how to live by faith. God is aways up to much more than we can ever realize. Even though her mission did not endure, Nech continued to have a deep love for the Bolivian people and hoped one day to return.
5 years ago, Nech’s husband was called to heaven after a lengthy battle with a brain tumor. Nech has continued to pastor the church she and Paulo founded and it is a large thriving congregation.
All these years, Nech has had the feeling God was not done with her ministry to Bolivia. There is some exciting news. This summer, Nech will be moving to the Missionary Training Center to start a bible school and seminary. She will lead the training of Bolivians in this new church and equip future missionaries for South America.
Nech is returning to where her ministry began. The first Bolivian missionary will now equip a new generation of pastors, leaders and missionaries to Bolivia and beyond.