Dynamic Steward: How did God get your attention for mission?
Luiz Camargo: My call to mission and purpose in life came as an unexpected one, even though I have always asked God to use me as His instrument to bring relief to those who are suffering and in need. I wanted to follow the very example of Jesus Christ, who showed incredible care for the humanitarian needs of the people surrounding Him. It all started when I went to visit my sister and brother-in-law, who were already serving as missionaries in one of the African countries. Once there, many things caught my attention: the culture, the people, and the environment. I was shocked by the level of poverty and the serious needs of a great part of the population living outside the capital. Through the local churches and our Adventist university in that country, some small relief projects implemented by laypeople were taking place. Then upon the request of my sister and brother-in-law, I decided to stay in that country. Later I had an opportunity to start an internship with ADRA [Adventist Development and Relief Agency], which resulted in a position within the organization. From there the humanitarian work took on a life of its own. I have since dedicated my life to this mission of bringing relief to those in need wherever God sends me.
DS: What are the characteristics of your mission territory?
LC: As country director of ADRA Somalia, one of the most challenged countries in the world, it is important to know how to navigate in order to reach the communities in need. I have been able to witness the support and the opportunities ADRA has provided to communities need through its different sector projects such as education, water and sanitation, livelihood, and emergency response. The country is under tremendous stress due to its violence and political instability, making it very insecure apart from recurring natural disasters such as drought and annual floods. The year 2020 has been harsher than usual because of locust swarms around East African countries and the arrival of COVID- 19, which worsened the situation of those already in great need.
DS: What can you say about the work of ADRA?
LC: Bringing relief to communities in distress is not always a simple or easy mission, but with God’s protection and wisdom ADRA has been successful in its attempts to bring humanitarian relief to those communities in need. It’s a mission that involves knowing the cultural and political environment of the country, which has been quite fragile for a long time. This requires humanitarian workers to harmonize the efforts between communities and government in order for ADRA to bring much-needed support to disadvantaged communities.
The different regions in which ADRA operates are fairly complex and highly insecure due to several factors, one being the terrorism that has been present in the country for many years. ADRA does not take its work and accomplishments through the years for granted. Every single step in implementing a project has to be well thought out to avoid any unintended outcome that could jeopardize the whole organization. We believe that God has been our protection and support throughout the years as we continue bringing relief to the communities we have been called to serve.
DS: How has your organization representedGod to people who may not know Him in the same way we do as Adventist Christians?
LC: As a Christian faith-based organization within a non-Christian country, we can attest that the mission is not something that can be accomplished only through our own efforts. We attribute the overcoming of the many challenges within the country to the powerful hand of God, even though some of the circumstances in which we find ourselves seem to be insurmountable in human eyes. We always pray to God for wisdom as to how to conduct ourselves in this environment, and He has been working on our behalf through all of ADRA’s employees, even though the majority of them are not Christian
Throughout my years of work within this country, I have seen the hands of God doing many wonderful things to alleviate the suffering of those in need around the country. One example of the success of the work that has been done in the past is the construction of boreholes and elevated water tanks in some very dry areas where people were thirsty and developing diseases due to the lack of clean water. After drilling a borehole in one of the areas, people felt so grateful to ADRA that they started naming their children “ADRA,” showing how much they appreciated what ADRA had done for them. Another example is that every time the people would go to fetch water from the water point, they would say “I’m going to fetch ADRA” instead of “I’m going to fetch water.” These are things that show how God responds to the prayers of people, independently of their background or religion. ADRA has been following the example of Jesus as He healed those who were sick and dying, fed people when they were hungry, and stood up for those unjustly accused or judged. In our case, as a Christian faith-based organization, we believe that Jesus stood up for the outcasts as well, as is shown in the Bible (John 4:5-42)
As Christians, we do not discriminate as to who should and should not receive help and support from our organization. We believe that Jesus is sending us to wherever the needs are, and our simple presence in those non-Christian countries should show how much we value human lives and souls.
DS: How has your life been enriched by the experience of serving as a missionary in an unfamiliar setting?
LC: It has been a great privilege to serve as a missionary in Africa for many years, and it is such a humbling experience for which I am always grateful. There is joy in knowing that we are serving others through the work we have been called to do. This call is clearly from our Lord Jesus, and it is He who goes ahead of us opening the way. It is so satisfying to see children having the opportunity to go to school and have adequate food, things that many of us take for granted. The opportunity to learn about other cultures and to live in them together with my wife and kids is so fulfilling, because it is not only me who is learning, my children as well are absorbing it and seeing God’s provision when the days are not so good. Throughout the years we have experienced many challenges, and God’s hand has been so present that we cannot refute the fact of His presence when going through those hard times. God always comes through for us. In the end, the opportunity to serve is not only benefiting the poor communities we serve, it is also a privilege for us who serve. Serving is such a great opportunity, because it gets you to focus on others instead of yourself (Phil. 2:4).
DS: As you enjoy the privilege of serving outside your home country, would you like to say something to our church members and stewardship educators worldwide?
LC: We are very thankful for our Adventist Church members who have been supporting the world mission for so long. This support, through tithes and offerings, is felt in our day-to-day work as God blesses our efforts in alleviating the suffering of the needy around us. We also recognize the power of our church members’ prayers, which sustain us while accomplishing what we are called to do according to the Bible in Matthew 25:35. In a way, we are the extension of the arms and legs of those who support us from afar. Please keep exercising your faith in God’s mission for the world, and you will reap what He has in store for all of us. We cannot thank you enough for the great support for the mission field. We know that God has been touching the hearts of church members to help enable missionaries around the world to accomplish the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ. We appreciate all those who are educating our members about the importance of supporting God’s mission.
To our church membership around the world, I say, “Thank you so much for your support.” My family and I are grateful for the opportunity to serve. “I can serve because you give.”