Have you ever wanted to sit down with a missionary and ask them what life was like on the field, hear their stories, and get advice? Now you can! We interviewed a variety of former IM missionaries who served within the first 50 years of IM. Read their stories and stay tuned as we share more former IM missionary interviews in our new series, “Leaving a Legacy: Former IM Missionary Interviews.”
Tom & Nancy Hughes, Brazil (1971-2005)
When were you appointed and how long were you on the field?
We were appointed in 1969 and we were on the field for 34 years.
What were some of your responsibilities and roles while on the field?
During our first term, we pastored churches that were already established. For our second term, we were church planters.
What did you do first when you arrived in a new city to start a church?
After we rented the store-front building, I passed out tracts by going door-to-door, inviting people to attend.
Tell me about one memory from the field (personal, spiritual, funny, etc.)
We moved to Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, in 1977 to begin a new church planting project. Uberlandia had a population of around 200,000 inhabitants. (It now has a population of nearly one million.) After surveying several neighborhoods, we felt God was leading us to start a church close to the center of the city. We located a small store-front building on the principal street in that neighborhood. It was newly constructed, but not occupied. I located the owner and asked if I could see the building. He told me that he was in a lawsuit with the contractor and that the key was being held by a judge at the courthouse. He said he thought the case would be settled soon. It took several months to clear our shipped items through customs and fulfill my duties as the Brazil Mission secretary-treasurer. During this time, I was also making church furniture. I would check with the owner and I was always told that the lawsuit wasn't settled but that it should be soon. After some time passed and our items were released and the furniture was about ready, the owner still had not obtained the key. I became concerned that I was wrong about where we felt God was leading us to start a church since there were no other buildings available in that part of town. I asked God to get the judge to release the key within two weeks if this was the right place. I talked to the owner and told him what I had asked God to do and requested that he talk with his lawyer to see if the judge would release the key. On the last day of the two weeks at 4:00 pm, I was at the owner's house. He did not have the key, so I asked him to call his lawyer to make one last attempt before the courthouse closed at 5:30 pm. I said that I would return later that evening. When I returned, he had the key! Though the owner and his wife, who was a spiritist medium, attended from the very first service, only his wife came to accept Christ. This church is now averaging over 200 in attendance.
- Tom Hughes
What changed most in Brazil from the time you first arrived and then retired from Brazil? Culture? Church? Currency?
When we first arrived in Brazil in 1971 most of the people in the churches were of the lower economic class. By the time we retired in 2005, many of the people were college graduates.
What advice would you give our new and next generation of missionaries?
You should have an outreach that will work in the culture where you are planting a new work. Set challenging, but reasonable goals. Pray much. Work smart and hard to achieve the goals. I believe that Psalm 126:5-6 is talking about travail. There will be pain and tears, but spiritual sons and daughters will be born if you don't give up.