Paul wanted the Philippians to be a vibrant church, growing in the Lord and declaring his Word. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9-10). Bill and Beth McConnell wanted the same thing for the Brazilian Christians with whom they worked.
God used InterVarsity to prepare Bill and Beth for their work in Brazil. Bill became a Christian the summer before he arrived at the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1959. He had never seriously studied the Bible, but when a friend invited Bill to a Bible study in the dorm, he accepted eagerly. Before going to the first study though, Bill had one worry, where to get a Bible. The only one he knew of was the family Bible on the coffee table at home, so he borrowed it. Soon, Bill got a more portable Bible and was learning the truths of God’s Word.
Over the next several years in InterVarsity, Bill was a Bible study leader, chapter president, and, during his senior year, Urbana coordinator, speaking in churches to raise scholarship funds. He learned to study Scripture and help others to explore its truths. Bill gained experience as a servant-leader and realized his gift as an encourager. He came to understand the importance of the church and the power of prayer.
The chapter prayed that twelve students from the chapter would attend Urbana ‘61. At the last minute, Bill learned that his family would be visiting relatives near southern Illinois and that he could attend InterVarsity’s missions convention. When he registered for Urbana, Bill realized he was the twelfth student from the University of Colorado. God had answered the chapter’s prayers.
At Urbana ’61, Bill and Beth solidified their commitment to spend their lives declaring the gospel and to seek out a place in an underserved part of the world to fulfill this commitment. After several more years of training and service as an InterVarsity staff member, the leaders from Aliança Bíblica Universitária do Brasil (ABU), the Brazilian movement of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), invited the McConnells to Brazil. Bill and Beth accepted and went to Brazil as servant-leaders, just as they had learned in InterVarsity.
Over the fifteen years that they were in Sao Paulo, Bill trained Brazilian staff how to minister to students, started the publishing company, ABU Editora, to publish Christian books in Portuguese, and encouraged students to do great things for the Lord. And, Beth used her talents in the local church, training Sunday School teachers. Though the McConnell’s have moved on from that mission field, the fruit of their labor continues. Two of the local leaders, Ziel Machado and Dieter Brepohl, whom Bill encouraged and trained, are now regional and international leaders in the IFES. ABU Editora is still providing Christian literature for believers. The missions conference that the students organized resulted in several Brazilians going to other nations to declare the gospel, and the medical clinic that the IFES students started thirty years ago is still run by today’s BGU medical students.
But the results are not the only evidence that Bill and Beth changed the world. The fact that they went to Brazil at the request of the local movement, served under the supervision of the Brazilians leaders, and left when they were no longer needed is a world-changing way of doing missions.
Bill McConnell is retiring from his position as Associate Director of Advancement and one of InterVarsity’s key communicators. His April 26th chapel message, “Layin’ Our Burdens Down,” is available for listening and downloading. Click here to listen or right click and choose “Save target as…” to download the mp3 file to your computer so you can listen later or transfer to your mp3 player.