Sustainability is a perennial challenge for theological institutions, even in places that enjoy robust economies, stable governments, and freedom of religion. The pandemic has underscored the urgency of our work with prominent Majority World seminaries through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative (VSI).
Although our VSI team had to cancel scheduled on-site consultations in Brazil, we have stayed in touch with school leaders. This week, please pray with us for three schools in our VSI Brazil Cohort: Servant of Christ Seminary (SCS) in São Paulo, Baptist Theological Seminary of São Paulo (BTSSP), and South American Theological Seminary (SATS) in Londrina.
The largest and most culturally diverse country in Latin America, Brazil is home to over 210 million people. According to the 2010 Census, 65% of Brazilians are Catholic, 22% are Protestant, and 8% follow no religion. Pentecostal and Evangelical churches, in particular, have grown rapidly over the last decade.
SCS and BTSSP are located in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and the pandemic’s epicenter in the country. Londrina, the site of SATS’s campus, lies to the south in a less-affected region. As in other nations worldwide, Brazil’s lockdown, declared in mid-March, continues to strain its emerging economy. Brazil’s urban poor, who depend on day jobs and live in crowded areas, face harsher economic and health risks.
Please intercede with us for our partner schools in Brazil. They face several common challenges:
1) Adjusting to Online Education: Faculty and students must adapt to teaching and learning in cyberspace. School leaders must seek creative ways to maintain a sense of community, provide counseling and mentoring, and show care during the pandemic.
2) Surviving Financially: Many students are putting their enrollment on hold. Far fewer students for the next term could threaten schools’ sustainability.
3) Humanitarian Support: The pandemic’s impact on jobs – such as reduced hours, unpaid furloughs, and lay-offs – means that some students and their families require immediate help to meet basic needs.
Founded in 1990 by local Chinese Brazilian churches in São Paulo, Servant of Christ Seminary (SCS) is one of the schools in our VSI Brazil Cohort acclaimed for its innovative programs in biblical theology, urban mission, and multicultural ministry. SCS provides flexible training on a part-time basis to its students, who concurrently serve as ministry leaders or work in the professional sector. The seminary also offers extension programs in Argentina and Chile.
SCS students and alumni greatly value the pastoral care and spiritual formation offered by the school. Presently, the seminary’s challenges include maintaining close relationships with students while under lockdown.
Eliane Ho, Academic Dean of Servant of Christ Seminary, shares the following message:
The Seminary is offering online classes live via Zoom. Students and teachers have adapted well, despite all the difficulties. Teachers are working twice as hard to adjust their lessons, but they have been praised for maintaining the quality of their classes. Due to Zoom’s security scandal, we are adding passwords and processes to minimize risk, and also researching other possible tools.
The Chinese extensions in Chile and Argentina are also doing well, despite their greater difficulty in learning and using technology.
Regarding monthly fees, we have negotiated with some students, who were having difficulties. We are without major problems, at least for now.
The challenge has been how to care for and support everyone. We need to get in touch with those who are not participating in online learning, to understand the reasons, and to give the support they need.
Some have infected relatives or acquaintances, and we have been praying for them. We created a “Virtual Chapel,” so students can receive messages and share prayer requests.
We are interceding together for the country and the world in this very difficult situation.
Academic Dean of Servant of Christ Seminary
São Paulo, Brazil