By Christine Huber: “PAZ International” Mission Organization officially began in December of 1976, when Luke (26)and I, (Christine, 25) and our two small girls (Sarah, 2, and Esther, 1) arrived in Santarém, Pará, on the banks of the Amazon River.
Since I was raised on the Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona by awesome missionary parents, I was so excited in 1973, about the privilege of marrying an adventurous missionary husband, Luke Huber, after we both graduated from BIOLA College in Los Angeles. Now we were heading out to the Amazon!
We departed from Goiania, in Central Brazil, where we had been helping Luke’s parents in church-planting. MELVIN and CATHERINE HUBER had been missionaries in Brazil with their five children for over 25 years, and had planted about twenty churches during that time. With much training from them, and many experiences together with them, we left with their total support, prayers and encouragement. We were so thankful for such wise, loving, experienced leaders and disciplers, who prayed consistently for us, regularly contacted us, and were always there for us.
We traveled five adventurous days over the newly opened “TransAmazon Highway” in our new Mercedes “PAZ Truck”. (The chassis was paid for by Melvin and Catherine, and the body was designed and hand-built by Luke, to last 20-30 years. ) Thanks to God’s constant presence, we miraculously survived after a serious life-threatening accident along the way.
A few young Brazilian men also came in 1976 from Goiânia to help out. They all soon left, except for Nilton Cordeiro, 18. (He and his family remain to this day as PAZ missionaries, overseeing the church-planting teams in the many Amazon River villages.)
Our mission was first called “Project AmaZon,” (“PAZ” for short, which means “peace” in Portuguese.)
As my husband Luke researched all the information he could find, he learned that the immense Amazon Basin (about 2,300,000 square miles of rivers and jungles), was one of the largest unreached areas of the world, with tens of thousands of isolated villages, and millions of very poor people who had no one to tell them the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Most of the villages had no schools or medical help. Baby mortality was high, due to impure water and unhealthy diets. There were no roads to reach these villages, and of course they had no televisions or internet at that time.
The very few who had small boats sometimes did not have fuel. By boat, it could take any number of days, traveling over the wide ocean-like Amazon River (or one of it’s huge tributaries), through very sudden and dangerous storms and rough waters, to reach the nearest town.
The vision to plant a church in each village seemed to be an justify. But knowing it was God’s vision and heart to reach these precious people, our first goal was to disciple and train Brazilian leaders. Then we also needed to build sturdy boats to be able to send out these hundreds of national missionaries to each village. Luke repeatedly said, “Attempt big things for a big God.”
We established our PAZ headquarters in the basement of Huber cousins Marvin and Gail Hodel in Peoria, Illinois. (Gail became our volunteer PAZ representative for over 35 years.)
With financial help gradually coming in from a few supporters in the USA, especially from our loving extended family (Hubers and Von Tobels) and many of our Apostolic Christian Churches, God gave us friends who believed in the vision that many other people thought was crazy…Luke announced our goal: To plant 100,000 churches, first in the Amazon, then throughout Brazil, and then around the world.
With this prayer support and a few initial funds, we started a few small PAZ Churches in Santarem. Through house-to-house visitation and evangelistic efforts in many Santarém neighborhoods, we began to have baby believers who needed a lot of discipleship.
We built simple church buildings. We started retreats and camps to give Bible training to develop future national missionaries. We bought old wooden boats for us and Brazilian missionaries to start reaching out to the closest river villages around Santarém.
In 1980, God had helped us raise up several Brazilian leaders and plant small churches in different neighborhoods of Santarém and churches in nearby river villages. The first Paz Church was in the living room of our house, located on the street named Mendonça Furtado, near the Central Church of the Assembly of God. We began 7 small churches in various neighborhoods—one on the street named Borges Leal in the Aparecida neighborhood, one in each of the neighborhoods of Liberdade, Santana, Matinha, and Interventoria, and two churches in the river villages of Puraque and Ilha de Bom Vento.
In September of 1980, we were unmercifully attacked by the Santarém federal police. (Of course there were many other constant attacks by the devil all along, but this felt like an “all-out attack.”)
Why? Luke bought a 250 Kawasaki motorcycle for transporting our family. The Japanese shipping company mistakenly gave us the wrong documents, and we never noticed until a few years later. We heard that apparently the top federal police official hated Americans. He thought Americans were secretly colonizing Brazil and trying to rob them of the gold being extracted from the numerous nearby gold mines. Seeing the mistake on this motorcycle document, he confiscated the bike and indicted Luke for contraband. He angrily threatened to send him to federal prison for seven years in the capital city of Belem (three days away by boat.) Our third baby Josiah was due to be born two months later, in November.
The case was still unresolved after months and months of court hearings in Belém. Even with the help of our criminal lawyer, our new friend Dr. Risonilson, no progress was being made. (Dr. Risonilson became a Christian through all of this, and today is a PAZ Church pastor in Santarém, together with his wife Dr. Heloísa.)
After much stress, Luke realized we needed a team. We couldn’t do this PAZ project alone! Luke called his parents to come and help us.
They were actually planning to move to Portugal to plant more churches there. But Luke begged them to help us out for a few years first.
Being the amazing parents that they were, they and Luke’s brother Tim drove nonstop over the same dusty “TransAmazon Highway,” arriving in Santarém after three days’ journey. It was April of 1981.
To increase our joy, our parents immediately began inviting all their other children to join the team too! Tim was already there, and soon Angela arrived. Later their youngest son Abe arrived after graduating from Bible college in South Carolina, USA. One year later, in March of 1982, Jeff and Becky and their little girls Ruth (3) and Beth (1) moved to Santarém from Delaware, USA.
What a team! A family working together with total respect for each other. Luke was the director of the mission, but we all depended heavily on his parents’ advice and blessing.
Our vision was actually to reach out to the river villages, so what a blessing when Luke’s parents and siblings gradually, but excellently, took over the church-planting work in Santarém. This freed up our family to travel more by boat, discipling and training river pastors and their families. Churches both in Santarem and in the river villages began to increase.
Dad and Mom were not only our principle advisors, they became very generous financial supporters of PAZ mission also, helping finance several projects (such as the boat-shop, church buildings, TV station, etc.) In 1984, they moved to Belém and spent about 8 years planting a new PAZ base in the capital city.
Jeff, a humble but talented worshipper, immediately became Luke’s dedicated “right-arm” man and mission accountant. Together with Jeff, the two would pray for every problem that arose, declaring the victory through faith for each challenge. God did many miracles!
Becky, a registered nurse, became the social-ministry leader, setting up many effective programs to help the sick and the poor, a program that greatly blessed Santarém, and increased the acceptance of the Gospel. We began to win the sympathy, approval and appreciation of the city.
Angie developed a teacher-training program for Sunday school teachers. She also helped her parents in Belem with the new church plant, and eventuality started a new PAZ base in Parintins. Her parents later joined her there.
Timothy revived and pastored the church-plant in the Liberdade area of Santarém, discipling several very strong leaders. In 1986 he was sent out to Japan, as our first PAZ foreign missionary.
Abe married Andrea, and together they pastored the downtown church in Santarem. They developed the amazing ADM (Apostolic Discipleship Method, known throughout Brazil as the “MDA,”) using cell groups and one-on-one discipleships to grow and multiply strong leaders. The churches grew astoundingly, and the ADM (until today) became “our method” of church growth throughout our PAZ churches, as well as throughout many other denominations in Brazil.
Luke and I continued overseeing the river churches, training new leaders, beginning ten new PAZ bases in bigger cities of the Amazon. In the meantime, Isaiah was born and our family continued traveling together in our boat to village churches, running training camps and starting a Bible school for river-church leaders.
In 1990, Luke received a small lightweight experimental airplane as a gift. He learned to fly and got his pilot’s license. We still used the boat a lot to visit the villages, but with the ultralight plane, Luke was able to make quick trips.
After four years of flying, suddenly, on August 4, 1994, Luke crashed and died, sending shock waves throughout our family, and throughout the whole mission. He had made a quick visit at a leaders’ training camp led by a pastoral couple from Santarém, about an hour away by plane.
Soon after he took off on his way home, he crashed into an Amazon River lake. He was 44. Our four children were mostly teenagers: Isaiah, 10; Josiah, 13; Esther, 18; Sarah, 19.
It was unbelievably tough, but God miraculously helped us through the worst of the
worst. At that time, there were 250 official PAZ Churches around the Amazon Basin, as well a hundred or more smaller house meetings. There were 70 steel boats built at our boat-shop, being used by the national missionaries.
Using one of Luke’s expressions,
“What the devil meant for evil, backfired on him. ”
How? We saw God use Luke’s death to cause a miraculous explosion in the church growth, an explosion that continues to this day. Luke’s favorite verse that I had engraved on his tombstone in Santarém is Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. ”
Dad and Mom thought Jeff should be the new PAZ director, and Becky and I should be assistant directors. Abe and Andréa became the main visionary leaders of the PAZ Church. And as always, a family working together continued functioning amazingly well, each one supporting the other, even through so much pain.
After three years of praying about it, Tim was encouraged by Dad, Mom, and our “Cupid” daughter Sarah, to totally surprise me. In 1997 he proposed over the phone from Japan! What a totally happy shock I felt! God is the BEST at planning surprises! I am so privileged to be the wife of another dedicated missionary, and continue to be a part of this amazing family, who all serve others so humbly in a way that few families do.
Of course, Japan is completely opposite from the Amazon in language and culture, but Japanese also have desperate needs, suffering so much widespread depression and suicide. God sent us here, and He continues doing truly amazing miracles! Our two boys (ages 14 and 17) went through tough times in Japan, but God has miraculously used all of our pain to make all our children even more powerful for God. God continues to do exceedingly abundantly above all our dreams, when we keep thanking Him in all situations.
They work very closely with Abe and Andrea, who God has used tremendously to develop even further the ADM method of discipleship. This has caused our PAZ Churches to multiply rapidly with strong leaders, influencing many churches of other denominations too, in Brazil, South America, Japan and in Europe. Abe and Andrea started two new bases, one in Fortaleza and now in São Paulo.
Jeff and Becky also lead our national PAZ Church top leadership team (very experienced, wise and successful pastoral couples), who have taken on much of the responsibilities of the oversight of the now close to 452 PAZ Churches.
Dad and Mom have since gone to be with the Lord, at ages 88 and 84, but both served Him to the very end of their lives, no retiring even considered, in the Amazon Basin. What amazing parents to raise a family with total passion for God’s Kingdom around the world.
What’s even more amazing is that all their older eleven grandchildren and their spouses are all in full-time ministry in three different countries. A couple of the younger ones are still preparing for full-time service. Now all their 23 great-grandchildren are also growing up to be totally dedicated to serving God too. What a legacy!
Since our arrival in Santarém in 1976, our original church-planting vision continues: First in the Amazon (which continues to be our main focus), then in all the capitals of Brazil, and then to the ends of the earth.
God has honored us immensely by raising up extremely dedicated Brazilian national pastoral couples, (“from zeroes to heroes”) together with their children and even grandchildren, opening up new churches and bases all around Brazil. Some have started churches in Venezuela, Paraguay, Portugal, and Italy, and here in Japan.
With the help of our PAZ board in the United States, the name of the mission has recently been changed to “PAZ International” and represents a more accurate description of our present ministries and goals.
How God started a church-planting movement in a small unknown city of the Amazon, a city of 300,000 residents, and how God is spreading this church-planting movement to every capital in Brazil, and then to several other countries around the world, is a story that only God could think up and do.
The most exciting thing is that “this is only the beginning.” The momentum continues to increase each year, through the power and love of God, through His children around the world.