On January 25, the people of Igreja Presbiteriana Brasileira em Melrose (IPB Melrose), together with presbyters and friends from New York and New England, gathered to worship God on the occasion of the mission work being organized as a new and separate congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
IPB Melrose is a congregation of Brazilian-Americans in Massachusetts. So Portuguese and English were the languages used in the service. All spoken words were immediately translated into the other language. The people sang in both languages. Organizational services are normally long. With everything being said twice, this service was two and a half hours long. But no one complained. Throughout the preaching, charges, praying, singing, ordinations, and installations, gratitude and celebration prevailed. God has done a wonderful work in establishing IPB Melrose, and that work continues.
In 2006, sixteen Brazilian-Americans approached the Presbytery of New York and New England, seeking to be received as a Portuguese-speaking mission work. In April 2007, Pastor Roberto Laranjo, a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, together with his wife and two daughters, emigrated from Brazil at the invitation of the people and the presbytery to serve the mission work. The work proceeded in earnest in Lowell, Massachusetts.
He diligently cared for the flock and ministered God’s Word faithfully. He also applied himself to become more fluent in English, so that he could function in his new English-speaking presbytery. Even as he and his family were getting acclimated to the United States, he often counseled people in the flock facing challenges in getting used to a new home and a new culture.
His wife, Marieta, worked as a certified nursing assistant. To meet the financial challenges, Roberto started his own cleaning company. This allowed him to work nights, giving him time for studying and shepherding. His daughters often worked in the cleaning company with him.
The mission work had its ups and downs. People came and went. Some returned to Brazil. Others moved to other places in the U.S. Only two of the original sixteen are still part of the congregation. At the organizational service, they were recognized for their faithful service over the years.
Through all the departures, the Lord preserved the congregation and helped it develop. The body is still small. The membership consists of twenty-four communicant members and ten covenant children. Worship attendance averages forty.
In late 2013, the congregation moved about a half-hour drive from Lowell to Melrose. After looking at forty-five possible meeting sites in this more promising area, IPB began to meet in the building of a Church of the Nazarene congregation. This congregation and its pastors have welcomed IPB warmly. In this new location, more visitors have been attending worship.
A key aspect of the church’s development is God’s provision of able officers. In addition to Pastor Laranjo, there are now two ruling elders and two deacons. In the organizational service, there was much praise and gratitude to God for his faithfulness in establishing this new congregation.
The congregation is gaining in financial stability. Pastor Laranjo has been able to reduce his cleaning hours.
IPB Melrose expressed its gratitude to two presbyters who had served with Pastor Laranjo as the overseeing session— Dr. Carlos Pereira, a Portuguese-speaking ruling elder at the Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod (OPC) in West Barnstable, and Rev. Greg Hills, lead pastor of First Presbyterian Church, North Shore (OPC) in Ipswich. These men provided invaluable service over the years.
Representatives of the Presbytery who participated in the service included: Rev. Paul Anderson (who preached), Rev. Mark Marquis (who moderated), Rev. Hills (who charged the officers), and Rev. David Holmlund (who charged the congregation). The fellowship and celebration continued after worship over a scrumptious roast beef dinner.
Please keep praying for the continued development and faithfulness of Igreja Presbiteriana Brasileira em Melrose.
By Richard Gerber