Pastor Bret Nazworth has been planting churches and doing missionary work for over 15 years.
Pastor Nazworth, you have been going on missionary trips since the 1980s. How many countries have you been too and what are they?
I have had the opportunity to go to the African continent and serve in Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. I have also ministered in Latin American countries like Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela. Soon we will be visiting Egypt and Chile with the view of possibly teaching God’s word in those countries.
One of your first missions was to the Yanomamo tribe in the Amazon Rain Forest. From what I understand it was quite dangerous.
Yes, we spent from 1984 till 1997 among the Yanomamo tribe. My wife and I became fluent in their language and culture. That was very difficult as they are monolingual. There were many dangers that we faced. Most were because of living in the rainforest and the rainforest is fraught with hazards. I was sickened by malaria several times and once to the point of death. Snakes were an ever present peril and I escaped being bitten narrowly on several occasions. There were dangers from the tribesmen especially when there were times of warfare.
What did you do to prepare for missions?
We prepared for serving in missions through an extensive mission training program given by New Tribes Mission. We started our training in the USA from 1979 and finished in 1983 and then followed that with one year of Spanish study in the country of Venezuela. In addition I earned a degree is in Intercultural Ministry. We studied Bible in Waukesha, WI. We studied missions in Durant, MS and linguistics in Camdenton, MO.
Tell us what it was like when you first arrived.
One of the things I first remembered about arriving on the mission field in Venezuela was similar to an out of body experience. What I mean is I felt like I was observing myself as I interacted with people on a very simple level because I did not know much Spanish at the time and I was going through shock. It did not take long to get accustomed to the culture and start to feel more a part of what was happening.
Now when we first arrived into the Tribe I remember many different things but one of the first major shocks was seeing people darting about with bows and arrows. They were sizing me up. They would measure my legs with their hands as if checking out how I’d do in a soup. They would pull hair out of my arm as if it was some kind of anomaly.
Then we watched as the small airplane that dropped us off on the grass strip disappeared from sight. I was stunned at the anticlimactic feeling of finally arriving in the tribe after having worked so many years to get there. So much work stood ahead of us that I felt rather than arriving at the goal I was only beginning a marathon.
You used to tell some interesting and funny stories of that time frame. Can you share one with us now?
Funny stories… Well, to me the crazy thing was being used all the time as the local entertainment. Language learning is difficult. They would use our ignorance to make us say absolutely vile things; I would laugh and then I would cry. Never in front of them of course. I guess it’s funny now but then it wasn’t.
I remember laughing often, but their jokes and sense of humor are very different. If someone does something that is similar to a deer they will say “deerlike” and that just brings the house down if it is said just at the right time. Funny isn’t it? If someone says someone committed adultery they called that, are you ready… monkey-like… or as we say monkeying around.
What was the overall difference from when you came and when you left the Yanomamo?
The overall difference is I will never be the same. I learned so much about human nature and about being real. They are WYSIWYG and that is refreshing in a world of façades. If a Yanomamo is mad at you they are mad at you and if they are not mad at you they like you. There is very little in-between unless they consider you an enemy and in that case they might royally deceive you. That mainly happens between them since they loved their missionaries for the most part. Having your very own missionary was a highly prize possession to most Yanomamo.
You have been travelling in and out of the country quite of bit recently. What have you been doing?
I have now established DM2 or Disciple Makers Multiplied and it is a not-for-profit mission organization established to teach Christian leaders in the Third World the truths of the Bible! You can check us out at www.dm2usa.org to get a closer look at what we are doing and where we are going. Maybe some of your readers would be interested in serving in missions and we would welcome their consideration of that possibility.
What have you learned in the last two years that you didn’t know before?
I think one of the greatest things I have learned in the last two years is the need exists in the world to give people a hand-up rather than a hand-out. People grow to resent being someone’s project. I think we are often so condescending when we don’t believe in the fact people can be taught and then allowed to do what we taught them. Disciple making is letting people succeed in spite of failures. So giving people around the world the opportunity to succeed is mission one!
Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?
I would say that the greatest thing I have learned in life is God forgives us of all our sins and gives us eternal life as a free gift. This happens the moment we trust in His Son Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again. There is no greater love than the love of God who gave His Son to come down here to give us life!