I grew up keeping loads of different diaries – daily and “angst ridden” diaries. My hardships were usually best met when I put them down on paper. Through my writing, I felt closer to God and often felt better and relieved. I guess the lonely times were to my advantage, because I ended up acquiring the habit of writing the very things I could not express with my lips.
I practically grew up in the church. I was born in 1973 in Rio de Janeiro and in 1977, my father left his career and comfort zone in order to take heed of God’s calling. I was obviously too young to remember any of it, but I do recall feeling uncomfortable at the fact that we were no longer attending our regular church on Sundays. He worked very hard to open his newfound church on a daily basis, solely to help and assist people in our neighborhood. This new challenge resulted in his absence from home. My sister and I lost touch with him as he’d leave early in the morning and only arrive home after we were asleep. My mother did a good job in compensating for that, always teaching us to be ready to sacrifice for God’s Kingdom.
In 1985, my family was blessed with a newborn baby boy, adopted at birth. We named him Moyses. And soon after, in 1986, as our small church had grown extensively throughout Brazil, my father decided to expand overseas. We moved to New York and began anew the entire process — a small church in Lower Manhattan, which was opened daily. This time, however, my father didn’t know the language enough to preach and so he took more time at home to learn… and that’s when we grew closer to him. The whole family entered the process of learning English, but that wasn’t all; we struggled with loneliness in a strange land, culture, language, and people. We were accustomed to a large church, many people, and we were now working for a handful of people in a small congregation. My father was determined though; he knew God had called him to reach outside of Brazil. The United States was going to be our door to the rest of the world.
And so it was. We soon began planting churches all over the world. Today, we’re established in over 140 countries.
You may wonder how a daddy’s girl like me could bear so much as to come to the point of writing depressing diaries, and I wondered the same myself. I always thought that I went through things in my life that didn’t really make sense and that perhaps I overreacted to them. But in retrospect, I realize that for someone to be greatly used by God, he or she will be subjected to all sorts of adversities, so the molding and repairing can be done.
I only truly knew God at 15 and I have to say, I’ve been different ever since, as if I finally found myself.
In 1991, I married my first boyfriend, a dream I had asked God to fulfill in my life since early in my teens. We met in São Paulo, in the midst of a very difficult period for my church; persecution was coming from all sides because of a huge step of faith we had taken. We acquired a national TV station, which at the time, was basically bankrupt. That blessing brought about groups of enemies. My father became a popular figure in my country, although for all the wrong reasons. People began calling us names, and their assumptions of wrongdoings pertaining to us were categorically false.
Two weeks after my wedding, my husband and I were transferred to New York. We worked there for almost two years, I learned how to be a housewife and live with other families under the same roof. Times were again difficulties, as I had to simultaneously learn all sorts of new experiences and challenges. In 1993, we were transferred to Miami but only worked there close to eight months, just enough time to launch new headquarters of our church in Hialeah.
In 1994, we broke ground in Cape Town, South Africa. We advanced more than we ever had. We built our first brand-new church in an unknown city. However, I would have liked to share that there were only exciting high points in Cape Town…. my husband was so heavily involved with the new church that I began feeling neglected and alone. The fellowship grew from nothing to two thousand people on Sunday mornings.
In 1995, we were given one more challenge, to set up a church in England. We relocated to London and searched for a place of worship for the better part of six months, while holding weekly meetings in a local church. And as soon as we began in Brixton, the Work of God grew continuously. We stayed in London for six more years and set in place numerous churches throughout London and Birmingham. My husband and I adopted Filipe (then 4 years old) in 1998, along with a set of new challenges. He has blessed us in so many ways since.
Once more, in 2001, we were reassigned to South Africa, this time to a leadership position in Johannesburg. During this period, there were one hundred plus churches throughout South Africa. The workload had significantly increased as well as growing management problems. We invested two years working really hard to put everything in order and facilitate the growth of the church — all the sacrifices paid off, as the church expanded tremendously and continues to thrive.
In 2003, we were assigned once again to London and forged even higher improvements. So much happened for me in this transition, as I recognized I could do more than just be a helpmate to my husband. I began writing weekly women columns in our church’s magazines, newspapers, and websites, which quickly reached out to many women not only in the UK, but also throughout the world. In 2006, I assembled all my weekly articles and compiled them into my first book, “Better than a New Pair of Shoes“, which was also translated into Portuguese and became a bestseller in Brazil. I also contributed to a weekly radio program called, “Free Woman”, on Liberty Radio, which I later changed into podcasts. In 2007, three friends and I hosted a live TV show for women, ‘Coisas de Mulher’, in a Brazilian international channel for the Portuguese community in London. The show became a hit and is still going on, though it’s now aired from Lisbon, Portugal, by different hostesses. I had to leave the show when my husband was given the challenge of building our church in Houston, Texas.
We’ve worked in Houston since December 2008. We met three to four times a week in one of our Spanish-speaking churches in Northwest Houston. And finally, in February 2010, we opened our first church, off Southwest Freeway. Since then, we’ve set up churches in San Antonio, Dallas and Katy. More is yet to come… Nevertheless, throughout this time in Houston, God inspired me to create Godllywood, which is a community that consists of three groups in our church: Pre-Sisterhood, Sisterhood and V-Woman. With the help of my close friend and colleague Evelyn Higginbotham by my side, each group is geared specifically for young women and women of different ages in the church who aspire to become women of God in all areas of life.
In December 2009, we had our first Rush Month and the group originated the Sisterhood. Seventeen young women aged between 14 and 30 pledged to be part of this exclusive community that incorporates monthly tasks for each area of their lives, including private counseling, monthly meetings, quarterly outings and events, new friendships, exciting challenges, etc. They’re all presented with a Sisterhood bracelet as a symbol of belonging to the group. This novel movement proved very successful not only in our church but also in our churches overseas, and by May 2010, the Sisterhood had grown all over the world. Towards the end of that year, women from all ages were making urgent pleas to be part of our community and so we began the ‘V-Woman’ group for women who are over 30 and the Pre-Sisterhood for girls aged between 8 and 13.
Godllywood has blossomed and continues to flourish in our churches throughout the world!
In 2010, I created the first Sisterhood Planner to help young women with their daily schedules and responsibilities. We sold all of our 20,000 copies in Brazil, mostly through word of mouth. This year, we did a similar version in English.
In 2011, I recorded a song, regardless of the fact that I can’t sing that well, and wrote my latest book, “The V-Woman”, which has already been published in Brazil and ran out of stock in just a few months. The English and Spanish versions were then released later on in the year.
By mid September 2011, my husband and I were transferred back to Brazil, our home country. After twenty years away, we’ve been back ever since, working on a couple of projects, including a live TV show called, ‘The Love School’, marriage courses, and new books about relationships are on the way.
Am I stopping here? No way! Whenever God inspires me, I’ve learned to say, “Why not?” and so… I can’t wait for what’s next!