Legacy of Faith.

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“Legacy of Faith” by Theresa DeMerchant.

Each year at our annual general conference, Ladies Ministries chooses to honor a lady within our fellowship who stands out as a leader in ministry and displays a life of integrity and faith. This year’s recipient of the Legacy of Faith award is Theresa DeMerchant, a veteran missionary to Brazil. We thought you would enjoy reading a short biography of this wonderful lady.

Theresa Shomberg DeMerchant was born in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin, in December 1935. Her father was a carpenter and her mother helped take care of the farm with her siblings. She had four brothers and two sisters.

A Pentecostal Watkins dealer came to their home to sell his products and invited Theresa’s parents to his house to see a catalog of all the products. There, Theresa’s mother noticed the salesman’s wife reading a Bible, something their church said was only for the priest to read. Theresa’s mother asked, “Can you read the Bible?” The salesman’s wife said, “Of course, you can read the Bible.” Theresa’s father went out and bought a Bible that day. He stayed up all night reading it and the next morning he decided the salesman’s faith was the truth.

The salesman and his wife invited the family to attend the church in Clintonville, which was 65 miles away. Her mother and father were baptized. Eventually, she and her siblings were all baptized in the same church. Theresa received the Holy Ghost when she was eight and was baptized when she was nine years old.

When she was seventeen, Theresa began praying about her future and considering college. She felt God ask her, “Would you be willing to go to a foreign field?” She asked, “Where, Lord?” She certainly didn’t want to go to Africa. She heard “Brazil,” a country she had studied in high school. The voice impressed her so much she would pray first for Brazil when she prayed.

Knowing she must study God’s Word to become a missionary, Theresa enrolled in Apostolic Bible Institute after high school. There she received a strong foundation in doctrine and theology. She played classical piano for special music groups and taught piano lessons. She also became an English teacher. She remained at ABI for an additional five years, teaching English and doing administrative work.

Bennie DeMerchant arrived from Canada to enroll at ABI. He shared with Theresa that he felt called to be a missionary to Brazil. The more Bennie shared his passion for reaching Brazil, the more her friends teased that “he was the one.” The couple married at the ABI/St. Paul church in 1961.

Although they desired to go straight to the foreign field, the missions board said they were too young. They pastored in River de Chute, New Brunswick, for one year and one year in Plaster Rock before the board agreed to send them to Brazil. They were the youngest missionaries at that time.

Arriving in Brazil, they did not know the Portuguese language, and there were no United Pentecostal churches. Theresa was also nervous about raising their six-month-old baby, Beth, in a mosquito-infested country known for malaria. They studied Portuguese in their small apartment and held church in their garage. While holding services in their home, they worked on building a church. Brother James Kilgore sent them a generous offering of a $1,000 to build their first church.

Pam was born in 1969, and seven years later, Bennie Joe was born. All three children had a love for the work. Beth and Pam often helped the Brazilians in street services before Sunday school. Beth loved to play musical instruments while the Brazilians preached and evangelized. Then they would head to their regular church services. Joe’s dream was to be a missionary just like his dad.

When Bennie Joe died of bone cancer in 1992, his death inspired the Bible school work. Theresa dedicated her time to training ministers. She translated the notes and lessons she had learned at ABI into Portuguese. The first Bible school began in the central church in Manaus. This is now the largest Bible school in Brazil.

The Brazilian church now has more than 4,000 ministers, 1,300 congregations, 140,000 members, and 124 ABI campuses training over 3,000 students each year. Manaus has over 300 churches and many conference centers. The Brazilian church now sends its own missionaries to other Portuguese-speaking countries around the world.

FROM: Pure Ministry – UPCI Ladies Ministries – ladiesconnections@upci.org

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