On a crisp December morning in Cary, N.C., Nancy and Danny Callis arrived bundled up with several layers of clothing during a visit to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) building. It’s much cooler than the warmer Brazilian climate they’ve grown accustomed to over more than 30 years.
“We get colder faster than anybody else does around here,” Nancy later joked as she shared about the couple’s mission work in Salvador, Brazil. As International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries, the couple has been in the United States on stateside assignment since August.
While living in missionary housing provided by First Baptist Church of Cary, the Callises occasionally visit the nearby BSC building.
BR photo by Shawn Hendricks
Danny and Nancy Callis serve in Brazil through the International Mission Board.
Danny is using one of the building’s computers to help him translate into Portuguese a training manual for a DVD-based apologetics study called the Truth Project by Focus on the Family. Danny plans to train Brazilian leaders to teach the material when he and Nancy return to Salvador in the spring.
For the Callises, of Fuquay-Varina, their heart remains with the people of Brazil. As they visit churches throughout N.C. this Christmas season, they share how they wouldn’t be able to continue their ministry in Brazil without the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
“First … we say thank you for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” Nancy said. “As far as … being on the field, we’ve got a good package, a good salary, … transportation if we need it, health care and everything,” Danny added.
“I think where it’s really crunching is the [IMB] is not able to send more people.”
When the couple first arrived in Brazil, after being appointed in 1978, there were around 300 Foreign Mission Board (now IMB) missionaries in the country.
“Today we’ve got around 85 or 90 missionaries,” Danny said.
In recent years, the IMB has been unable to keep up with the rising expenses that come with missionaries living overseas. Today there are about 4,900 missionaries serving around the globe. That is down from nearly 6,000 missionaries a few years ago.
And unfortunately, Nancy said, many of those in Southern Baptist churches today have little knowledge of how the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supports missions.
“One lady admitted it,” Nancy said. “She said ‘I don’t understand this. I was gonna ask my pastor [but] I’m glad you’re talking about this.’”
Danny said he is less concerned about economic trends and more concerned about the biblical worldview of Southern Baptists and the need to “rescue the perishing.”
Without a solid worldview, Danny said missions in places like Brazil and other parts of the world will suffer.
Many Brazilians are caught up in idol worship, spiritism and “cultural Catholicism.”
“It’s all blended together,” Nancy said.
“In Salvador, any day, you’re driving around and you’ll see sacrifices on the side of the road,” Danny added. “Usually it’s a dead chicken inside of a clay pot dish … with whisky, cigarettes, a little bit of money, nothing really valuable, sometimes a goat head or a cows head.”
And with a high crime rate, – more than 50,000 murders per year – Danny said many Brazilians live “on edge” in a continual state of fear.
While some worship idols and rely on works to save them, younger Brazilian generations are wrapped up in materialism and a secular lifestyle. It’s this trend that Danny hopes to address through helping teach a biblical worldview to young people with The Truth Project.
“What’s going on here in the states with post humanism and modernism, whatever you want to call it, is the same thing [going on in Brazil],” Danny said.
“The church is losing the young people, and they don’t have a good solid basis for defending the faith. The Truth Project is a systematic study of the truth, and our biblical worldview.”
If a person has a biblical worldview they will naturally become a disciple of Christ, Danny contends.
While Danny and Nancy have served in various roles during their years in Brazil, the couple – who have two grown sons – has worked in Salvador their entire missionary career. During that time, they have seen many lives changed for Christ in Brazil. They shared about one man named Miguel.
When the Callises first met Miguel years ago he struggled with drugs and robbed ATMs. Today he is an evangelist and church planter.
“He’s just growing by leaps and bounds,” Danny said. “He’s totally different.”
Much of their ministry, they say, would not be possible without help from Baptist partners or volunteers.
In a city of more than 3.5 million people, Danny and Nancy are the only missionaries in the greater Salvador area. The area encompasses a 50-mile radius and has a population of around 8 to 9 million.
Though there are about 120 Baptist churches in Salvador, and some reports show higher numbers of evangelicals, the IMB reports less than 2 percent of the people in the city are evangelical.
As “catalytic connectors,” the couple works with churches and various Baptist groups and entities – both in Brazil and the U.S.
They help connect partners to ministry opportunities among the Brazilian people. This includes presenting the gospel in public schools and through community projects, such as remodeling and rebuilding homes.
The couple also finds opportunities to share Christ with the Brazilian interpreters they recruit to work with partnering teams. While interviewing interpreters, Danny explains the material they will be working with, which includes the plan of salvation.
“One of the [translators who] … showed up was a pastor,” Nancy said. “He walked out of there vibrant. He says, ‘They just got evangelized and they don’t even know it.’”
The Callises hope more churches will be willing to take a risk and invest in some type of ministry overseas.
“You do need to take a risk,” Danny said. “You do need to go out on a limb.
“If anybody goes as a missionary or volunteer partner, you have to count the cost, assume the risk and jump in … If not, how are you going to see God at work?”
Today Danny and Nancy aren’t sure when they’ll retire and step away from Brazil and the people and ministry they’ve grown to love. “As long as we’re healthy [and] our love, our heart is there, we don’t want to retire,” Nancy said.
“Even though we’ve been [in Brazil] forever, we’re never going to be Brazilian,” she added.
“And we’re never going to be Americans totally again either. We’re definitely citizens of heaven.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – For those interested in more information, contact Danny and Nancy Callis at [email protected]. This year’s theme for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is “BE His heart, His hands, His voice” from Matthew 16:24-25. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to imb.org/offering.)