A Brazilian teacher takes his newfound faith to the classroom.
by Kenneth Eagleton
Francisco Lima came to class at the Bible institute one evening beaming with good news. The school board in the neighboring town of Vinhedo had just included creationism in its science curriculum. It would be taught alongside evolution as one of the explanations for the origin of the universe and life. A personal victory for him as a science teacher, the decision was not only fruit of the transformation in his life, but also of the way his commitment to Christ impacts the way he teaches science in Brazil's public school system.
Francisco came to Christ in 2005 at age 49. A lifelong, faithful Catholic, he had fulfilled the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy matrimony. Considering himself a mostly-good person, Francisco assumed he was in good standing with God, in spite of his weaknesses. When asked what made him change his mind about his spiritual condition, he answered: “Pain. I was suffering emotional pain because of serious problems I was facing in my marriage.”
As a result, he began seeking God early in 2005. “I started feeling I needed change in my life and was under conviction of sin. This went on until June, when in the midst of my suffering, I gave my life to Christ at home.”
Two months later, Francisco made a public profession of faith in church. During the last half of 2005, he was discipled by Pastor Lucas Lima (no relation) of the First Free Will Baptist Church and then baptized in February 2006. One year after his conversion, he started studying at Campinas' Free Will Baptist School of Theology (ETBL).
Francisco took “Science and the Bible,” a class I was teaching at ETBL in Campinas. It challenged him, made him rethink everything he had learned about evolution. It even made him consider how he taught human reproduction and sex education in his classroom. The class proved to be a turning point for him.
He began to seek ways to integrate biblical truth into his teaching methods and content. He started writing a verse of Scripture on the board at the beginning of each class, using the first five minutes of class time to explain it. Some students regularly write the verses in their notebooks. Even though this brought opposition from fellow teachers, the school administration has not intervened. One of his most vocal opponents gave his heart to the Lord after he started dating a Christian girl. Francisco’s supervisor was also saved and is currently studying at a Bible institute in her town.
Change didn’t stop there. Human reproduction is covered in his eighth-grade classes. Francisco now bases his teaching on biblical principles about the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit.He addresses the responsibility individuals have in relation to abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, sex education, and contraception.
This is a major departure from the textbooks’ position. As in most U.S. public schools, the different methods of contraception are provided in detail, without any moral values attached. Homosexuality is treated as a normal sexual orientation that should be respected. In fact, the Brazilian National Department of Education has a specific office to promote tolerance towards gay, lesbian, and transsexual individuals. They deploy a vast amount of materials to each city’s board of education to promote tolerance of different sexual orientations in the schools.
“A gay agenda lobby group sent a psychologist to my school at the end of last year,” stated Francisco, “to give a talk to the teachers concerning the need to teach sexual direction tolerance in our classes. They placed books in the school library that give teens orientation on how to get their parents to accept they are gay. This is all part of an active campaign to make alternative sexual orientations accepted as normal.”
Another great change Francisco implemented was the inclusion of creationism as an explanation for the origin of life and the universe. Before his conversion, Francisco had not formed an opinion about the biblical account of creation. In fact, he only had a vague notion of the Genesis creation record. “In school and university all I was taught was evolution,” he confirmed. “It was taught as scientific fact, and I never questioned it.”
After learning about biblical creationism at the Bible institute and researching it for himself, Francisco introduced it into the content of his science classes. When the coordinator responsible for the school curriculum for the town of Vinhedo called a meeting of all the science teachers to discuss the science curriculum, Francisco proposed creationism as an explanation of the origin of life and the universe. The proposal created a heated debate.
As expected, many evolutionists strongly argued against it, touting creationism as unscientific—a backward step. Unexpectedly, many teachers who had never openly expressed themselves in favor of creationism spoke up and defended Francisco’s proposal. It was put to a vote, passed, and was included in the curriculum for all the schools in town.
Francisco also lobbied for the same inclusion in the science curriculum of Campinas, a city with a population of over a million. Again, this science teacher made a difference. Though the language is not explicit, the curriculum lists evolution “and other explanations” for the origin of life and the universe as part of the subject matter to be taught.
Personal Mission Field
“I had the privilege of hosting American mission interns David and Justin in my home while they did their internship here in Brazil,” says Francisco. “In the same way that God has called them to take the gospel to other people groups, I have a calling to take the gospel to those with whom I come in contact in the schools where I teach—students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Since my students come and go from one year to the next, I continually have a new set of people to evangelize.” Francisco has ten science classrooms of eighth and ninth graders. In each classroom, he has four classes a week, totaling 40 class hours. This is a huge mission field that changes every year.
I have a calling to take the gospel to those with whom I come in contact in the schools where I teach—students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Since my students come and go from one year to the next, I continually have a new set of people to evangelize.
About Francisco: Fifty-five-year-old Francisco Lima is the father of four grown children. He has bachelor degrees in biology and pedagogy. In November 2010, he received a B.A. in theology from the Free Will Baptist School of Theology in Campinas. He teaches science in two public schools in Campinas and Vinhedo.
About the Writer: Kenneth Eagleton, M.D., served as a medical missionary in Côte d’Ivoire for 18 years. He and his wife Rejane currently serve in Campinas, Brazil, where he aids in leadership training and discipleship in one of the exciting harvest places where Free Will Baptists labor. Learn more about the exciting things God is doing through Free Will Baptist International Missions at www.fwbgo.com.