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a photographer in wolf's clothing

by Michael Wolf

Most everyone has heard the saying, “God works in mysterious ways.” I’ve never cared for the expression. In fact, the closer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize His ways are no mystery. God just has a different way of doing things.

One evening James Forlines, general director of Free Will Baptist International Missions, spoke to my home church, Cape Fear FWB Church, in Wilmington, North Carolina. He encouraged every Christian to find his or her place in world missions. Cape Fear is a mission church, so I know a bit about what is involved in planting and growing a mission work.

As James spoke, he gave examples of various ways a person can be involved, but nothing really stirred me deeply. On other occasions when missionaries shared their stories I had been challenged, but not this time.

After 18 years of commercial photography, I had made the difficult decision 3 years earlier to put my cameras down and pursue a different career. James heard about my previous experience and contacted me. He asked if I would like to travel to Brazil to do some video work. I agreed. From that moment, I prayed daily about the trip. I asked the Lord to keep His hands in the details.

I don’t enjoy air travel, but I soon found myself on the 18-hour flight to Brazil—43-years-old, traveling alone without any knowledge of Portuguese. I felt like I had a neon sign on my forehead that read, “please take advantage of me” as I wended my way through the various airports along the way. Nonetheless, the Lord led, and I arrived safely in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Kenneth and Rejane Eagleton picked me up at the airport and we headed to their home. On our way, we took a slight detour to get a few shots of the city from the hilltops. I was tired from traveling, but I didn’t want to miss a shot merely because I wasn’t up to full speed. Besides, I knew my three-year absence from video work would probably cost me other opportunities. I determined to capture every bit of video I possibly could: missionary interviews, their homes, cities, church buildings, testimonies, national preachers—everything on my list and then some. I was on the Lord’s time now.

One afternoon, as Kenneth and I came back from taping, we sat in the van and talked a while. He shared his heart and his perspective of the mission field. His perspective was different from my preacher, a stateside missionary, but his heart was the same. It takes a lot to be a missionary—no matter where you live. As Kenneth spoke, the Lord touched me, and tears filled my eyes. I felt God was saying, “Michael, just listen now.” This was the first of many times I felt the Lord’s presence on the trip. 

The Brazilian people impressed me. They welcomed me from their hearts. I was a novelty, and folks enjoyed trying to communicate with me in spite of the language barrier. Smiles and laughter, sometimes even a hug, replaced words. Since emotions are difficult to convey on videotape, I decided to capture as many faces as possible. Perhaps people in the States would be encouraged and challenged by seeing Brazilians impacted by work of FWB missions.

I left the Eagletons in Belo and spent the remainder of my time with three generations of the Aycock family in Barbacena.  Bobby and Sue have been on the field almost as long as I have been alive. Their son David and his family (wife, Annette; children: Autumn, Andrew, Breeana, and Destanie) also minister in Barbacena.  I grew to love all of them in the short time I was there. They have an extremely refreshing innocence.

I showed the “shot list” to David. He understood how important it was to capture everything on the list. His work ethic fit well with my goals. We woke early, ate breakfast, and off we went each day. David balanced my presence with his pastoral duties. Fortunately, many of his activities included things I needed to document on video.

Throughout this adventure, as Annette Aycock called it, God stirred my heart. He continues to do so today. This short article does not permit me to describe all that happened. Meeting such a godly couple like Bobby and Sue Aycock affected me greatly. They are now friends and “family.” Their work has produced wonderful fruit. The smiles on the faces of Brazilians who know Christ has set my heart on fire for mission work. I can’t express the deep joy I felt as I looked through the camera’s viewfinder and heard testimonies and stories of what God has done or recognized the melody of a familiar hymn with Portuguese lyrics. 

The Lord knows me better than I know myself. He used what I thought was a dead talent to build a bridge from Brazil to the States. What an honor to be used by him!

Michael Wolf served as a Professional Volunteer in Brazil from January 25-March 2, 2005. Some of the footage he gathered is featured on IMpulse 1.4.



©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists