On one of the last days of the Africa Region Leadership Conference in April, Eugenio Duarte took time from his very busy schedule to come for dinner at our house. Because he's a Cape Verdian, living most of his early life on an island, we had fish.
Dr. Eugenio (ew-JEN-eeoh) Duarte (dwawrt) Africa Region Director for the Church of the Nazarene. He was born and educated in the Cape Verde (vaird) Islands and served as a pastor and district superintendent there before being appointed to field and regional leadership roles. He and his wife Maria Teresa have three grown children, and live in Johannesburg, South Africa where the regional office is located.
Infant mortality was a problem in Cape Verde, and it affected Eugenio Duarte’s family. In Cape Verde, medicine was not developed well enough so many children died. When I was born I had some health problems. I don’t think they thought I would survive, but I made it. We were five children, however before I was born I am told that there were eight children. So four of them had died and I am the last-born in our family.
My mother was a very hard worker who taught her children to be the same. She taught us to earn our living honestly and to give the best of ourselves to others. My father was a man of peace. He was a builder with people working for him. One day one of his workers offended him. He was hurt, but he did not tell us. A little later, the worker knocked at the door. When he was let in and shown to my father, he said, “I came to ask for forgiveness, for what I did to you.” And my father said, “Oh, I forgave you before even you came.” That is one of many situations that make me think of him as a man of peace
When Eugenio was six, his eighteen year old sister Magdalena (mag-dah-LAYN-ah), who was attending the Church of the Nazarene, was the instrument of a turning point in his life. It was
announced in church that a school was going to start, and they would like Nazarenes to bring their children. Magdalena decided that she would talk to my parents so that they would allow me to go to a Nazarene
school. She went and did my registration and they took me to school and that is how my connection with the Church of the Nazarene started. To prepare me for school, my mother had crafted a gray school bag for me. It was precious because my mother made it from some fabric she had received from my aunt in the US. I remember the first day of school, I grabbed the bag, because I did not want anyone to mess with it because it was so precious.
A meaningful illustration helped this island boy see his need for salvation. We lived in islands surrounded by ocean, and most of the time the ocean was not friendly. When I was 12, a missionary, Clifford Gay, came to visit the island. That day he was asked to teach in my Sunday school class. The lesson was simple but impressive. The missionary presented salvation as what happens when you are crossing the ocean and the boat sinks. Even if you have no one around who is able to save you, when you have a life preserver, you are safe. That’s how he presented Jesus who is there and ready when you need him. And so I found myself lost and I went to this little room with four other boys and we prayed for our salvation. And that changed my life forever.
When he first heard the message of holiness a devotional classic helped him with the question of earning salvation. At the age of 17 I was in Mindello (meen-DAY-loh) and heard a message of holiness. I was reading The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitehall Smith. One passage made it clear to me that Jesus has already forgiven me and I asked myself, “Then why am I bothered so much if Jesus has done it?” In that room alone, I said, “Lord it is now. I want to leave it all in your hands.” That was another turning point in my life.
Dr. Duarte’s sense of God’s saving and sanctification was clear, but God’s call to the ministry was hampered by a sense of inadequacy. He had talked to his pastor about attending Bible college, but instead of enrolling he first applied to join the Portuguese Army, then worked in business, and finally took a government job on Maio (MY-ew) Island, where he met his future wife Maria Teresa in the local Nazarene church and applied for a government scholarship. It was at this point that the true course of his life was about to be decided and two new chapters of his life began. I had applied for an engineering scholarship from the independent Cape Verde government. I was going to Russia, and everything was set: invitation, passport, visa, and airplane tickets. The day before my departure I took my wife and went to say goodbye to friends. We passed by the Nazarene Church and empty parsonage. I had the keys so I said to my wife, “I feel like going inside and praying.” I asked the Lord to bless me. I said, “I cannot go if you do not bless me,” but he did not. He said, “If you love me, then stay here.” When I said yes I felt that I was a new person again. I stood and said to my wife, “We are not going to say goodbye to anyone because I am not going anywhere.” So, we went back home and I sent a telegram to my DS who had been my pastor when I was growing up. The telegram said, “Do you have a place for a student this October? I will want to join.” I got a reply from my DS who said, “I have been praying for this day for years. I could have not gotten any better news than this!” I went to the capital, to ask them to release me, and the man who was in charge said to me, “You Protestants think going to Russia is going to hell.” I said, “No sir, none of that came to my mind, I have a reason but I know you will not understand.” He asked me what my reason was, and I explained to him about my call to ministry. He said, “Oh, you are crazy! How can you miss this opportunity for higher education?”
Eugenio’s time at the Bible college was productive and successful, and soon drew to an end. After an initial successful preaching assignment, Dr. Duarte served the church as a teacher at the Bible college, pastor of the mother Church of the Nazarene in Cape Verde, and then as district superintendent, gathering many memories of God’s faithfulness in the midst of challenge.
In 1996 Dr. Duarte was convinced that his time as District Superintendent was coming to an end. He alerted his field director and communicated his willingness to move back into the pastorate. God had other plans, though, and Dr. Richard Zanner called him to be the Field Strategy Coordinator in Central Africa. This assignment was followed in a brief period of time by other assignments to lead the Portuguese-speaking field and then the French-speaking field in West Africa. When I was told I was needed to lead the West Africa Field, I went to my office and did something that I don’t usually do. I took the Bible and opened it randomly looking for guidance. I read Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” It was doubly confirmed when I went to the room where my wife was and she had her Bible opened to Isaiah 41 as well.
Dr. Duarte’s connection with Africa Nazarene University became stronger when he became a Field Strategy Coordinator and as a result became a Board member. It helped me to know Professor Marangu better, to know the great leader she is, and to see her relationship with the students. We do not see that type of thing much in Africa...there is usually a distance between senior administrators and students. God is using her example to train leaders.
1n 2006 Dr. Duarte was asked to serve as the Regional Director for the Africa Region. It’s a job that you do not ask for like any other ministry. When the Lord calls you, you do it. If I did not know Dr. Louie Bustle and the fact that he is able to work with you and empower you I might not have taken the position. I knew that he was someone I could go to when I made mistakes and tell him, “These are the mistakes please help me.” I did not feel confident and that kind of relationship had to be in place for me to accept this position.
When asked for his insights on several topics, Dr. Duarte responded as follows:
- About Holiness: Holiness is a lifestyle where we allow God to make us like him. And for that to happen it has a starting point but it is not just that one event. I think many people have failed to live the life of holiness because they feel that it is something that happens one time and it is done. We bring ourselves back to the Lord continually so he can keep empowering us. For many people in Africa they believe that once you are half religious then you are good. Africa does not need more religion because we have too many religions, we need something that changes people’s life. Holiness changes people’s lives. That is not a message that many people are willing to listen to because they know that Christ paid the price and they are not willing to pay the price. However, those of us who have paid the price can say that it’s a worth price.
- About the African church: The partnership between the church in the West and Africa is growing in significant ways. There was a time when that partnership meant Westerners brought money. Now we are learning that it’s a relationship and it is much more than money which is one of the blessings of the global economic hardship. Now people are learning to understand that we can not wait for the west to give us, because what the west can give us we can also give to the west in some ways. For instance, in Africa we emphasize community rather than an individualistic approach to living. When I go to the US and visit churches people are warm and friendly. They really want you to be part of them and feel at home, but then after the service they do not have time to stay with you because they have to attend to many other things. In America you have clocks but in Africa we have time. In Africa, we make time to be with people and they become part of us in ways they were not before.
- About a vision for the Church of the Nazarene in Africa: We have to have people who live a changed life, who are in revival mode, and willing for revival again and again. The vision that I have for Africa is that the church planting movement that has happened in the Horn of Africa will spread through all seven fields...the whole of Africa. This movement is not about us, it is God’s work. It is about allowing God to use us to make it happen. That’s why I invited Howie Shute to come work in the Regional Office to assist us. As I think about how we will make disciples, it is about people discovering what works in their own culture to build relationships. We cannot make disciples the same way that the west does it. I am an African so I will use a different way. We have some great traditional ways of doing it. We may not call it making disciples, but we bring people along by spending time with them. So I want us to explore those ways that God has given to us, and make use of them. And if we do it the way God wants it then the one million member goal we have for this continent is nothing. Actually, when I mention one million members, I always have someone tell me that number is too small. Now my language has changed; I talk about the first million.
- About how the global church can pray: We need prayer for the vision to happen. We have an ambitious goal to train 20,000 leaders by 2012. Now we have less than 8,000 leaders and not all of them are trained. So we are believing that God will raise up leaders and those who will train, equip, and disciple them. We see ANU as a power house to help make that happen as we create systems that help us multiple ourselves.