From Brazil to Norwich with a mission of love
Brazilian missionaries Paulo and Cláudia Mussi moved from Portugal to North Norwich in March, and have quickly got involved in plans to create a new community hub for people living in the Mousehold area. Jenny Seal reports.
Paulo and Cláudia Mussi moved to Norwich in March from Lisbon, Portugal, to live as long-term missionaries in the city. Leaving two of their grown-up children, their home of ten years and a successful ministry wasn’t easy but they felt drawn to work with Portuguese-speaking people living in England.
Originally from Anápolis in Brazil, the compelling couple, who are full of fun, enthusiastic and multi-skilled, have quickly become an asset to Norwich Central Baptist Church (NCBC), which they work alongside. On arrival the couple moved into the Manse of what was formerly Silver Road Baptist Church on Mousehold Avenue, putting them right at the centre of NCBC’s new community project.
The members of Silver Road Baptist Church last year took the difficult decision to close their church, as the upkeep and ongoing responsibility was proving too much for the aging congregation. Norwich Central Baptist Church, based on the other side of Anglia Square, applied to the Baptist Union to take responsibility for the building and they were given it as a resource to serve the local community. In June they changed the name of the building to Mousehold Hub.
Moushold Hub, just a few minutes’ walk from both Mousehold Infant and Nursery School and George White Junior School, is in an ideal location to be used as a community facility. Members of Norwich Central Baptist Church had already been leading a Messy Church there, as well as going into the schools with an Open the Book team, a lunch club and a junior football team. Now they have the exciting opportunity to develop these activities and offer more.
Paulo and Cláudia are an integral part of the team that is now planning how to do that. Paulo said: “We are looking at the possibilities we have to serve this neighbourhood in the best way – not with only something we want to give, but with something they need or they tell us that they need.”
In order to find out what that is and to complement existing activities in the area Paulo and other members of the planning team have been attending local events, talking to community leaders and going around key places with a survey to get people’s opinions. So far there have been around 75 responses.
Paulo said: “All the answers that we had said ‘yes, we want you here, we want something we can use, a place where we can stay and spend a few hours for a cup of tea, a cake or just to chat.’”
“We have some issues here,” Paulo said referring to survey responses that point to the prevalence of drugs in the area. “They are big issues that are not so easy to solve. But we can be part of the community to try to give something that helps.”
He continues: “The neighbourhood is a multi-cultural place so we have people from different nations and different backgrounds and cultures and languages too. It is very good to walk on the streets here and to hear people talking. When we are looking at the possibility of Mousehold Hub and we are thinking English classes could be a good thing to serve the community.”
Cláudia, who is a naturally talkative person, spoke little English when she arrived in Norwich and her biggest challenge was the fear of saying the wrong thing. Since arriving she has invested a lot of energy into learning the language going to thrice weekly English lessons facilitated by English Plus and Workers’ Educational Association in different parts of the city.
Paulo said: “It’s very exciting to see how much she is learning and all the effort she is putting in at home, and outside breaking that fear to make mistakes. She is speaking freely and this is very good. She will be very good very soon.”
Many respondents of the survey also noted a lack of activities for young people in the area. In September, Norwich Youth for Christ move into the top floor of Mousehold Hub using it as their office with plans to open an alternative education unit working with young people who have struggled in local secondary schools.
In Portugal Paulo and Cláudia were part of their local Youth for Christ organisation. Paulo said: “There is the possibility that we can work with them for the youth of this neighbourhood. We are open to this and we are praying for this. It’s a good possibility.”
“In such a short time we are committed and involved in so many things,” Paulo laughs. Within NCBC he has preached, supported a Bible Society course, joined the leadership team and Cláudia has helped with children’s work. Together they have worked on Messy Church at Mousehold Hub and Paulo has joined the Silver Road football team. They also hosted an evening of Portuguese food and football when Spain played Portugal in the World Cup.
Cláudia says: “Sometimes we observe that there are so many areas that Paulo and me can work at this moment. There are so many opportunities for us.” Paulo agrees: “We are trying to step-by-step find our place in the church and not lose our focus on the Portuguese-speaking people.”
Their plan is to develop a congregation of Portuguese speaking people that will be part of NCBC. It is estimated that there are around 1,000 Portuguese-speaking people in Norwich but, with no defined community, meeting people has been slower than expected. The couple have started a group that gathers in their home. On the first week, two ladies from Brazil, classmates of Cláudia’s from language lessons, came along.
“I got very happy with this,” said Paulo. “Because we had nothing and now we have two people. It’s a start.”
He continues: “I cannot just walk through the streets knocking on the doors saying: “Hello, do you speak Portuguese? We would like to start a church here, come on let’s go.” It’s not my way. So I pray ‘please bring these people to us, we want to be here for them, we want to be part of their lives.”
They saw one answer to this prayer when a man named Antonio spontaneously came along to NCBC’s Sunday evening service. He had moved from Portugal just three days before. Paulo says excitedly: “When our pastor Mark Fairweather Tall called me to meet Antonio I looked at his face and I thought ‘from Portugal!’. He didn’t speak, Mark didn’t speak, but I just thought ‘Portugal’ and started talking to him in Portuguese. That was a good situation.
“We are sure that the time to be here is this time. Things like this fill our hearts with hope that the things will be good.”
If you would like to find out more, you can contact Paulo at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured above are Brazilian missionaries Paulo and Cláudia Mussi outside the new Mousehold Hub in Norwich.