Wow! What ten incredible years! That thought could not leave me during all of yesterday... a different day from the days this past week, different from the last more than 3,000 days. I woke up a little later (different from the dawn that marked my other days this week). I did not arrive at the office rushed or running to a class... There were only a few loose ends that needed attention... I did not find things waiting for solutions – just friendly faces with sweet-sour expressions, half loving, half missing – at least that was the way my heart looked at my colleagues at CPAJ with whom I had invested the last ten years of institutional ministry.
I choked back tears today
That was when it was very difficult to hold back my emotion, for my colleagues made me sit on the chair and pose for a final photo with the faculty seated and outlined around me. Sheepish at being honored in this way, I acceded, feeling profound gratitude for those men who I wish so much to honor at this moment of leave-takingand yet they made me agree to being honored by them in a way I normally would find very hard to accept – because the honor belongs only to Christ and these are men who always honor Christ, but who at that moment wanted to honor, in submission to Christ, a lesser brother whose greatest honor was serving them for these last ten years, and with them, serve the cause of the Kingdom of Christ and the Presbyterian Church of Brazil!
Meeting ended, still touched by deep feelings, I went with them to a simple nearby restaurant for some moments of informal fellowship. The beloved pastors Augustus Nicodemus and Fernando Almeida joined us. Breakingbread in deep fellowship still carried the flavor of farewell, but in a different sense, maybe due to the choice of an everyday, unpretentious place; it also had the same delicious everyday flavor of thousands of times we ate and communed together at the table...
Finishing lunch, we walked back to CPAJ. Some colleagues went for better coffee at a place nearby, others had various appointments. I walked back with pastors Mauro, Jedeías, Augustus and Fernando. I talked a while with pastor Fernando, chief of staff at Mackenzie Chancellery, who is helping pastor Augustus and me in the transition of offices and then, both of us continued to the João Calvino Building where pastor Augustus Nicodemus and all of Mackenzie’s chaplains were waiting for a transitional meeting.
I was kindly received by dear Augustus, who introduced me to each of the chaplains and then presented a report about the last ten years of his work as Chancellor of Mackenzie. Even though I have been close to Augustus and the Chancellorship all these years, and have regularly substituted the Chancellor in his absence, therefore knowing well the actions he has always developed, I must confess that watching the presentation left me proud of my friend, colleague and predecessor in the position.
The presentation summed up the principal actions, challenges and victories for the Kingdom, developed in the chancellery in the last ten years, reminding me how much was accomplished, makingme admire the faithfulness with which Augustus developed his ministry there, and agree with the members of the Board of Directors of Mackenzie, that had received the same report the previous week with such appreciation and respect. I was also very happy to remember how my dear friend Augustus leaves his position with so many protests of admiration and e respect, from his superiors (The Board of Curators and The Board of Directors of Mackenzie), his colleagues at the Institute and the University and all the people he led.
Pastor Augustus Nicodemus Gomes Lopes leaves his position by his own initiative and under protest from many. Also under my protests. Not negative or misunderstanding protests. He goes forth because he desires new challenges, because he hears the attractive, memory-laden song of his pastoral-academic work, because he feels from God the tranquility that his task, by the marvelous grace of God, was faithfully fulfilled – at least this is what I clearly perceive, though I don’t presume to speak for Augustus, but I think I know well such a feeling, for it is the way I leave CPAJ!
After Chancellor Augustus Nicodemus’s presentation, he asked each chaplain to make a ten-minute report, relating the ministries developed at the various campuses and the diverse areas of activities as chaplains of Mackenzie. I was happy to perceive what they have done and the important ministries they have in the Mackenzie community, for the Igreja Presbiteriana do Brasil, in whose name they work, and for the Kingdom under whose greater authority they minister.
At the end of the presentations, pastor Carlos Henrique (institutional chaplain), chosen by his peers to speak in their names, said words of honor and gratitude to the friend Augustus – at moments he was clearly moved... Beautiful words of admiration, respect and regard – all clearly visible in the looks and words of all the other chaplains. They gave Augustus a beautiful gift and the opportunity to make his feelings known. Then, pastor Carlos Henrique concluded with what I believe sums up the entire sentiment. He said, “Pastor Augustus, we are very sad with your leaving..." But he then graciously added something that did good to my heart, "...but we are also happy that pastor Davi is the one appointed to come and continue with us what you, and above all, the Lord, have done”.
All of this was day before yesterday, Thursday, May 23, 2013. After the meeting with the chancellor and chaplains, I stayed briefly with Augustus in his office and then the two of us went down to the garage, along with pastor Fernando. I drove home, and upon arrival, went with my beloved to the home of my parents for a little more heart-comfort. Pastor Wadislau heard me tell about the day, expressed his paternal support and then we said goodbye.
Back to the beginning, yesterday I got up later, at eight AM, instead of the 5:30 of previous days. At the very beginning I wrote about the friendly faces that I found upon arriving at CPAJ for my last day of work there. I entered my office finding comfort in the fact that CPAJ does not belong to me, does not even belong to my peers, to our students, to JET or IPB – it belongs to Christ, the One who is my Lord, Lord of my peers, of my students, of Mackenzie, of JET, of IPB and of all things... Therefore, there really is no saying goodbye, because I proceed, serving the same Lord and in the same Harvest Field.
Soon after arriving, I went to pastor Mauro’s office to call him to the office that no longer would be mine... On returning, I found pastor Emílio Garófalo Neto, my beloved cousin, blessed pastor and multi-talented professor – he was saying goodbye after a week giving a graduate course as visiting professor at CPAJ. A cup of coffee with Mauro, brotherly, affectionate greetings from Hothir and Sunamita, a strong hug from Valdeci... It was now time to proceed to a churrascaria for the official farewell luncheon. As we got there, what was my surprise at finding, not only all my partners at CPAJ, together, but also RE Solano Portela, a friend and Vice-president of IPB’s National Board of Theological Education, and pastor Roberto Brasileiro, friend and president of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Brasil. Only my friend Tarcízio was absent, due to family duties, and my friend Augustus, who is inRecife, preaching the gospel as always, and my friend Jedeías, in Paraíba, caring for the expansion of our church...
How pleasant to be at the table with all my colleagues! But how difficult to hold back the heart when Mauro began his short speech, followed by speeches by RE Solano and pastor Roberto. Each one expressed personal, affectionate words, recognizing supposed merits and qualities in me that I myself cannot recognize – word of which I am not worthy, except for the fact that we are in Christ and used by Him, which make us receive a dignity that would never exist in and of ourselves. At the same time, the three orators quieted my heart as they clearly left the message that all this was only the end of one phase of the ministry done together in the Lord and for the Lord – our fight and our co-laboring continues!
This is what, summed up, I heard from them and it comforted my heart!
We returned to CPAJ and pastor Mauro and I went to his office where we wrote the last documents that needed both of our signatures. It was time to go, and I was in a hurry because there was still a doctor’s appointment at the end of the afternoon. I spoke by phone with pastor Roberto Brasileiro, said goodbye to Sunamita and Hothir, then Rafael and Márcia, and then my friend Mauro, who now answers alone for the direction of CPAJ, decided to go with me on the last long walk leaving the institution which I had been honored to serve these last ten years. He carried the chair I had been given to take with me and we went to the , where we embraced and said words of brotherhood and friendship that will remain only between us and in our hearts. Hurriedly we said, "see you next week..."
On my way home, I spoke by phone to several of these dear ones (using the car’s hands-free device, of course, because I would not be breakingany laws...). I talked with Solano, Mauro, Valdeci and Jedeías, and also talked with Sunamita. Arriving at home I found the tenderness of Adriana, of my sons Daniel and Rafael, my parents, Wadislau and Elizabeth and my brother Daniel. Every one of them was waiting to hear about this last day and encourage and comfort me: it was celebration and emotion.
Then, before going to sleep, I thought about sharing this narrative with those that might be interested – I decide I would write this in my blog. More than just sharing the story, I desired an opportunity to honor and thank the many people who have been part of my story, doing this on my terms, in a written register, in this transitional moment.
I shall have three rest-days next week, then we have a short national holiday. I will be speakingat the Fiel Jovem conference during next weekend. Next Monday, June 3rd., I will be with Augustus celebrating his ten years in the Chancellery with thanksgiving to God and then being installed as the XIII Chancellor of Mackenzie Presbyterian University. The thanksgiving and installation ceremony will take place at noon of that day.
If you are reading this report, do not seek or see it more than a mere expression of a grateful heart to God, full of affection and emotion, ready for the new challenges, but most of all, depending on the grace of the Lord! This grace makes me lift my voice in gratitude for the many people who have blessed me and have been my companions in the marvelous adventure of living coram deo!
Davi Charles Gomes
Mogi das Cruzes, May 25th, 2013