When I became rector of the Nazarene Theological Seminary in Brazil in 2019, I remembered that this institution influenced my entire family to become Nazarenes. My father was previously a Baptist pastor in Campinas, São Paulo. I wanted to study in a seminary, but there weren’t any Baptist seminaries close by. In 1964, my father heard about a new church in town that was starting a seminary. When he joined the Seminário Teológico Nazareno do Brasil (STNB) in 1964, he had no idea how God would use the seminary and the Church of the Nazarene to give purpose to his ministry and that of his children. After doing some research, my father realized that his beliefs aligned with the doctrines taught by the Church of the Nazarene, which encouraged my parents and their seven children to join the Church of the Nazarene.
A year after my birth in 1968, my father received an invitation to be the pastor of the Nazarene church in Campinas, where he pastored for 20 years. And in that church, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and was filled with the Holy Spirit. I remember our family devotions, where each family member was expected to read a verse. Whenever a worship service was held, the whole family would get ready and walk 3 kilometers to the chapel that could hold a maximum of 80 people. My first responsibility in ministry was at age 6—to open the church door and prop it open with a piece of wood.
We were a humble people, but there were times we thought we were in heaven by the way God’s Spirit moved among us.
I watched God work in the lives of my family members. In the 1980s, God called my two brothers into ministry. One became an evangelist and the other received a call to pastor far from our home in Northeast Brazil. My four sisters developed different ministries in the local church. When I was in high school, I had the experience of being baptized with the Holy Spirit, and God clearly showed me that He wanted me to be a missionary in Portugal. For the next nine years, I prepared for this work. Despite my plans for ministry, I was sad because something was missing in my life—I still hadn’t found a wife. In 1994, during a trip to the Church of the Nazarene in Nilópolis, Rio de Janeiro, I met Rita, a young woman who was a medical student. She played the organ and piano in church and had a missionary calling. The following year, we were married, and the World Missions Office commissioned us as Nazarene missionaries to Portugal.
We spent 16 years ministering in Portugal. We started the Nazarene Bible Institute of Portugal, an extension of the European Nazarene College. We worked with theological education in the field of Southern Europe, helped in youth ministry, and I served as superintendent in the North District and as pastor of a local church in Braga. We also went south to minister in the pasture lands of the Algarve. In those amazing years, we learned to depend on God’s grace and guidance for our lives and ministry. Our two children were born in Algarve, and I was able to do what my father had done for my siblings and me—teach the Word of God and have devotional times together as a family.
In 2012, we felt God’s direction to return to Brazil. We went south to the state of Santa Catarina, where I worked as an associate pastor. During that same time, I became an extension teacher at the Nazarene Seminary in Criciúma and in Serra Catarinense. In 2019, I was appointed Rector of STNB, and since then, we have lived on campus with eight other families. I praise God for the efforts of missionaries and teachers who invested in preparing the way for the unique ministry of each person in my family. I can confidently say that serving the kingdom of God through the Church of the Nazarene has been worth the call.
Natanael Cardoso serves as rector for the Nazarene Theological Seminary in Brazil.
Please note: This article was originally published in 2021. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.