In 2022, the Church of the Nazarene in Queluz, Portugal, started a new project that had never been done in Portugal. The pastor, Geovane Mota, took some unused church garage space and set up a gym to practice jiu-jitsu.

This project started to reach people in the community, and Rafaela became a student as soon as she heard about it. Rafaela moved to Portugal from Brazil with her husband in 2022. She had attended the Church of the Nazarene back in Brazil, so when she recognized the name while passing by the building, she decided to attend one Sunday. During the announcements, Pastor Geovane spoke about Naza Jiu-jitsu, and what he said made Rafaela want to try.

“He said everyone was invited, men, women, children, or elders,” Rafaela says. “I wanted to start exercising (I don’t like going to the gym), so this seemed like the right opportunity, and it was interesting. I had never done Jiu-Jitsu before, but I found interesting a sentence the pastor said: ‘Jiu-Jitsu is for anyone. You don’t necessarily need to be strong.’ I immediately identified with this point because I’m not strong.”

Pastor Geovane explained how Jiu-Jitsu, at its foundation, was created to help the weak overcome the strong. Just like the story of David and Goliath, where someone perceived as weak was able to overthrow the strong, Jiu-jitsu is focused on training the weak to overcome the strong.

Rafaela decided to go to Naza Jiu-jitsu during the week, and this helped her to get acquainted with other church members.

“By going to this activity in the middle of the week,” she says, “the next Sunday I already knew more people from church and started to feel a part. Rafaela says that without Naza Jiu-jitsu, she might still be looking for a community to be a part of. “But,” she adds, “I found it here.”

Being part of Naza Jiu-jitsu and through the pastor’s way of connecting God and this sport, has also shown Rafaela the biblical application for her life and walk with God.

“It’s like our walk with God,” she says. “It’s not our strength. It’s through God, by His grace, by the tools God has given us, like devotionals. It’s not by our strength. It’s not by my strength.”

During this journey, Rafaela has seen the Lord work in miraculous ways. Naza Jiu-jitsu is currently a project that isn’t sponsored. To be able to practice this sport, it’s important to have a kimono.

“I had recently arrived from Brazil,” she says. “So financially, I wasn’t yet ready to purchase a kimono. So for the first classes, I just said ‘Lord I have to purchase something to be able to go’. I bought simple sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt.”

Even though Rafaela didn’t have a kimono, she still wanted to participate. She waited on the Lord and left it in his hands.

“I remember one day the pastor came to me in one of the workouts and told me a lady had passed by the church earlier,” Rafaela remembers. “This lady used to do Jiu-jitsu, and she said that she wanted to bless this project. So, she offered a kimono to the project. The pastor told me that I was the only girl practicing jiu-jitsu and the kimono was for girls, my size, and the color I wanted.”

It truly was a moment of seeing how the Lord is in the details. Rafaela wanted a blue kimono to help with washing and even in the detail of the color, God showed His faithfulness. It was a moment of awe, as Rafaela couldn’t believe that a kimono was provided for her—exactly what she needed to continue participating in Naza Jiu-jitsu.

Through the connections and meaningful relationships that she started building through Naza Jiu-jitsu, Rafaela got more involved in the church’s life, many members impacting her personally.  Currently, Rafaela serves as a Sunday School teacher and hopes to continue to grow in the Word of God.

“It’s always a joy to see the growth of a sheep,” Geovane says. “The greatest ‘calling’ in a pastor’s life is to see lives transformed by the power of the gospel. In the case of our dear sister Rafaela, it is very special because the manifestation of the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ is visible…I always say that God uses his manifold work to accomplish his great work of saving lives. In this case, God is using jiu-jitsu to rescue, to save, to reach out to those who have asked. Praise be to our Lord Jesus.”

It’s been about a year since Rafaela began attending the Church of the Nazarene in Queluz, and she continues to be active in the church’s life. In September she affirmed her commitment to God through baptism and the Lord has been planting seeds in her heart.

“God willing, I would like to start the seminary,” she says. “This is a desire I have; I like to talk and share the word. The times I’ve had the opportunity to share the word twice at the NYI service, it was wonderful. It was a new experience with God to understand what He wanted me to share, and it was incredible.”

When thinking of the gifts and talents God gives to each one of us, Rafaela has found hers in theater.

“I always loved theater,” she says. “I started in school doing plays and I did plays in the churches I was part of in Brazil, both Baptist and Nazarene. Just recently we did a play at our church, and I liked the process of getting everything ready. After this play, I was immediately asked if I was going to prepare the Christmas play. So I’ve taken the liberty to start preparing for Christmas. But I don’t want to just recreate plays.”

While praying, Rafaela felt led to write her own play. She hopes to soon be able to take this play to different parts of Portugal to be able to share the gospel  through her ministry. “The bold dream I have is to invest in a local theater ministry.”

-written by Sarah Norris