Having served as a student leader in his home country of Brazil as well as in Germany, Canada, and Italy, Urbana 18 expositor René Breuel still draws upon that experience as he pastors Hopera, an evangelical church in Rome, Italy.
“We emphasize incarnational evangelism and friendships,” he said. “We host groups for seekers, dinners, and art evenings. It’s wonderful to see God using what we did as students on a larger scale.”
With his contagious optimism and effusive smile, René led a team in planting Hopera six years ago and has witnessed God’s hand at work through many lives being changed. “It’s beautiful seeing people discover God, come to faith, and then bring their friends and families,” he said.
Along with his wife Sarah, who also grew up in Brazil, René spent considerable time learning about the local Italian culture before attempting to minister in it. “It’s what I tell Sarah when she catches me watching comedies and eating gelato,” he laughed. “It’s missional contextualization.”
Listening, René believes, is always a key requirement when sharing the Gospel. “It started when we invited the Italian Union of Atheists for a couple of debates on the existence of God,” he explained. “Then we held dialogues with Buddhists and Muslims. At each occasion, we gained a better perspective of their views and of our own Christian faith, which feels so fresh when seen alongside another perspective.”
Though René and Sarah are seeing considerable fruit at Hopera and in her work for IFES Europe, it took three years of steady prayer, research, discussion, and seeking to discover their calling to Italy. Urbana 06 also played a large role. René still recalls both the massive scope of the conference and the incredibly profound individual messages, like those from expositor Ajith Fernando and Kenyan pastor Oscar Muriu.
“Urbana is a unique window into the global Church and into a God who is larger than we are used to imagining, a God for everybody, for all nations, a God with a vision for the whole of life, not just for churches, chapters, and individual lives but also for culture, for the arts, for different professions, for the economy,” he said. “Urbana is very much worth the investment. It’s investing in your own spirituality, in your own sense of vocational clarity, in the gifts you have to give back to the world in the future.”
As he prepares to be Urbana 18’s expositor, René has dedicated 2018 to closely studying Revelation and the Old Testament prophets. “Revelation is a powerful piece of Scripture,” he said. “I feel very much excited, trusting that the Word is rich and that God will speak.”
For those going to Urbana, René encourages, “Listen to God for your sense of purpose in life and for your vocation. And if he calls you to the mission field, then go! Serve with humility, with grace, with wisdom. But also serve with boldness, because we really do need people from all over because the mission is so great. We need everybody’s contribution.”