The Silvanos Reflect on 36 years with TWR
"We are leaving Africa but Africa is not leaving us", says Helena Silvano, wife to Isac Silvano and mother to Djamila and Priscila. Perhaps that is because, as John Ragsdale quips, "Africa is in their blood - the mosquitoes put it there!" Isac and Helena were born and bred in Angola and have spent the last 36 years of their lives serving with TWR - 15 years in Brazil and then 21 years in Swaziland. Although they are going to Atlanta, Georgia to be with their daughters, Isac says, " We have no country. Wherever God sends us is our country".
Who are these two titans of the faith? At a farewell celebration at the TWR Africa Regional Office (ARO) in South Africa, colleagues offered descriptions brimming with warmth and admiration. Becky Uhden had this to say: "The example of their prayer life has left a legacy. They broke down barriers of denominations with prayer groups in Angola and Mozambique." Darlene Saunders adds, "Isac is like a father/brother and Helena is like a mama/sister. When Isac and Helena say they will pray for you - they will! They work together. They are behind each other."
After the celebration, we caught up with the Silvanos personally, and they answered a few questions for us...
Can you share a particularly touching moment during your years with TWR?
Helena recalls a time when she was feeling particularly discouraged and she received a letter from a listener in Angola. The listener wrote, Maybe you have times when you are thinking of quitting. But please don't give up. Helena says, "God used that letter to touch me deeply and turn my thinking around."
After spending ten years producing programmes for Angola in Brazil, Isac remembers his first visit back to Angola. There he met many people whose lives had been especially touched - people who were established in the church through the ministry of his programmes.
What is one of the miraculous ways God intervened in your lives during your years in Swaziland?
Having made preparations for their daughters to do their A-levels in South Africa, a law preventing their entry was passed. But, Helena says, "Through God's intervention, our daughters were accepted to attend Liberty University in the USA. The school even provided scholarships for them that would cover their fees and tuition - this was the first time the school had offered this type of scholarship."
Do you have any advice to give to young, aspiring missionaries?
The Silvanos are quick to answer, "When a new missionary sets out to go overseas to a new country and culture, they carry with them a package shaped by their home country. It is important that they learn to re-shape their package toward the new country they will serve. Go to the new country with an open mind. Go, not only to teach, but to learn. Also, know God's agenda before you go overseas. Seek God's direction, peace and security of mind as a confirmation. Finally, love the people whom you will serve and accept them as they are. Learn to love them as God loves them."
Isac Silvano offers the following prayer on behalf of the younger, next generation of TWR employees: "Lord, I commit them to You to know Your peace and power. May they serve You with all their heart and walk with You so that Africa will benefit." He leaves us with Hebrews 13:20-21:
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (NIV)
1. Programme Director, TWR Africa Regional Office at a farewell celebration with the Silvanos.
Isac and Helena Silvano
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