How we make use of technology in the Brazilian mission

Beth Flunker (Dourados, Brazil)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Beth Flunker and her husband, Missionary Charles Flunker, spent nine years in stateside ministry, then 14 years in the Puerto Rican WELS mission and since 1987 in the Brazilian mission. She graduated from UW-La Crosse, WI, in secondary education, and became interested in technology through the interest of two of her sons who still can teach her new things. Besides working with computers, she helps with music, translation and editing of materials and production of Sunday School material.

From the outset of the mission in 1989, we have used computers and computer graphics to publish everything from Sunday School materials and Bible Studies to devotion and prayer books. We use the OpenOffice collection of programs, because the Brazilian version is kept up to date. Since it is a free program, all our church leaders use it. For more complicated desktop publishing, especially for the magazine put out four times a year for the national church, we have gone to another open source program called Scribus Scribus. It is also available in Portuguese and is a dedicated dtp program. Another free program, Audacity, is used for the recording of hymn accompaniments, which we make in the event there is no keyboard player available for services. The commercial program MusicTime Deluxe is used to produce the printed music we use — hymns, choir and bell choir music.

Sometime in the early 2000's we purchased an LCD projector to use for projecting films for the youth group, etc. It was around 2006 that the congregation in Dourados began worshiping in their new church building. The building still needed the lighting installed in the church proper, but with plenty of windows, there was no problem with daytime worship. But came plans for our Christmas Eve service, we knew that one little bulb 12 feet up near the roof in the center of the nave wasn't going to make it possible for the people to read the hymns, etc. So we produced a PowerPoint type of presentation within the OpenOffice program called SImpress for the service, including everything that would be needed. After that service the people were unanimous in wanting this to continue full time. It was easier to read, no hunting for hymns in the book, and parents could deal with their children and still sing hymns without having to juggle a hymnbook.

We have continued to use SImpress for all of our services: a morning and an identical evening service on Sundays, a Wednesday evening service based on Bible stories and special services when needed. Setting up the Sunday SImpress is made easier by using several templates we have created: regular Sunday worship, Lenten Sunday worship, two different communion Sunday liturgies, and then another template from which can be copied slides for baptism, confirmation, and a special baptism song. There is a certain amount of graphical material in these SImpress presentations, but the hymns, Bible readings, sermon text and prayers can be copied and pasted from our source files. There are several people in the congregation who can make these services, but I have been doing it recently because I, being retired, have more time on my hands.

The Wednesday SImpress presentations mostly make use of the series of Bible Story pictures published by Sweet Publishing and made available online free for use in churches. There are usually 5 to 8 pictures to illustrate the story, and they are notable for the artist always portraying the people in the story with the same features and clothes, making it easier to follow the story. We simply print the Bible text or a summary of it, on some part of the illustration. There is an introductory and concluding liturgy with prayers and hymns in this service. We are making this series of stories to follow our Portuguese Sunday School series of about 150 stories, only with more adult applications added. We are saving these SImpress files to be reused whenever and wherever necessary.

In regard to these SImpress presentations, there are months in the year when I am not in Brazil, and other months when both my husband and I are not present. So we make use of a remarkable program called TeamViewer, which is also free for individual use, to interact with the computer in the church office. When my husband Charles is there in that office, and I am in the U.S., I use TeamViewer to transfer the files that I create to his own computer for him to print. TeamViewer is a program which lets you very simply, via the internet, enter another computer on which you have already installed the program, and interact with it. There are passwords to protect these sessions. I transfer files from my computer to his using the normal File Explorer program on each system. This also allows me to see pictures he has taken that are on his computer and troubleshoot when neeed. In short, I can operate his computer as if I were there, although the operation is a little slower. I have installed this program on all the laptops of our church leaders, and set a group password.

TeamViewer really comes into its own when we both are in the U.S. None of our leaders is handy with printing, so at a set time, the leader goes to the church office, starts up the computer and also the one in church, and logs onto Skype. Then, using TeamViewer, I send the files to the office computer, and one by one print them out. Besides the Sunday and Wednesday SImpress files, there is a normal size and a large print Bible study to print out, usually a sermon which Charlie has corrected, and sometimes other items such as bills that arrived attached to e-mails that have to be paid there, the monthly church activities calendar, etc. With Skype open I can hear the printer working, the leader can tell me if everything is correctly printed, I can talk him through clearing paper jams (seldom happens) and we can catch up on the news. Then I transfer the two SImpress files, one for Sunday and one for Wednesday, to the church computer which he has turned on. (Somehow this process stumps our leaders.) This whole process takes less than an hour once a week, and I consider it one of the beautiful uses of technology in our situation.

We also have a web site containing video sermons, music, and Bible studies, not so much for either of our two congregations, but as general outreach with the Word to the country of Brazil. Besides three different devotions during a week, we also upload videos of sermons which the leaders have preached and which are recorded with an inexpensive digital video recorder on a tripod. We do not record every Sunday, but about once a month, and have to occasionally delete a recording that had too much noise from children, rain, church fans, passing sound cars, etc. Still, there is evidence that these sermons are being viewed.

We are grateful to the Lord for all these technology tools which make so much more outreach possible, and in a very palatable format.

Pastor Roberto Pires in an archived online worship stream.

Translate this page into your language
Return to original language with "show original" button at top left.


Julia Wagenknecht (MLP Missionary Wife) 2017-10-22 5:12:29pm
Great update Beth! Happy to hear how the the Lord continues to provide new ways to serve and reach out to the souls in Brazil and beyond. :) Hugs to all!
Judy Kuster 2017-10-29 8:53:03am
Thank you for sharing your incredibly creative use of technology to solve so many challenges! It is obvious how you have developed answers to so many questions/challenges serving your congregation (and a wider audience in Brazil). I love the story of a single light bulb on Christmas Eve and how it led to projecting hymns well beyond that special service. It also solves any problem with buying new hymnbooks or having enough hymnbooks as a congregation grows! I've seen that done in our ELS congregation in Korea, too. It seems that this would be pretty easy to adapt in any congregation as long as they had a projector, a blank wall or a screen, and someone familiar with PowerPoint.

I admire your ingenuity! If another congregation (probably one that doesn't have a lot of tech support) wishes to develop the use of the primarily freely-available tools (I love that!!) what would you say is an reasonable progression in adapting your model. I've used PPT, Audacity, the Sweet Publishing BIble stories, and Skype before, but the other tools you are using are new to me and with my personal not very technical skills, to try to duplicate what you are doing, would be overwhelming. Can you share how a congregation like yours might "do it" and then continue step by step to "do it better" as one (or many) become more computer literate and decide they are ready for another challenge? Do you know which of the tools are cross-platform for both PC and MAC?
Beth Flunker (Brazil) 2017-10-30 2:26:06pm
Well, Judy, both OpenOffice and Teamviewer are available for Mac and Linux as well, and in many languages. OpenOffice is easily downloaded and installed. The module that is equivalent to Powerpoint is called Impress. We just keep learning using the Help files and experimenting. Once a template is set up for the presentation, the rest is easy and is easily filled in by anyone, provided they have a Bible text to copy and paste from, and a file of the hymn words, so they don't have to type everything. We have now learned how to imbed MP3 files into the slides which is helpful when there is no keyboard player available. We had previously recored accompaniments for all the hymns, with introductions, using Audacity, connecting to our electronic keyboard through the earphone plug. When that hymn slide comes up, the music begins to play automatically. There is no reason to make these presentations glitzy - just the basics suffice. The other experimentation that has to happen is to see which font size is most readable given the size of the room and the distance of the projector from the wall. I imagine that many of our missions have used powerpoint type presentations at one time or another.

Teamviwer is a special case, when someone in one place (or country) needs to help out someone in another place. With Teamviwer the person on the distant end can do just about everything that the local computer can do except reboot, provided the computer is turned on and connected to the internet. It is super handy for transferring files and troubleshooting. But it does need to be set up ahead of time, and we would be happy to make those basics known to anyone who would request it.
Travis Barcalow (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2017-11-13 1:31:21am
Judy it is clear that media is the fastest and easiest way to get the word out to others around the world. along with the article I read, not everyone can travel to spread the word. God gave us media and it can be used for so many good and bad things. What we should strive to use it for more often is spreading the word that He gives us.
Ella Loersch (Martin Luther College) 2017-11-02 12:50:49am
Hello Beth, thank you for sharing an aspect of ministry that was incredibly foreign to me! Your congregation uses a truly amazing amount of technology--my congregation in Onalaska, WI is behind you by almost ten years with using a projected worship service full time, now experiencing many of the same benefits that you and your congregation enjoy! I find it so interesting and important that your church has obviously worked and looked for the best way to serve God's people in Brazil, no matter in what way and with how much effort that may be. You use such a variety of useful free resources-- how did you find all those different technology mediums? Were they recommended to you, did they take a long time to find and get used to? I think any church finds it hard when volunteers (or even paid workers) have to learn something new technology-wise, even if it will ultimately better worship or fellowship. Thank you for sharing your ministry and setting an example for churches stateside of the blessings of technology!
Beth Flunker (Brazil) 2017-11-02 10:20:49am
Hi Ella. Interesting to hear from you, as we have connections to your area. My brother was Carl Nommensen, pastor and teacher at Luther High, and we inherited his home on Brice Prairie. Some day, when we retire for the second time, that will be our home. Anyway, we have been using technology for many years, having got into it through two nerdy sons. Continous interest in tech and the need to use inexpensive or free programs kept us searching. Mission churches can't afford to spend money on expensive programs and their regular updating. When we find something useful, we try to introduce others to it. So OpenOffice runs on all of our pastors' and leaders' computers, and we install Teamviewer on most of them for that easy connection, with one password for our entire group. Using a powerpoint type of presentation for our entire worship service came about because of a need. We'll never go back to hymnbooks, etc., though we keep some on hand in case the power goes out. Also, we find that it is the teens in the congregation who take to the tech part of things most easily. A college student who is studying accounting keeps the church financial spreadsheet, and other teens find it pretty intuitive to do the Sunday powerpoints. They also take advantage of the wi-fi here at church to connect before and after service, for some free online time on their phones! One problem that we notice with many stateside churches if that their sanctuaries don't lend themselves to having one or more screens so everyone can see. This is true especially for large, older churches. Our simple buildings here just need a white wall in front. Our "screen" is the wall on the right side of the altar, farthest from the bright windows on the left side. By the way, we buy our projectors refurbished, which cuts that cost. Nice to hear from you.
Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2017-11-20 4:33:13pm
More benefits of projecting the liturgy on a screen: moms and dads with small kids don't have to juggle hymnbooks while children wiggle on their laps; I can keep singing a communion hymn I haven't memorized while waiting in the aisle to go up to the Lord's Table.
Kyle Baron (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2017-11-13 12:46:47am
Thank you for sharing your story. These stories are motivating and exciting to see how you can inspire and change people's lives. I found the video sermons to be a good idea to reach out to the general public of Brazil. It is nice to hear that they are being viewed. As more people are on the internet do you think more people would find time for religion if they could watch the videos at their convenience?
Beth Flunker (Brazil) 2017-11-13 6:31:06am
I have no good answer tor this. While we certainly pray that more people will hear the Word, the fact is that not too many people will want to listen to 23 minutes of sermon, even though it is a good and inspiring preacher. I still think that we reach more people with smaller snippets of the Word, which we are trying to do on the first pages of our web site, with a Bible verse and a prayer on the first page, and a short explanation-devotion on the second page. The site is (Ten Minutes with God) if you care to see. It looks too simple online, but it fits well in mobile media, so we kept it simple on purpose. Another problem is getting the site seen by more people, which costs money to advertise. But there is no doubt that we reach more people through the internet!