SÃO JOSÉ DOS CAMPOS, Brazil (BNc) — Sensing that church-directory websites were often less than helpful, the church in this large Brazilian city took charge of its own information. It created a separate website in English for foreign visitors.

The church had submitted its information to a variety of online directories, but getting that information updated proved to be difficult or impossible.

On one site that used to be a premiere directory for churches of Christ, requests for updates went unheeded.

One man’s experience

Ron Jackson, an American Christian who came to São José dos Campos six times on business in 2008, found the church only after repeated attempts. The information he found online was outdated.

English website

English website for Joseense church

So the Joseense church created its own site geared for English speakers, since not everyone would have Ron’s opportunities and persistence.

The city has strong industry and service sectors, as well as multiple educational institutions. Many multinational corporations operate here, such as General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, Monsanto, and others, and many foreigners are often in the city.

So much so that many of the city’s traffic signs are bilingual, in Portuguese and English.

The challenge to keep information current

Congregations who don’t have their own facilities may face frequent moves. The Joseense church found itself meeting in three different locations in 2008.

But even established churches move, merge, or close. Therefore, it’s important for a church to take charge of its online face and keep its own site updated, as well as beware of directories that fail to keep information up to date.

Some directories update congregational information only for a fee. Others are abandoned or lack resources to keep them maintained.

The Joseense church has long had its own Portuguese-language site, but the site in English was a novel idea, since all its work focuses on the local population.

At the same time, visits by a number of foreign Christians focused the church’s attention on a service it could provide beyond its local area. But it wanted a means to keep its own effort up to date.

So in order to lower barriers to keeping the information fresh, the software chosen for the new English-language site offered easy options for revisions and new content.

Missed blessings and service opportunities

American businessman Ron Jackson

American businessman Ron Jackson. Photo: Lane Santos

Ron Jackson, the American Christian who finally found the church in 2008, has since returned numerous times, most recently on June 29. Although he is in meetings with his company on weekdays, he comes to Brazil early to be with the church on Sundays. He preaches and teaches on Sundays and Wednesdays via translators.

On the 29th, he preached three times — in both Joseense congregations and in the nearby city of Tabuaté.

By not having a more focused and powerful presence online for foreign visitors, the Joseense church wonders how much blessing it missed and how much it has failed to serve others.

Welcome to GRU

On July 1, when the English-language site was moved to a new host and completely revised, it added information for travelers to Brazil who arrive or leave through the country’s main airport in São Paulo (abbreviated as GRU). Congregations near the airport are listed, with distances given and the possible presence of English speakers noted.

São José dos Campos is less than an hour away from the São Paulo airport.

International events hosted by Brazil, like the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, may make the small site useful to even more travelers.