October 2, 2020 – Valley Baptist Church of Searcy joined with 115 Arkansas Baptist churches for the first ever One Day: Serve Local missions experience. One Day: Serve Local was launched in response to the decision to cancel the annual One Day Acts 1:8 Missions Experience due to Covid-19. Instead of meeting together to serve in one area, churches were challenged to engage their own local communities in missions and evangelism on that same day in October.
As part of the Serve Local experience, Tyler McKinney, Middle School Pastor, and a team of volunteers from Valley Baptist Church went door to door sharing the Gospel and inviting people to church. While visiting one of the apartment complexes, they met a man named Pablo Figueiredo who had been praying that God would help his family find a church home.
Neither Figueiredo nor the faithful group of church members could possibly know at the time how God would use this seemingly chance encounter to impact this family, this church, and many others literally around the world.
Coming to America
Pedro Figueiredo grew up in Brazil. As a young boy, he started playing futsal, a sport similar to soccer but played on a smaller, indoor court with fewer players and a smaller, heavier ball. At first, Figueiredo says he was not very good, but he was tall and fast. Over time he continued to practice and train hard. His skills grew and he developed a real love for the game. He began to see soccer as a way to achieve fame and fortune.
He was playing professionally for Goias E.C. in Brazil when he got an opportunity to attend Judson University, a Christian school in Elgin, Illinois, located 45 minutes from downtown Chicago. God used a coach named Steve Burke to provide a full ride scholarship so that Figueiredo could attend college in the United States. It was during his time at Judson that he responded to the Gospel and became a follower of Christ.
Figueiredo went on to earn his psychology degree in 2001 before returning to Brazil where he again began playing professional soccer. This time however, he was playing for a greater purpose. After becoming a Christian, Figueiredo says God changed his priorities. He began to see soccer not as a means to make money but as a means to make disciples. When he returned to Brazil in 2002, he joined an organization called Ambassadors in Sports and used soccer as a platform to share the Gospel.
He played professional soccer until 2006 when he retired and started the Schneider Soccer Sports Marketing Agency. Then in 2007, he married his beautiful wife Anna Carolina in Goiania, Goias, Brazil where they both had grown up.
Three years later, in 2010, God opened the door to move the couple back to the United States. They moved to Chicago where they lived for the next 10 years. During that time, Figueiredo started a soccer club called Schneider Soccer Academy with the goal to use soccer as an instrument to share the good news with the players and families. He also coached Harvest Christian Academy boys and girls varsity teams where he was able to mentor and coach boys and girls.
He and his wife Anna also welcomed two sons into their family during their time in Chicago. Jonathan was born in 2013 and Daniel, who was diagnosed with autism, was born in 2017.
In 2020, God moved the family to Searcy, Arkansas. Anna had been a dermatologist in Brazil, but was required to redo her residency in the US before she would be allowed to practice medicine. She applied to several places and was eventually accepted into a one-year residency in Searcy. The family packed up and moved from Chicago to Arkansas without knowing a soul.
Finding community and purpose
Figueiredo began praying that God would help them find a church as soon as possible. They needed somewhere they could belong where they could serve God and fulfill their purpose of making disciples. God answered his prayer on that Saturday in October when He brought the members of Valley Baptist Church to that Searcy apartment complex as part of One Day: Serve Local.
Figueiredo and his family visited the church on Sunday. He was baptized that same month and he and his family joined the church. He had found his church family, but in Valley Baptist Church he found so much more. He found his purpose as God clarified his ministry calling to use his love of soccer to make disciples. He says the Lord opened the door to use futsal to reach the youth in the area. The church let him use the gym for futsal training and to share the Gospel with students.
In 2020, he also started a prayer group with his good friend Celso, an ex-professional soccer player who now coaches in Utah. They invited others to join them and began meeting every morning at 7:30 a.m. Brazil time. They started using WhatsApp, but eventually the group grew so large that they switched to Zoom. Currently there are 170 people in the group with 15-30 of them meeting live every day.
“We are former professional soccer players, soccer coaches, pastors, missionaries and normal people that want to pray and share God’s word with one another. The Lord has been doing miraculous things, such as providing money to buy a prosthetic leg for a pastor that lost his leg in a car accident,” Figueiredo said.
His passion for ministering to those in need and making disciples through sports extends beyond his local community. Since joining Valley Baptist Church and growing his ministry there, Figueiredo felt burdened to find resources to provide for those in need locally, regionally, nationally and around the world. Because of this, he founded the Schneider Institute USA with a plan to assist missionaries in their work, help immigrants and refugees, assist kids with autism, teach life and job skills and much more.
The Institute’s mission statement states that they strive “to be transformation agents in the lives of those who are in a social vulnerability situation and to promote, through sports and education, conditions to develop a better life quality, and provide more opportunities and motivation to overcome limits that were thought insurmountable.”
The next step in the journey
Figueiredo and his family are preparing to move to Phoenix this summer (2021) where Anna will complete her residency. They plan to be there for three years and hope to return to Searcy to continue the work he has started and rejoin his new church family. He is sad to be leaving their new home and yet, he is excited to see the work begin in a new location.
He asks that Arkansas Baptists pray for his family as they make this transition. Pray that God will provide a place to live and a church family that will help them grow and allow him the opportunity to minister to the community. Although change is hard, he knows God is in control and He has a plan for them.
Figueiredo quoted Isaiah 40:6-8 which says: “A voice says, Call out. Then he answered, ‘What shall I call out?’ All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
“Our mission in this life is to share the Gospel while we are alive because we are just like the flower of the field. We all will die one day soon. Our time is coming to an end, but God’s word is eternal and we need to share Jesus with others everyday of our lives.”
One Day: Serve Local will take place on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Registration begins on Monday February 15. For more information, to access resources or to register your church click here.