When discussing his brief kidnapping by guerrillas in the Amazon jungle, retired missionary and NTS alumnus Daniel Brewer describes the experience as “very interesting.”
Along with his wife, Carolyn Brewer, Dan had been serving in Bolivia for about two years for the Nazarene denomination. While driving to a Thursday night prayer meeting, accompanied by two student mission volunteers, he was detained by members of an anti-government militia. The guerillas had blocked their path with a chain at a small river crossing.
“When we stopped to ask why we couldn’t go through, they pointed a gun at us and said, ‘We need your truck.’ So, we were held captive by the guerilla group for two days,” Brewer recalled.
During those two days, in which they were treated well, word spread to their community. By the time the guerillas brought the three men before their unauthorized “court” for a trial, two truckloads of 50 people showed up in a sign of solidarity and support.
“That whole village, they came down to that kangaroo court meeting right at the river where they took us,” he said. “They sat in the meeting while these guerillas ran the meeting.”
The guerillas decided to let the three men go with no further threats. But they kept their truck.
Brewer said he was at peace during the ordeal. Despite that, his family was immediately removed from Bolivia and reassigned to another location. They served a total of 39 years in Mexico, Bolivia, Peru and Dominica before retiring in 2007 and returning to the United States.
Called to missions on a ‘blind date’
Brewer prepared for missionary service by studying theology at Eastern Nazarene College in Boston, Massachusetts, and at Nazarene Theological Seminary, where he graduated in 1966 with a Master of Divinity. He was raised in the Church of the Nazarene by deeply committed and involved parents in their local church. He accepted Christ as an 18-year-old during a five-day revival meeting in Cuyahoga Falls, on the edge of Akron, Ohio. He hadn’t planned to attend the revival but a buddy wanted to take a date to the revival and his date wouldn’t attend unless a friend of hers went, too. Brewer was asked to be her blind date.
“By the time five days were done, I repented and asked the Lord into my heart,” Brewer said.
His date gave him a New Testament. He started with Matthew and read the entire book twice within several months.
“I really couldn’t put down the Bible,” he said. “Getting the Word of God into my heart, I felt called to give my whole self to the Lord and commit everything. I felt a call to be a missionary.”
At the time he was a first-year architecture student at Kent State University. Pivoting to ministry preparation, he transferred the next year to Eastern Nazarene College, where he completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Religion and a one-year Bachelor of Theology degree.
It was there he met Carolyn Muriel Mary Keith. Carolyn was also a committed Christian but had not considered serving in missions. When he asked her to marry him, she sought counseling from her pastor about whether she could share Brewer’s missionary call. The pastor told her that if she married him, she was accepting a missionary call as well. Satisfied with that, she agreed not only to be Brewer’s wife but to be his partner in missions.
Advised by several pastors to seek training in pastoral ministry, the couple went to Kansas City, Missouri, for further preparation at NTS.
Theology courses prepared him to teach
Nothing equipped Brewer better for seminary than those first three months of his new life in Christ when he twice read the New Testament cover to cover.
“[That] prepared me for all the rest. Now, I had good teachers, but I sort of followed them so easily because of the word of God hid in my heart.”
While later teaching at Nazarene seminaries in Bolivia, Peru, and in pastoral training classes in Dominica, Brewer followed in the footsteps of his favorite professor, Dr. Richard Taylor, Professor of Theology at NTS. A course Brewer taught was Doctrine of Holiness, one in which he had learned much from Taylor.
“He made us do a notebook of his lectures,” Brewer said. “They’re so well put together, it becomes like a textbook. And then he wrote some good books, like Life in the Spirit…The notebook helped me on the field.”
Sound doctrine, sound mind
As a long-time educator, Brewer is passionate about how theology can bring transformation, but also how it can provide guardrails of protection for believers.
“Sound doctrine and sound mind go together,” he said. “You live better with right thoughts. It’s very important. People with wrong thoughts have more trouble.”
He recalls the first time he set out to teach a course on the biblical account of creation to about 25 students in Lima, Peru.
“As I started the class and said what the class would cover on creation … two ladies got up and walked out saying, ‘We don’t need this.’ That really bothered me because they do need it and I do believe people need that type of thing: they can think better and see better.” Bolstered by the formation he’d received at NTS, Brewer remained resolute in his call to serve as a theological resource for the church.
Raising up the next generation of leaders
Many things changed over the years as the Brewers served in missions, but the most important was the gradual release of leadership to local Nazarenes.
That first year of service, the denomination “didn’t send me to a church to be pastor, they sent me to be in charge of 15 churches in the jungle. In other words, we were in charge when I went. There were 12 missionaries on our field, off and on, and we began turning it over, more and more, to [local Nazarenes.] So, they were in charge when we left. That’s the big change. And they’re still going and doing well.”
When the Brewers, including their three daughters – Carla, Karen and Crystal – returned to the United States in 2007, he and Carolyn settled in Radford, Virginia, where they got involved on the Virginia District. Brewer taught courses for pastors until about 2012. He continues to preach in his local church alongside the staff pastors.
Carolyn passed away a little over five years after they returned. Eight years ago Brewer found new love with Jane, a woman he met and married in the local Nazarene church. They enjoy a total of 15 grandchildren.
“I had an interesting life and praise the Lord … we’ve lived in the best times: we’ve had peace to take the gospel to all the world, all the way from top of Canada (where Carolyn was from) and to the bottom of Argentina and Chile.”
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