No matter one’s culture or country, the message of the Gospel is profound. Pastors Edson and Elizabeth Dos Santos understand this truth better than most. They know that one’s status, language, history, and home may differ vastly from another’s, but the story of our Lord and His redeeming love holds the power to break down these barriers. Through their travels, Edson and Elizabeth have learned firsthand that a country’s borders and a building’s concrete walls can’t confine Christ’s love.
Welcome to America
On January 1, 2000, Pastors Edson and Elizabeth celebrated the new millennium in Peru. They’d begun their ministry careers several years prior as pastors in the neighboring country of Brazil, where both were born and raised. But shortly after, God called the young couple to the mission field. They traveled throughout South America, serving primarily in Chile and Peru, until the year 2000 when Edson and Elizabeth received an invitation to evangelize in America. “We came as missionaries and church planters,” says Pastor Edson. By the end of 2000, the couple had settled into Greenville, South Carolina, to start their church.
During the first six months, the church catered to Brazilians, offering services in Portuguese. But once again, God led Edson and Elizabeth to reach an audience beyond their own culture and heritage. “In our hearts, God said it would be a church for the community,” says Pastor Edson. With their calling clear, the couple introduced the first Spanish services in May of 2001 and renamed the church two years later to reflect their vision for its future—Comunidad Cristiana Internacional (CCI), which translates to International Christian Community.
“Good Morning, Greenville”
Since the church’s beginning, Pastors Edson and Elizabeth’s heart for community and evangelism shaped their outreach efforts. In 2005, CCI introduced one of the church’s most effective methods for reaching the community when they launched a 6 a.m. radio program called “Good Morning, Greenville.” For nearly a decade, this program has reached men and women both in and around Greenville, inviting the community to join the congregation. “There are people coming to the church who were converted through the radio, people who used to be alcoholics and drug addicts,” says Pastor Edson.
As a further testament to CCI’s outreach efforts, each guest that joins CCI often adopts the same heart for evangelism that drew them into the church. “We are really working to connect with people when they come to our church and then to disciple them,” says Pastor Elizabeth. Beyond sharing the Gospel, CCI aims to train up new leaders. “Our theology institute is accredited through the Assemblies of God, and right now we have 40 students preparing for the ministry,” says Pastor Edson. “We also work with a program called Explosive Evangelism and are going to start a youth group so they can become evangelists.” Thanks to these programs, CCI has successfully planted six daughter churches in Greenville and the surrounding cities.
A Concrete Symbol
As CCI grew, their ministry also experienced multiple moves. Since 2001, CCI has operated in various church buildings, a storefront, an old hotel, and more. Eventually, Pastors Edson and Elizabeth realized a permanent facility was a necessary next step for the church. “We’re passionate about people, but we need the structure and the facility to meet with those people,” says Pastor Edson.
After years of searching, they found their answer in the most unlikely place—the Diamond Night Club. “This building is a testimony in and of itself,” Pastor Edson smiles. “We have members of our church that say at one time they went to the strip club and now they are members of our church.” CCI’s new location acts as a concrete symbol of the Gospel’s profound power to redeem and transform lives even in the face of supposed barriers. Over the years, Pastors Edson and Elizabeth have witnessed the Gospel prevail over language, culture, and country. Today, they are privileged to watch it overcome the tainted history of their very building.
Through the power of the Gospel, Pastors Edson and Elizabeth continue to introduce new outreach opportunities. Pastor Elizabeth has organized and hosted an event called “Escogidas” or “Chosen” for female business leaders in the community. “Chosen” sees an average growth of 100 participants every year, and this year it will be hosted in an additional two locations in Mexico. Pastor Edson is also working to develop a soccer club for the church’s children and youth. Beyond these endeavors, they’ve dreamed of developing a small gym, providing warm meals for the elderly in their church, offering literacy classes, and much more. In each new event and activity, their faith in Christ and His story propels their mission to evangelize and to serve wherever the Lord takes them. “Where there is a need,” says Pastor Edson, “there is a ministry.”