When Leniza Soares’ name first appeared on the ballot for superintendent of the Cape Verde District in July, she silently prayed, “God, what are you doing?”
In addition to being an ordained pastor for a decade on the Cape Verde District, Soares had also served as the district secretary and on the District Advisory Board, but she had not seriously considered taking on the challenge of being the district’s superintendent until that day.
“When General Superintendent Carla Sunberg announced my name as the elected DS, I was petrified,” Soares said. “I thought, ‘God, what am I going to do now?’ And then I said to Him, ‘Yes, again, because you called me to serve You.’”
Soares first said yes to God at the age of 9, when her parents, serving as pastors in Cape Verde, informed Soares and her brother that they had accepted God’s call to be missionaries. She said that on that day, God called her to missions, too, and she accepted His call to go with her family. Over the years, they served in Mozambique, South Africa, and São Tomé e Principe (as pioneers).
Soares’ heart “burned” in the missions-themed worship services presented by Nazarene Missions International leaders.
After completing a degree in psychology at a university in Portugal, Soares sensed God telling her that it was time to prepare for ministry. She studied in the Seminário Nazareno de Cabo Verde, where she now teaches.
“I believe now, in His ways, God was preparing me for this new leadership role,” Soares said.
Soares first began to pastor in 2009 and was ordained in 2013. She and her husband, Ailton, a physical education teacher, have been married for 11 years, and they have an 8-year-old girl, Graça Beatriz, and a 5-year-old boy, Benjamin Eduardo.
They faced a crisis that deepened their faith when Graça was born. They had only been serving in their second church for two months when their 1-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease, a rare condition.
“I stayed with her in hospital for one month and 19 days,” Soares said. “I was starting a new ministry, in a new island, at new church, but He was so special and used that moment to show His grace, His power to everyone. He provided angels in our lives; we learned about a new disease; and He didn’t take our Grace from us.”
As Soares steps into her new role as district superintendent, her vision is to develop the Church of the Nazarene as a truly holiness church by building strong relationships with the leaders and local churches and working together to double their membership. She envisions all the churches becoming 100 percent self-supporting in a few years.
Soares said the Church of the Nazarene in Cape Verde faces cultural obstacles to its growth: many people have inherited their Christian faith but not made it their own; economic obstacles that lead many people to emigrate for work or studies, reducing the number of members and leaders in otherwise vibrant congregations; and the temptations of entertainment world lure many to drink alcohol and serve idols.
“For now, I need to build structures and install the district with a good administration,” she said. “And I want to be with all pastors and churches to hear what they think, what they need, what we can do together to reach our goals and the vision.
“We are fully, completely for the Church of the Nazarene, with 118 years of existence. We want to be always new and fresh to grow as we need to and as our people need to.”