Two Sisters from Brazil Sharing One Heart for the Global Oppressed

Shirley and Joyce Porto

According to Open Doors USA World Watch List, 245 million Christians (1 in 9) are suffering high levels of persecution around the world, including an average of 11 Christians killed for their faith each day. For DBU graduate students Shirley and Joyce Porto, two sisters from Brazil, that number is an urgent call for those living in cultures of freedom to act on their behalf. Shirley and Joyce are working together to make a big impact on campus and inspire others to serve the global cause of the oppressed, give voice to the voiceless, and make the world a more just place for all.

Joyce is pursuing a dual master’s degree in International Studies and Global Leadership with a passion for studying the intersection between culture, sociology, leadership, and politics through a Christian perspective. She aspires one day to be a college professor, mentoring young adults during a critical time in their lives to respond to God’s calling and make good choices that will impact their future for His glory.

Shirley was a psychology/counseling student before coming to DBU. However, her love for politics and its relationship to the Christ-centered mission of defending human rights led her to also choose the MAIS/MAGL program at DBU. Her plan following graduation is to work for a non-profit that improves the living conditions of the needy. “I believe that the Gospel invites us to walk in the world like Jesus did, love what He loves, and be concerned with the things He is concerned, and people are the center of it.”

Shirley helps the International Office organize conferences hosting international leaders on the DBU campus, such as one recent visit of 16 Indian principals from the Arab country of Oman, and Joyce teaches and tutors international students in the Intensive English Program. They also serve together as student leaders and co-presidents of DBU’s chapter of the Wilberforce Initiative, an organization devoted to the cause of advancing freedom for the persecuted worldwide. “Our vision is to have every student on campus using their voice for a bigger purpose such as international religious freedom,” says Joyce. “Many people around the world are suffering and being persecuted without being heard. We can speak up for them. So, I hope to encourage students to be their voices and stop injustice. As free people, people of the Kingdom of God, we are called to free others.”

Shirley also wants students to know that they have a voice, “that they can use it for good, and that it is both a privilege and a duty,” just as it says in Proverbs 31:8: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Also, becoming involved with the Wilberforce Initiative “gives students the awareness of how important freedom really is,” she continues. “We just learn the importance of something when we see the consequences of losing it.”

This summer, Shirley and Joyce returned home to Brazil to visit family and friends but also joined BGCT, BWA, and local Brazilian missionaries in the rehabilitation of homeless persons and drug addicts, while working with children who live in high risk and high poverty areas of Rio. Additionally, they had the chance to visit the capital, Brasilia, and meet with staff members of the Federal Education Office and government representatives to share about DBU and to advocate for the plight of those experiencing injustice. Both sisters also are trained and skilled in sign language and have had the unique opportunity to sign for the President of Brazil.

“To me, it is impossible to disassociate what I believe from what I do and how I see things,” says Shirley in expressing how her faith in Christ impacts her active concern for global justice. Joyce’s faith also motivates her to be the hands and feet of Christ to others, especially those who urgently need it most. “The church is responsible to go and spread the values of God, calling people to be followers of Jesus. So, when we advocate for religious freedom we are advocating for the persecuted and the persecuted church. What a great purpose it is. But it needs to be done now because our brothers and sisters are suffering right now.”

Written by Dr. Michael Whiting

Dr. Michael Whiting is the Director of Written Content in University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.