Local pastor readjusts after 27 years in Brazil

February 02, 1997


Staff Writer

Coming back to Hagerstown has been a big shock for Ronald Key and his wife, Darla. For one thing, they had to buy winter clothes for the first time in 27 years.

The Keys, who had been serving a mission in Brazil since 1969, are embarking on a new career at the Park Road Bible Church, located across from Starland Rink in Hagerstown.

Key, his wife and their four children embarked on their great adventure after they were challenged by their church to be missionaries.


Following graduation from South Hagerstown High School and a half-dozen years as a carpet mechanic, Key knew he needed more out of life.

After training with New Tribes Missions, the Key family began their work with the Karaja Indians in central Brazil.

"We brought our four children with us,'' Key said. "Our youngest child was born in Brazil.''

The work included staffing a missionary school for the children and working with the natives.

"We were part of a team that provided education and medical services to these people,'' Key said. "My wife and I were the only Americans in the team.''

In addition, Key started a church there and enjoyed that endeavor immensely.

"I never wore a tie during all my years in Brazil,'' he said with a smile. "It is much more informal there.''

Key, who was installed as the Hagerstown church's pastor last week, said the decision to return to the area was difficult.

The Keys came back to Hagerstown in July, planning to visit with friends and relatives for six months.

While they were here, the position of pastor became available at the church.

The couple had also taken physical examinations and learned they would need medications unavailable in Brazil.

Still, the decision to stay in Hagerstown and take the position was double-edged, Key said.

"We were disappointed not to be going back to Brazil but we are also looking forward to the new challenge,'' he said.

In Brazil, learning Portuguese was a must, Key said. The entire family had to be able to communicate in the native language of the Indians.

Their children went to school there in the village when they were young, then transferred to an English school as they got older.

Now the Key children are all grown up, ranging in age from 26 to 37. They have settled in Hagerstown - another reason the draw back to Washington County was so strong.

"We would like to see the Park Road church return to being a missionary-sending church,'' Key said. "We had 14 missions once and now we only have about five.''

Sunday school is at 9:30 a.m. each week. Worship begins at 10:45 a.m. at the church at 750 Park Road.

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