Surgeon and health educator co-founded first healthy lifestyle center in Portugal.
Published on: 01-16-2023
Judith Marianne Ferreira (known as Marianne) passed away in Penela, Portugal, on January 8, 2023, at home, surrounded by the nurses and family who took care of her in the final stages of her life, after a four-year battle with cancer. She was a medical doctor and a missionary with a focus on the role of health ministries to make other people whole in Jesus.
A Daughter of Missionaries
Marianne was born in 1965 in Bulawayo, Rhodesia. Part of a fourth generation of Seventh-day Adventists, her parents were missionaries at the Solusi Mission. Marianne’s father died when she was only two years old.
After her father’s death, the family moved to Cape Town, South Africa, where Marianne grew up and went to the University of Cape Town (UCT) medical school. She discovered her calling to be a missionary. While at medical school, she knitted woolen sweaters and sold them to colleagues, donating the funds to mission work.
When Marianne was 19, she met Viriato at Claremont Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cape Town. They were both attending UCT. Viriato, too, had felt the calling to become a missionary.
Marianne and Viriato married in 1987, both at the age of 22. After their wedding, Marianne pursued further studies in surgery and pediatrics in preparation for mission work.
In 1994, the young couple accepted a call to the remote region of northern Namibia to do medical work among the local people, particularly within the Himba tribe, as part of a Global Mission project. They worked in Namibia for four years and helped to establish the local mission. There, Marianne and Viriato were both surgeon and general doctor for thousands of patients.
The Family Grows
During their period of service in Namibia, the couple was blessed with Daniel, their first child, whom the local tribe named “Waeta,” which means, “they brought.” When questioned why they gave him that name, the tribe members answered: “ ‘They brought’ to us the knowledge of God.”
While in Namibia, the Ferreiras expanded their family by adopting Muundja Mbinge, an eight-year-old child who needed a home.
Starting the Lifestyle Center in Portugal
In 1999, the Ferreiras accepted an invitation to settle in Portugal, where they were to help start the first Adventist lifestyle center and clinic in the country. They arrived in Portugal in 2002 after a period of training in lifestyle and preventive medicine in the United States.
Marianne co-founded the Portuguese Association of Preventive Medicine in 2003. To support her participation in the mission, she learned the language and sat for the Portuguese medical exams to be able to work in the country. She started seeing patients and provided medical assistance at the local Adventist retirement home.
Marianne was loved by patients who traveled from far and near to come and see her. Her main focus was being close to the patients, having their well-being as priority, and helping the mission grow.
The VitaSalus Lifestyle Center
In 2011, the Ferreiras moved to Penela, near Coimbra, where the new VitaSalus Lifestyle Center was in the beginning stages of development. The couple dedicated all their will and efforts to the development of the center by personal and family sacrifice.
Clarisse, their second biological child, was born in Portugal.
“She was always a cheerful doctor, who helped thousands of people with an unmatched joy, night and day,” Viriato said. “Without her vison, quiet and loving spirit, and without her sacrificial giving of herself in love, the VitaSalus Lifestyle Center would never have been established. Many have been touched by the love of Jesus through her life.”
Marianne passed away in the certainty that the next time she opens her eyes, she will see the face of Jesus welcoming her to be with Him and all the faithful for eternity.