The work of God in Brazil has been marked by hard work and patient sowing. God has been pleased to encourage of late with some fruit and growth. Our brother Tom Matthews details some of the laborers and their labors for God in the land of Brazil.
The year was 1950, Mr. John McCann, already two years in Brazil, visited the most southerly state in the country, Rio Grande do Sul. Extensive trips over rough roads into the interior, together with ample distribution of tracts and Bibles, seemed to confirm his exercise before the Lord that this was to be his field for gospel work. As far as the work for New Testament Assemblies, this was "virgin soil". It also proved to be "hard ground".
By the end of 1951, Mr. and Mrs. McCann, with their infant daughter, had moved to Rio Grande do Sul. Early in 1952, they were joined by Mr. Harry Wilson, also from Ireland. Together these brethren labored with little to encourage. Before the decade ended, however, several were saved and one small assembly was planted in the city of Osorio. In 1958 they had the joy of receiving to the field Mr. and Mrs. Sam Curran as well as Mrs. Harry Wilson.
The "sixties" and the "seventies" brought some measure of growth. Assemblies were formed in Porto Alegre (the state capital), Rio Padro, Cachoeirirnha, Itati and Novo Hamburgo. Other workers arrived. These included the writer (1967), Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred Glenn (1970) and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Wright (1974). All were united in the desire to do a work that, however insignificant it might appear in the eyes of men, would stand the test of time and eternity. They desired to establish assemblies for which the only guidebook would be the Word of God. Weakness has been evident and disappointments not a few. There have been no glorious times of visitation when dozens were saved. Perhaps this is before us for the future. In the meantime, the work moves forward slowly. We thank God for those whose lives have been transformed by divine power and who make diligent efforts to spread the gospel. Some of the assemblies are very small, but in each of them there are faithful brethren who will surely have their reward.
Other assemblies were formed in the eighties, during which decade, we had the joy of seeing three Brazilian brethren leave their employment to serve the Lord in the preaching of the gospel. These were: Carlos da Silva, Jose Matos and Roberto Ploia. In 1987, we welcomed Mr. and Mrs Gregg Buchanan and Mr. and Mrs. John McCann Jr. to the field. It was also in this year that we suffered two grievous losses in the home call of our beloved brethren Wilfred Glenn and Samuel Curran.
Currently, there are sixteen assemblies in the state and two of these have been formed in the last eighteen months. Ten Brazilian believers met as an assembly in Ivoti in April 1995. This work grew up mainly through the labors of Mr. Gregg Buchanan who now lives there, and who has had the joy of seeing others saved since the assembly was formed. Another assembly was formed in March of this year in the large interior city of Santa Maria. Mr. John McCann Jr. has labored in this city since 1990, and it has pleased God to bless in the salvation of some souls. In 1992 we were pleased to welcome to the field Mr. and Mrs. Lindsay Carswell. They have now settled in the greater Porto Alegre area in a city called Sapucaia. Like all Brazilian cities where work has been done there is no ready response and prayer and patient plodding will certainly be the way forward here as well.
There are times when little seems to be happening in the way of conversions, but during the current year almost thirty have been baptized and added to various assemblies. Of course, some of these have been saved for some time. Yet the fact that such baptisms were held indicates that the work goes on silently. The patient sowing of the seed of the Word is not in vain.
The work is carried on in the way well known to readers of this magazine. Each one of the laboring brethren has penetrated new fields. This, in most cases, has involved going away with families, to take up residence in these new areas. Contacts are made with the Lord's help. Meetings are held, frequently in the missionary's home, and through trusting God, prayer, and patient sowing of the seed, some of the hungry are found and brought to know the Lord Jesus as Savior. Persecution and criticism generally follow. Seeing we have never felt free to accept unscriptural titles, the new convert is quite often at a loss to explain to others to whom he has been linked. To say that one is a Christian or a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ will scarcely satisfy those who belong to a society in which the names of religion are almost as varied as the names of business houses. In general, the believers come to be satisfied with the "nameless place" and to love the simple order of the New Testament assembly.
Throughout each year, there are various all day meetings for ministry and the study of the Scriptures. These are well accepted by believers who are prepared to take long trips to be present.
Over the years it has been a great encouragement, shared by all the missionaries, to receive letters from the homelands assuring us of prayerful support. The volume of prayer increases and to our view, explains much that happens in the way of blessing, progress and preservation. All who thus strengthen our hands are true fellow helpers for whom we give thanks and who shall be rewarded in a coming day.