‘To God be the glory, great things He hath done’ This first line of the old hymn from the Sankey hymnbook would be one that Alf Poland would have used, had he been here today to see the results of a work for the Lord that he started way back in 1999.
Alf began to serve the Lord in Portugal in 1951. Originally from Dublin, he started to work on a radio program of ‘Bible Messages’ in 1956 beamed into Portugal from Tangier via Transworld Radio. In 1968, a new programme was established sent out from Lisbon together with a new postal address for the handling of responses – the assembly in Santa Catarina. The first week saw just over 150 responses to the programme.
Financed by offerings from the Lord’s people , a trust was set up in Dublin to oversee the distribution of funds sent in for the express purpose of supporting the radio work. ‘Gospel broadcasting in Portuguese’ was its designated name, and it continues to this day with the same aims as those originally identified by the Trustees in the late 1950s, i.e., the desire to see souls saved, baptized and brought into church fellowship.
Over the years, the number of listeners dwindled, and Alf realized that the internet was becoming the new way of communication and, in 1999 therefore, he started what has become known as ‘Contos e Pontos’. The original radio messages were digitally cleaned by Alf himself and then re-worked and put on the Internet, with offers of both gospel tracts and Bible courses. Having retired to Southampton with his wife Clella, it was from here that he started this work. Receiving requests, Alf and Clella started to send not just to Portugal but to the rest of the Portuguese-speaking world. The internet had indeed opened a new communication channel not now just to Portugal but to the rest of the world where the Portuguese language is spoken. At first a few requests were received, but as time went on the number grew.
During this time both Alf and Clella’s health started to deteriorate. Help came in the form of Andrew Wood who assisted Alf with the technical side and he was later joined by Nigel and Eunice Foundling who with their knowledge of Portuguese, were able to deal with the many requests sent in to the website.
In June 2006, Clella was called home to be with the Lord, and Alf followed her in October of the same year. Their work, however, continues. The baton has passed into the hands of the Foundlings with fellow-workers Meg Crawford and Elaine Ferracini Cruz in Brazil where a new office now deals with the requests from there. Graham Poland ( Alf’s son) took charge of the Gospel Broadcasting in Portuguese Trust, but since the work is driven mainly from Southampton (Graham living in Barnstable, Devon) it was decided that the Trust should be transferred into the hands of new trustees drawn from assemblies in the south of England.
Nigel Foundling together with his wife Eunice from Millbrook Road East assembly, Southampton, took chairman and secretary roles respectively with John Lee (Bognor Regis) as treasurer, ably assisted by Philip Kimber (Four Marks) and Denis Butler (Newbury).
With the number of requests rising throughout July and on into September 2012 we give thanks to the Lord for what He is doing. In two weeks in July, over 2,500 requests for gospel literature were received and sent out from Brazil with others sent to Portugal and beyond.
Tracts sent out include ‘You are important’ and ‘Pardon is important’, together with ‘Seven steps to know God’. CD messages are also requested which consist of messages recorded for the radio broadcast and re-worked versions for Brazilian listeners. New messages are also being developed and, with help from brethren in Brazil, will be recorded soon.
A letter is sent out with each request offering Bible correspondence courses – there are now over 100 people enrolled in these courses. Numbers have been saved as a result and the next challenge is to put them in touch with assembly full-time workers in their own regions to assist in establishing them in the faith and supporting their spiritual development.
So the work, by His grace, has continued from 1999 to the present day. Please pray that the Trustees and workers will be able to faithfully discharge their responsibilities. For those actively involved in answering and sending out responses to the many requests, Meg and Elaine in Brazil, Nigel and Eunice in Southampton, pray that they might have wisdom in answering and dealing with often difficult questions and requests for help, and to help lead to the Saviour those who want to know Him. Again, we say, ‘To God be the glory, great things He hath done’, and is continuing to do.