In this land of religious liberty, all religions are represented and active. Most profess to be Roman Catholic but Spiritism in two distinct forms influences the thinking and practices of millions. Evangelicals, especially Pentecostals of every shade, have increased very much in latter times, but the results of their work are very unsatisfactory.
The work in this southern part of Brazil began when Mr and Mrs John McCann moved here in September 1950. When I arrived in March 1952, there were no assemblies and no Brazilian believers that we knew. The state of Rio Grande do Sul has an area of 285,298 km² with a population of 11.29 million. Together with the neighbouring state of Santa Catarina, these two are about the size of Germany.
Over the years, others joined us and presently Mr and Mrs T. H. Matthews, Mr and Mrs J. McCann Jr., Mr and Mrs G. Buchanan, Mr and Mrs J. Armstrong, Mr and Mrs L. Carswell, Mr and Mrs N. Fleck, Mr and Mrs J. Davison and the writer and his wife are engaged in it. Others also have shared in the work. There are five Brazilian full-time workers with their wives.
We have sought to make known the word of the truth of the gospel and see sinners drawn to Christ but progress has been slow. The gospel entered Osório in 1953 and the first to be saved was a young man in his early twenties called Alécio Freitas. Another lad about fourteen years of age called Laudelino dos Santos was contacted shortly afterwards. He showed a good interest and read his New Testament diligently, but suffered very much opposition from his father. However, he got saved and he and Alécio are still in the assembly in Osório after more than sixty years. Laudelino’s father later professed to be saved and preached the faith he once sought to destroy. His mother got saved and was in the assembly until she went to be with Christ. He has three brothers and a sister in assembly fellowship and a nephew in full-time service for the Lord.
Series of gospel meetings are held in homes, rented rooms or buildings of different kinds and meetings are held four, five or six nights per week for five or six weeks or more. The area is visited with tracts and invitations but usually large numbers of visitors do not attend. However, the use of the word of God enables useful contacts to be made which lead to salvation. We do not often see immediate results but have proved that, ‘your labour is not in vain in the Lord’.
As in other lands, there is always opposition to the truth of the gospel. There is no persecution, but religious leaders, relatives, workmates and others unite to show their disapproval. Not all who are impressed with the truth are prepared to pay the price of obedience to it. Equally, not all who profess to be saved prove to be genuine and we have had our share of disappointments. However, over the years, souls have been saved and there are many who give evidence of God’s workmanship.
Adão Fialho was a Catholic when he heard the gospel. He was convinced of its truth and soon professed to be saved but there was something lacking. He resisted, but God was merciful and opened his eyes to understand his lost condition and the danger and to see in the Lord Jesus, God’s salvation. New life in Christ was evident and I cannot think of any other who was prepared to sacrifice himself for the Lord and the gospel as he was.
Antonio Knevitz was a Lutheran and I often heard him say that he was sixty-one years in the dark. God saved him and kept him for another thirty years and he never seemed to lose the reality and joy of God’s salvation. Most who had contact with him heard a word in the gospel. Most did not appreciate it, but Roberto Ploia, as a careless young man in his early twenties, was really awakened through Antonio speaking to him. He was saved shortly afterwards and has been a useful full-time worker for many years.
José Matos was introduced to the Bible by a cult and was a member of that cult when he heard the gospel. He got saved and has been an appreciated full-time worker for nearly forty years.
There are now twenty-one assemblies and each of these is the result of years of patient sowing. In eight or nine other places a regular gospel work is carried on and we trust that in each the work will grow and that assemblies will be planted. The largest assembly is in Porto Alegre, the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and it has almost sixty in fellowship. At the annual conference on Good Friday between 500 and 600 spend the day around the good word of God. Several other similar one-day conferences are held during the year in different places.
Our brother Lindsay Carswell is the editor of a twenty-four-page magazine which is published quarterly.
‘There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed’, Josh. 13. 1. There are large cities yet unentered, and many towns and villages that need to be revisited. There are open doors and needy fields on every hand but ‘the labourers are few’. We do need and value the prayers of the Lord’s people for the work and workers and their families in this vast, needy land.