The Portuguese-speaking Republic of Brazil covers an area greater than that of the United States of America (without Alaska), and has a population of some 45 million inhabitants.
The 25 assemblies which now exist in the Southern States of Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo have been brought into existence mainly through the preaching of the Gospel in streets, markets, central public gardens, and systematic house to house work. Visitation of all who showed the slightest interest has always been a feature of the work and such visits have brought not a few into the fold.
The work began with the departure of a small group of three brethren and two sisters from the Merseyside on 14th November, 1925; other workers have come along since then. Some of the assemblies are fairly large, others relatively small. Three or four years ago it was a joy to see some hundreds of believers together enjoying the Word of God at a special Conference in Sao Paulo.
An earnest desire by the brethren to preach “in season and out of season” is in evidence. One assembly maintained a splendidly attended open-air meeting each Lord’s Day for five years in the centre of Sao Paulo City. On National Holidays and especially on 2nd November, the “Day of the Dead,” full advantage is taken to preach the Good News.
On the date mentioned, when the cemeteries are crammed full of relatives of the departed, the Message is proclaimed by hymn and speech hour after hour. Not just a few enthusiasts, but the entire assemblies realise their responsibility and privilege to uplift the blessed Saviour amidst the sad scenes of Romish idolatry, the mournful chanting of the devotees, the “holy-water sprinkling,” “priests,” the odour of incense, and thousands of miniature rivers of candle grease.
Most baptisms have taken place out of doors, in brooks, rivers, and that huge “baptistry,” the Atlantic Ocean. Usually the brethren with greatest experience in the local assembly perform the act of baptism. Believers of about 12 nationalities, but mainly of Latin origin, meet to remember the Lord in His Own appointed way. There is no colour question, and there is great unity among the assemblies. Some Sunday Schools have many scholars. Several of the assemblies are completely in the care of the Brazilian brethren. Workers from time to time visit them and minister. Great emphasis has been given to the priesthood of all believers and the responsibility of every believer to serve the Lord according to the gift received. The saints have stood firm in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free, despite religious influences which would hinder. Emphasis has also been laid on the fact that all believers should be missionaries, seeking to carry the Good News to all.
Some of these assemblies are separated by hundreds of miles. Several are in the remote interior where believers have been taught to read and write by the British worker. Others are near or on the coast, including eight in the enormous, second fastest growing city in the world – S. Paulo, with a population of 1,500,000. In reference to the maintenance of the worker, Scriptural principles work in 1947 as well as they did in the first century. One has been saddened since returning to Britain the second time, after an absence of 12 years, to learn of young zealous workers from the assemblies going into the mission field accepting control by humanly organised agencies. How glorious it is to take the Word of God as our guide and the Son of God as our “Director,” untrammelled by man-made regulations.
Going forth “in faith” as taught by the Word of God, in dependence only on the Lord, may sometimes mean “making tents,” or doing something corresponding to the Apostle’s craft, but even when this is necessary it is found to be for the furtherance of the Gospel.
May we continue to “buy the truth and sell it not,” and heed the exhortation to “hold fast that which thou hast till I come.” The commendatory word of our Lord in Rev. 3. 8 is surely precious – “Thou hast kept My Word and hast not denied My Name.”