Pam Rowlands of Hastings Baptist Church spent 15 years with Worldwide Evangelisation in Brazil and left there in 1981. Last year was the first opportunity she had to go back …
“Order” and “Progress,” the words on the Brazilian flag, impressed me when I stood for the first time on Brazilian soil back in 1967. A strong Roman Catholic country, the largest in South America, was in a time of change.
Politically things were on the move and two of us, newcomers, sure moved one day when tear gas was used to dispel a crowd we were eagerly approaching out of curiosity. Over time, Brazil has settled into a more stable country politically and is a pleasure to live in.
At that time a new awareness of the gospel was spreading and hundreds were coming to know Jesus in a personal way. Church buildings were increasing, especially in the big cities.
Our mission was to reach the areas where no Protestant church existed and it was hard going. Missionaries moved into these little towns gradually seeing a few come to Christ. My ministry in children’s work with another missionary was to stay with these co-workers for a week and hold special meetings for the children.
I remember the first day in a town called Santa Barbara, setting up the programme in a spare section where 60 children attended. The next day – not one. The priest had visited every home and forbidden the children to come.
Today Santa Barbara has 5000 members and 60 congregations. Last year I revisited Brazil after 25 years and met a man who said that when he was a little boy he attended that church and now is in full-time service for the Lord.
In another little mining town, consisting of small huts and not one Christian, a few children heard about Jesus. Today Barao boasts around 20 evangelical churches.
Cachoeira, a little country town where I lived for two years, struggled to keep its 15 believers. Now it has five churches while another close by rejoices with four other Protestant denominations. Sadly one of the churches with 200 members has dwindled to 2. The others, being dissatisfied, have moved elsewhere.
In Belo Horizonte in the 1970s and ’80s, population around 100 million, churches were increasing in membership. It was a thrill to sometimes attend a church filled with 600-1000 people. Today, one church’s membership has reached 40,000 which includes outreach areas. The city is 28% Protestant.
The Brazilian magazine EPOCA, a secular magazine, says that by 2020/2025 half of Brazil will be Christian.
A man who, as a child, peeped through a window listening to the gospel, wrote this for me last year:
“Brazil is reaping the seed that was sown in the 1960s and 1970s by the foreign missionaries. Now, as Brazilians, we want to offer the gospel to the world in repayment for what they did for us taking us out of darkness and sin.”
The Brazilian mission I belonged to has missionaries all over the world sharing the message with others who have never heard.
This is progress.