Spiritual Food, Fellowship, Furtherance
Written reports of the Lord’s work in the extreme south of Brazil have ever emphasized the constant preaching of the gospel, often in new areas. The reason for this emphasis is obvious. All who have gone there to labor have devoted the greater part of their time to gospel work. Given the difficulties of the work and its comparative newness, this practice is more than justified, for only by prayer and the spirit of evangelism can the light of the gospel be brought to people who are found in such darkness. There is great indifference generally, and in the religious sphere, lamentable confusion. The Apostle Paul found the city of Athens “full of idols” (Acts 17:16 Newberry margin). The confused state which we face is not dissimilar, but we have the added disadvantage that the name of the Lord Jesus is often associated with systems of religion to which crowds of people flock, but where the knowledge of the true gospel is all but unknown. The worker in Brazil might find his feelings well expressed in the words of Jacob: “all these things are against me” (Genesis 42:36). To those whose trust is in God, such fears are counterbalanced by the precious words of Romans 8:31: “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
Yet, withal, in recent years the number of assemblies has increased slightly and some “second generation” believers are now to be found in them. Without any neglect of gospel work, attention has been given to the increasing need for the teaching of the Scriptures; and we believe that the Lord is blessing this part of the work.
Ever since 1961, when the first conference was held, this kind of meeting has become common and well accepted. What we here call a conference is known as an all-day meeting in USA and Canada. The pattern has been to have a Bible Reading in the morning for two hours. After an interval there will be ministry for two or three hours and a gospel meeting to close. The conferences in Porto Alegre, Osrio, Capivari, and Novo Hamburgo generally have believers from a fairly wide area, because they are centrally placed. Believers in the interior of the state are provided for with annual conferences in Rio Pardo, Santa Cruz, Candelaria, Cachoeira do Sul, and Santa Maria. These are happy occasions when believers with little opportunity to enjoy fellowship with others from a distance can be together and share in the rich provision which the Good Shepherd has for His people. One thinks of the small assembly in So Jernimo where the brethren, although only having six in fellowship, made their plea known last year in touching words: “We feel the need of more teaching from the Word.” And so they set a date for an afternoon meeting for this purpose. That meeting was well supported, and will be repeated again this year, God willing.
In more recent years, some assemblies have set aside a few days for a somewhat more intensive study of the Word, and once again it is a pleasure to report that the believers respond well to this. In the early nineties the assembly in Porto Alegre began to make use of the days between Christmas and the New Year for this purpose. As each year comes round there is an opening Bible Reading when the book to be studied will be introduced. The readings will continue for as many nights as are available. From the second day there are readings in the afternoons and, for these, a different subject may be presented. This is not always so, and in 2004 both afternoons and evenings were dedicated to the study of the two epistles of Peter. Over the years profitable Bible Readings have been held on “The Sermon on the Mount,” “The Seven Churches” (Rev 2 & 3), and others. Prophetic subjects have been examined and, in the goodness of God, annual attendance of perhaps 200 people has been maintained. It is a very hot time of the year, but somehow our memories are more of the joy of delving into the Word than of the pressures of excessive heat. Perhaps some sisters with small children sleeping on their knees might feel differently about this.
The work in So Gabriel has developed well over the last thirty years, but has had the disadvantage of being somewhat isolated through distance from the other assemblies. Back in the eighties our late brother Wilfred Glenn commenced a week of Bible Readings which soon became an annual event. These readings are now carried on at Carnival time. This is a time when the world engages in “riotous living,” but the believers there are happy to spend the time around the Word. In spite of the distance involved, a number will travel each year to be present, and the missionaries always cooperate to make sure that there are sufficient brethren there to take care of the readings. In recent years they have gone through part of I John and also I Corinthians 10-11.
Another isolated assembly is that in Trs Passos. That assembly, which was formed in 2001, has also dedicated almost a week to Bible readings with some ministry as well. Somehow most of the few believers seem to manage to take a few days holidays so as to be present. This year the meetings were held from 26th to 29th July. Some details of the program may be of interest. On each of the four nights there were Bible Readings on I Corinthians 10-12. In the three morning sessions there were readings when the subject was “The Return from Babylon.” These were based on the book of Ezra. In the three afternoon sessions there was ministry on the “Life of Solomon.” The local believers showed definite appreciation of happy days spent over the Word. Once again there were sufficient leading brethren present to give help in all of this.
There are now 19 assemblies in this southern part. When account is taken of the size and population, it will be immediately evident that there is much land to be possessed, and that concentrated and pioneer gospel work will continue to be the priority.
In conclusion, mention should be made of the formation of an assembly in So Leopoldo in May of this year. It is 36 years since work was commenced in that city which now has a population of 200,000. Development over the years was slow, though some who came to faith in Christ were well worth waiting for. The twenty-one members who comprise this assembly were in fellowship in Novo Hamburgo, where they are now much missed. The parent assembly is left with about 26 in fellowship.
We take the opportunity to thank the Lord’s dear people for their faithful remembrance in prayer. Their constant intercession accounts for much that brings encouragement even in these difficult times.