It is now 65 years since the first missionaries brought the gospel to the most southern state of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul. Many changes have happened in the country since then. Brazil is quickly evolving in its economy, and it is gaining importance in its position on the world stage. Religiously, many in Brazil are turning from the darkness of Rome but sadly, Pentecostal error is dominating the minds of many, especially as the ideas of the “Prosperity Gospel” promise a way to make advancement materially. We thank God that we still have every liberty to preach the gospel, but would have to admit that the general improvement in living standards and the advance of error has made the work much more difficult. We feel keenly the weakness that marks the work in so many places, and would ask for the prayers of the Lord’s people that God might prosper His work “in the midst of the years” (Hab 3:2).
The work in the Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina can be divided into three geographical areas. The area near the coast has five assemblies and two national workers. The greater Porto Alegre area has eight assemblies which are larger numerically, and here there are six missionary couples and one national worker. Finally, the interior of the state of the Rio Grande do Sul has eight assemblies, one of which is in the very northernmost part of the state, where brother Gregg Buchanan and his wife labor. The other seven are in the central area, and the general weakness of these assemblies gives us much exercise before the Lord. When my wife and I came to Brazil, 27 years ago, there were a number of missionaries laboring amongst these towns. With the passage of time, these esteemed brethren are no longer with us, and presently there is one national worker, brother Roberto Ploia and his wife, and ourselves who reside permanently in this area. We long to see God working in the salvation of souls and the strengthening of these testimonies. We mention some examples for prayer.
Sao Jeronimo: The little assembly here has never been large numerically. Sadly, within the past year, two members of the assembly were called home within a few days of each other. Despite this, the assembly is active in the gospel. One young brother faithfully labors in bringing the message of the gospel to the people. He often has to preach alone, but is willing to do so. We believe God can bless his exercise in the salvation of others.
Rio Pardo: This is where the first assembly was established in the interior of the state. For many years, there was one faithful overseer who cared for the flock and also was active in the gospel. When he was called home, the assembly began to lose ground. Today there are five in fellowship, and the weakness is great. All who are now in fellowship are elderly, and some are not in good health. This assembly burdens us greatly.
Cachoeira do Sul: The assembly here was the last to be established through the labors of the late Mr. and Mrs. McCann, Sr., who were the pioneers of the work. Sadly it has been fraught with problems over the years, and in recent times has become very small. There are now only two men left in fellowship, a father and his son, along with a number of sisters. We thank God that a few outsiders attend the gospel meetings, and once again, we wait upon God to work in salvation.
We could continue describing the situation in the other four assemblies, including Santa Maria, where we live and labor. None of these are without weakness, yet we thank God for those who are exercised to care for the little lampstands, and also willing to labor to see souls saved.
Turning from the situation of the assemblies, we at times become overwhelmed as we think of the vast areas around us where there is no gospel being preached. I visited a distant town recently called Cacapava do Sul. Over the years, the gospel has been preached there, and on this recent visit, around 30 homes received tracts and calendars. One conversation in particular upset me. A lady, who often attended meetings years ago, gave me a warm welcome to her humble little home. She told me that in recent times, she had visited lots of different churches, but noted that no one spoke of being “saved.” She does not have good health, and told me “I know I need to be saved if I am going to be in heaven!” I left that door with a heavy heart. Another man who also attended meetings told me of his disappointment with a Pentecostal group which, he discovered, was only interested in his money, and not his eternal welfare! Cacapava is only one example of many large towns and cities that need the gospel. Truly the fields are white unto harvest and the laborers are few (John 4:35).
During the past year, the 21 assemblies here in the south of Brazil commended two new couples, Joel and Aline Matos and Claudio and Cintia do Santos, bringing the number of national workers to five. It was encouraging that a new couple, John and Rosemary Davison, were commended from Northern Ireland. We value prayer for these and for all involved in the work, that we will be preserved and guided by the Lord of the Harvest, and that there will soon be days of blessing, for the upbuilding of the work in this difficult corner of the harvest field.