The year 2016 was a momentous one for Brazil. Civil unrest reached proportions unknown in the 30 years that we have been in this country. Corruption involving billions of dollars has been discovered in multiple levels of the government. This eventually led to the impeachment of the democratically elected President. The police investigation continues to uncover more corruption, and this leaves the country with little political or economic stability. We very much value prayer that our God will overrule and that the door will be kept open for the work of the gospel.
Here in Santa Maria, the work of God has been encouraging, for which we give thanks. In 2015, two young men came to work in the local Brazilian Air Force base and have been received to fellowship in the assembly. They are grandsons of the late Mr. Ronnie Watterson, who was taken home to heaven in May 2016. He had labored for many years in the state of Sao Paulo and saw assemblies gathered to the Lord’s name. His son, William, and son-in-law, Marco Gebara, along with others, continue to labor in the Pirrasununga and Descalvado areas. One of these grandsons was married to a young sister from the Porto Alegre assembly in November and the other plans to be married in May of this year. We are thankful to have two new young couples in the assembly here.
These two young brethren brought a colleague to hear the gospel, and during a series of meetings held here in January last year, he came to know the Savior. He was born and raised in a Catholic home in Belem, in the state of Para, in the north of Brazil. Through the truth of the gospel and the testimony of the two Watterson boys, he became convinced of his need of salvation. One morning, while reading John 14:6, he grasped the simple truth, that the way to Heaven had been opened by Christ’s death on the cross, and he trusted Him as his Savior and Lord. His baptism and reception to fellowship is planned for later this month, which will be another encouragement to the assembly.
Another young man was received to the fellowship of the assembly here, on the last Lord’s Day of January 2017. Neemias is the son of a couple who are in the assembly in Sao Leopoldo. He was saved during a series of meetings that our brethren Tom Matthews and James Armstrong held in that hall around two years ago. His unsaved wife was originally from Santa Maria, and her widowed mother still resides in our city. For this reason, Neemias and his wife decided to move here to live. We value prayer for his wife Dona Carla, who listens well in meetings and would appear, at times, to show interest.
We value prayer for the unsaved wives of three other brethren in fellowship here. Dona Dalilia is the wife of Sr Burrman and Dona Iraci is the wife of Sr Pacheco. Dona Dalilia has been listening to the gospel for over 20 years. Her husband and son are believers, and she has often told us that she wants salvation. Initially, Dona Iraci was deeply opposed to her husband when he came to hear the gospel. More recently that attitude has changed, and in a recent visit to her home, she told my wife that she knows she needs to be saved. The third lady is Dona Zilda, the wife of Sr Antonio, who was once an alcoholic. She told me after his salvation that God has given her a new husband. Some years ago, we had meetings in their home and, at that time, she showed interest. More recently she told her husband she wants to come again to meetings. We long to see God working in these three cases.
Recently, the work here in the south of Brazil saw two new national workers being commended. Both of these have decided to dedicate their labors to the work in the state of Santa Catarina. Joel Matos and his wife are living in the town of Sombrio, where his father Sr Jose Matos saw the assembly formed some years ago. Claudio dos Santos and his wife have gone to start a new work in Florianopolis, the capital city of the state. This indeed is a large sacrifice, as they are far away from any other assembly believers and truly doing a pioneer work. Towards the end of 2016, the first two believers there were baptized, including their own teenage son. In contrast to these additions, at the beginning of 2016, the work here lost a valuable couple. Brother Crawford Brown and his wife, Heather, felt it was the Lord’s will to move to the northeastern state of Bahia, and to start a new work in the large city of Salvador. For some time previous to their move, they had been in contact with some folks there who profess salvation. Toward the end of 2016, they began to meet together with these believers as an assembly gathered to the Lord’s Name.
Around us here, especially in the interior of the Rio Grande do Sul, there are many very small assemblies which need help. There are so many open doors for the gospel. Then we look at the vast areas of our state, and to other areas of Brazil where the true gospel has never yet penetrated. We must say, as did the Savior, “the harvest truly is plenteous but the laborers are few.” We thank God for the freedom that we enjoy to take the gospel to the people, but sadly, those who carry error and false religions are already using these opportunities to spread their evil. Satan is having every success in holding the people in the dark. We value prayer that our God will raise up those who will “look on the fields” and “come over and help us!”