A few years ago, in an article printed by this magazine, I told how the work of God began around Descalvado, a small interior town in the populous state of So Paulo.
The loneliness and the seeming futility of our greatest efforts have never been forgotten, but they took on a different perspective a few days ago at the annual conference in Pirassununga. As I walked down the aisle in that hall during the interval, I noticed a brother sitting at the back. He beckoned me to come over and whispered into my ear, “Who could ever have imagined this 30 years ago.” He was one of the first to be saved in Descalvado and his comment caused those early days to come vividly to mind again.
There never were times of great harvests; indeed there were times when we seemed to be fishing all night and catching nothing. But today, although the road gets rougher and disappointments at times still wring a tear from the eye, we can testify to the goodness and greatness of God.
Today the picture we see in this part of Brazil is much more encouraging. In the immediate area around Descalvado there are six assemblies and, reaching out a little distance, a few more golden lampstands dispel the darkness. As well as these towns where a testimony has been established, there is work going on in Porto Ferreira, a town of over 50,000 souls only 12 km. from Descalvado. The first series of gospel meetings I had there was 35 years ago, but there is still no assembly. A few have been saved over the years, a hall has been built, and a gospel meeting is carried on every Lord’s Day.
A brother called Maurcio, who was in fellowship in the assembly in Pirassununga, and is employed at the local Air Force base in that town, had been exercised about a small town nearby called Santa Cruz da Conceio. He sold his new house which he had just finished building in Pirassununga and moved with his wife (our youngest daughter, Anita) and three children and started meetings in his home there. This move meant that he would have to travel farther to his place of employment each day, but it is a price he is willing to pay for the spread of the gospel. They have been helped, specially by brethren from Pirassununga and also Leme. We had worked that town many times since 1970 and had several series of meetings there, but we never saw any fruit. Also, a brother from the Descalvado assembly went to live there and stayed for a few years, but, again, it was a time of sowing but no reaping.
The first series of meetings after our brother Maurcio moved there was most encouraging and a number have now professed to be saved. They met together as an assembly on the first Lord’s day of August, 2004, when they broke bread there for the first time. After so many years of apparently sowing in vain, it is a real joy to see a testimony established there.
A start has been made in a town called Aguai, almost 60 km. from Pirassununga. I had the joy of helping in the first series of gospel meetings in that town, and there was a nice interest. Our son William carries on a weekly gospel meeting in rented premises. He is helped by some brethren from Pirassununga.
During these years, four brethren have been commended to the grace of God for the work to which He has called them. Belmiro Lopes was the first one commended. He was saved in Descalvado. After that a younger man, Liseu Alto, whose father was one of the early converts in Descalvado and today is a godly and wise elder in the assembly there, was commended. He left Descalvado and went with his wife and family to live in Santa Cruz das Palmeiras. It was largely pioneer work, and today there is a small assembly there. More recently, William (Bill) Watterson was commended from the assembly meeting in Pirassununga, where he and his wife Elen, still live. As well as the “normal” activities of preaching, teaching, etc., he has taken on a lot of the literature work with which I was involved, and has joined our brother Liseu Alto as co-editor of the magazine which is issued every 3 months; it now has a circulation of 2000 copies per issue. Shortly after that, our brother Marco Gebara, married to our elder daughter, Janice, was commended by the assembly in Ibat where they have been living for some years.
In the early days, quite a lot of open air preaching was done here, but the indifference and the objections from neighbors have had a part in causing us to preach less in the open-air and more in portable halls and, more recently, in tents. Our first tent was much used and as a result of such meetings many were saved. Eventually the combined effects of sheer vandalism and religious opposition were felt and the old tent had to be replaced. At the moment the new (relatively) tent is having some necessary repairs done, and it should be ready for use soon. God willing, the assembly in Ibat hopes to erect it in a new district about two miles from the hall.
With the growth in the number of assemblies we are seeing an increase in the number and size of our conferences. We now have several throughout the year. The conferences at Gama, in the Federal District, and Pirassununga, here in the state of So Paulo have been drawing the saints from a wide area. There are many places throughout the country where our literature has been very effective, and, as a result of these books and booklets, eyes have been opened and small companies have withdrawn from their former unscriptural groups and are seeking to practice what the Scriptures teach. Some of these groups seldom get a visit, and these appreciate in a special way the times of conference. The conference in Pirassununga this year had believers present from at least six states – an indication of how the Word is being spread all over the country.
We would appreciate prayer for the work here. Remember the many large towns and cities in this state of So Paulo, where few have heard the true gospel. Secondly, “another gospel” is proclaimed on every hand and multitudes rush on to hell with a Bible in their hands. Also we would appreciate earnest prayer for the preservation of these assemblies in the truth. We live in a day marked by departure. May the Lord preserve us all in the simplicity that characterizes the Scriptural pattern!