The name of the town in Brazil that the 30 missionaries from First Baptist Church, El Dorado chose to serve in 1986 is Redencao which means redemption. The purpose of our mission was to lead as many as possible to Christ that they might be redeemed. Our secondary purpose was to begin the building of 2 new churches for the work of Christ in the area.
On our first evening in Redencao we attended the worship service at our host church, Temple Baptist Church led by Pastor Rosemar (Hose’ amar). He had visited and given testimony in our church in El Dorado months before, so we had already met him. Also in attendance were our mission hosts Johnny and Barbara Burnett, SBC missionaries living in Belem. Their son Brett accompanied them and would also serve as one of our translators. The church held about 150 people and was full of members and seekers each evening we had worship services. There were decisions by people to follow Christ at every meeting.
We began each morning at approximately 6:30 AM with a devotion and prayer together. It was a good time to reflect on the previous day and commit ourselves to the work ahead. On at least 4 occasions and prior to our prayer time Bubba, Mark, Hess Hester, our Associate Pastor and I would go onto the streets of Redencao for a 2 to 3 mile jog. The locals who happened to be out those mornings and particularly the children, would look at us with amazement. The sight of Americans was rare, but to see a group of them huffing and puffing with exercise must have seemed extraordinary or even wierd.
All of us would usually go to the building sites in the mornings while the temperatures were more bearable. We would work together until the noon break for lunch. The evangelizing teams would take a short rest in the afternoon and meet our translators at 3 PM for our door to door visits. Cathy and I were on a team with another couple and we had 2 translators working with us. Our primary translator was Lorenz, a pharmacist with a very limited understanding of English. He would translate our testimonies to the people we visited and continue with his own conversation, inviting them to repent and receive Christ as Savior. An unusual Brazilian custom is that when one approaches a home, he claps his hands instead of knocking on the door. It is considered impolite to knock on a door. On one particular visit an elderly gentleman came to the door without a shirt. He stepped outside and following our witness , he suddenly ran around to the back of the house. I thought perhaps he had been offended. In a minute or two he returned with his wife and 2 children. He had put on his nicest shirt. All of them bowed their heads and repented to receive the gift of Christ for salvation! He said he didn’t want to make such a prayer without having on his best clothes!
On one particular afternoon of visitation Cathy and I accompanied Lorenz to 6 or 7 houses and were able to present our stories. We then stopped at a bar and pool hall in which 7 very rough looking characters were noisily playing pool. As we entered, the conversations suddenly ceased, and we weren’t sure what would happen next. The owner got 2 crates that Cathy and I used as chairs, and we presented our testimonies while seated. The pool players were quiet and respectful and before we left, we wrote all of their names on a larger list of all the people that had heard the gospel that day. Down the street from the bar was a grove of trees providing a shady spot for a family, and Cathy witnessed to them about the love of Jesus for all and especially His love for children.
Cathy, Bubba, his daughter Becky and I were invited one afternoon to visit a hospital owned by a physician Dr.Gerson and his wife Barbara, who was also a physician. They gave us a tour of the hospital and their adjacent home while Barbara prepared for us some very delicious refreshments. Bubba witnessed to Dr. Gerson through our translator Alberto, a Brazilian exchange student who attended Ouachita Baptist University. Dr. Gerson had never become a Christian although his wife professed a faith in Christ. In a very tender moment he repented and prayed for Christ to enter his heart and life. He told us through tears, “This is a moment I will never forget as long as I live!” He invited us to return on another trip to work with him in their hospital, which I was able to do in 1988. This account will be the subject of another post on this blog.
A highlight of our witness in Redencao was a showing of the film Jesus produced by The Billy Graham Organization. It had been translated into Portuguese and was brought to Redencao by Alberto. We had chosen to show the film in the town square on a Saturday night which is traditionally a time of gathering of the locals. Earlier that day we had a sound truck driving around the area announcing the showing of the film that evening. Since there was very little electrical power available, we had a gas-operated generator for the projector and a speaker system connected to Pastor Rosemar’s car battery. The screen was an 8 x 10 foot sheet attached to a wooden frame we had built. A phenomenon I wasn’t aware is when one projects a film on a screen like that, the movie can be viewed on both sides of the screen thus doubling the number of people who could see the film. A total of about 500 people saw the movie and heard in their native tongue the message of salvation. I know that was the first movie ever seen by many in attendance!
When our mission time in Redencao was completed, each one of us believed we had been faithful to go where the Lord had invited us and had experienced Him in a new and fresh way that we had not fully expected. The fields are truly white unto harvest and the Lord of the harvest is looking for workers. Upon return to our church and reflecting back, we believe that at least 200 decisions were made by people in Redencao to follow Christ by faith. Cathy and I were grateful to have been part of that team of believers and are confident we will once again meet our Brazilian brothers and sisters when Christ returns.