The Work of the Lord in Central Brazil
By William Watterson Pirassununga, Brazil
‘In Brazil, a land of religious liberty, all religions are represented and active. Most profess to be Roman Catholic but Spiritism in two distinct forms influences the thinking and practices of millions. Evangelicals, especially Pentecostals of every shade, have increased very much in latter times, but the results of their work are very unsatisfactory’.
The paragraph above is quoted from our dear brother Wilson’s introduction to the article on Southern Brazil for the May 2020 edition of this magazine. Even though we live and serve the Lord in different regions of Brazil and are located over one thousand kilometres North from Porto Alegre, our circumstances in relation to religion are the same as what he presented in that introduction. We are located in the state of São Paulo, slightly south from the centre of Brazil. The state has an area slightly larger than the UK, but a smaller population. In what is the richest state in Brazil, we have excellent roads and infrastructure, and society around us is becoming increasingly indifferent to the gospel.
The region I wish to mention in this article is a small part of this state of São Paulo, located about 200 kilometres north from the state capital (also called São Paulo), and is roughly the size of Northern Ireland minus Tyrone and Fermanagh, but nowhere near as densely populated – there are only twelve towns or villages in this specific area.
The gospel arrived in this part of Brazil in the late 1960s, when my parents, Ronnie and Janeta Watterson, moved to Descalvado. During the next fifty years the Lord blessed the preaching of the gospel, and nine assemblies were planted. These assemblies have been strengthened by Him to take the gospel to neighbouring towns also.
The first assembly in this region was planted in Descalvado, forty-five kilometres northwest of Pirassununga with a population of 31,000, in the early 1970s and from it the gospel was carried to various other towns round about. Over the years, two brethren have been commended from Descalvado and serve the Lord full-time in this region. Today, the assembly is weaker as many of the first generation have passed on, and there are not so many to take their place. My parents lived in Descalvado for most of these years except for a small spell in Pirassununga. Dad is buried there, and Mum carries on serving the Lord among the saints in that town.
The next two assemblies to be planted, also in the 1970s, were in Pirassununga, with a population of 70,000, and Ibaté, with a population of 30,000. Pirassununga, where we have lived for the past thirty years, has around thirty-five in fellowship in the assembly. Ibaté is slightly smaller in number. The assembly in Pirassununga was used by the Lord in establishing an assembly in the neighbouring town of Aguaí recently. In Ibaté, the mostly young assembly has suffered pressure from believers who do not value the simplicity of the New Testament pattern for an assembly; we pray the Lord may preserve them sound in doctrine.
In the 1980s, an assembly was planted in S. C. das Palmeiras, a town with a population of 29,000. A believer from Descalvado, who was called home last year, was a door-to-door salesman and he spoke about his faith as he sold his wares. His efforts were blessed by the Lord, and the believers from Descalvado held several series of gospel meetings, using a tent and a rented hall, until the Lord moved in salvation and an assembly was established. Some years later a brother from Descalvado was commended to the Lord’s work there. Today, they number around twenty-five in fellowship and have been reaching out to the town of Guaxupé, about 120 kilometres from them. A young couple saved in Palmeiras moved to Guaxupé and the gospel is preached every week in their home.
Around the same time, an assembly was planted in Leme, twenty kilometres south from Pirassununga with a population of 91,000. A brother who had been commended from Descalvado and was living in Pirassununga moved there in the late 1980s. He started meetings in his home with the full support of the believers in Pirassununga. The Lord blessed his labours, and the assembly there continues strongly to this day with around twenty-five in fellowship. They have a weekly meeting in the neighbouring town of Araras, again in the home of a saved couple who are in fellowship in Leme.
In the 1990s a good work was commenced in Casa Branca, with a population of 28,000, by our dear brother Andrew Renshaw, commended from England to Pirassununga. After seeing an assembly established, he had to return to England for health reasons. Sadly, the work in Casa Branca is very weak today. There is only one brother, his wife, and an elderly sister. The brother, even though not gifted to teach or preach the gospel, faithfully carries on the work, helped, when possible, by believers from Pirassununga and S. C. das Palmeiras.
Moving into the 2000s, we were glad to see the Lord moving in the small village of S. C. da Conceição, with a population of 4,000. The whole village had been covered with tracts many times over the years and we had held many series of gospel meetings in rented rooms and in the tent but had seen absolutely no fruit from all the seed sown. Then, when the season for reaping arrived, the Lord moved the heart of a young couple from Pirassununga assembly to live in Conceição. The brother travelled to Pirassununga to work every day. They began a weekly gospel meeting in their home, and blessing was seen very quickly. Souls were saved, and today a small assembly with over a dozen in fellowship continues there although the couple have since moved back to Pirassununga.
Also, in the early 2000s, we began visiting Aguaí, a town with a population of 32,000 and situated fifty kilometres east from us. In 2004 a little room was rented, and a weekly gospel meeting held. Slowly, souls were saved, a plot was bought and a little hall built and in March 2015 the believers there gathered to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread for the first time. Today, they number around fifteen and are continuing well.
The most recently established assembly in this region is in Porto Ferreira, after almost fifty years of gospel preaching! In 1971, there was a good interest in the gospel there and some were saved. A little hall was built and since then two weekly gospel meetings, Tuesday and Lord’s Day, have been carried on without a break. A number have been saved during the decades, but various problems have prevented the establishing of an assembly. Believers from Descalvado and Pirassununga carried on the meetings, but Porto Ferreira was always ‘hard ground’. Eventually, in October 2017, we had the joy of seeing a little group of twelve believers remember the Lord there in the breaking of bread.
Our state of São Paulo has over 600 towns and villages, most of them with no testimony according to the New Testament pattern. We value your prayers for these nine assemblies and other places further away where we try to help when possible.
Another aspect of the Lord’s work in this part of Brazil which I would like to mention is the literature work, which began in the late 1980s. The Lord has blessed in the translation and publication of the whole New Testament series of Ritchie Commentaries, and the Old Testament commentaries are progressing well. 1 Of the expected nineteen volumes covering the Old Testament, eight have been published, one is ready to be printed, and various others are being translated or edited. Many believers in Brazil (also T. Blackman and S. Curran in the UK) help us in this important work. We also publish a quarterly magazine for believers, issued free of charge to assemblies all over this vast land and further afield, and various other books and booklets.
To appreciate the importance of literature work in Brazil, it is necessary to take into account the size of the country and the small population densities in the North and North-East regions. For example, there is a little assembly in the state of Ceará (North-East region of Brazil), 3,000 kilometres from us. Two young men who came down to our region to work in the sugar-cane plantations some years ago were saved while here and through them the Lord has established a little assembly in that isolated and poverty-stricken area. There is no assembly even remotely close to them. We try to visit them when possible, but literature is tremendously useful in their specific circumstances and for other believers in similar situations. We value your prayers for this aspect of the work also.
‘The coming of the Lord draweth nigh’, Jas. 5. 8; ‘therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord’, 1 Cor. 15. 58.
1 T. Wilson and K. Stapley (eds.), What the Bible Teaches, Ritchie New Testament Commentaries, John Ritchie Ltd.; W. Steveley and D. E. West (eds.), What the Bible Teaches, Ritchie Old Testament Commentaries, John Ritchie Ltd.