“If you live for the next world, you get this one in the deal; but if you live only for this world, you lose them both. C.S. Lewis
To properly answer this question, “Why did we go to Brazil” would require a dozen or more postings on this blog. Life for every one of us is so unique and complicated that there is no one easy answer for the decisions we’ve made. Sometimes years must elapse for any of us to understand our motivation—hind-sight may clarify history and bring understanding. In this posting I want to tell about how the Gospel of our Lord transformed a family—a real happening that says as much about our reasons for going to Brazil as a lot of verbal jargon. I will let the oldest son in that family tell some of it in the first person. Italics are mine.
“My father was a shoemaker and very poor, his name was Luiz Tustão. Since his marriage he was an alcoholic, as well he had an addiction to smoking cigarettes and gambling at cards. Almost all the money he earned was spent on satisfying his vices. My mother took care of the home with five small children and to help support the home, she worked hard in the coffee fields earning 35 cents a day, as well as washing clothes for other families, by hand after cranking up water from a well with a windlass. It was my father’s habit, when he left work at the end of the day, to go directly to the bars to drink and then to gamble.
Since I was the oldest of the children, I often would go late at night, with my brother Valdir and my mother, to look for my dad who was always drunk in one of the bars in our small town of Neves Paulista. Neves is located in the interior of the state of São Paulo, Brazil. I was a pre-adolescent at that time and when I would go to bed to sleep after bringing my dad home drunk, I would ask myself, ‘How long can this situation last?’ I was not able see any perspective that was good in the future of my family. The greatest dream of my mother was to see my father free from his addiction to alcohol and to cards. She tried to find a cure for these terrible evils even going to the Spiritist center; however she never found a solution.
I was only eleven years old at that time but I already worked selling fruit in the streets and at the football field. The first time I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ was when I was selling candy in the central park. It was there I heard the singing of hymns that came from that small hall used for worship and where my mother attended. The congregation sang accompanied by an instrument that I had never before seen or heard. It was a portable organ that used pedals for air. Since I had a great passion for music, I entered the hall still with my tray of candies, and sat down on the front bench and I was transfixed with all that I was seeing and hearing. There were children in the service and I remember selling candy to some of them there in the hall.
Giving attention to the appeal that night made by Rev. Campbell, I did as my mother had done some weeks before, surrendering my life to Jesus Christ. It is now over fifty years since that time and I must confess that it was the most important decision that I ever made during my years of life. My mother many times invited by father to go to the services, but he paid no attention to the invitation but continued his bad routine of work, bars and gambling.
However, one Wednesday night instead of him going to the bar, he decided by himself to go alone to the service to hear the preaching of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit touched his heart deeply that night, in such a way that he decided once and for all time, to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and personal Saviour and at the same time to leave his addictions. That night my father came home sober at the same time as my mother was thinking about looking for him in the bars of our town. We were all astonished at this and when my mother asked what had happened, he said, ‘Olinda, this evening I went to a place where you never dreamed I would go. I went to that little church where you have gone and something special has happened. I accepted Jesus as my Saviour. I am a new man and I am going to leave behind all my bad habits. That is exactly what happened. With the conversion of my father everything changed in our home. He really did abandon his addictions of alcohol and tobacco, not going to the bars any more. He left gambling at cards and drinking but he did go to church.
Luiz Roberto who recounts this story is a man of some stature. Luiz with all of his immediate family have great artistic ability and in his case it is music. He plays a mean guitar and has sung at city-wide crusades. He has also been the administrator of our FMC seminary in São Paulo and has been a businessman owning a wholesale optical company. His sister Marlene lived with us for a while after the father’s death, picking up enough music in our home to become an organist in a large Baptist church in the interior of the state of São Paulo. As well she took the necessary training and taught school for years. The story is similar for the others in the family.
I recall Luiz Roberto telling me in later years that without the help we gave, their family might have starved. Add to that the transformation of his dad through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you will understand a bit of why we were missionaries in Brazil. As I look back over the years I imagine our lives would have been worthwhile it we had done nothing else but helped this family.