“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing “ Isaiah 43:18-19a
As I rose to preach in Portuguese I understood my language was rusty from years of disuse; I knew I must use an interpreter. This was in our Jardim Pinhal church a modest-sized church that was packed. Of course interpreting doubles the length of the message and diminishes its effectiveness. So I pulled together all the courage I had and began to preach—yes, in Portuguese. What was remarkable for me is that I spoke with a fluency I did not think possible. That was God’s gift to me and after that I preached in Portuguese when leading this tour group and later on during others as well.
This is not the Vila Bonilha congregation but one quite similar.
The story goes back to weeks to Smiths Falls when a friend, Tony Hedrick, dropped by our home. He came to wish us the best on this trip to Brazil. In our conversation I mentioned by failed Portuguese, a language I had not used in years. So there in our laneway, Tony laid hands on me and prayed that I might have the gift of tongues for that mission tour. That prayer was answered as I spoke in the Jardim Pinhal church. At that time I could hardly believe what was happening.
Now a side story! I used the phrase, “…our Jardim Pinhal church…” in the opening sentences. This was not just our denomination’s church but ours in a special way. We had been part of planting a church in Vila Galvão and Mário Adachi began to attend this congregation. But he wanted a church where he lived in Jardim Pinhal so Doris and I on Sunday afternoons after a quick lunch would travel to his home and hold a Sunday School in the open air beside his store. The truth is that Doris took the heavy end of the load with the flannelgraph stories and lessons as well adding on the teaching of the music and playing her accordion. All the while—we watched for those frequent showers that often chased us away
A thriving church often begins with a few people or just a family.
From that slow beginning this church planting went to a tarpaulin shelter covering a back yard; during that time we conducted our first baptism which of course gave converts a chance to declare their faith. Then the town council lent us land, we put up a portable wood tabernacle; with a place of worship the church grew. Later the congregation bought land and build their own church. The Jardim Pinhal congregation, similar to most others, had preaching points so that now it has a thriving daughter church.
Now we return to our theme of God’s power at work. More recently we visited our Rio Preto church with a missions tour group—that is the city where our family first went after language school. The meeting place was a hall with a good music team and pastor leading the service. That Sunday evening as I spoke I believe Tony’s prayer was answered again but this time God gave a special passion and fluency—in days gone by we would call it the “unction of the Spirit.” Something strange happened as I gave the invitation for each one to make Jesus the Lord and Saviour of their lives. This was all in Portuguese, yet one young man from our group came to kneel there on the cement floor of that hall to pray. He had not understood a word of Portuguese but he understood the message. He had already professed his faith in Christ but he felt something from God in the message that compelled him to take another step of faith.
It was Rev. Murdo Campbell who told me this story that came out of his early missionary work in Neves. He arrived back at his home exhausted from his ministry out on one of the coffee fazendas. There a person requested that he go to their home to pray for someone. Murdo went along but was so tired he did not try to pray in Portuguese but prayed in English. I do not recall the results of that prayer but I was told that those present understood every word. I recall a similar story told by Rev. Alton Gould when years ago he ministered in Hong Kong.
Rev. Murdo Campbell in Neves Paulista, Brazil
As I read my Bible I note that Jesus and the apostles show the power of God through signs and wonders. Yes, the presence of God has been seen and felt through the ages with happenings that can only be explained by His hand. In this day and age I believe that we desperately need to feel and see the power of God at work among us. My prayer is that we will give God a time and a place to touch our hearts and tough them deeply.