Out of Darkness into the Light in Brazil
I was suddenly awakened out of a deep sleep when something cold and clammy landed on my face. Surprising myself with an automatic overhead sliding slap to the face, I felt the unidentified creature jump off and found myself unable to sleep, wondering what it might have been. I wished I could turn the light on to see what it was, but then I would wake up everyone else. As we are living in the heart of the Amazon forest in an unfinished house, it could be a number of things – giant beetle, frog, flying cockroach —the possibilities are numerous. If only I could let the light shine and reveal the truth. As my heartbeat slowed, my thoughts drifted off to our ministry here. These last three years have been full of trials for our family of five, but rich blessings have more than compensated. Our lives have taken twists and turns we did not anticipate, but finally we are seeing lives being changed as a result of the Lord’s work through us.
We moved to the small town of Rio Preto da Eva in the Amazon Basin to proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages, seeking to aid in revival and reformation in the Seventh Day Adventist churches in Northern Brazil. Churches in this area are plenty, but they are spiritually poor. Few Seventh-Day Adventists are even aware of the purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist Church or have heard of present truth; most have not read any Spirit of Prophecy; vegetarianism is almost unheard of; many church services mimic those of the other non-Seventh-day Adventist churches with loud, rhythmic music and dress that mirrors that of the world. The town itself is polluted with drugs and prostitution, government corruption, alcoholism and poverty. There is a great need for light to shine in this part of the world.
Our ministry is focused on teaching, in a variety of forms. Aluisio and I have preached present truth in several Seventh-day Adventist churches. After hearing the message, many have joyfully embraced the truth and are studying deeper, eager to learn more. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in suspicion and rumors, and doors to preaching have been closing. We also taught Sabbath School at the small church in the indigenous community. The chief’s family was most affected and instituted many changes in their lives as a result, especially regarding Sabbath observance. We have developed friendships with members of different indigenous tribes and are becoming familiar with their culture. Aluisio has led classes on Sabbath afternoons based on Last Day Events for Adventist youth and adults. Many young peoples’ lives were impacted as a result of his teaching and they have spread the message to other towns, cities and states. Recently, Aluisio preached at a camp meeting held for three large city churches and shared present truth with them, and the message was eagerly received. We are in the process of planning our own camp meeting here at our home.
Teaching has included not only adults, but children as well. Sandy taught Sabbath School for the children at the indigenous community’s church, with very good results. We also started a children’s choir at the encouraging of our two oldest children, Julianna and Joshua. They performed a Christmas program for one of the churches and for our rural neighborhood. Now we are working on an Easter program. Each program uses hymns and Bible verses to tell the story of Jesus and ends with our hope of His soon coming. We are seeking to reach out not only to the churches but to the non-churched as well.
Our teaching is making a big impact in the community as a result of a kindergarten school Sandy began with Aluisio’s sister, Vania Scheffel. Noah’s Ark Christian School is unique in both its purpose and design. One of our goals is to provide the children of Rio Preto with a strong base for literacy learning so they can be well prepared when they enter first grade and experience academic success. However, the more important goal is to reach these children and their families for Jesus, most of which are not Seventh-day Adventist. Religious instruction is woven into the curriculum and incorporated throughout the school day. We also have plans to hold health, cooking, Bible study and child training classes for the students’ parents. Enrollment is limited, as most families in Rio Preto cannot afford tuition and we cannot afford to run the school for free. However, we do not want to serve only the wealthy in our community and have included in our project design the seeking of individuals with means, who would sponsor an underprivileged child’s tuition. We trust that the Lord will provide sponsors at the right time.
Since our family has moved out of a small rental house in town into our own house on our property (three years in the making and a long way from being finished), teaching has taken another turn. Aluisio has been holding early morning Bible studies for interested people in our neighborhood. One young man, Xeta, walks a long distance, often through the mud, facing ridicule from friends who scoff at the positive changes in his life. He used to go on drinking binges and nearly lost his life from alcohol abuse. He has given that up and spends a lot of time studying his Bible and is hungry for Bible truth. He recently kept the Sabbath for the first time and frequently attends Friday evening and Sabbath morning worship with us. Another man that works with Aluisio often arrives before sunset each morning to be able to participate in the studies. He has begun studying the Bible in his home as well, and he and his common-law wife and her son attended church with us recently. Other young people in our neighborhood have been attending Bible studies held at our house on Sabbath evenings. They are hungry for truth as well, and a core group faithfully attends each week, with others that attend sporadically. We just held our first church meeting here at our home, and several neighbors attended, including a Seventh-day Adventist family that has not attended church for a long period of time due to the distance of the church from their home. As our neighborhood is rural and up to 25 kilometers away from town, many people do not have the means to attend church, which is one reason why we are holding church meetings twice a month at our home.
Trials have been many, as our financial situation became critical and we could nolonger support ourselves. Our land development projects that we started for financial stability have not produced an income yet. Our house took much longer to build than we ever dreamed and offered us one challenge after another. Our situation became so extreme that our United States church family sent us funds to complete house construction enough to be able to move in, and sent us some monthly support. Though our needs are many, the Lord will provide a way and will provide for His own. The light must continue to shine here in Rio Preto da Eva and spread to surrounding communities.
As my thoughts tumble and jumble in my mind, I drift into an apprehensive sleep, praising the Lord for what He has done for us and what He has allowed us to do for Him. The challenges that we ha v e faced over t h e l a s t three years have often made our way seem dark, but when we see the fruits of our labors and lives being given to our precious Lord, light shines on our path and gladdens the way. It’s all worth it. I am willing to risk even cold, clammy unidentified creatures on my face to bring souls to Jesus and help hasten His soon coming!
By Sandy De Senna. Brazil.