Federative Republic of Brazil
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Comprising nearly half of the South American continent, Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, occupying more than 8.5 million sq km (nearly 3.3 million sq miles). By 2005 the population is projected to grow to nearly 183 million. Among the earliest people groups in the area were Amerindian peoples living in the Amazon basin as early as 3500 B.C. Five thousand years later the native population was estimated at two million. The Portuguese arrived from Europe in 1500 A.D. naming the area Brazil after the brasa (brazil wood in Portuguese) and within three decades had settled on the Atlantic coast establishing sugar, cotton and coffee plantations. The native peoples would eventually be employed as slaves on these plantations, later to be supplemented with more than four million African slaves. Slavery was abolished in 1888. In the 1920s more than two million poor Japanese farmers arrived in Brazil, many of them settling in the area around Sao Paulo.
The Portuguese ruled Brazil from 1500 until a quasi-independence was established in 1822 sponsored by Portuguese royalty with an Emperor being declared. The monarchy lasted until 1889 when Don Pedro II was overthrown and a Republic was declared. The Republic collapsed in 1934 amidst economic depression. In 1960 the capital city was moved from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, a new city built in the interior highlands. Today Brazil is a federal republic with two legislative bodies, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Still considered as a developing nation Brazil does enjoy the largest gross domestic product of the South American countries. Services account for more than half of the economy while agriculture still claims nearly one-third. Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee and among the largest producers of cattle and pigs. Industry is gaining economic ground as hydroelectricity produces 90% of the power. Manufacturing is on the rise.
Because of the long history of Portuguese rule in Brazil the Roman Catholic tradition accounts for nearly 90% of the religious population. All other Protestant denominations make up about 7% while some African cults round out the population, though these cults are often mixed with Christianity. In recent years Pentecostalism has been on the rise.
The earliest advances of the Stone-Campbell Movement into Brazil occurred in 1927 when American a cappella Churches of Christ missionaries Orla S. and Ethel Boyers and Virgil Smith went to the State of Pernambuc. In 1929 they were joined by the George Johnson family. Twenty congregations were established by 1935 in Pernambuc and neighboring Ceara and Alagoas. Mac Lynn in his book Churches of Christ a round the World reports that a number of these congregations eventually turned Pentecostal and others disappeared. Virgil Smith was still known to be living in Brazil in 1999. Smith produced a Bible Encyclopedia that is said to still in use in Brazil today. After about 1940 the work in Brazil sponsored by American a cappella congregations closed for more than fifteen years.
In 1956 the a cappella Churches returned to Brazil when Arlie and Alma Smith launched a mission in Sao Paulo. An early focus of their work was hosting Bible studies in their home and a great deal of open air “park preaching.” Much of their early work was focused on the conversion of Catholics. By 1960 the Smiths had established two congregations with more than forty-five members. This work was greatly aided with the arrival of a team of thirteen families four years later. The goals of this team were to plant indigenous churches and teach them to become self-supporting and self-propagating. By 1990 the Sao Paulo churches numbered 18 with about 1,000 members and five missionary families still active.
By 1965 the Smiths relocated to Rio to plant a new church. In 1967 Belo Horizonte became the target area for a new mission as did Porto Alegre in southern Brazil; the latter mission was opened by the Allen Dutton family. The following year, 1968, the Walter Kreidel family began a new work in Cuitiba in the Parana State. The northeast was opened by efforts of the Sao Paulo group who baptized several in Recife in 1975. Suburban Salavador saw its first church in 1974 with a congregation being established in the city proper in 1984. The home of Vina Hall in Brasilia became the site of the first a cappella Church of Christ in the North Central region in 1978. In 1981 additional work was opened in Manaus and Campo Grande. More than seventy a cappella missionaries have worked in Brazil since the mid-1950s.
Several efforts at evangelism have been initiated throughout the years. Radio ministry was first employed in 1959 with a single fifteen minute Portuguese broadcast. Ten years later radio ministry had grown to twenty-eight Christian owned stations. Bible correspondence courses were offered free of charge over the air proving to be an effective tool. More than 14,000 people enrolled in the early years with more than 3,000 completing the courses and 700 baptisms resulting. Other efforts have included “Operation 68″ an effort begun in the mid-1960s to recruit one hundred families for the Brazilian field. Another effort became known as “Breakthrough Brazil” an effort to recruit workers for major cities and adjoining countries. A similar effort became known as “Continent of Great Cities,” a para-church organization to recruit missionaries for Latin American cities. “Brazil Church Planting Ministry” is at work in the state of Minas Gerais. BCPM is under the direction of Charley Huffman, veteran missionary to Brazil since 1967.
By 2003 there were an estimated 120 a cappella congregations in Brazil with a total of about 7,000 members, that is up from almost 90 congregations and 4,000 members in 1990. American missionary families serving in Brazil currently number about 40, working mainly in teams. Short-term mission opportunities to Brazil exist for those interested. Averages of 725 baptisms are reported each year. Since the early days of the Brazil mission the missionaries have recruited nationals to be evangelists. Today there are more than sixty national preachers, including Walter de Oliveira who effectively uses a mobile school of Bible in Sao Paulo. Children’s services include Le Cristao de Assistencia a Menores in Novo Iquacu. Health services include medical missions under the direction of Dr. Allen Dutton Jr. in Campinas. Educational opportunities include: school of the Bible in Curitiba; Ebnezr; School of the Bible, Vitoria; and National Biblical Seminary, Sao Paulo. A monthly magazine, Edificação (Edification) is currently produced for the Brazilian churches. The Editora Vida Crista (Publishing House) serves the needs of the a cappella Churches of Christ.
In the mid-1940s Lloyd David Sanders, a graduate of Johnson Bible College and Phillips University, and his wife, Ruth, began to look toward South America as an avenue of service. In 1948 they began Brazil Christian Mission and went to South America. At the time it was begun the Brazil Christian Mission was one of only two independent mission organizations (the other was the European Evangelistic Society) which reported to the International Convention of the Disciples of Christ. With the widening gulf between Disciples and Independents in the 1950s and 60s that relationship was eventually brought to a close. The Sanders early work focused on Goias, Brazil. Initial efforts at learning the language opened up opportunities for evangelism. Realizing many children did not know how to read and write the Sanders used their own language materials to teach local children. This led the to introducing Bible stories, choruses and Bible memorization. Working in this way opened the doors to homes for preaching and the establishment of cell, or home churches. While not the planned method for evangelization it did prove useful and led the way for “mother-daughter” relationships as more churches were planted. Also in this way the church developed into a Brazilian church rather than a missionary-focused church.
When the new capitol city was moved to Brasilia in 1960 the Sanders were first in establishing a church site, securing church lot number one for their new work. Theirs became only one of eight non-Roman Catholic church buildings that was allowed in the new design for Brasilia. The congregation today is known as is Plano Piloto Igreja Cristo. The site, not far from the city center, is one of the best in the city, and is presently also the location for the Faculdade Teologica Crista do Brasil (Theological Seminary). For many years David Sanders served as the minister of this congregation and yet holds an emeritus position. In preparing for the mission field the Sanders’ made a life commitment to missionary service. For more than fifty-five years they have served in Brazil giving leadership and direction to an ever expanding field of labor and influence. David and Ruth have labored for most of six decades, preaching, teaching, training, and counseling. Now in their eighties they are still active in the mission, including leading core groups, manual arts classes and leading a very special choir made up of the oldest members of the congregation.
The Brazil Christian Mission has been instrumental in helping to plant many churches throughout the country. The outreach of the Brazilian churches also includes Centro de Treinamento Missionario (Center for Missionary Training), Capamenta Cristo, (a national camp and conference center), Adonai Retirement Village for the elderly, and El Shaddai Children’s Day Care, among others. The periodical O Mensageiro (The Messenger) circulates news of the churches. For a number of years the Brazil Christian Mission worked cooperatively with a cappella Churches of Christ and in many areas congregations of both streams presently share together in different ways. Currently the Brazilian churches send out and support Brazilian missionaries in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mexico, Portugal, Jordania and India.
In 1952 another family of the American Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, Bill and Virginia Loft, began working in Belem, in the northern state of Para. After several years of successful ministry the Lofts later went to Portugal to open mission work there. Brazil had been a colony of Portugal until 1822. (See Profile on Portugal). It is estimated that nearly 200 missionaries of the Stone-Campbell Movement have served in Brazil. Among those from the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ have been Clint and Phyllis Thomas, serving in Urucara-Amazonas since the 1950s. Christian Missionary Fellowship has been sending missionaries to Brazil since 1957. Tom and Libby Fife first went to Brazil in 1965 and though presently retired and living in east Tennessee still make frequent trips to Brazil. Their son, Jeff Fife (born in Brazil in 1965), and his wife, Monica (a native of Brazil) continue the work begun by the Fife family in the 1960s. Jeff and Monica have also served with the mission in Portugal. Norman and Patty Maddux have been working in Belem since 1968; their School of the Bible is strategically located on a major street in Belem across from the largest Catholic Church in the city. Earl and Ruth Anne Haubner have served with Central Brazil Mission since the early 1970s. Phillip Keith McAfee is another second generation missionary in Brazil and serves as Dean and Professor of the Theological College in Brasilia.
In 1998 the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in Brazil celebrated fifty years of work at the Concilio Igrejas de Cristo no Brasil (Brazilian Christian Convention). An estimated 2,000 were present and fifty workers were set apart for the pastoral and preaching ministry. In addition to the Brazilian Christian Convention there is an annual gathering of missionaries for refreshment and relaxation.
Recent statistics show that at present there are about 440 independent Christian Churches in Brazil with a combined population of 90,000 members. Among that number are a few “mega-churches” with attendances of over 1500 each. About 80 of the congregations are located in the Federal District, 300 in the State of Goias in the West Central Region and about 60 in various other States. Stone-Campbell Movement congregations can be found in all 26 States and the Federal District.
Also of note to many Brazilian and Portuguese Christians living in the United States is Hisportic Christian Mission, directed by Wayne A. Long, a former missionary to Brazil. HCM serves Portuguese-speaking people, chiefly in the New England area of the United States, planting and assisting churches among the Portuguese-speaking population. This is a dynamic and fast growing segment of the American Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (see contact information under Points of Interest). A number of Brazilians have also studied in the United States at schools such as Johnson Bible College and Emmanuel School of Religion and have made a significant impact in congregations in both the United States and Brazil.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Untied States and Canada initially became involved in work in Brazil in 1968. Disciples missionary David Blackburn served in Recife for two decades at the Alto da Bondade Day Care. Jane Blackburn, David(s widow, continues to serve there. At present Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Unted States and Canada and the United Church of Christ in the United States has two Common Ministry Personnel in Brazil with the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil and the United Methodist Church in Northeast Brazil.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
For further historical reference:
Churches of Christ Around the World, Lynn, Mac, 21st Century Christian Publications, Nashville, TN, 2003.
The early records of the Brazil Christian Mission can be found at the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Nashville, Tennessee.
Web site: http://www.discipleshistory.org
Online catalogue: http://voyager.discipleshistory.org
Brazil – A History of Missions by Suzanne Lee at
A cappella Churches of Christ
Web site: http://alcance.cjb.net/
Web site: http://www.greatcities.org/teams-sent/brazil/brazil.html
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ
School of the Bible
Norman and Patty Maddux
Caixa Postal 801
66017-970 Belem, Para, Brazil
Brazil Church Planting Ministries
C/O: Charley Huffman
4812 64th Street, Lubbock, TX 79414
Contact Randall Matheny at
Web site: Alcance at http://alcance.cjb.net/
Web site: Bzeal at http://bzeal.antville.org/
Web site: Forthright Magazine at http://forthright.antville.org/
River of Life Ministries
The Fife Family
Av. Luis G.M. Guimaraes
102 CEP 13209-770
Jundiai, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Web site: http://www.igrejadecristodepirituba.com/relatorio.htm
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
P.O. Box 1986
Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986
Telephone: (317) 713-2575
Fax: (317) 635-4323
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ
Concilio Igrejas Cristo no Brasil
Presidente Victor Hugo Queiroz
Rua Aloisio Crispim, 75
Anapolis, Gois, Brasil
Hisportic Christian Mission, Wayne A. Long, General Director
93 Crown Avenue
East Providence, R.I. 02915
Telephone: (401) 438-9197
Fax: (401) 438-9190
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