JOHN GUNTHER, well-known author, has written books revealing the inside, story of various countries. His most recent work, Inside South America, came off the press during my three-month journey through the South American Division. The true story of inside South America is not told in terms of materialistic statistics or political manipulations. The divine point of view of a nation, God's dealings with people through His church, is of ultimate concern. Events are of importance only as they relate to God's program.
They Mean Business
Arturo Schmidt, division associate ministerial association secretary, worked with me in the conducting of ministerial institutes throughout the entire field. Pastor Schmidt is one of the best organized and hardest working evangelistic-type leaders I have ever met. His tremendous physical and spiritual drive will mean much in aiding this division to effect a revival and an evangelistic thrust unparalleled in the history of our work.
Pastor R. A. Wilcox, division president, has his heart set on one thing only—the reaching of every human being in this territory with the three angels' messages. The moment I met him, he began talking about plans and objectives for this quadrennium. I confess I secretly thought that this could possibly be a sales talk for impression purposes. But his barrage of enthusiasm seemed to increase as our days of association passed by. I left South America with the unalterable impression that our leaders mean business in carrying out the 1966 Fall Council action relative to a worldwide evangelistic advance. South America, by the way, led the world field last year with a 13 per cent gross membership increase (see June issue). If plans and talk mean anything, I am confident they will continue to hold this lead.
Six-Week Brazil Safari
Six weeks in Brazil is sufficient time to absorb an overwhelming impression of a work that is not only well established, but making tremendous advancement. From Manaus, a thousand miles west on the Amazon River, to the eastern shore city of Recife, to the southwest metropolis of Porto Alegre I saw nothing but victory in the reports, spirit, and goals of our Adventist ministry and laymen.
Symbol of Victory
During my stay in Manaus I had the privilege of taking a trip on one of our evangelistic medical launches. Returning to port, we stopped by to see the thirtyfive-year-old Luzeiro I, on which the famous Halliwell family lived and worked for nine years. This tiny craft, awaiting complete renovation, is a monument to the truth that although God's work may start in a seemingly insignificant way, time will prove that the end thereof is a glorious expansion and triumph for the Lord's work. Today unnumbered thousands of people living in the jungles of Brazil are finding new hope physically and spiritually as a result of the work carried on by our missionaries on nearly a dozen launches.
Exemplary Ordination Services
One important service has been highly developed by our South American brethren. The ordination of ministers is not something which is tacked on to another religious exercise. It is a very special meeting commanding top attendance. The order and decorum never fail to have a solemnizing effect on both ministers and laymen. The entire program is carefully gone over before it takes place, thus the execution of it is practically flawless. Following the sermon, altar calls are made for young men and women to dedicate their lives to the gospel ministry. The Holy Spirit works in a marked manner as scores of young people respond.
Health and Prayer
Our Brazil College, located in the outskirts of the fastest-growing city in the world, Sao Paulo, has a fine dairy and health-food factory called Superbom. This name simply means super good, and I can personally testify to the excellent quality of the items I tasted of their eighteen products. The exotic flavor of the grape-andpassion-fruit drink is one you don't want to forget. The manager of the factory ended our tour of the plant in a small chapel, where he requested us to pray for the success of this work. Perhaps this is the reason that our health-food program is expanding rapidly not only in Brazil but in Argentina and Peru. The importance of keeping spiritual threads woven in the institutional fabric cannot be exaggerated.
Holy Spirit State
Catholic-dominated countries often label streets, cities, and states with interesting spiritual names. We have a mission called the Holy Spirit Mission, as this is the name of the state. The mission's name and the following story seem to be interrelated. One of our ministers from this mission was giving Bible studies to a man and wife who lived in a small village. At the time, our brother did not realize that in an adjoining bedroom this couple had a 25-yearold son who was sick. Later, an urgent message came to our pastor to come to this home for the purpose of baptizing this 25year-old son whom he had never met. After our brother arrived, the young man pleaded for baptism that very day. Naturally, the pastor attempted to postpone the baptism, but the man was adamant. A careful examination on various points of truth revealed that he was well acquainted with Christ and His special message for today. He had been keeping the Sabbath. He believed in the soon coming of Jesus. It was evident that he had carefully studied the Scriptures and had surrendered his heart to the Lord.
Death on the River Bank
Additional evidence in favor of an immediate baptism was the revealing of a new, white baptismal robe specially made for the occasion. Then the young man told the pastor about a recent dream of the second coming of Christ and the resurrection. He said, "My life has no more meaning now, and I know that when I am baptized I will die." The pastor urged him to seek competent medical advice, but he refused by saying, "I know that this will be useless as I am going to die shortly." He disclosed, "I have made arrangements for my place of baptism and also a burial site when I die. God is permitting me to live long enough to be baptized." The startled pastor was convinced that God was leading in an extraordinary way. That very day he took the young man down to the river and baptized him. Coming out of the water, the boy knelt on the bank, closed his eyes, and after a moment of prayerful silence, died. He was still in his wet baptismal robe. This entire episode made a deep impression on the family, and as a result the father and two sisters have been baptized and the mother is preparing for this sacred rite. The father is planning on building a church near his home and donating it to us. God truly works in mysterious ways.
Influence of Voice of Prophecy
Brazil's greatest single evangelistic weapon is the Voice of Prophecy program under the fine Christian leadership of Pastor R. M. Rabello. Pastor Firerobbin, leader of the VOP quartet, follows up Voice of Prophecy interests with three-week evangelistic meetings, resulting in hundreds of souls being baptized. The only barrier to greater expansion of our Voice of Prophecy work in Brazil is a lack of finances. They have a Bible school of more than 16,000 active students, and the message is being broadcast in excess of 300 stations. Their well-equipped studio is unsurpassed in Adventist circles. The most important thing, however, is not equipment or organization, but the precious souls who have found the Lord as a result of this ministry.
Planes and "Hams'
My first experience with contacting loved ones and fellow workers via the ether waves took place in South America. I was amazed at the number of overseas and national workers who have these sets. One day a week an Adventist "net" program is run, which not only imparts information but encourages those who participate. I am a confirmed believer in this method of communication, so much so that I hope our General Conference office will soon have a short-wave tower on its roof!
Undoubtedly, the South American Division is the most advanced in terms of private plane air travel. Half a dozen of our men have planes and many more are pilots. The results of their work have shown the value of an air program. We are years behind in using small planes in those areas where foot, animal, or boat travel is the only means of transportation. Our men in the jungles can reach in minutes what formerly took days and weeks. Scores of lives have been saved as those seriously ill have been transported from jungle to hospitals.
End of Football Game
Dick Gates in Bolivia uses his plane for evangelistic advertising. Once he flew over a certain town tossing out handbills advertising an evangelistic meeting. The concentration point happened to be over a football field. The game was effectively brought to a halt as hundreds of spectators dashed out on the field grabbing the handbills. Today in this town there is a new church organization worshiping in a beautiful temple.
Workers' Meeting High Paint
At each ministerial institute time was spent in setting baptismal goals for the year. This seemed to be the high point of interest and enthusiasm for the entire meeting. The eagerness on the part of all the ministers to set high goals was astounding. There's no such thing as a pastor here who merely spends his time preaching to Adventists. These men are constantly on the firing line, bringing in new people, setting the church to work, and following up interests that the lay members have developed. The division has set a goal for this year of 26,000 baptisms, but when the total goals of all the unions have been tallied it will undoubtedly exceed 30,000. Last year the South American Division baptized 21,546.
On the cover of the May, 1966, issue of THE MINISTRY was shown a group of men from the Bahia-Sergipe Mission who had baptized more than 100 souls. This year seven centurion ministers from this mission were honored with a special banquet. This particular field has only a dozen ministers and together they baptize over a thousand a year. Seven centurions out of twelve ministers is a tremendous ratio. What would happen to the world field if this same ratio were maintained! The doors are wide open in this area, and if we had more men and money there would be no limit to accomplishments. It is interesting to note that we have emergency funds for physical disasters. What a marvelous thing it would be if we had emergency funds for those areas where emergency soul-winning opportunities are ours!
Carnival time in Catholic countries makes credible Revelation 16:13, 14. From Saturday night until the Tuesday night before Ash Wednesday, a madness possesses the population. The entire countryside is in a grand uproar. The ending scenes of the One in 20,000 film show a New Orleans Mardi Gras. These are faint replicas of what takes place on this continent. Immorality is rampant. It is claimed that nine months from this time literally thousands of babies are born out of wedlock. A solid line of cars jammed with young people and older ones crawl through people-bordered streets. It is a screaming, shouting, water- flour- and paint-throwing insurrection. Tooting horns, clanging bells, blowing sirens, and exploding firecrackers emit an indescribable background din that ceases neither day nor night. I am proud of our loyal Seventh-day Adventist members who avoid this affair like leprosy. MV Societies make plans for camping trips during this particular time. This yearly Sodom and Gomorrah experience is one that indelibly scars the sensibilities of the people. The Revelation 13 beast power owes a fearful debt to society. The full extent of the influence of this rebellious force in the world will never be known until the judgment.
Not a Week, but a Month of Sacrifice!
"Elder, you walk onto that platform and preach as if you are preaching to millionaires, and make a strong appeal!" These words were said to me by Pastor Wilcox. Before going onto the platform, he predicted that the workers in the Chile Union would pledge more than $10,000 for evangelism and church-building projects. I felt that his faith bordered on presumption. After counting the pledge slips, we learned that nearly half of the 86 workers pledged a month's salary! The total amount was more than $12,000. This is not the final report, but it was enough to make it evident that these dedicated workers meant business. We talk about a week of sacrifice in America, but they talk about a month's sacrifice! The same experience was repeated in other parts of the division. Considering their wage scale, this is sacrificing until it hurts.
When it comes to records the Inca Union has the most outstanding baptismal record, which reveals they exceeded their goal by 627 last year. The South Brazil Union was the union that gained the greatest number-5,763—in this way reaching a church membership of more than 62,000. The Austral Union, even after parting with Chile, which has become the newest union in our world organization, baptized more people in 1966 than in 1965. Then the Chile Union, the newborn one, had the highest percentage among the unions in relation to its baptismal goal-116 per cent. The union that won the most in relation to the number of members, and therefore was the fastest growing, was the East Brazil Union, with 17.65 per cent, followed by the Chile Union with 17.57 per cent.
To do justice to a 90-day tour through South America in these few pages is impossible. I have selected just a few things out of more than sixty pages of single-space, typewritten notes. Perhaps in later issues we can include other pertinent information. Needless to say, every place visited yielded new thrills. I think of the Austral Union Bible Conference held at our River Plate College in Argentina . . . the visit through the Lake Titicaca area, including the floating islands. . . fellowship with our workers in Ecuador . . . the love exhibited between the Bolivian and Lake Titicaca workers .. . Paraguay and Uruguay .. . and an army of other sacred memories.
The dedication, the enthusiasm, and the kindness and love of our workers and believers in South America are now a part of me. I shall treasure these qualities as long as life shall last.