Urgent Opportunities, or Missions in Brazil in the ‘Fifties

Author’s note: This post has been edited for content to make it more “history” and less “commentary”.

A few days ago I posted some video footage of Northeast Brazil in the 1950s. This next series of videos was shot about the same time. All four comprise a documentary made by our BMM missionaries for recruitment and fund raising purposes.

For me the following videos are informative on several levels. I love the intimate look that it gives into the daily lives and ministries of men and women I consider to be pioneers. When we arrived on the field a few of them were still serving. Most of them have either been promoted to glory or are in retirement in the US. Yet their legacy continues to this day.

After each video I will include some of my own observations:

The first part of this video gives kind of an overview of Brazil in the middle of the last century–or at least the American impressions thereof. At about 5:50 there is a humorous (to me) sequence about language school. I praise God that my own language training was nothing like that. I would probably have thrown myself off the nearest skyscraper.

At the 6:30 mark there is a segment about the Fortaleza Academy. Those of us familiar with Fortaleza will marvel at the fields surrounding the “Big House”–fields that are now occupied by row upon row of high-rise apartments. This segment also includes an interesting justification of the “boarding school” philosophy of MK education. And before we come down too harshly on the previous generation’s outsourcing of their children’s schooling, it may be helpful to note that several current missionaries can be picked out among the little tykes shown here.

This next section begins with some fascinating scenes of ministry on the Amazon, including at a “den of iniquity” (:49) Note the missionary at 3:40, working in the midst of the Amazon jungle–with perfectly coiffed hair!

At about 5:57 is a great sequence of a group of people bring a sick friend to missionary Harold Reiner’s plane, in a hammock. Incidentally, Harold Reiner is now living in the US, after serving for 60 years in NE Brazil. He holds Baptist Mid Missions’ record for most consecutive years of missionary service.

At about the six-minute mark begins a segment about a radio program administered by missionaries in the southern region of Brazil. The lady playing the organ(!) is the mother of the man who gave me these videos.

Check out the grass roof being put on a church building at 1:31. At 3:08 missionary Pete Brooks watches as charter members sign the church role. Over fifty years later I sat with Pete until about 2 am and listened to him regale me with story after story of missionary life in those days. Shortly afterward he went home to be with the Lord. I am grateful to God I had the opportunity to know Pete, as well as other members of that “pioneer band”.

At 5:20 the narration turns to the Cariri Baptist Seminary, where Itacyara and I were privileged to minister for the last four years. The campus shown is now a series of shops in downtown Juazeiro do Norte. At 5:57 there is a great segment showing Tom Willson leading the seminary choir.

The description of the seminary continues in this fourth section. The new campus referred to at :26 is now the site of a modern shopping mall. The seminary occupies yet another campus in the nearby city of Crato.

The national pastor who makes an appeal in English at 7:28 was a graduate of our seminary.

I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane. Missions has changed a lot since the ’50s. Yet, at it’s core, it is fundamentally the same. We use any means possible to permeate Brazil with the gospel of Christ. And if there was a need for more missionaries back then, when Brazil’s population was 70 million, there is a desperate need now that it has exploded to 180 million.

Talk back to the missionary:
Did these videos spark any thoughts or ideas about missions in Brazil? Any of my colleagues see anybody they know…or have any corrections for my commentary? Let us know in the comments section.


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And be sure to read the action-packed adventures of Missionary Max: Missionary Max and the Jungle Princess and Missionary Max and the Lost City.

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  1. Wow…totally agree with you on the matter of raising your children along with the people you are training/teaching. And it’s hard for me to imagine God calling someone to a ministry that required them to neglect the first responsibility He gave them. Personally, I feel that God’s “calling” includes much more than just public ministry, and won’t negate or conflict with prior (spelled-out-in-scripture) instructions.
    But then, my ideals are youthful and untested. There’s an awful lot that I could learn from seasoned missionaries and long standing organizations like these.
    Thanks for the videos (and commentary)!

  2. Steven,
    You are right. Even though we may not agree with the philosophy of child rearing espoused by these early missionaries, it is helpful to understand that they did so out of a desire to better serve the Lord, not personal laziness on their part. I don’t think these guys had a lazy bone in their entire bodies.

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