Fields White for Harvesting in Brazil
“LIFT up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting. Already the reaper is receiving wages and gathering fruit for everlasting life.” (John 4:35, 36) Those prophetic words of Jesus Christ are true today in the far reaches of the vast South American country of Brazil.
For several years Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil have been enjoying fine increases. In April 1991, a peak of 308,973 Kingdom harvesters conducted 401,574 home Bible studies. On March 30, 1991, a total of 897,739 persons assembled to commemorate the death of Jesus, the one who began the harvesting work.
Despite such fine results, part of the field still waits to be harvested. More than five million people live in areas of Brazil where little or no preaching work is carried on by Jehovah’s Witnesses. What is being done to extend the harvest to these areas?
Pioneers Share in the Harvest
During a recent six-month period, the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in Brazil sent full-time Kingdom proclaimers—100 temporary special pioneers and 97 regular pioneers—to 97 towns, mostly in the more densely populated eastern part of the country. Kingdom publishers from various congregations also volunteered to work in these areas for shorter periods. Despite the obstacles that had to be overcome, the results have been gratifying.
For example, in São João da Ponte, in the state of Minas Gerais, the pioneers called on the religion teacher of the local school. After hearing the message, he ordered 50 copies of the book Your Youth—Getting the Best Out Of It for his catechism class. Another teacher told the departing pioneers: “You should not be leaving, since you are doing such a fine work here. You are the only ones who can give a clear explanation of the Bible.”
Not everyone was pleased with this fine work. For instance, consider a letter published in a local newspaper (Diário de Montes Claros) under the front-page headline “Priest Accused of Inciting to Violence and of Discrimination.” The letter said: “In church, [the priest] has the custom of denouncing persons who follow other sects and religions, even though the local clergy do not provide adequate Catholic and Christian guidance on the Gospel for the faithful. In the Mass, he has attacked ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are in town, although they do not treat Catholics badly.” Not showing such hostility, the article’s writer (a theologian) attended the Bible talk presented by the pioneers and brought along other interested ones. All of them enjoyed the meeting.
Four brothers from Fortaleza traveled by air to Fernando de Noronha Island, 250 miles [400 km] from the mainland. The island’s 1,500 inhabitants had not received a good witness in over 15 years. In ten days the brothers placed 50 books and 245 magazines and brochures, and they started 15 home Bible studies. Twelve people attended the Memorial of Christ’s death, which fell during their visit. The pioneers hope that with Jehovah’s help the work will soon get firmly established there. Some brothers have considered moving to the island.
Clergy Influence Affects Harvest
A group of Kingdom publishers of the Arpoador Congregation in Rio de Janeiro volunteered to spend two weeks preaching in several towns in the state of Minas Gerais, about 125 miles [200 km] away. To their delight they found the local people most hospitable and kind. The men had the custom of lifting their hats every time God or his name, Jehovah, was mentioned. Because of their reverence for God, however, they were easily influenced by the clergy.
In one town the priest advised the people not to listen to Jehovah’s Witnesses or attend the meeting they were planning to hold. He also scheduled a special Mass at the same time as the meeting, and the Mass was broadcast full blast over the loudspeaker outside his church. In spite of his efforts, however, 29 local residents attended the meeting, in addition to the visitors.
A neighboring town was totally different. There the priest told the people to listen when the Witnesses called. The result was that 168 attended the first meeting. Later, he told them to pay attention to how Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Memorial because, as he said, “they do it the proper way.” During the two weeks of Kingdom-preaching work in that area, 1,014 books and 1,052 magazines and brochures were placed.
Continued Efforts Brought Blessings
A month later 34 Kingdom publishers returned to care for the Bible studies started during the first visit. The Christian elder taking the lead wrote: “It was thrilling to see the interested people welcome us with thanks and tears of joy in their eyes.” One sister recalls that a woman approached her and other Witnesses in a luncheonette “pleading, with tears in her eyes, for us to come and study with her.” Another lady studied three times during the week the Witnesses were there. Each time, she had her lesson prepared and was waiting for the study. The lady said that she had begun to pray to the true God, Jehovah. “In my heart this is what I have always been waiting for,” she added.
Later, two pioneers [female] were assigned to care for the interest in that area. As in the first century C.E., “those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers.” (Acts 13:48) And like the Samaritan woman to whom Jesus gave a witness at Jacob’s fountain, they began to talk to others about what they learned. (John 4:5-30) Today the 2 pioneers have 6 others serving with them, and an average of 20 people attend the weekly meetings.
Enthusiastic about the success of this special work, 29 publishers of the Arpoador Congregation went to preach in the town of Mutum, about 300 miles [500 km] away. “The reception was really outstanding,” said the elder directing the group. “Most people listened with such attentiveness and interest that 170 Bible studies were started, and we feel that many of them will continue.” In two weeks the publishers preached an average of 90 hours each and placed nearly 1,100 pieces of literature with the people. A peak of 181 attended the public talks given by the brothers.
A few months later, the congregation rented a fine house in the center of Mutum for use as a Kingdom Hall and a pioneer home. The first report sent to the Society by the two pioneer sisters assigned there read in part: “With so many studies already started, we need more pioneers. Even with the help of the brothers from Rio de Janeiro once a month, the work is enormous. Nine out of ten householders spoken to ask us to return. We also need help to conduct the meetings.” Another pioneer has now joined them.
It has been very encouraging to see the truth take root and produce fine fruitage. One interested person [female] wrote: “Getting this knowledge of the Bible is the best thing that ever happened to me. My life has changed for the better, and I do not need to take sedatives anymore. . . . May Jehovah reward you for everything you have done for me.”
Another individual [female] stated: “I really marvel at how Jehovah has opened my eyes. Although I lost my grandmother this week, I now have a hope of seeing her again. I hope to get baptized, but I want to be well prepared first. May Jehovah bless you for coming here to show us the narrow way that leads to eternal life.” Still another person [female] said: “I want you to know that I stopped smoking a month ago. I’m very happy with the magazine you sent me. It had many good things in it that helped me to do so.” Surely, the harvest gives good reason to rejoice.
However, such blessings have not come without a struggle. For example, when one lady and her daughter began to study, the local priest warned them that if they went to the meetings of the Witnesses, he would put them out of the church. Ignoring the threat, they went to the meetings. They were then ostracized by former friends, some of whom accused them of going mad because “that Jehovah” does not appear in the Catholic Bible. Since the lady was unable to find Jehovah’s name in her Catholic Bible, she invited the neighbors to visit her on the day of her study with the pioneers. One woman came with her Catholic Paulinas version of the Bible. When she read God’s name in the footnote to Exodus 6:3, she accepted a Bible study in her home.
Share Fully in the Harvest
What effect did serving in seldom-worked territory have on the workers themselves? One Kingdom publisher said: “This activity served to fortify our faith and our relationship with Jehovah and helped us to revise our priorities.” Another publisher stated: “That 14-day period increased my love for my brothers, who serve as one family with one objective: to search for more meek ones. It made me love more those who accept our message, often with tears in their eyes, showing a real thirst for the truth. And most of all, I felt Jehovah’s love in giving us the privilege of serving him.”
An elder who shared in preaching in seldom-worked territory pointed to the contrast between life there and in large cities. He said: “I cannot help thinking how the life of many brothers could be enriched by moving into the interior. Violence is practically nonexistent here. Life in small and medium-sized towns is such that it allows us not only to live on much less but also to have more association with our brothers and to devote more time to spiritual activities. Can more retired brothers, young people with little family responsibility, or brothers whose work permits them to move embrace this unique privilege and bring joy to themselves, to Jehovah, and to their neighbors?”
This report on seldom-worked territory in Brazil proves that the fields are white for harvesting. In just two years, work in this field has resulted in 191 new congregations and isolated groups. Much remains to be done, but surely Jehovah will continue to bestow his blessing as more Kingdom publishers take part in the fruitful harvest. Can you have a greater share in it?
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Happy Witnesses from Rio de Janeiro share in the harvest
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Rural witnessing in Minas Gerais