In the year 1500, Pero Vaz de Caminha wrote to the king of Portugal about Brazil, where Portuguese explorers had just landed. He stated: “The best fruit that can be taken from it . . . will be saving its people [Indians].” These words reveal one of the main reasons for the Portuguese overseas expansion in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was to spread Christendom’s religious teachings to other lands.
However, it was not until much later that God’s Word, the Bible, was made available to the inhabitants of Brazil, so that they could see for themselves what it teaches. The entire Portuguese Bible was first available (part in Europe and part in South India) in 1751. Another 125 years passed before any of it was printed in Brazilian Portuguese. And it was well into the 20th century before even part of the Bible was published in any of the languages of the Indian tribes in Brazil.
Brazil is one of the few countries in South America where Spanish is not the predominant language—Portuguese is. Occupying about half of South America and bounded by all other South American countries except Chile and Ecuador, Brazil is a land of great variety. Its people are enthusiastic and friendly and are interested in spiritual matters. The majority (85 percent of the 161 million inhabitants) profess Catholicism, and a high percentage of these incline toward spiritism. In recent years, there has also been a notable increase in the number of adherents to evangelical religions.
Real Bible Education Gets Under Way
God’s will is that ‘all sorts of people should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.’ (1 Tim. 2:3, 4) That kind of knowledge began to be spread in Brazil toward the end of the 19th century. It was in 1899 that Sarah Bellona Ferguson, of São Paulo, first received some of the Watch Tower Society’s publications by mail from the United States. As she learned precious Bible truths, she did what she could to share these with others. When the opportunity presented itself after about 25 years, she got baptized.
In the meantime eight young Brazilian sailors on leave from their ship in New York City were attracted by meetings of the Bible Students (as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known). There they obtained a Portuguese Bible. They were also helped to understand it. When they returned to Brazil in March 1920, after several months of association with the Bible Students in New York, they continued to meet together and to talk to others about what they had learned. At first, they used Watch Tower publications in Spanish as study helps because nothing was available in Portuguese. However, a few years later, George Young was sent to Brazil, and arrangements were made to translate literature into Portuguese and to publish it. In 1923 a branch of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was established in Rio de Janeiro to promote Bible education in this vast land.
More Help Arrives
In spite of this good start, progress was slow. So at the invitation of J. F. Rutherford, who was then president of the Watch Tower Society, Alston Yuille arrived in Brazil in 1936 to help the Witnesses there to benefit more fully from the spiritual provisions that Jehovah was making through his visible organization. With him was his wife, Maude, as well as Antonio Pires de Andrade, a fellow worker who, at least at the start, also served as his interpreter. Three years later, Otto Estelmann and Erich Kattner were sent from Europe to serve as pioneers, devoting themselves to calling at the homes of people to show how Bible truth could benefit them. Then in 1945 two missionaries from the first class of Gilead School came: Charles D. Leathco and Harry Black.
Jehovah blessed the work of these and many other zealous Kingdom proclaimers, and by 1948 there were 1,000 Witnesses of Jehovah in Brazil sharing with others the precious truths in God’s Word. The group increased rapidly: 10,000 in 1957 and 50,000 in 1968. In the meantime the Bethel Home and factory had to be enlarged, and in 1968 the branch office was transferred from Rio de Janeiro to larger facilities in São Paulo. (For more information on the work in Brazil from 1920 to 1972, see the 1973 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, pages 33-88.)
Making God’s Own Word Available
Some 50 years ago, the average Roman Catholic in Brazil always went to Mass, always prayed to Mary, always obeyed the priest, and never read the Bible. Why? For one thing, priests prohibited to their flocks possession of a Bible that lacked the imprimatur of the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time, all such Church-approved Bibles carried forbidding price tags—way out of reach for the man-in-the-church. No wonder Witnesses back then often met Catholics who had never seen a Bible!
“I used to read the Lord’s Prayer to such people,” recalls Fern, a longtime missionary. “Catholics knew that prayer by heart but were surprised to see it in the Bible.” In many cases, surprise led to interest and interest to the request: “Could you get me a Bible?” The Witnesses would gladly obtain an affordable version from the Brazilian Bible Society.
The ten missionaries then in São Paulo were frequent visitors at the Bible Society’s outlet in that city. The outlet’s Protestant clerks, though, were not happy that the entire stock of the Tradução Brasileira—a Bible version containing the name Jehovah—was moving from their shelves into the missionaries’ book bags. One day the clerk told the missionaries that she could not let them have any more of those Bibles. Shortly thereafter, the Tradução Brasileira was out of print. Not surprisingly, many Witnesses longed for a change. In 1963, there were 57 delegates from Brazil at the international conventions in the United States when the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in Portuguese was released. Four years later, when the complete New World Translation in Portuguese became available, the days of distributing the Bible in dribbles were finally over.
During the past three decades, millions of copies of the New World Translation from the Society’s printeries have streamed into the country and have caught the public’s eye. In 1987, Veja, Brazil’s leading newsweekly, described the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References as the country’s “most complete version of the Scriptures.” Brazil’s Witnesses of Jehovah (now more than 430,000) agree and are thrilled that as a result of their Bible-distribution campaign, many Brazilians in cities, towns, and villages are now at last gratefully turning the pages of their personal copy of God’s Word.
Personal Instruction in Bible Truth
Reading the Bible is one thing, but understanding what one reads and how to apply it is another. That calls for a program of personal Bible instruction. In 1968—a year after the release of the complete Portuguese New World Translation—the 50,000 Witnesses in Brazil received The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, a book that would help them to study the Bible.
After reading the book, one experienced pioneer exclaimed: “This book is going to help millions to accept the truth!” And she was right. Annual placement of books more than tripled. The number of Bible studies increased dramatically. Rute, from southern Brazil, speaks for many of those who studied, saying: “When I studied the Truth book, I felt grateful and furious. Grateful for learning the truth about the condition of the dead and the Paradise hope and angry that the Catholic Church had misled me all my life.”
Then, in 1983, the Witnesses welcomed a new aid for Bible instruction—the Portuguese edition of the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth. That book has reached the heart of many more in all walks of life. Early in 1996, more than 500,000 persons were benefiting from Bible instruction, most of them through studies based on this effective teaching tool.
While the text of the Live Forever book was touching Brazil’s reading public, the pictures in the brochure Enjoy Life on Earth Forever! were teaching Bible truths to many of Brazil’s 28 million who could not read. Over six million of these brochures have been printed in Portuguese in the last 13 years. Are illiterate people understanding the Bible’s teachings? They certainly are! Consider Maria, an elderly woman. With the help of the brochure, she learned that God’s name is Jehovah, not Senhor, just as her name is Maria, not Senhora. Although she had never heard God’s name before, she gratefully accepted this new truth during her first Bible study. When the Witness who was teaching her was leaving, Maria called out: “May Jehovah be with you!” Maria’s sincere wish has certainly proved true. With Jehovah’s blessing, Bible education in Brazil is moving forward.
Making Room to Print Again
In 1971, three years after the branch office was moved to São Paulo, the number of active Witnesses passed 70,000. That year, there were 1,202 congregations throughout the country; Jehovah’s Witnesses devoted over 11,000,000 hours to their public ministry; and they were conducting, on an average, 58,902 home Bible studies. To provide the needed direction and equipment for this program of education, it was apparent that the branch facilities would have to be enlarged again. Looking to Jehovah for direction, the brothers gave this need their attention.
For many years the Portuguese edition of The Watchtower had been printed in Brazil on an old flatbed press. But in 1957, because of increased demand, problems with the press (which had been built in 1918), and an insufficient supply of paper, this printing had been transferred to New York. Now, having found solutions to the problems of press and paper, the brothers were able to resume printing in Brazil.
In order to furnish the space needed for printing, work got under way on an annex to the branch facilities. At the same time, arrangements were made to import a high-speed rotary letterpress. Because of the educational nature of our magazines, an effort was made to obtain exemption from import taxes on the press. But at times, religious organizations that had been granted tax exemption for items had later sold these for a big profit. Understandably, some of the authorities were not in favor of granting further exemptions to religious groups. However, help came from an unexpected source—a government official who was an agnostic. He showed interest in our request for exemption and indicated how we should proceed. In November 1972, after just four months, the desired tax exemption was granted. Augusto Machado, who was working in the Society’s office, reminisced: “We started from scratch, knowing practically nothing; but with confidence in Jehovah, and doing our homework, we got what we needed. Jehovah really directs his servants.”
There Was Much to Learn
The prospect of printing on a web rotary letterpress presented new challenges. The completely dismantled press arrived in December 1972, packed in 47 large crates, some of which weighed as much as six tons. To see that it was set up properly, Milan Miller was sent from the world headquarters. He coordinated the work of a group of nine brothers to install the press and then taught them how to operate it. Their sharing in the installation of the press helped them to understand how to care for it. The majority were young brothers who, until then, had little or no experience in printing. Karl Rietz, who shared in that installation project, was the factory overseer, and he continues to serve in that capacity down to the present.
At about the same time, the paper being imported for printing the magazines arrived. “The first shipment was 150 tons,” recalled Euclides Justino, who was sent from Bethel to the port to get it. “We arranged for trucks to transport the paper from the port in Santos to Bethel in São Paulo. But we did not realize that, since the forklift at the port only lifted the rolls of paper up onto the trucks, we would need strong men to put those heavy rolls in order on the trucks. So Brother Machado and I climbed up onto one of the trucks and began to tip the rolls—each weighing 400 kilograms [880 pounds]—and to roll them into place. The stevedores had a good laugh as they watched two men in neckties struggling with the rolls. Happily, it was nearly lunchtime, so we soon quit. During the lunch hour, we hired men to finish the job.” But gradually the brothers were learning some of the work involved in printing with a web rotary press.
In 1973 a second web rotary press arrived, with printing capacity similar to the first: 12,500 magazines an hour. Since then, more presses—ones with four-color capacity—have been installed. So over the years, we have been able to keep up with the demand for Bible literature.
Dedication of the New Bethel Annex
About four months before that second press arrived, the new Bethel annex was scheduled to be dedicated. Some expressed doubts that the construction work would be completed on time. But the reply of Fred Wilson, the branch overseer, was: “You don’t know our brothers.” They put their hearts into the work, staying with it till late at night, also on Saturdays and Sundays. On March 17, 1973, the day for the dedication, they were still putting on finishing touches. At noon, everything was ready! The last truckload of rubbish went out the back gate as the visitors began entering the lobby!
Nathan H. Knorr, then president of the Watch Tower Society, and Max Larson, Brooklyn factory overseer, were on hand for the occasion. Brother Knorr gave the dedication talk. The next day, there was a special three-hour program attended by a crowd of more than 28,000, who packed out Ibirapuera Gymnasium. On that occasion, after speaking about the importance of a regular consideration of the daily text, Brother Knorr released the 1973 Yearbook, published for the first time in Portuguese. (Previously, material for use as a basis for daily text discussions in Portuguese had appeared in The Watchtower.) Such daily reading and discussion of a portion of God’s Word is important in the lives of Jehovah’s people, in harmony with what Jesus Christ himself said: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Matt. 4:4.
“Divine Victory” International Convention
The year 1973 closed with the largest convention ever held in Brazil by Jehovah’s people, in Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo, December 26-30. A huge balloon announcing the theme “Divine Victory” floated over the stadium. The program strengthened the conviction of those in attendance that divine victory by God’s Kingdom will indeed bring the greatest blessings for humankind. During the assembly itself, they saw evidence that education regarding God’s will as recorded in the Bible had already transformed the lives of tens of thousands of people in Brazil. Twenty-eight years earlier, Brother Knorr had spoken to an audience of 765 in a nearby gymnasium. On that occasion, when looking over toward the mammoth stadium, he had wondered aloud whether Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil would ever fill that facility. That idea became a reality in 1973, when Brother Knorr spoke to an overflow audience of 94,586 in that very stadium! The previous day, 3,187 new ministers had been baptized. That five-day convention was in itself an evidence of divine victory!
Delegates were on hand from all parts of the country. From the city of Manaus, capital of Amazonas State—about 2,500 miles [some 4,000 km] away—came three buses and four cars with delegates, the first group ever to travel the precarious Trans-Amazon Highway. Another group traveled some 1,800 miles [more than 3,000 km] from Belém, on the northern coast, and a special train and more than 180 buses brought joyful delegates from Rio de Janeiro. So great was the publicity that the governor of the state of São Paulo and the mayor of the city visited the convention grounds.
Obtaining rooms for these thousands of delegates was a challenge, since many of them did not have the means to pay for hotel accommodations. Some 21,000 room requests were handled by the Rooming Department. In harmony with the Bible’s counsel to “follow the course of hospitality,” Witnesses and others made rooms available in their homes. (Rom. 12:13) More than 6,000 delegates were accommodated in Kingdom Halls. The delegates from Amazonia were all housed in a factory offered by a sister’s husband. Mattresses were lent by Witnesses and interested persons.
Two months later the same convention program was repeated in Salvador, Bahia, with an attendance of 32,348 persons.
“You Should Prove Yourselves Holy”
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses had looked with disfavor on the use of tobacco, the seriousness of the matter was not fully discerned until 1973. So some Witnesses continued to smoke even though they were baptized. However, in his due time, Jehovah helped his servants discern Bible principles that should have a bearing on their attitude toward that habit. (2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:19-21, footnote) The Watchtower of December 1, 1973 (in Portuguese), pointed out that, henceforth, all who wished to be baptized would have to be free from the use of tobacco. Those who were already baptized and who still smoked were given six months to quit the habit if they wanted to remain a part of the congregation.
Being properly motivated, the majority were able to break free from the filthy habit. One brother who was still smoking at that time, though baptized in 1964, reasoned that if others were able to quit for health reasons, how much more should he be able to quit so as to continue serving Jehovah. It is true that some were disfellowshipped, but a number of these finally had a change of mind and heart, quit smoking, and were reinstated. In this way Jehovah’s people continued to adjust themselves to God’s high standard of holiness.—Lev. 19:2; 1 Pet. 1:16.
Is Time Running Out?
With a view to helping people see the urgent need to take a stand on Jehovah’s side of the issue of sovereignty, an intensive distribution of Kingdom News tracts was undertaken during the 1970’s. Is Time Running Out for Mankind? was the title of Kingdom News No. 16. Amaro Santos, who has served at Bethel for the past 25 years, explained: “The Society sent each congregation the equivalent of 100 tracts per publisher, to be distributed free in just ten days, from March 22 to 31 of 1974. The tract was printed in an attractive style that caught the attention even of those normally indifferent to the Kingdom message. More than 7,000 new publishers joined the other Witnesses in distribution of eight million tracts.”
Some who received the tract acted promptly on what they learned. That was true of a 22-year-old college student in São Paulo. Impressed by the urgency of the situation, he agreed to study the Bible with the aid of the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. Soon he began to speak to others at college about what he was learning, and three months later he shared in the special distribution of another tract.
Earnest effort was put forth to reach people even in remote areas. Young publishers gladly shared. Concerning what two of such younger ones did in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Belarmino Colla, who was then 15 years old, wrote: “We left home at 6:00 a.m., and since the homes were scattered, we did not contact anyone until 10:00 a.m. At times, we had to go on foot because it was impossible to go on horseback on the trails. We worked until 8:30 p.m. and then stayed overnight with an interested person. At seven o’clock the next morning, we started again, working until 3:00 p.m., and then we headed for home, arriving at midnight. In the two days, we had walked 90 kilometers [56 miles] and placed only 30 tracts.” These Kingdom proclaimers recognized that the message they were delivering set before people an opportunity that could mean everlasting life and that millions of people in Brazil needed the opportunity to benefit from it. They felt the urgency indicated by the title of that tract, No. 16.
‘Impossible to Get Away From the Witnesses’
In 1974, Edivaldo Gil da Silva and his wife, Marli, who were special pioneers at the time, arranged to study the Bible twice a month with a lady who lived on an out-of-the-way farm near Ribeirão Prêto, São Paulo State. To get there, they would hitch a ride on a milk truck at 4:00 a.m. and then walk another six miles [10 km]. The study went well for a few months until the husband began to oppose. He even moved his family without leaving a forwarding address.
At a district convention eight years later, a couple came up to Edivaldo and Marli and asked: “Remember us? We are the couple you visited on the farm.” The husband explained that he had moved to get away from Jehovah’s Witnesses. When they arrived at their new home and even before they had unloaded their furniture from the truck, however, two Witnesses appeared and spoke to them about God’s purpose for humankind. This made the man think. He accepted a Bible study and made good progress; months later both he and his wife got baptized.
A Spiritually Refreshing Visit
In September 1974 a special treat was enjoyed by the brothers in São Paulo. What was it? A visit by Frederick W. Franz, then vice president of the Watch Tower Society. This was not his first visit to Brazil. Along with Brother Knorr, he had served on a convention program in São Paulo in 1945. This time, however, he was accompanied by Karl Klein, who shortly thereafter began to serve along with him on the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were spending three days in São Paulo on vacation, but they also took pleasure in imparting “some spiritual gift” to their Christian brothers. (Rom. 1:11, 12) What could be more enjoyable than a discussion of spiritual matters? Quickly, arrangements were made for a special meeting in a theater. A total of 2,000 attended.
Massasue Kikuta, who has been a member of the branch staff since 1967, recalled: “Brother Franz surprised everyone by giving his talk in fluent Portuguese. Without using a Bible or any notes (his eyesight was already failing), he quoted and explained all of Psalm 91, verse by verse, for more than two hours, in spite of being 80 years of age.” It was learned later that he did the same thing in Spanish for the brothers in Paraguay!
Eleven Orphans Learn the Truth
At about this time, a family in the state of Goiás urgently needed help to understand the reason for human suffering and the real purpose of living. Their father, depressed by serious financial problems, had committed suicide, and a few months later, their mother had died of a heart attack. The surviving members of the Vinhal family were orphans—all 11 of them. When calamity struck their family in that way in 1974, the eldest was 17 years old and the youngest only 40 days old. With determination and hard work, it was possible for five of them to stay together, but the six youngest children had to be sent to live with relatives. Trying to console them, some people said that their tragedy was God’s will. This, of course, only made them feel more distressed.
The eldest, Maria Lucia, had serious questions about God and about the Catholic Church. When she heard a Witness offer a free Bible study to one of her workmates, her interest was aroused. Observing her interest, a fellow worker made a gift to her of the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. When Maria Lucia saw the Witness again a few days later, she earnestly requested the free Bible course that had been offered to her workmate. The promise of resurrection, set out in Jesus’ words recorded at John 5:28, 29, filled her with hope. Learning what the Bible says about why God permits evil helped her to appreciate that he had not forgotten them. In time, all but the youngest lived together again as a family. They encouraged one another spiritually. All 11 of the children studied the Bible and got baptized. From the Bible they learned principles of Christian conduct. In a spiritual sense, they were no longer orphans; they came to have “brothers and sisters and mothers” a hundredfold. (Mark 10:29, 30) Today, one of the sisters is a special pioneer, another is a missionary in Paraguay, and Paulo serves with his wife in the Brazil Bethel.
Over the years, there was a steady increase in the number of Kingdom publishers. The 1959 service year showed an increase of 23 percent over the preceding year. During the following decade, the percentage of increase dropped, ranging from 9 to 14 percent. Then in 1975, the number of persons baptized rose to 16,789, and for the first time, the number of publishers passed the 100,000 mark, with a 17-percent increase over the preceding year. For the first time also, the number of special pioneers in the field passed the 1,000 mark, as more emphasis was being given to working isolated and seldom-worked territory. Although the rate of increase diminished in the following decade, the preaching work was moving ahead. And more increases were on the way.
At the time, Brazil had more than 100 million inhabitants, and about 20 percent of them were not being reached regularly with the good news. Many of these lived in smaller towns some distance from large cities. In an attempt to reach these people and to arrange for meetings where there was sufficient interest, the Governing Body gave approval for the assigning of temporary special pioneers in addition to the 1,000 already serving as special pioneers. At first, some were assigned for three months; later on, the period was extended. The first of these temporary special pioneers were assigned in November 1985, when 128 were sent to 113 different towns. The results were very encouraging.
In a town in Goiás, when the pioneers made a return visit on a lady who had requested a copy of the New World Translation, they found her crying. Why? She had been told that she should not read that Bible, since it contained a different name for God—Jehovah. But when helped to investigate the matter, she and her friends learned that the name Jehovah also appeared in certain places in their own Bible. She was furious with the pastor of her church. As a result, 45 new Bible studies were started!
In the state of Piauí, a man was found who was thirsty for the waters of truth. Prior to being contacted by the pioneers, he had read parts of a borrowed copy of the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth. He became so enthusiastic about what he was reading that he determined to copy the book by hand. When the pioneers contacted him, he had already copied 21 chapters. How happy he was to receive his own printed copy of the book and to have a regular Bible study in it!
Two pioneer sisters serving in the state of Sergipe met much opposition from a church deacon who was serving as a substitute for the priest. What was the outcome? The deacon announced to the public over a loudspeaker that Jehovah is not the name of God but that this name was invented by an American sect. This merely aroused the interest of many members of the church, and in a short time the pioneers were conducting 67 home Bible studies!
In Rio Grande do Norte, the pioneers started a study with a lady who enjoyed her first study so much that she invited her neighbors to come to the next one. In preparation she borrowed five benches from the school. Thirty people attended, but more wanted to get in, so the studies were continued in the school patio.
In a small town in Mato Grosso do Sul, a doctor and his wife studied the Bible and, in time, began to share in the field ministry. The sight of the doctor going from house to house to talk about the Bible caused quite a stir in that town. When the pioneers who had studied with this couple found it necessary to leave, the doctor and his wife were the only active Witnesses left there. They served as auxiliary pioneers and later as regular pioneers. At first, they held the meetings all by themselves, but in time, a congregation with ten publishers was formed. That couple now serve in the Brazil Bethel.
The First Assembly Halls
As the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses increased throughout the country, it became increasingly difficult to find suitable places for us to hold assemblies. The first attempt to have a place of our own was in Salvador, Bahia, which enjoys a mild, tropical climate year-round. In 1975 a partially covered amphitheater with sufficient rows of concrete benches for 4,000 people was constructed on one slope of a valley. It was called Assembly Park. Later in the same year, construction began on an Assembly Hall in a beautiful wooded area in Ribeirão Pires, São Paulo, about 25 miles [40 km] from the city of São Paulo. Years later, another hall was built alongside this first one and was linked to it by closed-circuit television. The two have a total seating capacity of 3,300. In 1979, construction was begun on a second Assembly Hall, in Duque de Caxias, near Rio de Janeiro.
Those who worked on the construction of these Assembly Halls manifested an enthusiastic spirit. This fine spirit compensated for what many lacked in experience and for the shortage of appropriate machinery and equipment. For example, at Ribeirão Pires it was necessary to dig to a depth of 23 feet [7 m] to reach firm ground for the base of the foundations. A backhoe was used, but it could be used for only half the depth that was needed. The rest had to be done with pick and shovel. More than 20 such holes had to be dug.
What about mixing and pouring concrete? There were no concrete plants or concrete-mixer trucks available for the project at Ribeirão Pires. Natal Batulevicins, a member of the Bethel family, recalled: “The concrete was mixed in two old, manually fed cement mixers and taken by wheelbarrows to the area being concreted. There were lines of from 20 to 30 volunteers pushing wheelbarrows. For the high and difficult-to-reach areas, a second person helped by pulling the wheelbarrows with hooks. To concrete the floor areas, all the volunteers—including those in administrative services—shared in the work, which at times took 24 hours.”
A New Administration
For Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, the year 1976 saw a significant change in the branch-organization structure. On February 1 of that year, the arrangement of Branch Committees became effective. Instead of one overseer, a committee of spiritually mature brothers representing the Governing Body was assigned to supervise the work in each country. All of these are spiritually older men, shepherds of the flock of God.
In Brazil, the committee was composed initially of seven members: Massasue Kikuta, John Kushnir, Augusto Machado, Karl Rietz, Amaro Santos, Heinrich Selbert, and Fred Wilson. In the years that followed, Brother Selbert had to leave Brazil because of family responsibilities, and Brother Kushnir passed away in 1988. The others continue to serve on the committee, and in 1995, Östen Gustavsson was appointed to be a sixth committee member. Toward the end of 1976, some members of the Brazil Branch Committee, along with other branch representatives from around the world, shared in meetings held in New York by the Governing Body. The meetings served to acquaint the committee members more fully with their responsibilities, with the members of the Governing Body, and with the world headquarters.
Obtaining More Benefit From Conventions
Also in 1976 attention began to be given to the need for improvement in the sound systems used at conventions. Previously, amplifiers, loudspeakers, and horns designed for small areas had been used. At times several different types—some of them quite old—had been used on a given occasion. The result? Deficient sound reproduction and frequent interruptions of the program.
Years of work and much new equipment were required to improve this situation. Now, at most conventions, everyone present can hear clearly and enjoy the spiritual program. This is important when we realize that in 1995, there were 158 district conventions held in 82 different cities and that the 724,849 persons who attended spent much time, energy, and resources to be present. They deserved the best in sound so as to derive full benefit from the program. Happy with the results, a circuit overseer in Rio Grande do Norte wrote in 1994: “It is a pleasure to inform you that at our convention the sound was excellent, and as a result, the brothers were very attentive and took many notes.”
But what about the quality of sound in Kingdom Halls throughout the country? In 1993, more than 100 special programs were held country wide to give practical suggestions on how to improve the quality of sound for congregation meetings. More than 9,000 brothers attended these talks, and one instructor related: “The talk in Floriano, Piauí, was held during a period of extreme drought, and the brothers were in difficult straits financially. Nevertheless, all those invited were present! Some had traveled more than 12 hours to attend.”
Freedom Suspended in Cachoeiras de Macacu
At times, obstacles have been raised as a result of misunderstandings on the part of officials. On Sunday, June 13, 1976, the police sealed the Kingdom Hall in Cachoeiras de Macacu, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, as a result of an order issued by a judge there. All Kingdom preaching was also prohibited in the municipality. For what reason?
Two days earlier, a 17-year-old youth had accidentally injured himself with a shotgun. He was taken to the hospital with internal hemorrhaging and acute anemia. His father asked the doctor to do all he could to save his son but without resorting to blood transfusions. Unhappily, the young man died during the operation even though a blood transfusion had been given, contrary to the expressed will of his father. A judicial investigation was made to determine who was responsible. Distorted news reports influenced the decision, and the result was an order to close the Kingdom Hall. Aided by four lawyers, Ladislau Lehký, the local congregation overseer, petitioned for an injunction. The petition was finally heard on October 26. Brother Orlando do N. Paula, one of the lawyers, used the available opportunity to make a rapid oral presentation of the case. The judges unanimously granted the injunction, thus canceling the original order and making it possible to use the Kingdom Hall again and to continue the work of Kingdom preaching. Freedom of religion had been reaffirmed!
At the “Joyful Workers” District Conventions the following year, a discourse was given that emphasized once again Jehovah’s requirement that blood be treated as something sacred. (Lev. 17:10, 11; Acts 15:28, 29) On that occasion, the booklet Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Question of Blood was released, and during the months of April and May 1978, a campaign was undertaken to place it in the hands of judges, lawyers, doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators in an effort to help them to understand and respect the position taken by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The brothers were encouraged to give a copy of the booklet to their family doctor. Besides this, however, brothers were assigned to deliver the booklet along with a covering letter to doctors and other professionals who might not be contacted by individual publishers. There were more than 70,000 doctors in Brazil. It was a huge project, and it was completed successfully; but more needed to be done. At a later time, this matter would be given attention again.
Preparation for More Increase
Further increase in the number of Kingdom proclaimers, as well as the extent of their witness work, was on the way, and preparations had to be made for it. (Compare Isaiah 54:1-3.) To produce the needed literature, it became necessary to replace the rotary letterpress equipment with more modern, faster offset presses. A larger work area was required. In a stopgap effort to deal with this need, an annex to the Assembly Hall in Ribeirão Pires was built in 1975. This provided storage space for some of our paper. However, it was obvious that we had to find more property on which to expand the Bethel Home as well as the branch office and the printery.
The possibility of purchasing additional property near the existing facilities in São Paulo was considered, but zoning laws and the high cost of property made this impractical. The alternative was to move the branch to an entirely new location. The Governing Body recommended that we look for property outside the city of São Paulo. After several possibilities were considered, a property of 285 acres [115 ha] was purchased in August 1977 in the municipality of Cesário Lange, São Paulo, about 90 miles [150 km] from the city of São Paulo.
‘You Are Thinking Too Small!’
Immediately after we purchased the property, an invitation was sent out for volunteers to assist in preparing the ground for construction. Building proposals were also submitted to the Governing Body. We thought that our plans included ample room to care for expansion for a long time to come. In fact, we thought we might be planning too big. However, the answer from the Governing Body amazed all of us: ‘You are thinking too small! You should build about twice as large as you have planned!’
The result was a plan that called for residential and factory/office space five times as great as what we had in São Paulo. Was it needed? Well, since 1977 the number of Witnesses in Brazil has quadrupled, and the number of hours being devoted to the ministry each year is about six times what it was then.
Arrangements were made for a construction firm to put up the new branch facilities. But our brothers also cared for necessary aspects of the work. Paulo Tinoco Carneiro, a Witness who is an experienced civil engineer, moved with his family from the city of Salvador to a location near the construction site. About 150 other Witnesses, including some members of the Bethel family, provided support services, such as the making of aluminum window frames and the preparation of meals for the workers, as well as maintenance and cleaning. At the peak of construction, three meals a day were being served to more than 1,000 workers. No small task!
The large number of men employed by the construction company constituted an excellent territory for the preaching work in the evenings and on weekends. In one month a brother placed more than 80 copies of My Book of Bible Stories with the workers. Bible studies were started, and six workers progressed to the point of baptism. One of them now serves as a member of the Brazil Bethel family.
Shouldering Added Responsibilities
Construction of the new branch facilities brought with it added responsibility. Max Larson, from the world headquarters, spoke about this during a visit to Brazil in 1980. In a stimulating discourse given in Pacaembu Stadium, in São Paulo, he stressed the need for the brothers in each country to finance the preaching work and the building of printeries and Bethel homes in their respective territories. Would it be possible for the brothers in Brazil to assume that responsibility? Brazil faced a serious economic crisis, with high rates of inflation and unemployment. In spite of this, the response was excellent. Congregations and individuals contributed voluntarily and regularly, so that the construction was completed and the needed equipment was installed. The generosity shown reminded one of the spirit manifested in ancient Israel when plans were being made in the time of King David for construction of the temple in Jerusalem.—1 Chron. 29:3-9.
The transfer of the 225 members of the Bethel family and all the printing equipment from São Paulo to Cesário Lange began in August 1980. It took more than 160 truckloads to make the move. Then came the installation of the equipment and the period of adjustment to the new environment.
A dedication program was held on March 21, 1981. Lloyd Barry, a member of the Governing Body, was on hand to deliver the dedication discourse. Quoting the beautiful words of King Solomon at the time of the inauguration of the temple in Jerusalem, Brother Barry made it clear that all the credit and glory for the fine Bethel buildings belong to Jehovah God. Then he concluded by saying: ‘It was because of the increase in the preaching work that these buildings were built. So the preaching work deserves the undivided attention of all of you.’
During the following months, groups of Witnesses from all parts of the country came to visit Bethel. On just one holiday, 12,000 visitors came, in 300 buses and dozens of cars.
They could see that more was taking place at the branch than settling into new buildings. Important forward steps were being made in the field of printing Bible literature. In 1981 the Spanish editions of The Watchtower and Awake! began to be printed in Brazil for shipping to neighboring Spanish-speaking countries—Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. In addition to printing magazines, the Brazil branch also began to print and bind books for Bible study. That required much new equipment and the learning of new skills. In 1981, the new factory’s bindery line began to function, and the first item produced was the Portuguese Yearbook for 1982. Soon afterward, the first of four volumes of Aid to Bible Understanding was printed and bound. And starting in 1987, the most important book of all came through that bindery—the Bible, the Portuguese edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.
Deliveries With the Society’s Trucks
With a view to reducing the cost of shipping publications and to assure their arrival at the congregations, the delivery system using the Society’s vehicles was amplified in 1982. The arrangement had been in operation since 1974, but now it would include congregations in the northeast—some of them 1,850 miles [3,000 km] away.
At present the Society’s trucks make 463 deliveries every three weeks, covering more than 20,000 miles [30,000 km]. Under this arrangement more than 4,600 congregations are served on a regular basis. The trucks cover 12 routes, the longest taking 15 days and covering over 4,000 miles [7,000 km]. The drivers are Bethel family members. Witnesses in various congregations along the way hospitably accommodate the drivers in their homes, and the drivers attend congregation meetings with the local brothers at their overnight stops.
Reaching Out to Isolated Territory
The preaching of the good news continued to reach out into areas where little or no witnessing had been done. In 1976, Francisco Albuquerque and his wife served as special pioneers in Tefé, in the Amazon region. They took advantage of festival occasions to preach to people who came to town by boat. One day Francisco placed a copy of the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life with a young traveling salesman and explained how to study it. When they finally met again after two years, Francisco saw that the youth had studied the book and had with understanding underlined the answers. A weekly Bible study was started with him. Since it was a two-hour boat trip to where the young man lived, Francisco would travel to his house two times, and then the next two weeks the young man would go to Francisco’s home. Within a short time, the youth and four other men were baptized. The youth transformed one room of his house into a Kingdom Hall, and soon thereafter a congregation was formed.
In 1977 some special pioneers who witnessed in small towns and rural areas in the central part of the country used a trailer for housing. One of those pioneers, Jair Paiva Ferreira, who is now a member of our Bethel family, related: “We would park the trailer in a larger central town and travel from there by car to witness. We got up early, and after a good breakfast, we were in the territory by 8:00 a.m. After working all day, we would find a spot near a river, have a bath, and then eat supper. We slept in the car, interrupted only by the sound of the wind and the crickets. It was very pleasant to wake up and watch the parrots and macaws in flight nearby. As for the people in the territory, it was heartwarming to observe their thirst for the truth. Some obtained a copy of each of the books we had with us. In one day I placed 48 books, and in one month I made 109 return visits and still had not managed to contact all the interested persons again. Many studies were started, and although many people had difficulty reading, a good number came into the truth.”
Marriage—Honorable Before God and Man
Besides the lack of basic education in reading and writing, another obstacle that kept many from making the truth their own was their marital status. Some had not been able to pay for a civil marriage ceremony as well as a religious one, so they had opted for the latter, and this had no legal value. Of course, when such people study the Bible, they learn of the need to legalize their marriage union.—Heb. 13:4, 18.
There was a lady in this situation in Uberlândia, Minas Gerais. She had been “married” in a Catholic ceremony seven years before, and her companion did not see any need to legalize their union. What would she do? As she progressed in understanding of the Bible, she told him that if he would not legalize their union, she would have to leave him, although she did not want to do so. Realizing that she was serious about the matter, he finally agreed. After their marriage she promptly got baptized.
Until 1977, there was no provision for divorce in Brazil. So anyone who had been married and then left his or her partner and entered into a relationship with another mate had no way to legalize the present union. Some even had grandchildren through their second union. In harmony with Jehovah’s own example of forgiving sins that had occurred in the past because of ignorance, a concession was made by the Governing Body for Bible students in that situation to be baptized if they would sign a declaration vowing faithfulness to their mate and promising to legalize their union whenever this became possible. (Acts 17:30; Rom. 3:25) At one time, there were quite a number of such declarations in the Society’s files.
One case involved a mother of 13 children. She had studied the Bible for eight years but had been unable to legalize her marital status. Then she signed a declaration and was accepted for baptism. When her children learned what had been involved in her qualifying for baptism, eight of them also studied the Bible, and later five of them were baptized and the others began attending meetings.
At last, a divorce law was passed, and although it stipulated a waiting period of three years from the legal separation until the divorce, it was possible to resolve most cases of those who had signed declarations. In 1988 the government reduced the waiting period to one year.
Special Schooling for the Ministry
In 1978 further attention was given to training congregation elders. Ever since 1959, the Kingdom Ministry School had provided special training for those appointed to be overseers. However, in 1978 all the elders in Brazil, whether they had attended the school previously or not, were invited to benefit from a special two-day program of schooling. During that period they discussed from the Bible how to improve as shepherds and teachers of the flock, ways in which to take the lead in the evangelizing work, how to keep the congregations spiritually and morally clean, and also how to work together as bodies of elders. Nearly 7,000 elders attended. Since then, further refresher courses in the Kingdom Ministry School have been held periodically.
The ministerial servants were not forgotten. Classes of the Kingdom Ministry School were also organized for them in Brazil, beginning in 1985. And since 1988 it has been possible to use Assembly Halls in addition to Kingdom Halls for the school, thus enabling large numbers of elders and ministerial servants to attend the course together. The latest course, in 1995, was attended by 22,092 elders and 27,544 ministerial servants. What a fine body of men who are willing and Scripturally qualified to be entrusted with responsibility in the congregations!
Yet another school began to operate in Brazil in 1978—the Pioneer Service School. The first class, of two weeks’ duration, was held in Fortaleza, Ceará. The objective of this school is to strengthen the pioneers’ relationship with Jehovah, to help them to walk more fully in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, and to improve their effectiveness in the ministry.
The Society’s records show that during the past 18 years, 1,650 classes have been held in Brazil and 39,649 regular pioneers have benefited from this marvelous provision. In 1994 alone, in an effort to aid pioneers throughout the country, 187 classes were held in 107 different cities and towns.
Worthy of note is the effort that some pioneers made to attend the school. A sister with an unbelieving husband got up at 5:00 a.m. every day to care for her household duties before going to class, and then she left immediately after class to pick up her children as they came from school. Another sister wanted to change the dates of her vacation so as to attend the school. Her employer would not agree to this, but she kept trying to convince him. The answer was always the same: “Impossible!” Finally, after praying to Jehovah, she told her employer that she would be quitting her job. Why? She just had to attend that school. Impressed by her sincerity, he finally agreed to change her vacation dates.
Paulo Azevedo, instructor of the first class, stated in an interview: “The Pioneer Service School helps pioneers to see their territory in a new light by emphasizing the need to show personal interest in the householder, taking into account his or her problems, circumstances, concepts, and beliefs. Pioneers who keep this in mind agree that it is like having new territory to work.”
Missionaries for Brazil
Missionaries have done invaluable service in establishing a solid organizational structure. The first two missionaries, graduates of the first class of Gilead School, arrived in Brazil in 1945. By 1967 the number of Gilead graduates had increased to 76, and it reached a peak of 117 in 1974. Some served for decades in the circuit and district work, as did Richard and Ruth Wuttke and Eric and Christina Britten. Down through the years, some 250 missionaries from 11 countries have served here.
Generally speaking, the people in Brazil show respect for foreigners. Nevertheless, adapting to a new country with different climate, food, language, and customs requires determination and a good sense of humor. Sylvia Gustavsson, a missionary from Sweden, recalled: “The first return visit my husband, Östen, and I made in Brazil was on a married couple in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. After talking with them for about an hour, we said that we should be leaving. ‘It’s early. Stay a little longer!’ was the answer. Thinking that they were really interested, we sat down again and continued the visit. A half hour later, we repeated that we should be leaving. ‘It’s early. Stay a little longer!’ they repeated. This happened three times, and finally we left at almost midnight! This drama was repeated on following visits, until we learned that the expression ‘It’s early. Stay a little longer!’ was merely a polite way of expressing appreciation for a visit, without necessarily meaning that one should stay longer. Happily, the couple’s interest in the truth was genuine!”
Missionaries From Brazil to Other Countries
In view of the excellent help received from missionaries who had come to Brazil, how happy we were to learn in 1982 that brothers from Brazil would be invited to serve as missionaries in other countries! By the end of the year, three married couples had been assigned to Bolivia, and since then, 90 Brazilian brothers and sisters have been invited to serve as missionaries in Angola, Bolivia, Mozambique, and Paraguay.
Some of these Brazilian missionaries had themselves been helped to learn the truth by other missionaries. This was the case with Átila Carneiro, from Belém. He had become disappointed with religion. When contacted by missionary Delfina Munguia, he showed interest in the truth and began to receive the magazines regularly from her. After a time, she made arrangements for him to study the Bible three times a week with a missionary brother. Following his second study, Átila began to talk to others about what he was learning, and even before his baptism, he was conducting three Bible studies! After baptism, he served as a regular pioneer and then as a special pioneer. Now he and his wife are missionaries in Mozambique.
Benjamim Silva and his wife, Iolanda, are also among the Brazilian missionaries serving in Mozambique. For many years they had been pioneers in northern Brazil. They managed to reconcile two great responsibilities—serving as pioneers and raising a child. When their daughter, Martha, got married, the parents made themselves available to serve as missionaries. Martha continues to pioneer, and Jehovah’s blessing is evident on all three of them.
Floods in the South
Ever since the first century, Christians have been providing material help to their brothers in times of great hardship. (Acts 11:29, 30) The southern states of Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul were devastated by heavy floods in 1983. In Blumenau, Santa Catarina, the waters of the Itajaí-Açu River rose 52 feet [16 m] above normal, flooding practically the whole city. In harmony with the example set by first-century Christians, the Witnesses in other places contributed relief supplies—43 tons of food and 41 tons of clothing.
The desire to help was exemplified by João Vicentim Carrer, an elder in Campo Grande in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, 870 miles [1,400 km] away. When he saw a television report about the flood, he phoned the Society’s office and asked how he could help. Along with other elders, he gathered three tons of food, clothing, shoes, and medicine provided by the congregations in the city. On the same day, he and his son were on their way to Blumenau with the relief items.
Luiz Bognar, an elder in Blumenau who shared in the distribution of the material sent to them, wrote: “With the help of the brothers, we adapted a boat by adding wheels so that it could travel in the water or over the small ground elevations that jutted up out of the river. We then set out to search for the isolated brothers. In some places, because of the height of the water, we had to cut electric wires to get through. My two sons, 10 and 12 years of age, went with me. They were good swimmers. I also knew that boats with children were more respected than others.”
In one of the homes, they found 16 persons who had been stranded for ten days and whose food supplies had run out. Just prior to the arrival of the boat, when they had considered the day’s text, one of the brothers had commented that Jehovah would supply their needs in His due time. And that is just what happened. In another home, there were 22 persons who had been confined to the upper floor and the attic for a week. When they heard the sound of a boat approaching, at first they thought that it might be thieves; but then they heard someone calling: “Brother Walter Germer!” These were brothers bringing help. “This was a good witness for the neighbors who were not Witnesses,” recalls Janis Duwe, one who was in that house and who is now a member of the Brazil Bethel family. What was provided was far in excess of their needs for a day or two. “Several months passed before we had to buy any nonperishable food,” she said.
The Contagious Spirit of Pioneering
Though Jehovah’s Witnesses help one another materially when urgent situations arise, their principal activity is the preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom. They know that it alone will forever solve the countless problems of humankind. Emphasizing this work, the Society’s office sent a letter in 1984 to each baptized publisher in Brazil. It began: “We are writing at this time to extend an invitation to you to share in the auxiliary pioneer service in April.” That would mean devoting at least 60 hours during the month to sharing Bible truth with their neighbors. Was the invitation accepted? The previous peak of auxiliary pioneers had been 8,000 in April 1983, but in answer to this invitation, more than 33,000 took part—21 percent of the total number of publishers! And what a happy month of theocratic service it was!
Diligent effort was required. A Witness who was a truck driver and another one who was a bricklayer arranged to be in the field service regularly from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., after finishing their secular work. A sister who worked as a seamstress at home got up early to care for her work before leaving for the field service. A mother of eight children—the eldest 12 years of age and the youngest 5 months—was assisted by her family, the older children helping to care for the younger ones, and her husband preparing dinner. Among the 12 publishers in a certain congregation, 5 served as auxiliary pioneers. Included were two family heads, one with 10 children and the other with 14. Both lived about ten miles [15 km] from the city. They traveled to the city twice a week to share in field service for nine hours each day. Another sister, unable to walk, sat in a chair on the sidewalk in front of her home, where she contacted passersby.
Having tasted the joy of this service, several who served as auxiliary pioneers during that month applied for regular pioneer service. (Ps. 34:8) In April 1984, there were 3,500 regular pioneers on the list. Six months later there were 4,200, and a year later the figure was 5,400. Now there are over 22,500 regular pioneers in the country. And what joy they have as they share so fully in the most important work being done on earth today!
Prior to 1984, material in our Portuguese magazines was not published until six months after it appeared in English. However, in that year, two rotary offset presses as well as MEPS (Multilanguage Electronic Phototypesetting System, developed by the brothers at the world headquarters in New York) were installed in Brazil. Translated material was entered directly into the computer, and the MEPS programs greatly speeded up the process of page composition. Paul Bauer, Erich Kattner, and Franz Schredl were given training in New York for MEPS operation and maintenance. Thus in 1984, material published in English began to be printed simultaneously in Portuguese.
The rotary offset presses, each of which could print 32,000 magazines per hour, were donated by the brothers in the United States. Harry Johnson, of the Brooklyn Bethel family, supervised the installation. First came simultaneous publication. Shortly afterward, the printing was being done in four colors and on better-quality paper. The results were excellent! Never before had so many subscriptions for the magazines been received in one month—50,000 in June 1987. The number of subscriptions increased steadily, reaching a peak of 87,238 in April 1994. Each month, we now print an average of 3,500,000 magazines in Portuguese and in Spanish.
Integrity Keepers Convene in Record Numbers
Another outstanding event in 1985 was simultaneous use of the two largest stadiums in Brazil—Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo and Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro—for our “Integrity Keepers” District Conventions. These conventions, held August 23-25, 1985, were attended by delegates from 11 countries. Two members of the Governing Body, John Barr and Lyman Swingle, were also present.
The public discourse “God’s Times and Seasons—To What Do They Point?” was presented by John Kushnir to an audience of 162,941 in São Paulo and by Augusto Machado to 86,410 in Rio de Janeiro—a total of close to 250,000 persons! That is almost as many as were present in New York in 1958 when delegates from 123 lands met simultaneously in two stadiums there. Yet that was not the full extent of the 1985 conventions in Brazil.
Besides these two international conventions, 23 others were held in various parts of the country, with a total attendance of 144,000, and with 1,192 getting baptized. Among those baptized was a lady from São Leopoldo, Rio Grande do Sul, who had recently lost a child in an accident and as a result had turned to spiritism. However, she read the brochure Unseen Spirits—Do They Help Us? Or Do They Harm Us? and was so impressed by what she read that she went looking for the local Kingdom Hall. There she accepted the offer of a Bible study and progressed rapidly to the point of baptism. Today, she, her husband, and a granddaughter serve Jehovah.
‘Gathering Together’ in Spite of Distance
Our Christian brothers and sisters in Brazil truly appreciate the Bible’s counsel not to forsake gathering together, and all the more so as they behold Jehovah’s day drawing near. (Heb. 10:24, 25) Sometimes this requires considerable effort on their part. A brother in the congregation in Fazenda Taquari, Bahia, though lame and 70 years of age, walks five miles [8 km] to get to the Kingdom Hall. Brothers in the Olindina Congregation, Bahia, walk ten miles [16 km] carrying a plastic bag with garments so that they can replace the clothing that gets wet when they cross a river. In Pará, several families walk four miles [6 km] through a forest where they often see jaguar footprints. Also, in the congregation at Repouso do Amatari, Amazonas, two families, consisting of 15 persons, walk through the jungle with one adult out front to bang the trees and the ground with a stick in order to chase away the snakes.
A pregnant sister, with a child in her arms, walked ten miles [16 km] to the Kingdom Hall in the small town of Axixá, Tocantins, whenever she could not get a ride in a truck. In order to take her small children with her to the Kingdom Hall, a sister in Bahia puts them in two large baskets, one hanging on each side of a donkey that she leads.
At the time of a circuit assembly in Cruzeiro do Sul, Acre, 37 persons from the congregation in Rio Badejo, Amazonas, were present, although the congregation was reporting only 9 publishers. That group walked eight hours in order to attend. Among them was a sister with eight children, the youngest of whom was five years old. Also, ten brothers traveled 62 miles [100 km] by bicycle to attend their assembly in Floriano, Piauí. They are truly grateful for the spiritual provisions that Jehovah makes.
Self-Sacrificing Shepherds of the Flock
The rapid increase in the number of publishers has given rise to the need for more spiritual shepherds to care for the flock of God. (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2) There is a need not only for elders to care for individual congregations but also for qualified overseers who can arrange to travel in order to provide loving oversight to circuits and districts. A number of the brothers have been giving of themselves as traveling overseers for more than 30 years. Twelve new circuits, on an average, are formed each year, and there are now 326 circuit overseers and 21 district overseers in the Brazilian field. These brothers manifest a fine spirit, being willing to serve anywhere, no matter what the conditions are.
What might that involve? Some have left behind comfortable homes, and now they gladly accept accommodations in the varied conditions in which our brothers live. Since the climate is tropical, they have to deal with mosquitoes and other insects. Because of the heat, some sleep in hammocks rather than beds. There are homes that have a roof but no walls. In remote areas, transportation may be by boat, on horseback, in run-down buses, or simply on foot.
José Vertematti, who served in the 1970’s as a circuit overseer in Maranhão, wrote: “To get to the congregations in Sítio Ceará and Guimarães, my wife, Mazolina, and I had to travel two hours by boat and then wait for whatever means of transport came along, since there was no bus service. Several times we went by truck, Mazolina in the cabin and I on top of the cargo, which included pigs, chickens, and goats or sacks of flour, rice, and beans. When the truck would get stuck in the mud, we had to get out and push. If all went well, this part of the trip took about five hours. Then we walked another four hours to reach the Kingdom Hall.” The local Witnesses appreciated these visits very much.
To attend meetings in the Kingdom Hall in Guimarães, some brothers had to walk about 20 miles [30 km] weekly, which took five or six hours. During the visit of the circuit overseer, they would stay in town the whole week in order to benefit fully from his visit.
There are circuits that cover huge, sparsely populated areas. During the 1980’s, for example, one circuit included the states of Acre, Rondônia, and parts of Mato Grosso and Amazonas, an area equivalent to that of Spain. While in that circuit, Adenir Almeida visited the congregation in Lábrea, Amazonas, a town where many people suffered from Hansen’s disease, or leprosy. To get there, he traveled four hours by bus, stayed overnight in a boardinghouse, and in the morning set out, along with eight other passengers, on the back of a truck loaded with bottled alcoholic drinks. After several hours of traveling in the heat, all of them were very thirsty. The only liquid available was in those bottles. Brother Almeida confesses that under the circumstances it was hard to resist the offer of the others to share the bottles they pilfered from the cargo. After traveling for ten hours under a burning sun, with plenty of dust and then rain, at last they arrived in Lábrea. There, the whole congregation was on hand to meet him—two special pioneers and two unbaptized publishers! On Sunday, he had the pleasure of baptizing the two publishers.
For Wladimir Aleksandruk, a single brother who has served as a traveling overseer for nearly 30 years, sleeping accommodations have included the local prison. It was 1972, and he was visiting an isolated publisher whose husband was an unbeliever. The town was small, and there was no hotel, so the circuit overseer arranged to sleep in the jailhouse. He laughingly recalls: “Everyone took me for the new chief of police, since they saw me going in and out of the prison at will, and I wore a suit and tie. At first, I was the only inmate, but the second day, I had the company of a man who had stolen a pig. So I was able to witness to him.”
These self-sacrificing overseers readily admit that any discomfort or lack of privacy is more than offset by the warm love and genuine zeal shown by the brothers.
During the 1980’s, many families from the south heeded the call, “Go west, young man!” They moved to western Brazil, especially to Rondônia, looking for land suitable for cultivation. The government offered it free of charge. Roads about 22 miles [35 km] long, called lines, were opened in the forest, and the land along both sides of these “lines” was opened for settlers. This provided excellent territory for witnessing!
In Pimenta Bueno, Rondônia, a barber who belonged to an evangelical religion built a church. However, he became upset when he observed the disputes among the pastors of his own religion, each wanting to go to a church in which more money was collected. He had never listened to the Witnesses. But one day as he watched the special pioneers working along the street, evidently very happy, he wondered: ‘If I have the truth, why am I so upset? And if they are the “false prophets,” why are they so happy?’ He visited the pioneers—at night, so as not to be seen by others—and accepted a Bible study. Impressed by what he was learning, he invited the pioneers, Jonas and Robson Barbosa de Souza, to preach to the 30 members of his church. Several accepted the truth, and in time the church was closed. Shortly thereafter, the Catholic church in that area was also abandoned, since the man who conducted the services, and his family, likewise became Jehovah’s Witnesses.
At the time of the first visit of the circuit overseer to that congregation, there were already 49 publishers, and 280 persons attended the public discourse. The territory was small, and in a short time, all the inhabitants either were Witnesses or were studying with them. So the publishers had to go by truck to neighboring settlements to preach. They also used the truck (with a canvas covering) to travel to conventions in the nearest city, Pôrto Velho, 370 miles [600 km] away.
The Amazon Region
Witnessing in the Amazon region presents special challenges, but the spiritual needs of people living there are not being neglected. This is an area larger than Western Europe. The Brazilian part of the forest occupies almost half of the whole country, but it has only 9,000,000 inhabitants—about 6 percent of Brazil’s population. Some sections of the rivers in this area are really like seas. For example, the Negro River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River, is 11 miles [18 km] wide near Manaus, the state capital, and the mouth of the main channel of the Amazon River delta is 31 miles [50 km] across. Among the rivers of the world, the Amazon is in most respects viewed as king.
In this region it is not unusual to travel several days by boat to get from one city to another. Two special pioneers assigned to Eirunepé, Amazonas, a town of 20,000 inhabitants, wrote: “The trip to our assignment took 13 days by boat. We considered the boat to be part of our territory. While on the boat, we placed several publications and began eight Bible studies, which we conducted twice a day.” In Amazonia, there are 213 special pioneers busy helping people to benefit from God’s Word.
Aboard the Society’s Boats
Since 1991 some of our special pioneers have been using boats as part of their regular equipment in the ministry. In that year the Society provided two boats for such use. There is Boas Novas (Good News), which travels on the rivers Negro, Purus, Madeira, and Solimões. Proclamador das Boas Novas (Proclaimer of the Good News) circles the island of Marajó—the size of the Netherlands—at the mouth of the Amazon River.
Five special pioneers are assigned to each boat. While two pairs of pioneers are in the service, one pioneer stays on board to prepare the meals and to do the cleaning as well as to guard against possible piracy. The main objective is to reach the inhabitants of the small villages on the riverbanks and others who live in huts built on piles or in floating homes.
“Entre!” (Come in!) is the welcome the pioneers hear almost invariably as they approach homes. This is followed by a witness of 40 minutes or more. The pioneers stay for nearly two months in the larger settlements, conducting Bible studies with interested persons, often several times a week. Public talks and the Watchtower Study are generally held in a school or in a private home. Other meetings are held on the boat. If people show a genuine desire to serve Jehovah, special pioneers are assigned to stay and develop the interest.
About three hours by boat from Manaus, in the vicinity of Janauacá, there is a unique Assembly Hall built by the local brothers. Here, there is no problem in obtaining rooms for those coming to assemblies from a distance. Many live in floating homes, so they just tow their home by boat to the Assembly Hall, which is built on an island, “park” their home, and disembark for the assembly. Although the congregations nearby have fewer than 100 publishers, attendance at the assemblies reaches almost 250.
Indians Helped to Learn the Truth
The Indians, who are all too often treated with little respect by people in general, are impressed when Jehovah’s Witnesses do treat them with respect. A number of them have progressed spiritually to the point of baptism.—Acts 10:34, 35.
Hamilton Vieira, who served as a circuit overseer in an area where Indians live, remembers an experience he had with them. In a talk, he quoted Luke 21:34-36, which warns against “overeating and heavy drinking.” At first, he discussed “overeating.” When his audience had difficulty understanding what that meant, he explained. The Indians were astonished and then started to laugh. The idea of overeating was totally absurd to them. As part of their way of life, the Indians may encircle fish on one side of the river but then will catch only enough to satisfy their immediate needs and no more. But what about “heavy drinking”?
Unhappily, excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages is common among the Indian population. Abuse of alcohol has been encouraged by people who buy drinks for them and consider it entertainment to watch the ridiculous way they act when drunk. Brother Vieira was able to explain that just as it is foolish to eat too much, it is equally absurd to drink too much.
In this region a visitor at times must walk on narrow paths through the forest and learn to balance himself while walking on tree trunks laid like a bridge over a small river channel. These trunks are generally moist and slippery. “Walking on them was not easy for me,” recalls Brother Vieira. “The local brothers had no problem, nor did sisters who even had children in their arms and who, to my embarrassment, carried my bags, while I struggled to keep my balance.”
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, public talks that included the showing of slides played an important role in the preaching of the good news. Pataíba, Bahia, had only 1,500 inhabitants and a small congregation, but attendance for the slide showing was 1,572. How did that come about? Moacyr Soares, the circuit overseer, explained: “Since the Kingdom Hall was small, I suggested to the elders that they ask permission from the mayor to use the marketplace located in the main plaza, across from the Catholic church. With his permission, we removed the stalls and made an auditorium. It was ‘Holy Week,’ and a large procession had been planned to start from the church at 6:00 p.m., the time when our public talk was to begin. People from nearby towns had been invited, and since no priest lived in town, one was to come from outside to lead the procession. However, the priest’s car had a flat tire, and he did not arrive in time. As a result, most of the people who came for the procession attended our talk instead. Appropriately, the title of the talk was ‘Bringing the Many to Righteousness in the Time of the End.’”
In January 1987 the number of Kingdom publishers exceeded 200,000 in Brazil, and the increase was continuing at a fast pace. During 1988, there were 367 new congregations formed; 370 more in 1989—an average of more than one each day! More workers—more publications! So a third rotary press, with a capacity of 38,000 magazines an hour, was sent to help us. It was also necessary to modernize the Shipping Department so that it could handle the thousands of literature orders from the congregations.
Plans were made for an annex to the existing factory, thus increasing the work area from 291,000 square feet [27,000 sq m] to 452,000 square feet [42,000 sq m]. Construction began in December 1988 and was done by a Bethel construction crew under the expert direction of several international servants—all volunteers.
Assistance From International Servants
We were happy to have with us 35 skilled brothers from other lands who helped on this project of enlarging the factory and, later, worked on constructing more residential blocks. Some of the brothers and sisters served for several weeks, others for months, and a few for more than six years. Their presence was encouraging, upbuilding, and because of their expertise, very productive.
Some of these international servants were young; others were grandparents. Keith Colwell and his wife, Rae Etta, were the first to arrive, in March 1989, and were in the latter category. They were over 50 years of age. Keith says: “Being far from our two daughters and sons-in-law, four grandchildren, and Mother and Dad has not been easy. Sometimes, we think about going home and just being ‘grandparents,’ but as long as we can be used and we have the strength, we will be happy to say: ‘Here I am! Send me.’—Isaiah 6:8.”
Darwin Harley and his wife, Shirley, also served in Brazil for nearly six years. They too thought with nostalgia about their four children and eight grandchildren. Nevertheless, they were determined to put Jehovah first in their lives and to continue to set an example in that regard for their children. So, after the youngest of them had married, Darwin and Shirley had no doubts about what to do. They applied to serve permanently as international servants. Now, although more than 60 years of age, they say with feeling: “We are grateful to the Governing Body for the opportunity to serve Jehovah in this special way.” There were many tearful eyes when the Brazil Bethel family had to say good-bye to all these faithful servants from other countries. Some of them returned to their homes, whereas others left for new assignments.
A Priest Learns the Truth
Foremost among the grand things that Jehovah has done in Brazil is the freeing of people who were deeply involved in false religion. On a bus one day, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses sat next to Ademir de Oliveira, who had been serving for ten years as a priest in the Brazilian Catholic Church. A discussion arose as to the meaning of the word “hell.” Later, Ademir reflected on that conversation, and as he read our magazines, the truth became clear in his mind.
In his church he began to teach that Jehovah is God and that the use of images is wrong. But he realized that he was not practicing what he preached—after all, the church still had its images. Meanwhile, when his father and his mother died in the space of just ten months, he began to feel that God was punishing him for thinking of leaving the Catholic Church. However, on the occasion of his mother’s burial, he realized that Jehovah was the One who could raise her to life again. In 1989 he went to his first meeting in a Kingdom Hall and attended regularly thereafter. He left the Catholic Church, and in his first month as a Kingdom publisher, he reported 60 hours and placed 12 copies of the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth. After his baptism he became a regular pioneer, and now he serves also as an elder in Jundiaí, São Paulo.
Answers to Questions Young People Ask
Young people need assistance in order to serve Jehovah acceptably. (Eccl. 12:1) The series of “Godly Devotion” District Conventions, held in 1989, provided a useful tool to that end. One girl 15 years of age wrote: “At the beginning of the program, it was announced that all young people from 10 to 19 years of age should sit together at the front of the auditorium. We were all very excited, wondering what was to happen. At the end of the program, after an enthusiastic talk, the speaker announced that each young person would receive the gift of a book entitled Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work. It was very, very thrilling! I wanted to cry, I was so happy. It was just what we needed. Since then, I have referred frequently to the book for counsel. With this valuable gift from Jehovah, we are well equipped to face the pressures of this system.” More than 70,000 books were distributed among the young brothers and sisters at the 108 conventions held in the country.
It is estimated that about 35 percent of those attending congregation meetings in Brazil are young people. Daily they are confronted with the degrading influence of the materialistic, immoral world. They face the challenge of getting an adequate secular education to prepare them for adult life while at the same time obtaining the vital education from God’s Word that can prepare them for survival into his new world of righteousness. The majority of them are facing up to this challenge. Many serve as auxiliary pioneers even while going to school, and then they enroll as regular pioneers as soon as they graduate. Others consider the school their personal territory and take advantage of all opportunities to witness there.
When a Witness in Minas Gerais called at a school and talked to one of the teachers, the teacher explained: “I had two girls in my class, 9 and 11 years of age. I noticed that they were different from all the other students. I observed that during our prayers they stood quietly with the others but did not repeat the prayers. When I asked them if they did not know how to pray or if they felt uncomfortable praying, they told me that Jehovah God does not hear repetitive prayers and that while we prayed they prayed silently. I asked them: ‘How do you pray?’ The older one said to me: ‘Please bow your head,’ and then she prayed. She thanked Jehovah for their parents, their food, their teacher, and she even prayed for the health of their mother, who taught them the truth from the Bible. I could not hold back my tears and had to run to the bathroom to cry.” On the return visit, the publisher learned that the girls’ family had moved because there was no Kingdom Hall in the town where the teacher taught. “I miss them very much,” the teacher concluded.
The Truth’s Transforming Power
God’s Word can have a powerful, transforming effect on the lives of people. For example, individuals enslaved to the demons are being set free. That was true of a young man in São Paulo whose family practiced spiritism. Ever since he was 13 years of age, he had cared for a spiritist (macumba) center, where many went for help in solving problems of all sorts, dealing with family, health, employment, and courtship. Besides the use of herb mixtures, the rituals included animal sacrifices—of frogs, chickens, and goats—in cemeteries at night. At times, human bones stolen from cemeteries were used. In 1990, when he was 19 years old, he had his first contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses. When he realized that what he was learning from them was the truth, he called together the 11 spirit mediums who worked under him and explained that the Bible disapproved of spiritistic practices. To free himself from demon attacks, he burned all the spiritistic objects he had. After five months of Bible study, he became a publisher, and during the first month of preaching, he reported 12 Bible studies. (Acts 19:19, 20) The majority were with people in his vicinity who knew him as a macumbeiro (an adept of macumba). After his baptism he served as an auxiliary pioneer, then as a regular pioneer, and later, as a member of the Brazil Bethel family.
The life of a man who had taken an active part in the carnival annually for 20 years was also deeply affected. He had received prizes for his part in famous carnival balls in Rio de Janeiro. His life-style had included excessive drinking, gambling, and contact with people who practiced all kinds of immorality. When he learned the truth, he changed his way of life completely. Now he is a ministerial servant, and he uses his talents to decorate the platform at conventions.
Another young man in Rio de Janeiro had made soccer his passion. He was part of a cheering group organized by a club that would brutally harass members of the opposing cheering section. It was his practice to go to the soccer stadium armed with a revolver or a homemade bomb. At almost every game, he was involved in fights with the opposing group and with the police. However, an ex-schoolmate, a Witness, started a Bible study with him. He came to understand who were his real friends and who was his greatest enemy. He allowed Bible truth to transform his personality, and then he got baptized.
Pedro, a young man living in São Paulo, was also involved in a violent way of life. He took part in a form of martial arts called capoeira (a technique of violent assault) and liked to carry firearms. Over six feet [c. 2 m] tall, with a superb physique, he was constantly involved in fights. One day, however, he agreed to have a Bible study. After listening to a Bible discourse in the Kingdom Hall, he realized that he would have to make big changes in his life. He destroyed his weapons and made progress to the point of baptism. Since then, he has helped ten members of his family to join him in serving Jehovah.
Can the truth help a person to overcome timidity? It did in the case of a lady in São Paulo. When she first heard the Bible’s message, she marveled at what she was learning. Still, attending meetings and sharing in the public preaching of the good news were enormous obstacles to her. Why? Because of her timid nature and her fear of going against her husband. But she kept in mind texts such as Matthew 10:37 and finally found the courage to share in the field service. She wanted to please Jehovah, yet many times she would cry, fighting the urge to quit and go home. Eventually, however, witnessing became easier and even enjoyable for her. As a result of her perseverance, her mother, five brothers, and husband all learned the truth.
Dealing With High Inflation
One of the main problems of the 1980’s was severe inflation. In spite of several economic plans, inflation kept increasing until it reached 6,584 percent for the period from May 1989 through April 1990. In some months, prices increased nearly 3 percent a day! By the end of the month, a person needed almost twice as much money as was required at the beginning of the month to buy the same item. In an effort to deal with the situation, for 18 months starting in March 1990, the government froze all bank accounts. More than once, the government also had to eliminate several zeros from the money and print new bills.
The problem of inflation, of course, was not new, but what took place in 1990 was excessive. Happily, we had a good stock of paper and other supplies at the branch for printing. We made only purchases that were absolutely essential and postponed others. The Bethel family of 800 members agreed to do without their monthly reimbursements for a time. It was also encouraging that the Society’s office received phone calls and letters from brothers offering donations and loans to keep things going. After some months, the government allowed nonprofit organizations such as ours to resume normal operations. For the Society the crisis was over.
During this difficult period, the Witnesses continued to be active in the ministry. They used their time, money, and energy wisely. Many demonstrated real appreciation for the godly counsel to seek the Kingdom first. (Matt. 6:33) As a result, there were new peaks in publishers, pioneers, and literature placements during 1990. The 11-percent increase in publishers that year has not been surpassed since then.
When the bank accounts were frozen, the Floresta Congregation in Joinvile, Santa Catarina, had the equivalent of US$100,000 on deposit for use in building a Kingdom Hall. They postponed the project, but contributions received made it possible to erect the new hall without the money in the bank. When the funds in the bank were finally released, the congregation was able to purchase a lot next to the Kingdom Hall for parking and to help another congregation to build a Kingdom Hall.
Learning to Read the Bible With Understanding
Describing a happy man, the psalmist said: “His delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.” (Ps. 1:2) But there are many people who never had an opportunity to go to school to learn how to read. Could they be helped to experience the joy to which the psalmist referred? Beginning in 1958, special classes were held in Kingdom Halls to assist those who did not know how to read or write. In 1970 a further step was taken in this program of education when the booklet Learn to Read and Write was released in Portuguese. To date, more than 20,000 persons, including many who were not Witnesses, have been helped to learn how to read.
Even some who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses have observed the benefits from the classes and have appreciated them. In São Paulo an unbelieving husband thanked the local congregation for what had been done to help his wife to learn to read. The chief of police in Ferros, Minas Gerais, sent a letter of commendation to the Society for the work done in teaching prisoners in jail there, saying: “Whether from the spiritual point of view or from the material side, Jehovah’s Witnesses have collaborated with this chief of police in teaching prisoners to read. Like fine rain that falls silently but that can cause rivers to overflow, they have done much to integrate the prisoners into society.”
Of course, reading has its greatest value when a person takes delight in God’s Word and shares it with others. A 74-year-old Witness in Rio de Janeiro who benefited from the literacy course does just that, and she has now been able to teach the truth to many people living in her area.
When the booklet Learn to Read and Write was released, the publishers were encouraged to use it to conduct studies with interested ones who needed such help. One day Sonia Springate, who was serving as a missionary in Curitiba, Paraná, asked a lady to whom she was witnessing to read Revelation 21:4. The woman hesitated and then said: “No, you read it.” When making a return visit on that person, Sonia found out that the woman did not know how to read. Although the woman was busy caring for four children, a study was conducted with her with the help of the booklet Learn to Read and Write. At first, she felt discouraged, but with encouragement she persisted and, within a year, was able to read. Today, she and her husband are baptized Witnesses, and the children are making progress in the truth.
Some who knew how to read needed assistance to improve their comprehension. To deal with that, groups receiving advanced help in reading and in conversation were organized in some congregations in 1990. Such assistance is now being provided to nearly 6,000 Witnesses, and the results are favorable. When beginning the course, one sister in Rio de Janeiro took about two hours to read and understand the material for the Congregation Book Study. After two months in the course she could do it in 20 minutes.
Special Distribution of Magazines
High on the list of reading matter for Jehovah’s Witnesses is The Watchtower, which is designed to help people who love truth to understand the Bible. It exalts Jehovah God as the Sovereign Lord of the universe and shows how God’s Kingdom will solve the problems of humankind. Its companion, Awake!, points to the real meaning behind current events and builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world. Jehovah’s Witnesses are eager to share this valuable information with others. In order to increase distribution of these magazines and to encourage new ones who qualify to share in the ministry, special magazine distribution was scheduled for May 1, 1990, a holiday. It was recommended that congregations organize field service for the morning, afternoon, and evening and that entire families take part in the service that day.
The response was excellent! As an example, in Rio de Janeiro, a congregation of 125 publishers had 121 in the service in the morning and 118 in the afternoon. A new peak of 288,107 publishers for the country was reached that month, and more than 500,000 magazines were reported as being placed on that one day. Since then, other special magazine days have been arranged with good success.
“Pure Language” District Conventions
Conventions are milestones in the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some of these are long remembered by those in attendance. Such a convention was held in São Paulo in August 1990. On the final day, more than 134,000 persons—86,186 in Morumbi Stadium and 48,220 in Pacaembu Stadium—listened to a public discourse delivered simultaneously by two speakers at the “Pure Language” District Convention. On hand were C. W. Barber and A. D. Schroeder, members of the Governing Body, as well as 2,350 foreign delegates from 14 countries.
At the end of the final discourse in both stadiums, the delegates began waving handkerchiefs and scarves. Deeply moved by what they were witnessing, many shed tears of joy. How grateful the Brazilian Witnesses were that their Christian brothers and sisters had come from other lands to join them for this grand occasion!
The outstanding love that is manifest among Jehovah’s servants is a big factor in helping sincere people to identify the truth. (John 13:35) This was the case with a young man and his sister who had opposed their widowed mother’s study of the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. An elder visited the family and invited them to attend that convention in São Paulo on Sunday afternoon. He picked them up early, since he had to care for his duties as a volunteer at the stadium. The two were deeply impressed. They commented on the order and cleanliness in the stadium, the way things were organized, and, yes, the outpouring of love toward the visiting delegates at the conclusion. They accepted a Bible study, made good progress, and were baptized with their mother. Today, that young man is a ministerial servant.
Hospital Liaison Committees
All of Jehovah’s Witnesses, whether newly baptized or more experienced, know that abstaining from blood of all sorts is an important Christian requirement. (Gen. 9:3, 4; Acts 21:25) In 1984 a number of committees of experienced elders were formed to interview doctors and register those who would respect a patient’s decision to reject transfusions of blood. This arrangement gained strength in 1991 when an international seminar of Hospital Liaison Committees (HLCs) was held in São Paulo. Eugene Rosam and Fred Rusk from Hospital Information Services in Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.A., were present. Also, more than 700 other brothers attended the seminar, including some who are doctors or lawyers as well as members of the HLCs.
The seminar showed that there was much work ahead. The committees would be reorganized, and their members would begin to make presentations to doctors and medical teams, clarifying our position on the use of blood and offering them scientific articles on bloodless treatment. The goal set before the committee members in their relationship with doctors was “communication and cooperation, not confrontation.” After the reorganization, the number of committees was reduced from 200 with 1,200 members to 64 with about 350 members. As a result, there were fewer but better-equipped committees in cities with large centers for medical treatment.
In October 1992, there was an opportunity to make a presentation before 1,300 doctors from more than 100 countries, at the XXII International Convention on Blood Transfusion, in São Paulo. The organizers of the event gave approval for Sister Zelita da Silva Souza, a hematologist, to exhibit a poster listing 65 medical alternatives to blood transfusion. Pedro Catardo and Sergio Antão, of Bethel, reported: “In the beginning, we were a bit apprehensive as to the reception we would have, but the reaction of the more than 500 doctors contacted personally was very favorable. One of the main speakers at the convention carefully examined the poster and the articles on display. Later, in a talk he gave in the main auditorium, he expressed admiration for the valuable information received ‘from an unexpected source—Jehovah’s Witnesses.’”
In the following months, presentations were made to 20 Regional Councils of Medicine, and several of them recommended that when problems related to blood arise, doctors should contact the local HLC. In the past four years, more than 600 such presentations have been made, and there are now more than 1,900 cooperating doctors listed.
Interestingly, a number of doctors who appreciate the advantages of alternative, bloodless medical treatments have promoted seminars in Brazil in order to discuss the matter with others in the medical profession. Some of our brothers who are doctors or who serve as members of HLCs have been invited. Such a seminar was held first in Rio de Janeiro and then in other cities. Later, the Regional Council of Medicine in Rio de Janeiro issued a statement encouraging the use of alternative treatments.
“I’ll Never Forget That Prayer”
The HLCs have given much support to sick brothers and their families. Alaide Defendi, a special pioneer, recalled: “My sister was injured in a car accident in Curitiba, Paraná, in February 1992. The doctor stated that her life depended on her receiving a blood transfusion. I phoned the HLC, and within 15 minutes, three brothers, dressed in suits and ties and with briefcases in hand, arrived at the hospital and presented their visiting cards to the doctor.”
Arrangements were made to transfer the patient to another hospital 25 miles [40 km] away. A product that is accepted by some who reject blood transfusion is erythropoietin, a synthetic hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to increase production of red corpuscles, but the doctor said that this remedy was not available in Brazil. However, the brothers contacted a member of the HLC in São Paulo who sent the remedy by airplane that very day. Sister Defendi concluded, saying: “When my sister was in serious condition, a member of the HLC stayed in the hospital the whole day, and at a critical moment, he took me aside and said: ‘Let’s offer a prayer to Jehovah.’ I’ll never forget that prayer.”
A Visit to the Hills and Slums of Rio
Their reputation as people who are truly devoted to God has enabled Witnesses in Rio de Janeiro who live in areas dominated by drug traffic to continue in their ministry in these sections. There are several congregations in these localities, and as one elder explained, the more the brothers preach, the better it is. The brothers become known to the drug traffickers and are not bothered by them. There are hills with more than 200,000 inhabitants living in slum conditions. The vast majority of these people are not involved with drugs, but their financial circumstances do not allow them to live elsewhere.
An elder who lived in another part of the city drove into a slum area to give a public talk in one of the congregations. When he parked his car in front of the Kingdom Hall, two armed youths appeared, asking who he was. When he identified himself as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and said that he had come to give a public Bible talk, the youths told him to go ahead and not to worry about his car because it would not be touched.
“On one occasion,” related Francisco Duarte, a circuit overseer, “the traffickers came to the Kingdom Hall at the end of a meeting to warn the brothers that there was going to be a shoot-out. My wife and I were a bit frightened, but the publishers kept on talking normally, in spite of the sound of shooting. After a while, the traffickers returned to say that we could leave, since the shooting was over.”
It is not wise for anyone from outside the area to walk about without being accompanied by someone who lives in that locality. It is also necessary to dress so as not to attract the attention of thieves. Brother Duarte, although accompanied by a local publisher, was stopped by a man who asked for his watch. “At first I thought it was a holdup,” Brother Duarte recalled, “but the man continued, saying: ‘I know you are the new circuit overseer, but if you continue to use that gilt watch, someone will steal it, thinking it is gold. You use my watch and keep yours in your pocket.’ He was a brother. With that, I learned to be more careful.”
A youth who belonged to a gang of drug traffickers and who began to study the Bible discerned that he would have to change his occupation. But how? He knew that if anyone leaves a gang, he is generally killed by his colleagues as a security measure—so that gang secrets will not be revealed to others. In spite of this, the youth mustered up courage, prayed to Jehovah, and went to talk to the gang leader. The youth explained that he was studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, read some Bible texts, and said that he could not continue with the gang. He found that the gang leader had himself studied the Bible in the past. The youth was released without reprisals and is now an active publisher in the congregation.
As new ones came into the congregations, more literature was required for use in the program of Bible education. Our printery had already been expanded, but we needed more room to house the Bethel family, those volunteers who work at the branch. Some young brothers were being housed in dormitories with more than 20 beds each. So in 1990 we began work on a services building and on eight more residential blocks with a total of 384 rooms. The dining room was also enlarged to accommodate 1,500 people.
For this construction project, more than 1,000 volunteers came from all parts of the country. Some came for several weeks; others, for months. Many were professionals in their trade. (About 130 of them later became permanent members of the Bethel family.) From Feira de Santana, Bahia—more than 1,200 miles [2,000 km] away—came a group of 23 brothers from 12 different congregations. They had rented a bus and traveled 40 hours to help with the work for one week. Thirty-five experienced brothers from other lands also came to help with the work. Very valuable too was the assistance of hundreds of brothers and sisters who were from congregations near Bethel and who helped on weekends.
During 1991 the number of publishers passed the 300,000 mark. An increase of 100,000 in just four years! The enlarged facilities at the branch were truly needed.
“You Really Are Fast”
The progress of the disciple-making work also required more places of worship. During previous years, Assembly Halls had been built in Salvador, Bahia; Duque de Caxias, Rio de Janeiro; Ribeirão Pires, Cosmópolis, and Sertãozinho in São Paulo; and Betim, Minas Gerais. The largest Assembly Hall in the country is located near Vargem Grande Paulista, São Paulo; its construction was finished in October 1992. Shortly thereafter, another hall, with a capacity of 4,000, was completed in Queimados, Rio de Janeiro. In September 1993, five more Assembly Halls were dedicated simultaneously in Fortaleza, Ceará; Itaboraí, Rio de Janeiro; Quatro Barras, Paraná; Recife, Pernambuco; and Sapucaia do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul. At the present time, 16 Assembly Halls are in use, and 5 more are in the planning stage.
In harmony with the Bible’s command not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together, more Kingdom Halls are also needed to care for the great influx of sheeplike ones. (Heb. 10:23-25) Only one third of the congregations in Brazil have their own meeting place, and the rate at which new congregations are being formed is much higher than the construction rate. Besides this, it was taking an average of three years to complete a new Kingdom Hall. So in 1987 we began to form Regional Building Committees, composed of elders who had experience in construction and who could provide help for the bodies of elders in the congregations. The Bethel Engineering Department also provided practical suggestions.
Another significant step was taken in 1992 when a program of rapid Kingdom Hall construction was initiated. The first construction was in Agudos, São Paulo, with 200 volunteers and a team of 25 from Bethel. The project took three weeks, but since then the time needed for such a building has been reduced to 16 days. During the 1995 service year, a total of 129 new Kingdom Halls were completed and dedicated to Jehovah’s service.
Observers are always surprised at the speed with which the construction is done. At the end of the first week of construction on one Kingdom Hall, a worker from the firm that was contracted to provide panes for the windows was surprised when the brothers insisted that he return the following Wednesday to install them. “You must be mistaken,” he said. “Next week you won’t have the walls up, much less be ready for the windowpanes.” He returned Wednesday but without the panes. On seeing the walls up and plastered, the window frames in, and the roof on—all in less than a week—he took about five minutes to get down from his truck. He admitted, “You really are fast!” Then he left to get the windowpanes.
A man who lived near the place where a Kingdom Hall was being built, amazed at the rate of the construction, asked: “What do I have to do to help you?” “First you have to study the Bible with us,” was the answer. A Bible study was started with him the very next day.
Sharing the Message With Hands That Sign
The rapid growth has not resulted in lack of concern for those who are deaf or blind. Attention to their needs has produced excellent results. In 1992, Sign Language, a book of 336 pages, in Portuguese, was produced to teach sign language to the deaf. The book has unified the signs used among Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil and has also endeavored to eliminate signs based on Babylonian ideas. One of these was a hand movement that imitates sprinkling—which, of course, does not properly convey the idea of Christian water baptism.
The first congregation for the deaf and the hard of hearing was formed in Rio de Janeiro in 1982. Now there are six of such congregations and 50 smaller groups in various cities. In 1994, there were 18 conventions with sign-language groups. In some of these, the interpreters represented the participants in the dramas. In 1996 it was with broad smiles mixed with tears of joy that Brazilian Witnesses who are deaf received a video produced by the Society that presents in sign language the entire brochure What Does God Require of Us? How beneficial, because many who are deaf do not read but do understand sign language!
Praiseworthy is the willing disposition of the brothers who serve as elders, ministerial servants, and pioneers in these congregations. It requires time, effort, and perseverance to learn sign language, but the results have been rewarding.
“She encouraged me without seeing, hearing, or talking to me.” This is the expression commonly used by those who know Rosemary Varella, a blind and deaf sister who has been serving as an auxiliary pioneer for the past three years. She was born deaf and as a result did not learn to speak. She gradually lost her sight and now is practically blind. She expresses herself by means of sign language and perceives the signs made by others by touching their hands.
Rosemary had lost her vision before she learned the truth, and this greatly affected communication with her husband. She was so depressed that she contemplated suicide. At that time, she was contacted by Nilza Carvalho, a young pioneer who knew sign language. When she learned of God’s promise to cure people with all sorts of disabilities, she accepted a Bible study. (Isa. 35:5) She soon began to attend the meetings of the congregation for deaf people in São Paulo. Arrangements were made to have an interpreter sit beside her during the meetings to transmit to her what was expressed on the platform, using tactile interpreting. Later, her husband also accepted a Bible study; he stopped smoking, and both were baptized in February 1992. Soon after their baptism, they became regular auxiliary pioneers. Rosemary has conducted as many as 20 Bible studies with other deaf persons, at the same time caring for her duties in her home.
To help the visually impaired, the Society began to produce publications in Portuguese Braille (Grade one) in 1980. Today, many of the Society’s publications, including the Bible and The Watchtower, are available in Braille. The complete Bible in Portuguese Braille requires 84 volumes—not exactly a pocket edition! A manual has also been produced as an aid to those who would like to learn Braille. Statistics show that there are more than one million persons in Brazil with impaired vision.
Drought in the Northeast
Although drought is a chronic problem in the northeastern part of Brazil, the situation was especially serious in 1993. In some areas it had not rained for two years. The ones most seriously affected were people who live in rural areas and who depend on their harvests. In Mumbaba, Ceará, people stood in line day and night to get water from the only spring that was left. As a result of the drought, markets and supermarkets were looted in several towns. To help the brothers in that region, the congregations in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Curitiba, displaying a generosity like that of their first-century Christian brothers in Philippi, sent four large trucks with 80 tons of food, clothing, and shoes. All together, brothers in 65 towns throughout five states received aid.—Phil. 4:14-17.
At one checkpoint the guard asked the truck driver how much he earned for making such a dangerous trip. It was dangerous because of looting. When he found out that the driver was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the guard said: “Only one of Jehovah’s Witnesses would do this for nothing!” At another highway checkpoint, when the driver said he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the guard asked him to show his Advance Medical Directive/Release card as well as that of his companion. After checking the cards, he said to the other guard: “They are Jehovah’s Witnesses all right. You can let them pass.”
In the state of Paraíba, on seeing the assistance provided, one man commented: “Other religions just talk, while you really do something for your neighbor.” Although the situation was difficult, the brothers were not driven to despair, since they trusted that Jehovah would provide for their basic needs. A sister wrote: “You cannot satisfy our longing for rain, nor can you solve our problem of lack of water, but by the aid you sent us, you did strengthen our faith and confidence that we are not alone in this world and that there are those who think of us.”—Jas. 2:14-17.
“Cheers for Jehovah’s Witnesses!”
Conventions are especially happy times for Jehovah’s Witnesses. But unexpected problems can arise when conventions are held in facilities used for sporting events. A difficult situation arose in 1992 at the time of the “Light Bearers” District Convention in Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo. We had contracted for the use of the stadium for three days, but in some places sports events are viewed as being more important than anything else. Thus, on Thursday afternoon—the day before the opening of our convention—the brothers were advised that at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, there would be a soccer game between the two best teams in the country. We would therefore have to clear the stadium by 4:00 p.m.
João Fernandes, the convention overseer, recalled: “We had no choice, even though a contract had been signed. We had a meeting on Friday night with three brothers from each department—110 brothers in all—to make plans for a lightning-fast dismantling of the convention. It would require the close cooperation of all concerned not only to dismantle the equipment but also to transport it without interfering with the departure of 30,000 persons from the stadium. The platform and sound system were dismantled in a few minutes. Other equipment was taken to the old Bethel building in São Paulo, where it was cleaned and stored. At 3:45 p.m.—a little more than an hour after the end of the program—everything was done.”
During the week of the convention, some TV commentators had said that Jehovah’s Witnesses would not be able to hand over the stadium in time for the arrival of the soccer fans. In a sports review on Sunday, one commentator in another stadium asked the one in Pacaembu Stadium: “How is the stadium? Did those religious people fulfill their promise and clear the stadium in time?” The answer was: “Yes, they did! Not only did they return the stadium on time but everything was clean. It was a pleasure to see not only the bathrooms cleaned but the stands swept also. Cheers for Jehovah’s Witnesses!”
Miniconventions in Isolated Places
In the Amazon region, there are some isolated groups and individual families for whom the distance to convention cities is enormous. The only means of travel for them is by plane, which is very expensive, or by boat, which is very slow. So these publishers, in general, have been unable to get to district conventions or to assemblies. This has been true of the brothers in Tabatinga, Amazonas, about 1,000 miles [1,600 km] from the nearest convention city, Manaus.
In view of this problem, arrangements were made in 1990 for abbreviated portions of the convention program to be presented during the circuit overseer’s visit. This arrangement continues for the brothers in five towns in three different circuits. Groups of perhaps 50 or possibly as many as 180 assemble in the Kingdom Hall, if the group has one, or in an auditorium.
“Now I Can Be a Pioneer, Can I Not?”
The appreciation for spiritual things shown by some who present themselves for baptism is truly heartwarming. In 1993 at a small assembly in Tefé, in the Amazon region, Públio Cavalcante, a circuit overseer, noted that one of those seated in the area reserved for baptismal candidates was a young man whom he had never seen before. Since there are so few brothers in that area, the circuit overseer generally knows all of them personally. He asked the elders if the young man had sat there by mistake. They explained: ‘No. He lives about 35 to 40 hours from here by boat. He learned the truth by correspondence. Every six months, a special pioneer visited him—in Juruá—and stayed there for about a month.’
The circuit overseer later went to talk with the youth and during the conversation asked him if he had ever conducted any Bible studies. ‘Yes, I have 11 studies. There is one of my Bible students,’ he replied, pointing to another young man seated in the audience. As they continued talking, he pointed to two other youths with whom he was studying. The students had paid their own fare and traveled over 35 hours to attend the convention and to be present for the baptism of their friend. After his baptism that day, the youth asked the special pioneer: “Now I can be a pioneer, can I not?” As yet, no meetings are held in that area, but now that this publisher is baptized, the special pioneer plans to train him to conduct meetings.
Preaching in Seldom-Worked Areas
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not feel that as long as they have some share in the field service, that is all that is needed. They realize that everyone needs an opportunity to hear the good news. There are many towns in Brazil that are not assigned to any congregation and others that are rarely worked. Generally, these are small, isolated towns or ones difficult to reach. An investigation made in 1990 indicated that there were 4,000,000 people living in unassigned territory and 9,000,000 living in other territory that was seldom worked. A special campaign got under way that year to contact some of these people. More than 2,000 publishers participated, working in 177 previously unassigned towns. Later, about 30 families moved to some of these towns in order to provide the nucleus for new congregations.
Limited financial resources are not an insurmountable obstacle for the Witnesses when it comes to sharing in such activity. The elders of the four congregations in Sobral, Ceará, in one of the driest and poorest regions of Brazil, met together in September 1993 to decide how to work certain towns on a regular basis. There were ten towns assigned to them that, up until then, had been worked only sporadically. The bus schedules to these places made travel almost impossible for the publishers.
The towns were within a radius of about 80 miles [130 km] of Sobral, so the elders decided to purchase a used van to allow publishers to travel to the territory every day. They could leave in the morning and return at night. When informed of the decision, the congregations sent voluntary contributions for the van. “The purchase of the vehicle was not the result of a big local donation, but it was through the efforts of all,” wrote Wilson P. Dias, one of the elders involved. Another brother wrote: “The congregations donated $2,000, a brother from England donated the same amount, and the balance was paid off in installments.”
More than 50 publishers and pioneers share in the arrangement, each one traveling on a certain day of the week. In this way they reach a population of about 110,000. They have been able to help a number of individuals to become Kingdom proclaimers and have reactivated others. Meetings are now being held regularly in four of the towns.
Early in 1995 another arrangement, coordinated by the Brazil branch office, was suggested as a means of reaching and caring for people living in unassigned or distant territories. Certain congregations arranged to pay the expenses of regular pioneers who would be willing to serve for six months in such areas. More congregations have followed their lead, and the results have been very encouraging. To date, more than 340 regular pioneers have been assigned to serve in 350 towns, where they have already helped more than 300 persons to become publishers.
At the same time, much good work is being done by the 1,400 permanent and temporary special pioneers. Many of these are assigned to work with congregations where there is a lack of experienced brothers. For example, in Rio Branco, Acre, one of the congregations has just one local elder, besides the special pioneer, to care for the needs of 90 publishers. The majority of the special pioneers, however, are serving in small towns where there are no congregations, and it is gratifying to see the fine work being done.
The brothers from the larger cities have also been doing their share in working distant and seldom-worked territory. For nine consecutive years, those in Rio de Janeiro have organized groups to work in such territory for a few weeks. Recently a group of 68 brothers and sisters worked in 20 cities in Paraná, traveling more than 1,600 miles [2,500 km] during the 17-day effort. Their only regret, says Georges Ghazi, one of the organizers of the group, is that these witnessing excursions were not begun earlier.
People living in unassigned territory are not the only ones who are difficult to reach. There are many people in larger cities who prefer to live in exclusive areas, in condominiums, and in apartment buildings that provide security against crime. Access to these people is difficult but not impossible. A married couple who had been in the full-time service for a time during the 1980’s moved into one of these buildings near São Paulo. They viewed it as their personal territory. “When I went shopping or to the bank or when I went to pick up the children at school,” the mother recalls, “I always went prepared to contact our neighbors.” Later she cautiously made systematic calls on them.
At a meeting of the parents of schoolchildren, one mother told our sister that her son had difficulty in concentrating. The sister took her a copy of an article in the Awake! magazine dealing with that problem, and this led to a Bible study. Eventually, the lady and her two daughters were baptized. Another neighbor asked our sister if she would like to cooperate with her in gathering food for needy persons. The sister told her that she was already involved in helping people in her neighborhood, and she explained the arrangement for home Bible studies. The lady, her husband, and their 18-year-old son began to study and eventually got baptized.
Another lady and her three adolescent daughters accepted a Bible study. The husband objected, although he considered himself to be a religious person. One of the daughters suggested that he attend a meeting to investigate the matter for himself, and he agreed. A few days later, our sister invited the family for lunch in her home, and they came. To everyone’s surprise, the husband commented on the meeting he had attended. Later, he agreed to have a Bible study. Today, all in that family are serving Jehovah.
Others too have studied. As a result, in November 1991 a congregation was formed that was composed entirely of people living in that one condominium. There are 46 publishers, and 80 people attended the Memorial in 1995. So the truth of God’s Word can penetrate even into areas that are more difficult to reach.
400,000 Publishers and More to Come!
Almost a century ago, the seeds of Bible truth first reached Brazil by mail. After about 25 years, arrangements were made to translate Watch Tower publications into Portuguese on a regular basis in Brazil and to print them in Rio de Janeiro. During the next 25 years, about 1,000 people in Brazil became Jehovah’s Witnesses and began to have a regular share in spreading the good news of God’s Kingdom to others. But by April 1995, that number had increased to more than 400,000 Kingdom publishers! Was there still more to be done?
Jesus Christ foretold that the Kingdom message would be preached “in all the inhabited earth” before the end comes. (Matt. 24:14) To what extent has that been accomplished in Brazil? Early meetings held in Brazil by Jehovah’s Witnesses (then known as Bible Students) included those in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In those areas today, there are many congregations overflowing with people who love and serve Jehovah. In metropolitan São Paulo, there are now 837 congregations; in Rio de Janeiro, 539; and Salvador has 276. Throughout the country, there are upwards of 6,650 congregations, made up of zealous Witnesses of Jehovah. People in many of these cities have the opportunity to hear the message of the Kingdom frequently—in some areas, every week.
In small towns and rural areas, not everyone is visited so often. There are about 350 small towns (with a total estimated population of 1,500,000) as well as extensive rural areas that are not assigned to any congregation. No regular witnessing is done in these areas, though efforts are made to reach them about once every six months.
Could more people—whether in the larger cities or in remote areas—be helped to appreciate the value of the Bible’s message? In an effort to reach their hearts, during April and May 1995, a special effort was put forth to make personal contact with as many as possible and to give them the tract Why Is Life So Full of Problems? Upwards of 34,000,000 copies had been printed and sent out to the congregations for distribution. On receiving a copy, one man said: ‘I asked myself that same question this morning and talked with others about it.’ A lady said: ‘I’ve asked myself that question for many years, but I never imagined there would be an answer to it.’ Another wrote to the Society, saying: “I liked the tract so much that I’m asking you for a Bible study. Many thanks.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil do not feel that their work is finished and that nothing more can be done in obedience to Jesus’ prophetic command to give a witness concerning the Kingdom. Even in areas where the Witnesses call often, they realize that many people are not at home. The people may be working, shopping, or visiting, or they may be sleeping late to renew their energy for the week ahead. The Witnesses care about these people. To deal with this situation, a traveling overseer in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, adopted this strategy: He realized that on cold winter days, many people liked to sleep late because the bed was the warmest place to be. The overseer and his companion would go around a block and knock only on those doors where the houses showed signs of life. They circled one block nine times, and each time they found more people who were up. They were able to place literature in every home, thus opening the way for return visits.
There are many people in Brazil who show interest in God’s Word, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are eager to help them to understand it and to learn how to apply it in everyday life. At present, the Witnesses regularly conduct upwards of 500,000 home Bible studies with individuals and family groups. And starting in 1995, using the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, Jehovah’s Witnesses launched a program that is designed to help righteously disposed people learn basic Bible teachings even more quickly than in the past. In addition to those who accept such help, millions of others throughout the country gladly accept the Bible literature distributed by the Witnesses, as shown by the fact that 2,334,630 books, 21,168,979 magazines, and 2,787,032 brochures were placed during the 1996 service year.
The field of theocratic interest of our Brazilian brothers and sisters extends far beyond the borders of Brazil. Many pioneers from here have moved to serve where the need is greater in lands where the witness has not yet been so extensive. From the branch in Cesário Lange, Bible literature is being supplied for use in preaching the good news not only in Brazil but also in Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Germany, Mozambique, Paraguay, Portugal, and Uruguay. Regardless of the work done in the past, it seems that the pace continues to speed up year after year.
It Has Been a Joy!
Indeed, much work has been involved in giving a witness throughout Brazil. But it has been joyful work! Oh, yes, besides the good times, there have also been difficult times. But our hearts have been warmed as we have seen with our own eyes the evidence of Jehovah’s blessing on the activity of his loyal servants.
Erich Kattner still remembers that back in 1939 and 1940, as he witnessed in the rural areas of Brazil he would often sleep in the open, using his literature bag as a pillow. There were just a few hundred Witnesses throughout the country then. Very few of those at whose homes he called had a Bible. To obtain Bibles to distribute to interested people, he would go to the local Bible Society’s bookstore, but after a while they would not sell Bibles to him anymore. However, he states: “I had the thrill and privilege of attending the ‘Everlasting Good News’ Assembly in New York City in 1963, when the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was released in six languages, including Portuguese. I was especially grateful to Jehovah to receive it in Portuguese, since I would be able to use it in my assignment in Brazil.” Since 1967 the complete New World Translation, from Genesis through Revelation, has been available in Portuguese. What a boon this has been to the work of Bible education in Brazil! The number of active praisers of Jehovah in Brazil has increased from 30,118 in 1963 to more than 436,000 in 1996.
Augusto Machado is grateful for the help given him by one of the early missionaries sent to Brazil. He also recalls the first convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses that he attended. It was in Rio de Janeiro. N. H. Knorr and M. G. Henschel were present from New York. Attendance was just 1,064. One of the talks was entitled “The More Excellent Way of Love.” “Then in 1958,” Brother Machado states, “I was privileged to be among the throng of 253,922 who attended the eight-day international convention in New York. The same spirit of love permeated both conventions. . . . I returned from New York more convinced than ever that Jehovah’s people, being free from tribal and racial division, are doing a worldwide Bible educational work that has no parallel in history.”
In 1985 he saw striking evidence of what that work of Bible education is accomplishing in Brazil. He had the privilege of speaking at an international convention that was being held simultaneously in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The total attendance reached nearly 250,000, most of them from Brazil. And a decade later, when congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout Brazil met to observe the Memorial of Christ’s death, more than 1,144,000 people were in attendance.
All of Jehovah’s dedicated servants today have many reasons to be joyful in spite of the difficult times in which we live. Our hearts are deeply moved as we meditate on what God has already done and on what he has promised for the future. Out of all the nations, including Brazil, “the desirable things” are being gathered into his spiritual house of worship. (Hag. 2:7) As Psalm 144:15 truthfully states: “Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!”
[Map/Pictures on page 167]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
RIO GRANDE DO SUL
Rio de Janeiro
1. Beach at Recife
2. Rio de Janeiro
3. Amazon rain forest
4. Witnessing on the Amazon
5. Branch office, Cesário Lange
[Full-page picture on page 124]
[Picture on page 126]
Alston and Maude Yuille took up service in Brazil in 1936
[Picture on page 126]
Charles Leathco, of Gilead’s first class, still serves at Bethel in Brazil
[Pictures on page 133]
Rotary letterpress put into operation in São Paulo in 1973
[Pictures on page 134]
At “Divine Victory” Convention in São Paulo, delegates saw heartwarming fruitage of their united witnessing
[Picture on page 142]
A partially covered “Assembly Park” in Salvador
[Picture on page 145]
Branch Committee (left to right): Massasue Kikuta, Karl Rietz, Amaro Santos, Östen Gustavsson, Augusto Machado, Fred Wilson
[Pictures on page 150]
At branch dedication in 1981, Lloyd Barry urged: ‘Give preaching of the good news your undivided attention’
[Picture on page 156]
Over 39,000 have been trained at the Pioneer Service School. Class in Sorocaba, São Paulo, is shown
[Picture on page 158]
Missionaries and other Gilead graduates in full-time service, with their spouses, during visit of zone overseer in 1996
[Pictures on page 162]
Rotary offset presses and MEPS were important tools in achieving simultaneous publication
[Picture on page 170]
Boat used at the mouth of the Amazon River for preaching the good news
[Pictures on page 175]
Volunteers from other lands helped local Witnesses to construct branch facilities; shown here are the Harleys (top) and the Colwells
[Pictures on page 176, 177]
Branch facilities now being used to coordinate the activity of over 430,000 Witnesses in Brazil
[Pictures on page 192]
Sixteen Assembly Halls now serve the needs of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil
[Pictures on page 193]
More Kingdom Halls are needed. Methods of rapid construction are helping to meet the need
[Picture on page 194]
Some congregations provide special help for the deaf and blind
[Pictures on page 205]
Erich Kattner rejoiced to see the “New World Translation” made available in Portuguese
[Picture on page 207]
Augusto Machado has seen striking evidence of the results of Bible education in Brazil