Mission Field: Brazil
Years of Service: 34
Home Church: Tabernacle Baptist Church
Missions Agency: Independent Baptist Fellowship International
Fort Worth, Texas
Our Missionary for 25 years
Miracle on Aparecida Island
Aparecida Island is located three hours by outboard above the town of Saint Gabriel of the Rapids on the Rio Negro. This is just over six hundred and fifty miles upriver from Manaus, the capital city of Amazonas. This island has been occupied for many years by several families, and was named for the lady saint “Aparecida”, known in English as Our Lady of the Appearance. The people on this island worshipped and served their idol faithfully for decades, building a shrine, and celebrating her special day with an annual “fiesta”, inviting the people from far and near to their festivities.
This particular celebration became well known and was anxiously awaited all year. They would come to this island in canoe caravans of four or more from the other villages on the Rio Negro and it’s tributaries. Traditionally, the first canoe always carries their community’s idol, with two youth waving flags in the bow; one white, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, and the other with the color and emblem of their own particular idol. The last canoe in line carries the fireworks, and shoots them off as they leave their homeport and as they are arriving in the village where the fiesta is being held. The hosts decorate their community center with homemade and store bought decorations, slaughter the pigs they had been fattening up for the occasion, purchase lots of fireworks, and most of all, lay up many cases of cheap whiskey. This custom is common all over the amazon basin. Aparecida Island became known for their rowdy, boisterous, and many times violent weeklong celebrations, and for all the confusion, immorality and drunkenness associated with their saint day.
Andre, a believer from further upriver moved his family to the island, and began holding services in his home on the east side of the island. He began winning people one by one, and asked the churches up and down the river to pray for a miracle to happen on the west side of Aparecida Island.
At first, the people on the west side resisted and rejected the message, and then resented those who failed to come to the fiesta and participate in the festivities. Some even persecuted those who refused to contribute.
God began to work through the simple preaching of the Word, and a miracle happened; one by one the rest of the villagers were saved and God changed their hearts and minds. They abandoned their sin and idolatry, and cancelled their famous saint’s day festival. Their community center used for their drunken parties became their church building, as Andre’s house became too small to house the entire group of Christians. Today they are a very united bunch of believers; their dedication to the idol was transformed into Godly zeal, and their financial contributions for the fiesta turned into tithes and offerings for a new auditorium on the highest and very best spot on the island; the place that before had been dedicated and separated for dancing and drinking. The entire community takes two days a week to invest in their new building; the ladies mix cement and help make the concrete blocks, and prepare meals for the workers. The men do the heavy work, and are currently finishing up on the building’s structure.
Upon our visit in July, they asked us what to name their church. Since it is built on a huge piece of flat granite, it was easily decided; the Baptist Church On The Rock. They hope to finish the building by the end of the year. The plan is to invite all the communities who used to come to the pagan festivities to come hear the gospel that changed their lives and ways.
What to do with the idol? They took it from the shrine and discarded it, embarrassed that they had lived in darkness and been trapped by idolatry and sin for so long. Because of the miracle of salvation, in the place of the debauchery, sorrow, guilt and shame, God’s love, peace, joy and hope reign on that strip of land.
There was talk of leveling the shrine, and throwing the stones into the river. They decided to leave it standing as a testimony to all those passing by their village of what God has done. It is also a reminder to them of the God who bought them (I Corinthians 6:20), and of what He has done in and through them. They are an example of faith, and of what God is still doing in the hearts of sinners (Ephesians 1:15-16). These men and women are a miracle brought about by missions; the direct result of all you who have given, prayed, and sent out missionaries to share the glorious gospel of salvation.
Dear Fellow Laborers,
Arrival – We had a good trip back to Manaus, with only one hitch, being which we arrived one day before our baggage. The last two and a half weeks we have spent cleaning and painting the house, replacing some of the stolen items and Diana’s Brazilian documents. Besides me having a bout with the flu, both of us have been readapting well, and are glad to be back in our “space”.
Family – One of the most difficult things missionaries do is bid farewell to their children and grandchildren. Please pray for Amanda, as she is going through some health issues, which indicate major surgery in the near future. It is hard to be too far away to help on a daily basis.
Philip did very well in both phases of training, and took first place and was awarded three commendations. He continues with the next phase of his preparation.
Church Ministries – The new works are all doing well, and have continued not only building up membership, but have worked on their facilities. In Beruri, they are almost completely done, just lacking the ceramic floor, which should be in place by year’s end. Their attendance is around 50.
The Anori congregation put the roof on, and is now working on finishing the interior.
Diana and I visited the Iranduba work on May 24, and they are ready to call a pastor. The founders, Estefanio and Daisy, are ready to go further interior on the Amazon to start a new work.
The students from the Bible Institute here in Manaus, visited the works in and around Presidente Figueiredo, and reported that they are continuing to grow and work on their facilities. My next trip up that way will be to the Micade work, and we will be sending pictures and a full report.
The construction at the Purupuru is stopped at the moment, due to Olivia’s eye surgery. She finally agreed to the cataract surgery (at 80 years old), but has taken a long time to recuperate here in Manaus. Their building lacks windows and doors, and the tile floor. We are awaiting their return to the work to continue in June.
Prayer – Please continue to pray for our pastors and families here. They are under a lot of stress and difficulties. Pray God will continue to bring them together to strengthen the work here, in the region, and then to give them a vision to win the world for Christ. Remember Olivia and Militão, and the interior works, and Diana’s and my health.
Thank You – We thank each and every church and individual who gave special offerings toward the robberies. The funds given covered our expenses to replace things and documents. A heartfelt thank you!
In His Service,
True and Diana Hawkins
Purupuru Sunday School class
Purupuru building covered
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