Sharing the Good News in Brazil
In the mid 1950's pioneer missionary Thomas Willey visited Brazil. His findings prompted the Board of Foreign Missions to send missionaries to share the good news with Brazilians.
Dave Franks, the first Free Will Baptist to serve in Brazil, went to the field in 1957. The next year Ken and Marvis Eagleton joined him.
Initially, missionaries focused their efforts on the state of São Paulo, starting in the city of Campinas. Sam and June Wilkinson arrived on the scene in 1959. In 1961, they moved to Jaboticabal and pioneered the second work in Brazil.
Other works in São Paulo were soon begun in the cities of Araras, Ribeirão Preto, and Pirassununga. This gave Free Will Baptists churches in five Brazilian cities.
Today Free Will Baptists also minister in the state of Minas Gerais: Belo Horizonte, Barbacena, Carandaí, Antônio Carlos, Juiz de Fora, and Conselheiro Lafaiete in the central part, and Uberlandia in western Minas.
Training programs have been started in three areas, including Ribeirão Preto and Campinas. Several Brazilian leaders are now in charge of churches and congregations as the national church reaches toward maturity. Two new church planting projects were started in 2012, raising the total number of FWB churches and mission churches to 29.
Geography and Climate
Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world. Its boundaries encompass almost half of the landmass of the continent of South America.
Brazil's weather is similar to that of the southeastern United States. However, when it is winter in Brazil, it is summer in the United States. and vice versa. Average temperatures in southern Brazil, where most of our missionaries live, range from 68 degrees in the winter to 78 degrees in the summer.
Most of Brazil's 190.7 million people live near the Atlantic Ocean. Although jungle and farm areas are plentiful, approximately 87 percent of Brazil's citizens live in cities. Roughly 57 percent of Brazil's population is white which includes European and North American descent.
About 25 percent of the population is of mixed origin while blacks make up 10 percent. Approximately one million Japanese live in Brazil, and the nation's full-blooded Indians (only two percent of the population) live in the Amazon basin.
Pedro Alvarez Cabral was traveling to the Far East when he discovered Brazil and claimed it for Portugal. The Portuguese gave the nation its official language, predominant religion, and most of its customs.
The United States of Brazil was established in 1891, but over the years numerous revolutions and counterrevolutions have kept the country from attaining a stable democratic government. The country is currently named República Federativa do Brasil (Federative Republic of Brazil).
In 1964 the military prevented a communist takeover by assuming power. That military regime stabilized the country and the country returned to democracy in 1984. Brazil's economy experienced rampant inflation and widespread poverty for years. Only in 1995 did the economy start stabilizing. Currently, inflation is at 6.6 percent and the annual per capita income is $11,900 (2011).
Primary education for children ages 7-15 is free and compulsory. Approximately 89 percent of Brazil's population 15 years of age or older is literate.
Sixty-five percent of Brazil's population is Roman Catholic, at least in name. Many Catholics are also spiritists. Over four percent claim spiritism or the occult as their religion.
Religious liberty is guaranteed, and missionaries have found Brazilians to be open and receptive to the gospel. In 1900 only a handful of believers were to be found in the country. Today, nearly one in four Brazilians is a Protestant.
Free Will Baptist Ministries
Today, four Free Will Baptist missionaries are striving to facilitate church planting through evangelism, discipleship, leadership training, and mentoring. The current strategy calls for planting new churches through partnerships with the Brazilian church.
Although Free Will Baptists have 31 ordained pastors leading churches in two states (São Paulo and Minas Gerais), more leaders are needed to expand into other areas of Brazil. Brazilian churches currently maintain four Brazilian missionaries in Uruguay and South Africa.
Statistics gathered from The World Factbook, NationMaster.com, Brazil's 2010 census, and Joshua Project.