Visits to members and friends in South America
One of the challenges of the mission field is providing service to brethren and sisters and contacts in isolation. Email, telephone and Skype are a tremendous help in teaching, maintaining friendships and providing spiritual support. But even then, members need the lift provided by personal visits and it’s important to meet and talk personally with promising contacts as they grow in the Truth. With these factors in mind I was able in July and August to visit two brethren and two friends in South America.
Porto Alegre, southern Brazil
Bro. Emerson Acosta has long been a strong Christadelphian presence in his community in addition to his ubiquity on the Internet. He and his family are riding out the political and economic difficulties in the country. Emerson is an expert in workplace safety but with the downturn in construction he makes do as doorkeeper for a condominium complex. His wife Viviane works two shifts teaching mathematics and their children Kevim and Ellem hold down jobs while going to university. I was happy to see the family installed in their new house, a great improvement from the small apartment they had been living in.
Emerson has such a warm and outgoing personality that, as he says, he has “a million friends” and is incessantly involved in discussions and debates with members of the religious groups which seem to proliferate in Brazil as nowhere else in the world. Indeed Emerson first heard of Christadelphians through reading the history of the church he attended as a youngster, which has Campbellite origins and continues to consider us cousins. We spent many delightful hours in conversation and Bible study and began weekly telephone Bible classes when I returned to the US. I was sorry to leave, but had to get to my next stop in Argentina, some 600 miles to the southwest.
Here I got to meet long-time postal student named Ariel, his wife and some of his family members. In the course of our discussions in my hotel room and as he gave me a walking tour of the city we came to realize there wasn’t yet a total meeting of the minds between him and our community. In addition, his association with us has provoked some unfortunate personal conflicts which he is trying to work out, but we have stayed in touch and hope to continue working on these issues.
This was my first trip to Paraguay, somewhat of a South American backwater but a place about which I had long been curious. My main purpose was to spend some time with Pedro Galeano, a Paraguayan brother resident in Brazil, where I had always visited him previously. On this occasion I took advantage of his visiting his native country to get to know his roots and extended family: he has 10 brothers and sisters plus nieces and nephews almost too numerous to count, many of them in university or starting out in their professions. But for me the most fascinating aspect of the family gatherings was the fact that though we all began speaking
Spanish together, as more and more relatives arrived until a certain critical mass was achieved, all of a sudden I no longer understood what anyone was saying. They had all switched over to speaking Guaraní, the indigenous language which Paraguay alone in this hemisphere has managed to keep alive and to which the people naturally revert to in informal situations. I had tended to dismiss the accounts of Paraguay’s maintaining its aboriginal language (in addition to Spanish) as somewhat similar to the efforts to revive Erse or Welsh in the British Isles, but in fact it is spoken by almost all citizens. Pedro and I got in several profitable sessions of Bible reading and study (in Spanish) and will establish a program of weekly phone classes, God willing, when he returns to his home in Brazil.
The other purpose of my going to Asunción was to meet a young man named Andrés, whom my wife Jean considers her best postal student of all time. He grew up in Argentina in a small but fervent offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventist movement and worked in that church for a number of years. His wife Angela, a Paraguayan born and partly raised in Germany, was brought up a strict Mennonite. Andrés now works as a clinical psychologist, his wife is a civil engineer and they have a young daughter and son.
Fresh out of the seminary in his youth, Andrés discovered that his church had not originally been Trinitarian and began to ask why. This led to his becoming unpopular in his own circles and ever more determined to come to the truth of the matter. Then in 2007, when he was in the interior of Brazil giving a Bible class on Jesus’ humanity, someone in the audience told him he was presenting the teaching of the Christadelphians, of whom he had never heard. Intrigued, he went to the Internet to check us out and requested the postal course, so that over the years he and his wife went through all the material we have in Spanish, returning their questionnaires without fail nor a wrong answer and, Jean adds, in beautiful handwriting! Two years ago they both formally renounced their previous religious associations with the avowed intention of becoming Christadelphians. Several hours of intense discussion I had with Andrés in Asunción (while Angela and the children were moving house in another part of the country) tended to confirm the genuineness of their present understanding of the gospel message and so if it is God’s will, Jean and I hope to return to Paraguay soon to baptize them into the true faith in Jesus.
Written by Bro. Jim Hunter, CBMC Linkman