CHAPTER IX. JOSE BARRETTO.

When we reached Santo Antonio de Jesus at two p. m. we found a throng at the station to meet us. They gave us a royal welcome, receiving us literally with open arms. After this hearty greeting we formed a procession and marched two and two through the streets of the city to the church. They wished us to take the lead in the procession, but we declined the honor and finally took position about the middle of the line. They seemed to march through every street in the city, so eager were they to impress the population that there was somebody else in the world besides their religious persecutors. When we arrived at the church they showered us once more with rose petals and confetti. After prayer we were taken to the home of Jose Barretto to be entertained.

Now, this same Jose Barretto is a very remarkable character. He was formerly Superintendent of the Manganese mines near by and very active in politics. If any questionable work needed to be done in order to influence an election Jose was called upon to do it. He is a great, strong fellow, more than six feet in height and weighs, perhaps, 250 pounds. He was a violent man, fearless and desperate. I noted many scars on his face which were evidences of many dangerous encounters. He did not deign to steal the ballots, but would take possession of the ballot box, extract from it the proper number of votes, destroy them, seal the box and allow the count to be made. No one dared withstand him. He was just as violent in his opposition to the Protestants. He declared that he would beat any Protestant who should ever come into his house.

Well, one day his own brother-in-law came to see him. This brother-in-law was blind and also a Christian. After a while Jose and his wife were commiserating the brother over his blindness when he said, that though his eyes were clouded, his soul saw the light of life. His sister said to him, "You must be a Protestant." He replied, "Yes, thank God, I know Jesus Christ." She was so frightened that she fainted, because she had visions of her burly husband pouncing upon her blind brother and beating him to death. Her husband resuscitated her and soothed her by saying, "I know I have said all of these things about what I would do to the Protestants, but I hope I am not mean enough to strike a blind man and certainly I would not injure your brother." That night the brother asked them to read the Scriptures. They had no Bible, but did possess a book of Bible stories, one of which the sister read, and then the brother asked permission to pray. Jose Barretto had always been reverential, and so he knelt in prayer. So earnest and childlike was the praying of the blind brother and so fully did he express the real heart hunger of the great, strong man that when the prayer was finished, Jose Barretto said very sincerely, "Amen." He became deeply interested in the gospel.

When the brother left, the Spirit of God so impressed Jose that he felt he must look up a New Testament which he had taken from an employee some time ago. He had looked at this book which he had taken from the employee's hands, and finding no saints' pictures in it, concluded that it was that hated Protestant Bible the priests were trying to keep from being circulated, and had thrown it into a box in the corner of his office. Now he went to this box, fished out the New Testament, brushed the dust from its pages and read from it the word of life. The blind brother, in the meantime, had gone to Santo Antonio and told what had happened. The chief of police of the city, who was a Christian and the President of the Baptist Young People's Union, declared that he was going out to see Jose. "I have been afraid to go," he said, "because Jose has been so violently opposed to the gospel."

He went and found the strong man poring over the pages of the book in his effort to find the way of life. He explained the gospel and Barretto was soon converted, as was also his sister. His wife held on to her old faith. She would pray, but would use the Crucifix. Finally the husband and sister decided they would burn the idol, which they accordingly did. When the wife saw that no dreadful calamity befell the house she concluded that the idol was a powerless thing and gave her heart to Christ.

The life of Jose Barretto since that time has been a burning light. He has been as zealous in following Christ as he ever was in following evil, though not so violent. His witness has been honored amongst his own family and relations especially. They have been forced to realize that there is something in Christianity which can produce such a remarkable change in the life of such a violent man. When we were in his home we learned of a family of twenty-one, some distance out in the country, who were ready to make confession of their faith and be baptized. They were anxious for the missionary to come and baptize them and to organize a church in one of their homes. These people were the relatives of Jose Barretto. It is marvelous how the witness of his life is bearing fruit. He lost his position as Superintendent by his acceptance of Christ, but is now making a living as a coffee merchant.

We had a remarkable service at the church that night. A great throng pressed into the building, and Jose Barretto was the chief usher. I have never seen a man who could crowd more people into a building than could he. After the house had been packed there still remained on the outside a crowd as large as that sandwiched into the building. I preached the gospel once more, speaking, of course, in all of these services through an interpreter. When I called for those who would confess Christ I did not ask them to come forward because there was no room for them. They stood here and there over the audience until more than twenty expressed themselves as having accepted Christ and desiring membership in the church. When one man stood amongst this number I noticed that Jose Barretto was very deeply moved. His great frame shook with emotion. I learned afterwards that the man who stood was a police sergeant, who in the old days had been Jose's confederate in his political crookedness. That night this man stood acknowledging his sins and asking for membership in the church. Jose's faithfulness had won him. Once more we witnessed a marvelous victory of the gospel.

On the very day on which we visited Santo Antonio and were entertained in the home of our good brother Jose Barretto, this great stalwart fellow who had been such a violent opposer of Christianity and who had previously lived such a desperate life, was met on the street by one of his former schoolmates. His schoolmate chided him for becoming a Christian and insinuated that Jose's conversion was an act of weakness and also that he would not hold out very long. He went further to say many severe things in criticism of the cause of Protestant Christianity. Jose Barretto replied, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself for finding fault with the thing which has produced such a change in my life. You know the kind of character I have been in this community. You know how violent and sinful I have been and you know at this time how I am living. A religion which can produce such a change as this does not deserve ridicule." The man turned and slunk away. In the meantime, there had gathered around them a number of people, because they knew how serious a matter it was for anyone to oppose him, and they expected to see something violent take place that day. Being emboldened by the mild answer which he gave to his persecutor, others began to ask questions. Finally one of them asked him this question: "Suppose someone should strike you in the face in persecution, what would you do?" And then the great, strong violent man who had been made meek and humble by his acceptance of Jesus gave an answer which showed him to be genuinely converted to the Spirit of Jesus. He said: "I am not afraid of such a thing as that happening, for the reason that I propose to live in this community such a life for the help of my brothers that no one will ever desire to strike me in the face," and these others turned shame-stricken away from him. He threw down before that community the challenge of his life, and that is the thing that not only in Brazil, but here in our own land, must finally win for our King the triumph which is His due.