CHAPTER X. CAPTAIN EGYDIO.

What brought about the readiness of this territory in the interior of the State of Bahia for the acceptance of the gospel? Perhaps the brand of burning which did more than any other to shed light through the entire section over which we passed, was the person of Captain Egydio Pereira de Almeida. He was one of several brothers of a good country family which owned large possessions in the interior 150 miles from the city of Bahia. He was an intense Catholic, but never a persecutor. At one time he was Captain in the National Guards. He was political boss of his community and protector for a small tribe of Indians. He was a hard-working, law-abiding citizen.

In order to know the story we must go back a little. In 1892 Solomon Ginsburg sold a Bible to Guilhermino de Almeida on the train when he was going to Armagoza. Ginsburg had only one Bible left and felt constrained to offer it to the stranger across the aisle. The man said he had no money and did not care to buy. The missionary pressed him and finally sold him for fifty cents a Bible worth four times that amount. That night his fellow passenger heard the missionary speak in the theater in Armagoza and seemed to enjoy especially the hymns the preacher sang. The missionary marked for him the Ten Commandments and other passages in the Bible.

When the man reached his home at Vargem Grande a few days afterward he told his brother Marciano de Almeida of his encounter with the missionary, of how he had bought the Bible which he did not want and of the Ten Commandments the missionary had marked for him. He very willingly gave his Bible to his brother. Marciano read the book and was particularly impressed with the Ten Commandments.

Now, we must introduce into this narrative another character in the person of good Brother Madeiros. Some time before this, having become interested in the gospel, he had gone to Bahia and had been instructed by Missionary Z. C. Taylor in the truth to such good purpose that he gave himself to the Lord. His neighbors at Valenca, his native town, on learning of his having accepted Christ, drove him out, and he moved to Vargem Grande. But he found no rest in his new home, for his fellow townsmen so persecuted him that he was compelled to live in the outskirts of the town. He was the first believer in Vargem Grande. When Marciano de Almeida became interested in the Scriptures he went to see Madeiros and was instructed by him in the gospel. He told the persecuted saint that he would stand by him from now on, for Marciano had experienced a marvelous conversion.

On learning that his images were idols, Marciano collected all immediately and burnt them, greatly to the disgust of his family and the whole town. He began at once to declare the Word of God, and though he was as gentle as a lamb, he was also as bold as a lion in defending the gospel.

When his brother, Captain Egydio de Almeida, who lived sixty miles away, learned that Marciano had become converted, he made the journey to take out of his brother's heart the false teaching which he had imbibed. He pitied his brother, thinking that Marciano's mind had become unbalanced. When Captain Egydio arrived at his brother's in Vargem Grande, being a very positive man, he set about the business of straightening out his brother with dispatch and determination. He failed in his purpose, and then called in a priest. When he returned with the priest Marciano asked the two to be seated. Immediately the priest inquired, "What is this I am hearing about you, Marciano?" He replied, "Mr. Priest, I am thirty-five years old and you never gave me the Bible, God's Holy Law and as God ordered it. I came by it through the Protestants whom you have always abused. You have taken my money all these years for mass, saying you would take the souls of our kin out of a purgatory that does not exist. You taught me to worship idols which God's Word condemns. You sprinkle my children for money, marry them for money, and when they die you still demand money to save their souls from an imaginary purgatory. The Bible teaches me, on the other hand, that God offers me a free salvation through Jesus Christ." The priest rose and said good-bye without offering a word of explanation. Seeing the priest thus defeated, Captain Egydio turned to old Brother Madeiros, who happened to be present, and said: "If you continue to put these false doctrines in my brother's head I will send a couple of Indians here to take off your head." "Yes," replied Madeiros, "you may cut off my head, but you cannot cut off my soul from God." Captain Egydio returned home breathing out plagues upon himself and his family. He drank heavily at every grog shop on his way and scattered abroad the news about his family's disgrace. He was a man of a kind heart, and though he did not embrace the truths of his brother's religion, he did show his brother great consideration and, being a political leader for that district, became his brother's protector.

When his wrath had cooled down somewhat he began to recall many things Marciano had told him about the Bible, and as he looked upon his many expensive idols set here and there in niches about his home, he said to himself: "Well, did Marciano say these images do nothing. They neither draw water, cut wood nor pick coffee. They do not teach school, they do not protect our home, for there is one covered with soot. There is another the rats have gnawed, and recently another fell and was broken. How powerless they are." Then he remembered the Bible which a believer had given him years before. He began to examine it in a closed room. Ag he read he prayed, "Oh, God, if this religion of Marciano be right, show it to me."

He seemed to be making good progress. But about this time he received word that his brother and the missionary R. E Neighbor were coming to see him. The priest had also heard of the approaching visit and had sent a letter to Captain Egydio's son warning him against the coming men, saying that they were emissaries of the United States and wished to lead the Almeidas astray. The letter bearer was instructed to deliver the letter to the son and not let the father know anything about it, but he said, "I cannot do that because I must be true to my old captain," so he gave the letter to Captain Egydio. He wag greatly disturbed over the warnings the priest had given and tried to induce his children to give up the reading of the pamphlets and Scriptures he had given to them, which thing they refused to do.

His brother and the missionary came according to agreement and Captain Egydio, true to his word, went with them to the town of Areia to protect them while they were engaged in conducting a gospel service in the public square. The priest of the town sent the police to prevent the Protestants from conducting the meeting. The sergeant, who had been under Captain Egydio when he was Captain in the National Guards, was one of the detail sent to suppress the meeting. He declared that he would stand by his old Captain, for the men knew that under the Constitution the missionary had a perfect right to hold the meeting. The meeting was held, but under such unfavorable circumstances that the Captain stood forth and said: "I have not declared myself a Protestant, but from this time I shall be a Protestant and propose to give my life to the spread of this faith."

It happened that one day he was called to visit a boy who had been shot. As he rode along through the open fields he was burdened with prayer to God. Suddenly he felt a strange feeling and he seemed to hear a voice saying, "You are saved." Immediately he knew that the Lord had visited him with His blessed salvation. He shouted as he rode along the way, "Glory to God. I am redeemed." He rode on in this state to the home of the boy. Seeing the boy could not live, he began to exhort him to look to Christ for salvation, and just before the boy's spirit passed out from him, he made confession of his Lord. The Captain returned to his home overflowing with joy. He galloped his horse up to the door, shouting, "Glory, hallelujah, I am saved." He embraced his wife and children and all stood back staring at him. Finally the mother cried: "Poor man! Children, your father is mad. Get the scissors and let us cut off his hair; let us rub some liniment on his head." "All right," he said, "only do not cut it too close," and he suffered them to rub the liniment also upon his head. Seeing that there was no change in him, they also administered to him one of their homely medicines, a small portion of which he was willing to take to pacify them. Their opinion of his sanity was not changed.

Not only his family, but his neighbors suspected him. As he engaged in business - and he was a very busy man - people were watching him to see if something was not dreadfully wrong. Finally all realized that a great and beneficent change had taken place. He never became a preacher, but he did not allow to pass an opportunity to tell the story of his newly-found Savior. His Bible was constantly in his hands, and he read the marvelous news to all. His family soon became interested in the gospel and they, even to his son-in-law, became as crazy upon the subject as he. Thirteen of them were baptized at one time.

For activity in evangelization his equal was scarcely ever met. He kept for distribution boxes of Bibles and tracts. While at business he witnessed for the gospel. He traveled extensively. Some of his bosom friends became his worst enemies, but many of them he led to Christ, or at least to a friendship, for the gospel. He did not preach, but invited many preachers to come to his community and was always ready to accompany them whenever they needed his presence. His life was the greatest sermon he could preach to the people. They had known him once in the old days when one of his sons fell sick he promised to carry his weight of beeswax to the miracle working saint of the Lapa shrine, 100 miles away on the San Francisco River. The son recovered and the father kept his word. Now they saw him discard his old superstitions for the truth in Jesus. The gospel that could produce such a marvelous change as this had its effect upon his neighbors. He organized a church upon his own fazenda and it held its meetings in his own house at Casca.

He became deeply interested in the subject of education. He said one day to Dr. Z. C. Taylor, our missionary at Bahia: "While I was a Catholic I had no desire to educate my children, but now I would give all of this farm to see them educated. Dr. Taylor told him of some of his own plans concerning a school, and Captain Egydio contributed the first money for the school, which Dr. Taylor afterward established, Captain Egydio's gift of a thousand dollars making it possible for this school to be organized.

Of the trials and persecutions which he endured for the gospel, we can cite only one or two.

A priest paid two men sixty dollars to go and take the Captain's life. They appeared one night at his door and asked for employment. He invited them in, saying he had plenty of work he could give them to do. The time soon arrived for family prayers and the men were invited to be present. The Captain afterward told the family that while he was praying he received a distinct impression that the men had come to do him bodily injury and that in the prayer he had committed himself absolutely to the protection of God. The next day he took the two men out into the field to show them what to do. In the meantime he had been telling them of the love of Jesus and how He had come to save to the uttermost those who would believe on Him. One lingered behind to shoot, but his hand trembled too much. The other did not have the courage to do the man of God any injury. That night they said they would not stay longer. He paid them for the day's work, bade them godspeed and they departed.

But he did not always escape suffering so easily. One afternoon as he was passing by the priest's home the priest accosted him and said: "Captain, why is it you do not stop with me any more? You used to do so, but of late you have passed me by." He urged the Captain so strongly that he decided to stay all night. They offered him wine to drink, which he refused. Then they gave him coffee. That night he suffered agony and was sick for some time after reaching home. He was sure he had been poisoned.

He suffered many persecutions from unsympathetic neighbors, not only from criticism, but sometimes from bodily injuries and from painful abuse, all of which he bore with an equanimity of spirit which would do credit to any martyr to the cause of Christ.

Dr. Z. C. Taylor relates a trying experience through which he and Captain Egydio passed together.

"The Captain and I were together one day returning home from a preaching tour by a near cut, passing the door of our greatest persecutor, Captain Bernadino, who on seeing us, seized a stick, and running to us, beat back our hordes, crying, 'Back, back, you cannot pass my house.' A plunge of my horse caused my hat to fall off, which he handed me and continued to force our retreat. We returned by way of the home of his son-in-law, who was a baptized believer, and while this brother was piloting us down a hill to another way home Captain Bernadino, jumping from behind a bush, caught my horse by the bridle. He had an assassin at his heels, with axe in hand, asking every minute what he should do. Captain Bernadino wore out his stick on my horse, planting the last stroke across my loins; then he struck me about a dozen times in the breast with his fist. I said to him, 'Captain, why are you beating me, I believe in God; do not you also?' Stopping and panting he said, 'Do you believe in God, you rascal?' 'Yes,' I said, 'and Jesus also who came to save us sinners.' 'Don't let up, don't let up, hit him, hit him,' cried his wife and children. He pulled the bridle from my hands, led my horse into a pond close by, and gathering mud, pelted me from foot to shoulder. Then leaving my horse, he went after Captain Egydio, who was guarded by another assassin. On passing his son-in-law, kneeling, he struck him on the head, saying, 'Get up, you fool!' Leading the Captain's horse into the water, he covered him with mud from foot to head. Then, putting our bridles up, he beat our horses and told us to go, never to be seen in those parts any more. My bridle reins he crossed, which fact caused me when I passed his wife, who stood with a long stick upraised, to strike me, to turn my horse upon her instead of away from her, and the horse came near running over her. She struck and fell back, the stick falling across my horse's neck. Such a pandemonium of mad voices, cursing and shouting as we left I never heard. It took us till night to reach home. The family took it as an honor, and smiling and laughing, we were spending the evening merrily, when at nine or ten o'clock a rap at the door caused us all to suspend our hilarity. It was that son- in-law of the persecutor, bringing his wife, asking to be baptized. She had witnessed the persecution her father gave us, and on her husband's return to the house, she told him the scene made her think of the Apostles and that now she was determined to be baptized. At first I thought of bloodshed, for her father had threatened to kill her, her mother, Captain Egydio and the man who baptized her. But I had always taught them to obey Christ and leave results with Him, so we heard her experience and at midnight I baptized her.

Captain Egydio did not complain of our treatment nor did I ever mention it to our Consul.

When he gave his heart to Christ he gave his life and all. He followed where his conscience led. Before his conversion he was a great smoker. The missionary asked him one day if he smoked for the glory of God. He took the cigarette from his mouth, threw it away and never smoked again. This was characteristic of his determination and his unfaltering devotion to what he esteemed to be right.

The end came swiftly one night. He had an attack apparently of indigestion which carried him speedily away. The symptoms seemed to indicate that he had been poisoned. All that night he spent in prayer and in singing hymns. He died leaving his benediction upon his family and upon those Brazilians who would give their hearts and their services to Jesus Christ.

He was buried upon his own farm. As his family did not erect a cross over his grave, one of his neighbors who had persecuted Captain Egydio violently many times thought he would correct him in his grave, and so he set up a large cross over him. One night soon after, this cross was cut down. The violent neighbor instituted a suit for the violation of the law in tearing down a symbol of the Roman Catholic church. He also came with great pomp, accompanied by soldiers, and set up another cross. The law suit finally wore itself out and both parties were glad to drop it, each party sharing an equal amount of the costs.

The persecution has been so bitter that the church which Captain Egydio organized in his own house was removed to Pe da Serra, three miles away, and from there it was driven by persecution to Rio Preto, where today it flourishes with a membership of about fifty people and is in a hopeful condition. The widow and her children have been compelled to move into the city of Bahia. A recent letter informs me of the conversion of the two youngest girls.

The witness of Captain Egydio has not been lost. It is marvelous how much he accomplished in his short career. He was converted October, 1894, baptized February 4, 1895, and died March 30th, 1898, at fifty years of age. In these few years he sowed the country down with the gospel truth. We visited Vargem Grande, Santo Antonio, Areia and Genipapo churches, all of which had grown very largely out of the influence of this one man, and had we been permitted to go further, we might have visited several other churches for whose beginning the life of this valiant servant of God was in a great measure responsible. "He, being dead, yet speaketh."