CHAPTER XI. FELICIDADE.

One of the most fascinating phases of mission study is the tracing of the lines along which the gospel spreads. This is true because it brings us into touch with the native Christian who is one of the greatest agencies for the spread of the gospel. As it was in the first century, so it is now - "they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the gospel." The history of those Apostolic times repeats itself in every mission land. He who personally observes the work in Brazil or any other mission field will have a keener appreciation and understanding of the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke. The native Christians must either witness for their Lord or else betray Him. There is no middle ground. A large percentage of the churches in Brazil grew out of the fact that a believer moved into a community and began to tell the story of the love of Jesus to his neighbors. He may have entered this community by choice or may have been driven into it by persecution. However, that may be, the truth is that many a poor, despised, often persecuted believer, has started a movement in a community which gathered to itself a large company of believers, and formed the nucleus of another one of those most wonderful institutions in all the world - a church of Jesus Christ.

When I had entered the First Baptist Church in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and stood for a moment looking about me, I heard someone exclaim, "Oh, there he is! There he is!" and presently I found myself locked in the affectionate embrace of an apparently very happy old woman. She was about seventy years of age. She was the janitress of the church. She had looked forward to our coming with joyful pleasure, and gave to us as hearty a welcome as did anyone in Brazil. Her name was Felicidade, which being translated means "Felicity."

Several years ago she had come from Pernambuco, in which city and State she had labored with great success for many years in behalf of the gospel.

When a girl of ten or twelve years of age she heard her father talk about a book he had seen in the court-house upon which the Judge had laid his hand as he administered the oath. She had the greatest desire to see this book. She was married in her thirteenth year and her husband died when she was eighteen. After his death she went from the country to the city of Pernambuco, where she met some members of the Congregational Church and was led by them to attend the services. She saw the Bible and heard a sermon preached from the text, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst," and soon afterward she gave obedience to Jesus.

From that time forth her whole conversation was upon the gospel and upon the subject of bringing other people to Christ. One time when Mrs. Entzminger was away from the city of Pernambuco she left her children in charge of Felicidade. While Felicidade was passing along the street with the children one day she was met by Mrs. Maria Motta and her daughter, who stopped to admire the beautiful children. Felicidade told who the children were and urged her new acquaintances to attend the church services. They accepted her invitation and soon became interested in the gospel, and before long were converted to faith in Jesus Christ.

Then their persecution began. They lost all their friends and endured many other hardships. They came from one of the best families in the city, and therefore felt the persecution more bitterly than might have some others. The girl, Augusta, secured work in the English store. Her mother took in fine ironing, and thus the two made their support. Afterward Augusta married Augusto Santiago, who at the present time is the pastor of our thriving church in the city of Nazareth. She has been to him one of the greatest blessings in that she has done much to help him in his effort to prepare himself better for his work. When we visited Nazareth we were entertained in the delightful home of Augusto Santiago and found it to be charming in every respect.

When Felicidade lived in Pernambuco it was her custom to sell fruit for six months to make money enough to live upon for the remainder of the year. She would then go into the interior with tracts and Bibles, sell them and in every way try to lead people to Christ. One year she made it her aim to lead not less than twelve to her Lord, and she was able to accomplish her purpose. Her education is limited, but she knows any number of Scripture verses, which she is able to quote with remarkable aptness.

Upon one of her visits into the interior she was found at Nazareth by Innocencio Barbosa, a farmer who resided in the district of Ilheitas. He lived about thirty miles from Nazareth. He took Felicidade home with him in order that she might teach the gospel to his family. Meanwhile, his friend, Hermenigildo, who lived in a distant neighborhood, bought a Bible in Limoeiro and told his friend Innocencio of what he had done. Innocencio told him of the presence of Felicidade and suggested that his friend might take her home with him that she might explain the gospel to his family also. Felicidade accordingly went into this other home and soon the entire family, including a son-in-law and some relatives, were led to Jesus, and a church of about fifty members was organized in Hermenigildo's house.

Thus the faithful witnessing of this humble, consecrated woman was so honored of the Holy Spirit that scores were led into the light of the gospel of Jesus. Out of her efforts grew churches which the violence of the oppressor could not destroy, because the work she did became immortal when it passed over into the hands of the Lord of Hosts, against whose church not even the gates of Hell can prevail.