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South America

When I went to South America I decided that I would spend little time upon the material aspects of the trip, but would, on the other hand, attempt to arrive at an understanding of the religious conditions and needs of the people. I consider that the religious needs are the abiding and vital interests of any people.

What is the real religion of the Brazilians? It is more a saint worship than anything else. Saint worship is at its core. Mary is the chief saint. All prayers are made to her. She is the intercessor. The Litany is all addressed to Mary. It runs, "Oh Mary, hear us, etc." She is worshiped under different aspects - Mary of the Sailors, Mary of the Conception, Mary of the Candles, Mary of the Rosary, ad infinitum. Even Christ is worshiped as a saint. The patron saint of Campos, for instance, is called Sao Salvador (St. Savior). The city of Bahia is called Sao Salvador.

Confession and penance play a large part in the religious life of the common people. The priests exercise great ingenuity to preserve the confessional. The better educated classes have long ago deserted the confessional, but it still holds sway over the common people and hangs like a dark shadow over the immoral deeds of the priests. Along with it flourishes the performance of penance. These two hand-maidens in wrong-doing often thrive in an absurd way.

It is often claimed that the progress of the gospel is slower and more difficult in Catholic countries than in outright heathen lands. Such statements can be answered only by an appeal to the facts in the case. What are the facts? The Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has been conducting operations in Brazil for about thirty years. It has been doing work in China for more than sixty years.

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.

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.

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.

Some of the severest persecutions the saints have ever endured in Pernambuco broke upon this new congregation in the Ilheitas district. The houses of the believers were broken into and everything destroyed, some of the buildings were burned. The believers asked for police protection, but the police sent to protect them being under the domination of the priest, who was the political boss of that district, persecuted the believers even more than their neighbors had done.

The Bible is a mighty factor in the spread of the gospel in Brazil. In 1889 there came down to Bahia a man named Queiroz from two hundred and fifty miles in the interior. He came seeking baptism at the hands of Dr. Z. C. Taylor. It appears that some six or eight years previous to that time an agent of a Bible society had entered this man's community, preached the gospel and left behind him some copies of the Scriptures. One of these Bibles was found afterwards by Queiroz, who studied it and was impressed with its truth.

In 1894, Francisco da Silva, soon after his conversion in Bahia, went to Victoria in the State of Espirito Santo to live. He went into the interior with some surveyors, and in addition to the work he was called upon to do, he found time to tell the story of Jesus. Eight people were converted and he wrote Dr. Z. C. Taylor to come and baptize them.

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