We were members of Primeira Igreja Batista (First Baptist Church) when we lived in Campo Grande from 1979 to 1982 and for many years after. Brazilians are an ethnic mix and many have the blood of slaves from the Portuguese colonies in Africa in their veins. When we moved to Mozambique, Pastor Jonatan insisted that we were their missionaries and kept us on the rolls. We were more than happy to have our Brazilian friends praying for us through the challenges of communism and civil war there.
When we returned to Campo Grande recently, of course, we went back to Primeira Igreja.
The church now has more than 5,000 members. The four services, two in the morning and two in the evening, increase in attendance, levels of enthusiasm and volume. Because of other commitments we attended the 8:30 AM service, the most traditional. The music was hymns from the old Cantor Cristã that the churches used when we worshipped here thirty years ago. In Portuguese language school, I recall a class in translating hymns and praise songs. You would recognize the music of most of the songs in the Cantor Cristã. That is, you would if you were born before 1980. But just because they are old American hymns doesn’t mean they are sung in the old American style. Even thirty years ago a praise band added guitars, drums and cymbals to voices raised in the Portuguese version of “To God Be the Glory, Great Things He Hath Done!”
The second service on our recent Sunday morning in Campo Gramde was at Terceira Igreja.
The 10 o’clock service at Third Baptist Church (after Fourth the churches have names) was a very modern celebration of baptism. Most of the praise songs projected on the screen were unfamiliar to me. The authors had Brazilian names. No more translation. All original worship. Terceira Igreja has established a new tradition for Baptism. Someone close to the person being baptized reads the testimony they have written. Some were articulate paragraphs read by a parent or spouse. One—from a deaf and mentally challenged teen—consisted of single word answers to questions about life before Christ and his conversion, but the boy was shaking with excitement as he entered the baptistery. As each came out of the water, a shout went up; balloons were popped; the praise team burst into song, and I found my eyes wet with tears of joy that a new sister or brother had publicly entered the Kingdom of God. Luke 15:7 talks about rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner. I definitely experienced it at Terceira Igreja. Terceira Igreja has a lovely garden and colonnade where we held our churrasco on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon there was another dinner—this one to hear from the mission team who had recently returned from Mozambique. Their church construction project in Africa was coordinated by one of Steve’s former students there who later studied in Campo Grande. I was excited by the enthusiasm for missions among all I talked to.
My last Sunday in Brazil I attended Igreja Batista Itacuruçá in Rio de Janeiro, another traditional service. Sigh. I was disappointed not to make any evening service this trip. Evening has always been the main service in Brazil, and the worship would have been lively. But the Rio congregation is musically sophisticated. The male quartet had a beautiful blend, and when we sang “Santo, santo, santo!" (Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!) I felt I was part of a heavenly choir. On trips like this when I get to experience worship with God’s people in another culture, I feel like I get a glimpse of heaven. It always amazes me that although we live far apart, we worship the same God, trust in the same Christ, are guided by the same Holy Word. The Bible talks about the family of God. On Sunday mornings like this, I feel like family.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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