Testimony Monday – Brazil (1)
Each Monday, for a number of weeks, someone from around the world will share the story of how they heard the gospel and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. This week’s contributor is a lady from Brazil.
The story of my conversion goes back many years ago, to a Christmas morning when I was born in a small town in the interior of the most southernly state of Brazil. I was the only daughter in a family of five and we were very poor. At that time, we lived in a small rural village and shortly after, we moved out to the country, my parents having bought a small piece of land on the side of a mountain. My father was a subsistence farmer who, with the help of my mother and his young family, eked out a miserable living off this small piece of ground. Every day before sunrise, we were up and away to the mountain to spend many hours weeding and planting. I vividly remember climbing barefoot up over the rocks and scrub to reach our patch of land and waiting until the sun rose to warm our freezing feet before starting to work. My father was an austere man, hard and exacting, and we had a very difficult childhood.
After several years, we moved from that area and set up home in a village many miles away. I was 19 years old by then and it was just at that time, during a particularly vulnerable period of my life, that I met and married a much older man and moved with him to a neighbouring country, hundreds of miles away. There I relinquished all contact with family and friends, as I thought, forever! Together we set up home in a rural district and became subsistence farmers. For many years, we lived and worked off the land. Not once, in all that time, would my husband allow me to make contact with my family! Shortly after arriving there, I joined the Congregational Church in a nearby town and for many years believed that I was on my way to heaven.
After enjoying many years of good health, my husband fell ill and was later diagnosed with terminal cancer. For those last three years, I cared untiringly for him in our small home until he died. It was then, when I was finally free, that I purposed in my heart to make contact with my family of whom I had heard nothing for over thirty years. I did not know where they were living nor anything about them! A friend suggested that I make an appeal on the radio in the area where my family had been resident. This I did, and in the overruling hand of God, an aunt of mine, who was still living there, heard the broadcast and contacted my family. By then, they were all living hundreds of miles away from where I was currently resident. Within a few days, contact was made, and a visit arranged. By this time, my father had been dead for many years and my mother was living alone. Imagine the joy and tears that accompanied our reunion…catching up with everything and exchanging stories of all that had happened in the years apart. Words cannot express the pleasure and happiness of those days, the joy of being together, the sheer pleasure of simply gazing at my dear mother’s face. Perhaps one of the most interesting discoveries of all was that my family was religious too. My mother and two of my brothers were believers just like me! What joy! I learned later that they had come into contact with the gospel in that area and that my mother was actually the first to get saved, followed by two of my four brothers.
Sadly, I was only able to stay for a week at that time as I was working in a restaurant in the town where I lived, so time was short! On the Sunday night before I travelled back, I attended one of their gospel meetings. As I listened carefully to the reading of the Scriptures and the preaching, I realised that they did not preach the same message as I was used to hearing. It was clear that they based their message on the portion of the Bible from which they had read, and I could only assume that they must be using a different version of the Bible than I used. I decided to ask for one of their Bibles so that I could compare it with mine at home. Imagine my surprise when I got home and compared it, to find that it was identical to the one I had been using at my Church! This worried me and got me thinking! How could it be that our Bibles were the same and yet the messages preached in both places so fundamentally different? My mind was full of questions to which I had no answers. Finally, after much thought, I decided to sell my house and move to look after my dear mother and sort out this strange discrepancy between my church and theirs.
And so it was that I arrived bag and baggage in the town of my adoption and moved in with my mother. How thankful I was to be able to pay her back for all the heartache I had caused, all the tears and worry…and the thirty long years of silence! How touching to discover that she had been praying for me over those many years. She often used to say to friends, “I don’t know if my daughter is dead or alive but I’m praying for her anyway!” I tried my best in every way to help, and recuperate, in some small measure, all the grief I had caused. I rejoiced that I would be there for her in her latter years, that she would have comfort and company in her old age. We were so happy together and the days were very special. She loved to talk to me about her salvation and take me to the meetings with her. I wasn’t there long until it became abundantly clear to me that the ‘salvation’ I had was not the same as what she and my brothers had. I could not tell of an experience of conversion, of a turning to God from a life of sin. I did not even know that I was a sinner! I had always been a good person, in my own eyes, of course; had always paid my tithes to the church and had always been a very faithful attender of all its meetings. I was worried! What really did it all mean? I talked a lot with my brother and asked many questions. I was beginning to wonder if I really had the salvation of the Bible! I was greatly burdened about my situation. Things were becoming increasingly serious!
Then, just one month after I had moved house, my life was again turned upside down. My dear mother took suddenly very ill and died within twenty-four hours! I was devastated! I had been so thankful to have been given the opportunity to recompense her for all the hurt I had caused and instead of that, inside a month, I was burying her! I was overwhelmed with grief! Why had God allowed this to happen? As the days passed after the funeral, I came to understand that God was speaking to me and that my mother’s home-call had brought me face to face with death and the hereafter! I became increasingly burdened about my situation! I was no longer in any doubt as to where I stood in light of Eternity. I knew I had nothing. The ‘salvation’ I thought I had was not the salvation of the Bible. I realised that my sin was bringing me down to hell. I was in a terrible state! I well remember one Saturday morning, two months after my mother’s death, I wakened feeling, more than ever, the terrible burden of my sin. I spent the morning reading my Bible and every tract I could find, seeking for salvation with all my heart. At lunchtime, my niece invited me to go shopping with her in the afternoon. I had come to a crossroads: if I agreed to go with her, I believed the thoughts about my soul would leave me and that I might never again hear the voice of God! I decided to stay at home and get the matter of my salvation sorted out, once and for all. I didn’t get saved that Saturday but the next morning found me sitting behind at the Remembrance meeting. My heart was sad. I still was very worried about my situation and wondered how I could ever be rid of the terrible burden of my sin. Just with that, someone gave out that lovely hymn:
Oh Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head!
Our load was laid on Thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead,
Bearest all my load for me.
A victim led, Thy blood was shed;
Now there’s no load for me.Anne R. Cousin
And it was then, while singing those lovely words, that the amazing truth dawned on my soul. I realised that it was my burden of sin that had bowed His head, that He had stood in my place and died for my sins. With tears streaming down my face, I got up and went outside to try and compose myself. What joy and peace flooded my soul as I realised that I would never be in hell. I bowed my head in abundant thanksgiving for such a great salvation and praised the Lord for the strange circumstances that had brought me to this point. God’s ways are not ours…His way is perfect! I was so sorry that my dear mother was not there to share my joy! How thrilled she would have been to think that after all those years, her prayers had finally been answered! I can’t help but think that when heaven resounded with the news of a sinner having repented that day, she knew it was her daughter!
Some months later, I was baptised and, by the grace of God, became one of the founding members of the assembly in that large city in the very south of Brazil.
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