Acts 16:6-9 “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.”
In 2004, Grace Baptist Church in Boa Vista, Roraima had been organized. Pastor Wellington was now the official pastor. Jane and I began praying about a new location to start a church. We were interested in a small interior town called Alto Alegre about 90 kilometers to the west of Boa Vista. We made some trips, were able to connect with a few families who as well were looking for a church. Before we could really get involved in this new work, it was time for us to return to Canada for our fourth furlough. While home in Canada we received a phone call from our mission headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio and our field administrator surprised us with a question – “Would you and Jane pray about moving to Manaus, to help out the missionaries in Amazonas?” My first reaction was, “Not a chance! We are moving to Alto Alegre to start a new church.” I did agree to pray about it and the Lord began to work in my heart and before long we sensed that the Lord had closed the door to Alto Alegre and set before us a new opportunity of ministry!
In 2007, upon our return to the field, we made our move to Manaus, 860 kilometers to the south of Boa Vista. With the moving truck loaded, Jane and the children traveling by bus, I drove our diesel Chevy truck, hauling odds and ends plus our dog, Sheba. Arriving in Manaus we moved into the Rua Sao Luiz 500 house on the mission property that the former missionary, Albert Spieth, cleared out of the jungle in the 1950’s.
It seemed that the thieves in Manaus had a special interest in our mission property. Many times on Sunday mornings when the missionaries went to their respective church plants, unwelcome visitors came over the two meter high wall surrounding the compound to look around. Several years before our time in Manaus, the Robert Lankfords lived in the mission house. One Sunday when they returned home from church they found that the house had been broken into and several things were missing. After bewailing all the stolen goods, Damaris Lanford said, “Well, at least we have our dinner!” When she went and opened the oven door to pull out the roast she discovered that it too was gone! During all the years that we lived in Manaus we never had a break in. We give the credit, first of all to the Lord and secondly to Sheba our dog. Almost everyone was scared of our German Shepard mix.
While in Manaus, Jane and I helped in the Manaus Bible school. I taught Bible courses and Jane taught piano. We got involved the Camp Maranatha ministry and ministered in Manaus area churches while praying about where God would have us serve full time in a local church. At the time, David and Grace Kintner, who had been in the Amazon since the early seventies were looking to begin a ministry in a smaller town called Presidente Figueredo. Because of their age, the mission had recommended that they only begin this work when they could find another couple to join them in the work. Jane and I felt that since an opportunity hadn’t opened up for us in Manaus, that we should consider helping the Kintners. Thus began our years of ministry in Presidente Figueiredo.
The work began in the home of Maria Tolentino who had been praying for someone to come their way and plant a fundamental Baptist church. Dave and Grace were able to find a home in the town and moved in right away. On the other hand, Jane and I, since we were helping out in the Bible school stayed in Manaus and only traveled to Presidente Figueredo for the weekends.
Dave and Grace were able to find a strategically located property in an urban area but not far from the highway. The building that was on it had at one time been a small grocery store with a bakery at the back. It eventually was sold and in time became ours. With a little bit of work it was very usable as a place to hold services. Alongside of our new church building was a large grassy lot with loads of space for children’s clubs and games. Emmanuel Baptist church thus had its humble beginnings and through the years souls were saved and became part of the work.
Presidente Figueiredo wasn’t the easiest place to work. Being a tourist town and boasting 140 waterfalls and rapids in the area, it drew many people on weekends and holidays. One time I counted over 110 buses that brought people in from Manaus and nearby towns for the weekend. Much of the local work force worked in the hotels, restaurants and at the waterfalls. People were too busy to come to church and indifferent as to send their children to Sunday School. I remember one time when the Berean Baptist church in Manaus sent a team of thirty people to do a VBS at our church. They spent all morning visiting the area homes, passing out flyers and invitations and then prepared for the event to begin at 3 in the afternoon. Two children showed up. At four o’clock the group, not willing to admit a failed Bible school, went out visiting again. The parents said, “Well, if you take our children and bring them back, they can go.” The children weren’t ready so the workers, bathed the children, got them dressed, and brought them to church. By five o’clock we had thirty children in attendance! By the end of the three days the children were coming on their own! God blessed, and it was a fruitful time.
One day Laura and I were out in a part of the town that we weren’t too familiar with, going from home to home and inviting people to church. In Brazil we don’t knock on people’s doors, we clap at them. Clapping is the signal that someone is wanting to speak to you. We clapped at the front of a small house and a short stout man came to the door. He obviously had been painting and was busy. We introduced ourselves and said that we were from Emanuel Baptist Church and would he accept a tract? A look of surprise came across his face and he said, “Emanuel Baptist Church? Where is that? I’m a Baptist and I didn’t know that there was a Baptist Church in Presidente Figueiredo!” His name was Ozeias and his wife was Suzy. They were in church the next Sunday and have been with us ever since.
Our Christmas program was always a blessing. We would start practicing in September for our cantata, Dave Kintner would lead the choir, Jane would play the piano and the rest of us would sing in four-part harmony. The people enjoyed it so much and on the Sunday before Christmas we would have our special service. The church would often fill up to standing room only and we would have a lunch for all afterwards.
In 2014 Dave and Grace retired from the mission field and returned to the States. Jane and I then took the pastorate full time and moved to Presidente Figueiredo. It was a joy to be among the people each day and to see souls saved and the church growing.
Alexandre Tolentino, the son of Maria in whose house the church started years before, was our neighbour down the street and became one of our right-hand men in the church. By profession he was a lawyer and was able to help us many times resolving problems. Alexandre became one of our Sunday School teachers and filled the pulpit whenever we were traveling.
One time a delivery truck parked almost in front of the church. The wheels of the truck were off the edge of the pavement causing the tall box of the truck to lean inward. On the front of the church we had a nice overhanging roof to keep the sun and rain from hitting the glass doors. The truck driver returning and forgetting that the truck was leaning inward, took off without turning back onto the street and ripped off the whole overhanging roof from the front of the church. When he saw what he did, he didn’t waste time hanging around. It was hours later that we discovered what had happened and Alexandre began questioning around and before the end of the day discovered who did it and had the trucking company put up a new overhanging roof for us.
In 2017, Claudio, a bus driver, a man who had made a decision with David Kintner years before, came to church one Sunday morning and made a reconciliation. Soon after I began to visit Claudio in his home and did a personal Bible study with him. One day the family came to prayer meeting and his nine-year-old boy came right up to me and shyly said, “Pastor Terry, I want to get saved!” It was a joy to lead Marcelo to the Lord, even before the service started that evening! After the service I spoke to his dad and commented that it was interesting that Marcelo was so ready and anxious to get saved. Claudio responded, “You want to know why? Every time you came to our house, Marcelo hid behind the door and listened to the Bible studies.” God is so good in how He brings even the little ones to Himself!
In 2019, Emanuel Baptist Church was organized and today the pastor is José Lima from Manaus. Jose Lima was one of my students in the Manaus Bible School when Jane and I first moved to Manaus. It’s exciting to see how the Lord leads and directs over the years and we have so many precious memories to look back upon. The Lord closed a door to us when we were wanting to move to Alto Alegre and opened a door wide in Presidente Figueiredo.
I Corinthians 16:9 “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.”