Lages is a city of around 180,000 people which sets about 140 miles from the Atlantic in the Catarina Mountains of Southern Brazil. We moved there in 2011 not knowing a single person. It wasn’t very long after we arrived in the city that people began wondering why an American family had come to what they referred to as “the end of the earth” to live.
We didn’t have a vehicle, so our family of six would walk together everywhere we went. We couldn’t fit into one taxi and paying for two was too expensive. People would watch us and every now and then we would get asked why we were there and what we were doing. Soon word began to spread around that we were Baptist missionaries.
One night our neighbors clapped at our gate and introduced themselves. They were cautiously friendly, and had brought over dinner to welcome us to their town. As the night wore on and they didn’t seem to be interested in leaving, I ushered my children to their room and put them to bed while Mark continued the conversation. I returned to the dining room to hear the man tell Mark that they knew we were coming. I found that very interesting since we had only visited the city twice on a survey trip a year prior. Mark asked him how they knew and the man went on to explain, very matter of factly, that the spirits had told him.
He explained that he and his wife were spiritists. They allowed spirits to inhabit them and give them messages. This religion, Spiritism, stems from a Frenchman who went by the pseudonym Allan Kardec. It is complicated to explain, but basically it deals with the idea that humans are immortal spirits. There are good spirits and bad spirits that will temporarily inhabit and control a physical body……like that of our neighbor. Our city of Lages has over 200 spiritist centers of “worship”.
Let that sink in for a second. 200. Does that give you an idea of what kind of demonic forces rule in the air where we live? We had moved to a major stronghold of the devil, and our neighbor said that some spirits had told them that we were coming.
Now, if y’all know me personally, you know that my face shows EVERYTHING I am thinking when I am confronted with new information. I’m sure that night my face registered a look of incredulity and maybe a little fear. (I know, I know, I am not supposed to be afraid, but come on….it was a little creepy) All I could think about was that I had just eaten and allowed my children to eat a full meal prepared by these people and I was now wondering what was in it! I began praying for our protection.
SIDE NOTE: Missions is not a game and Missionaries are not just props for your church’s missions conference. We sincerely desire the prayers of God’s people in our supporting churches because we never know what situation we will be confronted with on the field. When we ask for prayer or give you a prayer card, it isn’t a sales tactic to garner your financial support, it is because we need someone going to the throne of God on our family’s behalf on a regular basis.
Not only did our Spiritist neighbors come to call, but within a few weeks a group of four ladies showed up at our door wanting to meet Mark. They had been in several churches within several denominations and were now meeting in each other’s houses praying for a “new revelation” from God. They believed Mark was the one God had sent to them. (God did send Mark. He sent him to preach the TRUTH of the Gospel)
I thought on these things as I read the account of the Apostle Paul’s sermon on Mars’ hill in the book of Acts. He addressed a crowd of “religious” people. Among the crowd gathered to hear what he had to say were the Epicureans, who believed men found happiness in pleasure. Some of them believed that to be pleasure of the mind and knowledge, while others believed it to be of a baser sort and wholly gave themselves to all forms of debauchery of physical pleasure. Then there were the Stoicks who followed the idea that men should master their passions and held virtue in esteem.
Two opposites, but they came together to hear what Paul preached because they were looking for some new thing.
Do you know what Paul preached?
Acts 17:18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
Paul preached about Jesus. I love it. It is the same Message we carry to Lages. Yes, in the same manner as Paul, we were mocked and dismissed by our spiritist neighbor and the group of women seeking a new revelation once they heard that we believed in Christ, Him crucified and risen and coming again one day! Their dismissal and mocking has not changed our message and just like that day in Athens after the crowd dispersed:
Acts 17:34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
We too have seen people come to know the Lord and believe in Him for salvation.
God SO LOVED this world that He sent Christ to be the propitiation for our sins:
1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
God doesn’t exclude. He loves because He is love. The message of that Love and His sacrifice is the greatest love ever shown. But not everyone that hears it believes. The crowd in Athens mocked the Truth, and the spiritists in Lages have mocked the Truth, but the Message doesn’t change. His love doesn’t change. And you and I cannot change! We must continue to spread His story no matter if we are in a demonic stronghold in Southern Brazil, in the Bible Belt of the USA, in the barren lands of the West, in a closed country where the Bible is not welcome, or anywhere your foot trods as a Christian. We have to give His Message. We have to tell of His Love.
Because some will hear and believe. Jesus’ blood will redeem them from an eternity in hell and provide a place for them in Heaven.
Who needs a greater cause or a better reason than that?
Until Next Time, Lord willing,
READ THE BIBLE THROUGH WITH ME IN 36 WEEKS!
Today’s reading: Exodus 26 / II Samuel 21-22 / Psalm 42 / Acts 18