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From Cape Horn to Panama
A Narrative of Missionary Enterprise among the Neglected Races
of South America, by the South American Missionary Society

By Robert Young

[London] South American Missionary Society, 1905.

Chapter XIII. Among the Tribes and Romanists of Brazil

"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shall become a plain."'--ZECH. iv. 6, 7.

REFERENCE has already been made to Brazil, under the head of Chaplaincies. Being, in the words of the Rev. J. W. Marsh, "a region like a Continent for illimitable vastness, with yellow fever waiting at the gate of it, and a frightful isolation, so depressing the spirit that each man requires the energy of ten to enable him to maintain his position as a missionary "--such a region, with its officially estimated population of eighteen millions, demands separate and fuller treatment. Some particulars respecting this vast territory, said by Humboldt to cover 144,500 geographical square miles, and respecting the countries bordering on it, may fitly introduce what has to be furnished about the work of the mission.

The vast mountain ranges of the Cordilleras--the numerous and extensive mountain plateau-glaciers in the Republic of Colombia, at a height of over 18,000 feet above sea level, as also the glacial lake deposits, and lakes formed by ice-blocks in the valleys of Bogota, Cauca, Guarui, Retiro, Magdalena, Rio Negro, and many others--the rock strata and beds of conglomerate--the numerous extinct volcanoes of the Andes--the vast impenetrable virgin tropical forests spread over the whole northern region of South America to the banks of the Amazon, with their colossal trees, many of them from 20 to 25 feet in circumference, and rising to a height of from 180 to 200 feet, the stem alone being not less than 100 feet from the ground to their lowest branch--the groves of palms, cocoa-nuts, and bananas--the arid, desolate, and rainless pampas, or prairies, those especially of Atacama, between the Andes and the Pacific, of Sechura in Peru, and of Pernambuco, on the north-east plateau of Brazil--while beneath its surface there is stored up incalculable wealth in the interests of commerce fertile fields,--all of these varied features of the Continent furnish fruitful study to the geologist, ethnologist, physicist, naturalist, and other scientist.

Then there, is the Amazon, the mightiest river in the world, rising amid the, loftiest volcanoes on the globe, flowing a distance in a direct line of 1,769 miles, or, including its windings, of nearly 4,000 miles, and called by the aborigines "the King of waters." Professor James Orton describes the Amazon valley as so vast in its area, stretching from the Atlantic shore to the foot of the Andes and from the Orinoco to the Paraguay, that "the United States might be packed in it without touching its boundaries."

In keeping with the foregoing features of this wonderful country is the magnificent Bay of Rio de Janeiro, which, among all the ports along the coast of Brazil, carries off the palm as regards the beauties of its surroundings, and so capacious that all the navies in the world might ride in it with the greatest ease.

A very large proportion of the population of Brazil is composed of Indians, the aborigines of the country, represented by about a hundred and fifty different tribes, for the most part purely heathen, wild, and lawless. Living as they do mostly in the interior, less is known regarding them than of the natives of Central Africa.

For work in the interior, climatic influences would, it is feared, prove deterrent to Europeans, especially considering that much would have to be done in the way of "roughing it"; and it is doubtful whether the Brazilian possesses the requisite physical energy and power of endurance. The way, however, will doubtless be opened up in due time. For the present, mission work has to be carried on along and near the coast.

That the reader may have in some degree an intelligent idea of the moral and social condition of Brazil, and the difficulties to be encountered and overcome by the Christian missionary, it may be noted that "day by day the leading articles of the newspaper press are a constant wail of bitter lamentations and accusations of one another for their terrible state, nationally and individually, through dishonesty, selfishness, and want of the one thing they all so much boast of--patriotism." In an article in one of the papers, in 1897, under the heading "The Fifteenth of November"--the seventh anniversary of the Republic of Brazil--the following sentence occurs:--

Never was seen so little concern for the public health, so much disdain for the peace of the citizen, such shamelessness in the non-observance of the laws, such condescendings in the trials of criminals, such thirst for power as well as for riches, satisfied by any means whatever, and, finally, such bad management and mad extravagance in the superintendence of public money.

Besides the heathenism, and worldliness, and unblushing licentious ness to be met with everywhere throughout the Continent, Spain and Portugal and Italy have been for centuries fastening around the necks of its people, by means of an ignorant and corrupt priesthood, the yoke of a debased, debasing and God-dishonouring, caricatured Christianity. This prevails especially in the various coast towns, and nowhere is it more rampant than in Rio de Janeiro. Does any one think that this is an extravagant representation of the Romish Church? Let him ponder the following as described by a competent eye-witness belonging to another Society in the same city. He writes:--

The more one looks into the state of things in this land the more appalling it appears. Every little mud hut has its household altar, with its images and saints. Romanism here is another name for heathenism; its followers are none the less idolaters. Christ is often held up to the people, but, alas! it is a brass Christ on a bronze cross! There are many saints here, but they are made of wood and metal! Just to-day I saw a spectacle that made me feel sick at heart. It was a so-called religious procession. In front were a few men with silver or silvered lanterns, some with lighted candles. Then came a silvered crucifix, then a large rough painted image. I think it was intended for the Virgin and the child Jesus; afterwards quite a number of little human representations of angels, with muslin dresses, silvered crowns, and tinsel wings, etc. Oh! when shall the Church of Christ arise to see the hollow mockery, the carnal sham, the pitiable imitation of religious truths that garnish the outside of Rome, which within is full of dead men's bones and rottenness.

Equally sad is the account given by yet another eye-witness of a scene in connection with the festival, lasting for a week, of Nossa Senhora da Penha, a village about five miles from Sao Paulo, in Brazil. Here is what he wrote towards the close of 1895:--

Having duly arrived at the Penha railway station, we were immediately presented with a spectacle as sickening and loathsome as it was sad. From the station to the church, a distance of some yards, were a number of men, women, and children, mostly sitting or reclining on the ground, and having all the appearance of a leper settlement. Many of them, I am informed, were lepers in various stages of the disease, and these poor people in all their deformity seemed so numerous, so scattered, and yet so grouped together, and presented such an awful sight, as to make us feel physically unwell; and they, in their importunity for alms, and to elicit sympathy, thrust forth, for the passers-by to see, their handless, armless, and feetless stumps, and others their curled limbs. One poor girl especially placed herself in front of every person that came near her, and would tear aside her garment and disclose a fearfully diseased body. These sights were so frightful that we had to close our eyes and hasten past the awful scene.

The church and shrine of the image was soon reached, but we did not go inside. Roman Catholicism, as exemplified in Brazil, is of a debased kind, and we were told that inside were suspended before the image life-size models in wax, etc., of diseased limbs, with the diseases conspicuously painted on them in vermilion, and placed there by the poor, ignorant, and superstitious people for the healing of their bodies, they not knowing the good Physician who healeth all diseases of soul and body. This "holy image" of a patron saint is credited with truly marvellous powers, and is not only resorted to by sufferers, but is carried through the streets upon the outbreak of such epidemics as smallpox, etc., and has been brought into the city in time of drought to intercede for rain, and there is a tradition that the last time it only reached the outskirts of the town, when, it began to rain, and rained so hard for several days that they could not get it back again.

Outside the church were evidences of festivities. The street was lined on each side, and side streets too, with gambling tables of every conceivable kind, from common dice to the roulette table in gaudily decorated booths. In fact, man's ingenuity had been taxed to introduce some new feature into this terrible excitement. The rattling of dice, the shouts and cries of the table-keepers, suggested to one's mind the raging of a storm. Sin in various forms of hideousness and enticement lurked everywhere. We had come from scenes of bodily disease, and here were mental disease and passion, and the latter carried on under the guise of a religious festival and under the shadow of the church. I endeavoured to ascertain if also under the auspices of the authorities of that body, but could not. . . .

It would have been a satisfaction and pleasure to have been able to follow up these statements with a record of steady and successful inroads upon this kingdom or darkness. Unfortunately, there is not much to tell, so far as Brazil is concerned.

In 1872, on the recommendation of Dr. Davis, then Secretary of the Religious Tract Society, Mr. R. Stewart dough, who had been engaged in Spanish and Portuguese work, was appointed by the South American Missionary Society to Santarem, about 500 miles up the Amazon river. He was succeeded by the Rev. Dr. Lee, assisted by Mr. Reysek, who found it necessary to remove to another location higher up the river, which at that place was vast as an inland sea. There Dr. Lee met his death by drowning. In 1880 a young London clergyman took up the work; and a small steam launch, The Pioneer, having been secured, he was efficiently aided by Lieut. R. W. Jones, Mr. J. E. R. Polak, as lay missionaries, and Mr. Hugh McCaul, as catechist and engineer. They laboured among the Ipurinas on the upper waters of the river Purus, finding access to many Indians living in the adjoining forests. The members of the mission party having gradually succumbed to the enervating climate, the Committee were reluctantly compelled, after ten years' labour, to abandon the undertaking. The experience thus gained seems to point to the propriety of employing native agents in these tropical and unhealthy regions.

About 1880, Pastor Zink engaged to labour among the German residents in Rio Claro, about equidistant inland from Rio de Janeiro and Santos. He had there a congregation of fifty communicants. After a time he also started a service for the Portuguese, which was well attended. He did much, too, in the way of itinerating. These operations were continued for ten years, or thereabouts, but owing to some unexplained cause, the work ceased.

Considering the very limited means placed at the Society's disposal, it is a marvel that so many important fields north and south, east and west, and central, have been occupied. While there is the strongest reason, as there is the greatest need, for the strengthening of all the missions, the call to do so in the case of Brazil is quite peculiar, alike on account of the magnitude of the field and the centuries of neglect from which it has suffered at the hands of the Christian Church. From the tens of thousands of heathen Indians in the interior, and the multitudes of ignorant, superstitious Roman Catholics, as well as from the feeble but devoted band who are lifting up their voice for the truth in the wilderness, there may be heard the old Macedonian cry, "COME OVER AND HELP US."

Why, for example, should not Rio de Janeiro be used as a base of operations for extension, right and left, inland? Why not have there a well-equipped educational establishment--an institution also for the training of native teachers and evangelists--and perhaps, too, a hall for evangelistic meetings, similar to the one which Mr. Morris has built at Palermo, Buenos Ayres? The school might in course of time prove a feeder to the training institution. Whatever is being done in these directions elsewhere, Brazil may well plead special consideration. It would be a noble way of signalizing a new century if the Society were enabled to plant institutions such as have been suggested. But the means, alas! where are they? The means?--why, there are scores of Christian friends, any three of whom, with the greatest ease, could each give, say, £6,000 for the erection or purchase of necessary buildings, and to secure a permanent moderate endowment for the support of the agents to be employed. The writer ventures, as a sympathetic outsider, to make the appeal. Who will respond?

Is this an extravagant proposal? What saith the Lord of the harvest, to whom the silver and the gold entrusted to the keeping of His servants really belong? Instead of hoarding up their thousands, as too many, alas! do, would it not be better far for them to have the joy of laying them out for the promotion of the Lord's cause? "I speak as unto wise men; judge ye what I say." Again, therefore, I make my appeal, and trust it will meet with an early response. [The above appeal is inserted by the kind permission of the Committee, but the author is alone responsible for its insertion.]

Though good undoubtedly is being done by the devoted labours of the Chaplains and Seamen's Missionaries at the Brazilian ports, and by occasional itineracies, the work never seems to take root. For one thing it wants visibility, the importance of which is well understood by the Romish Church. In the town of Sao Paulo, for instance, besides the Cathedral and the Jesuit Church, both of which are conspicuous buildings, there is an Orphanage and a Theological Seminary for the training of the priesthood. So in other towns. We are not now speaking of the English chaplaincies and their chaplains and churches whose ministrations are intended for the resident English community. It seems eminently desirable that in Rio de Janeiro there should be in some central locality buildings connected with the work of evangelization of such attractive appearance as to command the attention of the inhabitants and of strangers, and which they might be induced to enter. Such a forward movement as has just been indicated would be at the present time most opportune.

The President of the neighbouring Ecuador Republic is reported to have said, in 1897, to the agent of the American Bible Society: "I promise yon that I will do all possible to encourage and assist the propagation of the. Bible in my own country." And a strong and growing impression prevails that the people in South America are coming to understand that the darkest pages in their history are such because of the blighting influence of the Papal system, and that its mercenary character is hastening its overthrow. Thousands in consequence are revolting from the Church of Rome.

In the early part of 1899, an American missionary named Dettweiler settled at Archidona, in the interior of the Republic, his chief occupation during the intervening months being the acquisition of the Quichua language. Necessarily, little progress has as yet been made as regards actual mission work. The Indians are friendly and the outlook is hopeful.

Before closing this chapter relating to Brazil, and proceeding to refer to the Isthmus of Panama, it may be noted that in the territory of British and Dutch Guiana, or Surinam, the Moravians have been labouring with their wonted zeal and success for the long period of more than 160 years. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel also occupies the British Guiana field.

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