by Alta Hatcher
I was saved when I was seven years old. When I was nine God called me to be a missionary, as my mother was telling a lady about a single missionary in Africa. When I was 10 years old a preacher in his sermon told parents to teach their children to pray about who God wanted them to marry before they were 10 or 12 years old because when they were older they would like to play ball or do something with a friend and they would marry a friend without it being God’s will. I began to pray. During the Second World War I was a student at Georgetown Baptist College. There were only 200 students and only nine men who were pastors with families. I stayed out of college after two years since the school where I had studied needed a third grade teacher.
When I returned to College the war had ended and there were now 2000 students in the College. Two weeks before returning to college I received a letter from John Hatcher saying he would meet me at the train station or bus station because he was interested in meeting me. He had just dedicated his life to be a missionary to Brazil and he had learned I was, also, called to be a missionary. We met and in six months we were married. John was pastor of a mission in Shelbyville, KY. After marrying, we worked there two years. Then John was called to be a missionary in eastern Kentucky. He was pastor three years of the Beattyville Baptist Church with six mission churches. It was there after three years of ministry he received a call to become the pastor of a new church in Alton, Illinois. After being at the new Church in Alton three years the Lord touched John’s heart that it was time for us to go to Brazil. We had four children under the age of six.
CONDITIONS IN BRAZIL AT THAT TIME
In 1955 there were no washing machines, refrigerators, stoves or beds, just hammocks. The only electric lights were in a few stores. In Manaus, Brazil there were about a dozen cars that were all taxis. There were hand built buses that carried people, animals and produce. John had to accompany the things that we sent by ship to Brazil because a new law prohibited merchandise to be shipped alone. It took twenty-two days for the ship to get to Manaus, Brazil.
I took our four children on the plane. I had never ridden a plane before. The trip by plane took twenty-two hours.
Life was difficult. To buy meat we had to walk to the market at 5 o’clock in the morning. Vegetables came in by boat and were hard to find.
We took two orphan girls, ages 12 and 18 into our home. Some children were coming from the jungle to live with us because there were no schools in the interiors. We started a school because 80% of the people in Brazil could not read or write.
My job as a mother was to teach English to our five children. The principal of the school where I studied as a child gave me books for grade one through eight. After that, we ordered courses in English for the High School.
I hired help to take care of all the extra children, our family and to do the work so I could study all morning with our children. Later, when our children were all in school I walked the streets, visiting from door to door. People knew I was an American and they always invited me into their house. I always carried a Bible and taught them how to be saved and invited them to church.
John preached and taught the adults in the new mission churches we started. I taught the children in Sunday school. Also, I played the keyboard we carried with us. During school vacation each year we traveled on the rivers to start churches in the interior. The houses had dirt floors, and the houses were made of slim trees cut and tied together by wire. The roofs were palm leaves. There were no beds only hammocks. All the food was cooked outside on wood fires. We had to have someone to guide us as we walked through the forests. After 21 years we moved to southern Brazil.
We spent sixty years as missionaries in several parts of Brazil and we went from place to place starting churches. We planted about 60 churches in the 60 years we were there.
The Lord has blessed us. All of our children are missionaries. Our oldest, Lynn, and Ross, her husband, were missionaries in Nashville, TN, to exceptional children, has been with the Lord for six years. Ross, who carried on the work, died a year ago. They started work in churches for exceptional children in five States of the U.S.A.
Paul and his wife, Wanda, have been missionaries in Brazil for 40 years. Under his leadership the Tabernacle Baptist Church has made over 60 church plants.
Our son, David, is missionary pastor of the first church John and I started in Brazil. We left it in 1962 with 23 members. Today, on Sunday morning there are 5000 or 6000 in Sunday school and 5000 or 6000 in the Sunday night services. Penny, David’s wife, takes care of the children’s Sunday School classes as she plans lessons and trains teachers.
Our daughter, Kathy, was born in Brazil. She is married to a Brazilian. She and her husband, Odali Barros, had an orphanage in Garça (pronounced Garsa) with 150 children. Also, they started churches. Now they have moved to Manaus to start churches in the river villages.
Our son, John Mark, and his wife, Judy, are missionaries in France.
We thank God, also, that all of our 15 grandchildren are serving the Lord! Some as pastors and others are missionaries some of the granddaughters are married to pastors or missionaries.
We have 27 great-grandchildren and are expecting two more soon. Our oldest great-grandchild is 12 years old. All of those four years old and older have already trusted Jesus as their Savior. We are so grateful to God for blessing us so much.