August 12, 2016
Two years ago I made one of my visits to our work at Porto Walter. I took plans for a new church building. The congregation was growing, but was still mostly children and teens. They were already needing to move out of the old wood frame building that we put up in 1993. Our missionary, Brother Alexandre, was dismayed when I showed him what we were going to build. He said, “We have nary a chance of building a 2 story building for 500 people.” That night we gathered the congregation to present the concept drawings and the plans. I had to get tough with Alexandre in front of his folks. I let them know, in no uncertain terms, that God is the One who would provide and make it happen. Then I just told them that this is what we are going to build and with little help from First Baptist Church of Cruzeiro do Sul. At that point I am pretty sure that I was the only one who thought that it would be possible.
Last week I spent 4 days with them for the dedication of the lower floor of the new building. We had over four hundred present for all the services and many not able to get into the building. We couldn’t get to the 500 prediction because they are on the lower floor with all the columns down the middle that take up quite a bit of seats. During the meeting, the congregation commissioned a couple to take over the mission point at Vitória. We had 3 professions of faith, too. Then on Sunday morning we hauled 4 truckloads of people down to the beach for a baptism service. I baptized 41 new members.
There was a new experience for me, too. At the dedication of the new building the members were so excited that they went out and spent a bunch of money on fireworks! Then to top it off they set off another bunch during the baptism service on Sunday morning down by the river. It was actually a very pleasant surprise to see how they really were wanting to celebrate these events in the loudest and flashiest way possible! It had never occurred to me to commemorate a dedication of a building or a baptism with so many big bangs, but it was actually pretty cool. The world ended up seeing how serious God’s people are about their Christian service and what He can do.
That is the news. Now a little background. Porto Walter is 100 miles upriver. Not long after missionary Joseph Brandon arrived in Cruzeiro do Sul (1926), he had a launch built to make mission trips. He named it the “Pilgrim”. On one of his first trips he took some of the young converts from First Baptist Church to share the gospel with the folks along the river upstream. When they arrived at Porto Walter one of the members grabbed the rope to tie up the “Pilgrim”. By this time the local priest knew of their arrival and sent a mob armed with machetes and shotguns with orders to not let the “believers”, as we are called, even get off their boat. One of the mob stepped forward and said, “The first believer that tries to step ashore with that rope will see the rope cut and the person, will be chopped up, too.” To avoid bloodshed Brother Brandon decided to not stay there, but go further up river to a place called Campo de Santana. Eventually a church was organized there. That priest later became the bishop of the whole region of the catholic parish in Cruzeiro do Sul. For years the Catholic church controlled the town with an iron fist.
In 1992 the towns at Marechal Thaumaturgo and Porto Walter were incorporated and became 2 of the 22 cities (county seats?) of the state of Acre. At the same time, I decided that enough is enough and we were going to start churches in these towns no matter what the Catholic church, her bishops, priests and nuns think about it. That same summer I took my cousin Paul Creiglow and one of our local missionaries to check out the field and procure property. The river was low and it was a long hard trip in a dugout canoe.
That same year God raised up the 2 missionaries. The church approved and sent them out in 1993. It has been long hard work, but now we have the biggest congregations of any denomination in both towns. In fact, while I was in Porto Walter I checked out the attendance of the Catholic church, Adventist and 2 Pentecostal churches. The Pentecostals have about 30 or 40 each. The Adventist have 15 at most. Here is the real shocker though: only 10 to 15 people attend mass these days! The Baptist church averages over 250. Thank you Lord. The power of the Gospel has prevailed.
The river is VERY low this year. You can wade across the Juruá just about anywhere and we could see the sand bars and bottom all along the way. Pastor Rondisson went with me. My trusty 25HP jet drive outboard took us right through all the shallows. Many hours navigating through all the stumps and shallows. Bright blue skies, beautiful, brilliant white sand beaches and exuberant green jungle all around. People being saved and baptized, the work growing by leaps and bounds and cruising through God’s creation: This is pretty much a big slice of heaven on earth. Am I having fun, or what?
Thanks for all of your prayers and support. God bless you as much as He has us.
Mike and Beverly Creiglow
Caixa Postal 24
Cruzeiro do Sul, Acre, Brazil 69980
mdcreig [at] hotmail.com