October 15, 2018
Our founder, missionary Joseph F Brandon, arrived in Cruzeiro do Sul, Acre in 1926. He was the first man to bring the gospel to the Juruá valley. Just 3 years later he organized First Baptist Church with 13 members. He continued to share the Good News in the villages along the river with his new converts. To reach these distant villages he had a boat built and named it “The Pilgrim”. Many of the members of first Baptist traveled with him.
About 100 miles upstream he came to a little town called Porto Walter. At the time, Porto Walter was the biggest village other than Cruzeiro do Sul. It was a major hub for the collection of native rubber and distribution of merchandise to the rubber workers. The nuns and priests put in their biggest schools there. Children came from all around to go to these schools, which had dorms for the kids. The Catholic religious leaders were actually more powerful and influential than in Cruzeiro do Sul.
When Brother Brandon arrived there and was getting ready to land, the head priest, a stern and cruel German named Dom Henrique, sent a mob down to the river’s edge. As one of Brother Brandon’s new converts grabbed the rope and got ready to jump ashore, one of the men in the crowd, brandishing his machete, said, “If you try to tie up here I will cut the rope and cut you up, too!” Brother Brandon backed away from the confrontation. “The Pilgrim” moved on up river to a little village called Campo de Santana. There he preached and many were saved. We still have a congregation there to this day.
After the threat by the most powerful man on the Juruá River, Dom Henrique, it seemed as if Porto Walter was put off limits to the gospel. When we first visited Campo de Santana in the early 60’s I found it strange that we would pass this big town by to visit a little congregation further upstream.
Later on I was called to be a missionary and I too would pass Porto Walter and continue spreading the Gospel all the way up the Juruá and into Peru. It just wasn’t right. Then in the early 90’s I made a special visit to the town to “case the place”, you might say. In 1992 I made a strong appeal for a missionary to Porto Walter in our annual missions and pastors conference. Two years later First Baptist Church sent Brother Mário and family. I took them up, rented a house and started looking for property. The Catholic church was not at all happy that these “crentes” (believers) had dared to invade their territory. It was really hard and the persecution was nonstop, although they were no longer able to use bodily harm as a tool to try to stop us.
Nine years ago, we sent Mário to a new field. In his place we sent Alexandre and Rejane. They had just finished seminary and had spent several months in our own internship at First Baptist Church to complete their training.
Last week I went up to visit the work and celebrate our 24th anniversary of the first steps of our work at Porto Walter. We now have a parsonage and a new 2 story building. The building is still under construction, but usable. We had 3 days of teaching and preaching. Three more people were saved and on Sunday morning I baptized 21 new members.
Here is the best part though: On Sunday night, October 14, 2018 we organized First Baptist Church of Porto Walter with 158 charter members. The church already has 4 congregations that they visit every weekend. They bought 2 boats and motors to take their missionaries to their fields.
The cruelty of those priests and nuns of years past is now just a faint memory in the history of Porto Walter as hundreds flock to First Baptist Church every week to hear the Word of God.
As for the priest Dom Henrique, all that is left is his name on a school here in town. He eventually became the bishop over the whole Juruá Valley parish, but left no lasting legacy. Jesus Christ is leaving a vivid lasting mark on all of this region by way of his churches and servants.
Brother Brandon, “The Pilgrim” and her precious cargo didn’t live to see what I have seen. However, his courage and wisdom have come to fruition. His legacy is eternal.
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