Throughout the 55 years of Gary's service in Brazil, and Louise and Gary’s 51 years serving the Lord together as a couple, there have been many changes in the ministry. Our initial goal was to plant churches in a city where there was 1,031,554 population — not counting the metropolitan area, which makes it over 3,656,000 — as there was no Brethren Assembly in Campinas (and in the little town of Sousas, only one assembly founded by Louise's parents in 1949). After having planted Jardim Santana Assembly and helped plant four other Brethren assemblies, today our service is more directed to strengthening what remains, providing discipleship and training leaders.
One of the greatest changes since the beginning of our ministry in the 1960s has been the diluted gospel that exists today with an emphasis on the prosperity gospel instead of the resurrected Christ. This makes it difficult as we are in a minority in a post-Christian era, and Brazil is a country with syncretistic beliefs and so many religions focussed on good works, however we remain faithful to our convictions in the Word.
Most of you know that in the 1970s the Mine Bible Study Center was founded — a chalet in the mountains for spiritual retreats. For over ten years we had at least one retreat per month, however things began to change due to the economic crisis that Brazil has suffered for many years. People just did not have the money to travel, however retreats are still held sporadically when possible.
Dominic and Margery Lipsi, Louise's parents, founded Camp Bethel in the 1950s, and today its ministry is still being faithfully carried on by the third generation. Over many years, parents from Brethren assemblies sent their children to learn more about the Bible and strengthen their children’s faith. Today the picture has changed drastically as most of our campers come with no knowledge of the Bible and the gospel, from unchurched, broken homes, and the focus has now changed to meet these needs —with still the same ideal as when it was founded as a house of God for salvation and growth in the faith. We must also mention that for over 12 years now, since our son Giovanni has been administrator of Camp Bethel, so as to be able to pay the bills and continue financially as a camp, the camp has been rented out to other evangelical churches and groups when available.
One great issue that has changed today is that for over 20 years in our ministry, and really in the entire country of Brazil, there has been a major lack of interest in the Word, which has affected Bible Camps Fellowship meetings, Bible study groups, spiritual retreats, and churches who preach the Word of God. However, we are reminded of Isaiah
6:9-10 where the Lord called Isaiah to minister to a people who heard but did not understand, who saw but did not perceive, who made their ears heavy and who shut their eyes — but he was to be faithful in his ministry, and so must we.
With advanced technology, today all messages in church, camps and meetings have PowerPoint and this has been a good change from days when messages were just spoken. One can understand and remember a message much better with all the new technology. Whatsapp and other types of media make it very helpful to quickly send a message, encouraging words or a warning to all the members of the church and other groups.
Last but not least has been the fluctuating changes in our government, as from 2003 up until last year the socialist government, which was heading toward communism, was ruling our country with the greatest corruption in the history of Brazil. With the last elections in October 2018, we now have a military president who is God fearing (his wife is also a believer in Christ), pro-Bible, pro-family and pro-establishment, and we are already seeing a difference in the economy and political scene of our country. With these last elections the people of Brazil were able to rid their country of a socialist/ communist government, which will affect Brazil in all areas for the good.
And so like the apostle Paul, Gary and Louise feel a divine responsibility to continue the work in this great and needy country which has unequal religious freedom. The needs are increasingly greater as spiritual apathy and distortions of the genuine gospel set in, and we believe eschatologically that time is running out before the Rapture occurs — but what the Lord requires of us as a couple is to remain faithful in our service (I Corinthians 4:2).
by Gary & Louise Bryar