SBC Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church set for Nov. 6: Resources, including photos, videos, stories and a bulletin insert, available at imb.org/persecuted.
By Mitchell Heinz
BRAZIL – What would you do if you were summoned to a meeting where you were given an ultimatum — recant or lose your job?
This is what happened to Leo and Annie, new Christians from an Indigenous tribe in northeastern Brazil. They worked as schoolteachers in their community for several years. But now the community’s leaders (chiefs and shamans) told the couple they could not follow Jesus and continue in their jobs.
“They were angry and hateful toward us,” Annie said. “They were saying that we had become traitors and that we were abandoning our culture.”
“It’s not easy to follow Jesus, but I’m certain of one thing — I don’t want to quit now,” Leo said. “Persecution is biblical, and now we’re experiencing it.”
Would Annie be willing to give up her job for her new faith?
Annie boldly answered those who asked her this. “Leo and I decided to follow Jesus together, and we’re going to continue to follow Jesus together. I’m not going to turn my back on Jesus or on my husband.”
Because they were faithful to Jesus, Leo and Annie lost their jobs. Their former students came up to them in tears, embracing them and expressing their sadness.
“On the one hand, we feel sad to be hated for our faith and to have lost our jobs, but on the other hand, we feel happy on the inside, knowing that we are standing firm in our faith in Jesus,” Annie said.
To make ends meet, Leo has been doing other types of work, like farming. Members of the Indigenous church are caring for them during this difficult time. Though Leo and Annie are struggling to find enough work to provide for themselves and their children, they’ve decided not to litigate or retaliate against community leaders or the school where they worked. They want their community to see how Jesus has changed them. They want people to know that no matter what they suffer, following Jesus is worth any sacrifice.
The community leaders banned International Mission Board missionaries from entering the village.
Leo responded to this, saying, “You can ban them from coming in, but the [gospel] seed has been planted in us, and you can’t take that away!”
Later that day, as Leo shared this news with other believers, they responded in agreement.
“That’s the truth!” one believer said. “They can’t take the seed of the gospel away from us. Our enemies can threaten us, but the seed is going to grow. Now we just need to stay strong and not give up. Let’s pray and ask God to make us strong and help us make this seed grow!”
Instead of weakening the church, persecution has actually strengthened the faith of believers in this tribe.
“Even though we have been banned from returning to the villages, the Indigenous believers are still meeting and studying the Word together every week and encouraging one another in the faith,” a missionary team member reported.
Leo and Annie recently made the decision to follow the Lord in believer’s baptism.
God has called them to be steadfastly present among the people they serve.
- Pray God will provide good jobs for Leo and Annie so they can support their family.
- Pray that God will use Leo and Annie’s bold witness to bring glory to His name and to grow His church among this tribe in the years to come.
- Join the believers in this tribe in praying that God will make them strong and help them spread the gospel in their community.
Some names have been changed for security reasons.
Mitchell Heinz serves with the IMB in Brazil.