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‘Carnaval’ revelers in seaport find the unexpected: Jesus Christ

SALVADOR, Brazil (BP)–They came to the frenzy called “Carnaval” expecting to forget their cares and worries for a few alcohol-fogged hours. Instead, more than 1,000 found Jesus Christ.
Some 300 Brazilian Baptists, International Mission Board missionaries and Southern Baptist volunteers proclaimed the gospel among the estimated 2 million revelers swirling through the streets of Salvador, a seaport city in eastern Brazil.
Carnaval, which literally means “festival of the flesh,” annually draws millions of visitors and tourists to Brazilian cities for raucous street parties that dwarf the merrymaking of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Participants set off thousands of firecrackers welcoming the “gods” to the festivities.
Workers presented the gospel at five “paint talk stations” located strategically around the party area. Others shared their faith one-to-one, showed evangelistic films, staged gospel dramas and explained the gospel to partygoers using beaded “power bracelets.” More than 130,000 evangelistic tracts were distributed during the week.
A total of 1,059 decisions were registered, according to Wade Akins, the IMB missionary who trained missionaries and Brazilians to do the “paint talks,” which use fluorescent paints and black lights in illustrated gospel presentations.
The paint talks touched lives in the most unexpected ways, said Robin Hadaway, who directs IMB work in eastern South America.
“The people who stopped were mostly burly, hardened men in their 20s and 30s, the kind of people who never go to church,” he said. “As I was preaching, I thought, ‘These guys will never believe.’ But many of them raised their hands and trusted Christ. I had never seen anything like it.”
The teams made gospel presentations each day from 4 p.m. until as late as 3 a.m. They ate, slept and prayed in local churches, which began seeking to minister during the annual orgy five years ago.
Tim Kunkel, an IMB missionary in Uruguay, met and witnessed to Milton and Lia, a couple who drove about 3,000 miles from Brazil’s southernmost state to take part in Carnaval.
Milton drove what is called a “trio-electrico,” an 18-wheeler filled with sound equipment whose walls are huge loudspeakers. A band and dancers perform on the trailer roof. “When it goes by, the force of the blast literally almost knocks you off your feet,” Kunkel said.
Lia was attracted to the paint talk presentation. “She prayed with me, asking Jesus into her life,” Kunkel said. “She left with joy in her heart and an expression of joy on her face.”
After accepting Christ, Lia awakened her husband, who had been driving the sound truck all night. He also accepted Christ.
Decisions made during the week were registered on a network of computers. Letters were sent to new converts and churches in their neighborhoods. More than 200 Brazilian youth were trained to follow up on the decisions.
Not surprisingly, workers participating in the effort met opposition and heckling. Some rocks were thrown. An egg thrown from the crowd hit one young person. A drunken man punched a volunteer in the chest.
“Preach during Carnaval? That’s ludicrous,” one woman told an arriving missionary. “No one will listen to you!”
“I’d never done this before, preach on the streets anywhere, but particularly during Carnaval, where every form of evil was present and active,” said Joey McNeill, IMB missionary to Brazil.
“The one thing that was a very present force was the power of God,” he said. “Prayer was the key to it all. The missionary teams prayed. The Brazilians counselors prayed. God protected. God spoke and moved.
“And lives were changed.”

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  • Wally Poor