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God’s voice echoes to Brazil and back

AMARILLO, Texas (BP)–God spoke to members of Paramount
Baptist Church in Brazil, and they still hear the echoes
thousands of miles away, back home in Amarillo, Texas.
They heard God speak through their own voices, as they
shared the saving love of Jesus Christ to Brazilians along
the Amazon River and in the vibrant city of Campinas.
They hear it still, as friends and co-workers in their
Panhandle community profess faith in Christ, as young people
affirm God’s work in their lives and as newcomers to Texas
from faraway lands hear their story and believe in their
Savior.
Paramount sent two mission groups to Brazil last year.
One traveled by boat down the Amazon, stopping in village
after village. The other revisited Campinas, where Paramount
members have ministered every year since 1986.
The journey started more than two decades ago, pastor
Gil Lain recounted, with trips to Spain and Korea and
continued with the (Southern Baptist) International Mission
Board and Texas Baptist partnerships.
The reasons for the church’s outreach are simple, Lain
noted.
“We go because people are so open to the gospel,” he
said. “We love to go to Brazil. It’s exploding in
population; there’s always a new city or suburb that doesn’t
have a church.”
Those places are like ripe spiritual fields, Lain said.
“The Catholics set a good foundation in Brazil; the people
already believe in God and that Jesus exists. But many of
them never have heard the Christian plan of salvation. So,
people are ready to follow Christ.”
The mission trips also bear fruit in Amarillo, he
added. “It gives us courage here in our own backyard. In
America, a higher percentage of people will turn you off
immediately when you start to witness. Down there, people
always will listen. Our experience in Brazil has confirmed
our need to share our faith back home.”
And if those weren’t sufficient reasons to take the
trips, “part of it is just taking seriously Jesus’ command
to ‘go to all the world’ with the gospel,” Lain said. “The
whole church is involved. Those who can’t go help those who
can go, financially and through prayer.”
Members who went to those parts of the earth said the
experience was life-altering.
“I had a ‘have to see it to believe it’ attitude”
before the trip, recalled Rick Trafton. He noted he had
heard stories of phenomenal response to the gospel from
Paramount members who had been to Brazil over the past
decade.
“Even when you know they’re not lying, it’s kind of
hard to believe,” said Trafton, who ministered in Campinas.
“You receive that stuff with a bit of skepticism. You think,
‘Well, maybe they’re just saying they accept Christ.’
“But I was blown away. You can walk up to practically
anybody on the streets and in the parks and tell them about
Christ. And it’s not unusual for them to accept Christ on
the spot.”
Trafton told how he and a translator approached a young
couple in a park: “I asked if I could tell them why I had
come to their city,” he said. “The man instantly said yes,
but the woman wasn’t much interested.
“But when I started witnessing to them, she softened up
immediately. They had come to the park to talk about getting
a divorce. She was a Christian and told me, ‘God sent you
here to tell my husband about Christ!’
“He accepted Christ as his Savior and renewed his
commitment to be a godly man in their marriage. It was just
unbelievable.”
Jay Ketelle, echoing his assertion, described talking
to 80 employees of the hotel where they stayed. “Everyone
there already had accepted Jesus, or they did right there
while we were talking to them,” he said.
Ketelle experienced similar responses in parks, at
schools, in a hospital, even on the street.
“The Holy Spirit is working in that city specifically
and in the country as well,” said Trafton, who personally
led almost 300 people to faith in Christ and saw some 5,000
respond to the Paramount team’s efforts. “The presence of
the Holy Spirit is really powerful there.”
Participants on the Amazon trip — primarily teens from
the church — experienced similar responses to the gospel.
“It was neat how God worked with the people,” said
Sarah Ebling, 18, a student at Amarillo High School.
“Every morning, we would go into a village and get the
kids in little groups,” she recounted. “We would share Bible
stories and do crafts. We would sing and play games with
them.
“Many of the people are so remote. Some of them … did
not know what a Bible was. We got to go and share God’s love
with them, and by the afternoon or evening, so many people
wanted to know Jesus as Savior.”
“One village hadn’t seen an outsider in a year and a
half,” added Alan Williamson, Paramount’s minister to youth.
“In the last village we visited, I shared the gospel
with men who never had heard it before. They had heard of
Jesus, but they never had heard how to be saved.
“Three of the five villages we visited didn’t have a
church.”
Yet God worked on the Amazon, despite setbacks and
hardship, Mary Lain, one of the youth group’s sponsors,
said.
The missionary that accompanied them had a heart attack
and had to be taken back down river for medical care. The
translators were young and inexperienced, and only one was a
Christian. Diarrhea inflicted a heavy toll on the group,
which lived on a small boat with only two working rest
rooms.
“There was a real dependence on the Lord,” Mary Lain
said. “We saw our kids go into the villages. We could feel
the power of the Lord with us and guiding us, even when we
didn’t know the language and everything was totally new.
“But no matter where we went, the Lord opened doors.”
And God has used Paramount’s history of missions
involvement and fresh experiences from the mission field to
open doors in Amarillo, members said.
“Most of these kids will never be the same,” Mary Lain
said. “The sights they saw, the warmth and love of the
Brazilian people, the living conditions they witnessed —
they realize things we take for granted and put value in
aren’t really that important.
“To take a materialistic group of kids into an area
like the Amazon is life-changing.”
The youth also discovered the power of prayer, she
added.
“One of the kids who got sick said, ‘Now I realize how
important it is to pray for people on the mission field and
to pray for people on short mission trips. Had I not known
the people of Paramount Baptist Church were praying for me,
I would’ve been very discouraged.”
Teen lives weren’t the only ones impacted by the
mission trips, Trafton said.
“It gave me courage for doing specific witnessing to
people around me,” he explained. “I came back and led one of
my co-workers to Christ the very next week.
“God sent me down there to give me courage and to
understand the power of what he can do if I’ll just be
submissive to him and his prompting in me.”
The ventures have strengthened Paramount’s
international missions endeavor on the home front, Gil Lain
said.
“It’s helped us with our English as a Second Language
classes,” he said, noting many people in the church are
involved. They teach English to — and share their faith
with — newcomers from Bosnia, Brazil, Mexico, Spain and
Taiwan.
“These people are displaced internationals,” he said.
“And our people who have been on these trips understand what
it feels like. They work together in local missions now.”

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