I found a quote written a few months after Arlie Smith arrived in Brazil in 1956. It spurs reflection.
South America: The first blow in a land of 200 million souls has been struck the last four months. Arlie Smith is now located in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There is no riper field in the world.
This from Charles A. Holt in the Nov. 29, 1956 issue of The Gospel Guardian.
Arlie Smith was the pioneer missionary of churches of Christ in Brazil. (Discounting Johnson and Boyer who came in the early 20th century, but defected and carried all the churches with them into the Assembly of God.)
Because of Arlie’s appeals, the 1961 Sao Paulo team formed. From it other mission teams, including ours, were recruited; ours through the Belo Horizonte crew. So I draw a line from Arlie, through the SP and BH teams, to our presence here.
Since Arlie and his wife Alma arrived, there has been a continuous presence of gospel preaching in Brazil. I met Arlie in the mid-1980s at a missionary retreat. Just that once, as I recall. His gestures were unique. He died on the field, having given his life to Brazil.
To say there was no riper field was a double-edged sword. Ripe indeed was the field. Today, Catholicism has dropped from 95-97% down to around 70% today. But most of that change has been due to inroads from Pentecostalism, much more so than other forms of Protestantism.
The concern of missionary brethren for years has been how to tap into the change without giving in to the emotionalism behind the shift to Pentecostalism. I’m not sure that question was ever answered. I remember Ellis Long suggested more forceful preaching.
But the first blow was struck in 1956. And many more continue to fall across the country for the kingdom of the Lord, as we seek a greater harvest for our Master.
Thank God for Arlie and Alma.