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The Road to Almenara

 

By Adauto Rezende

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In early February 2024, we embarked on a journey to the northern states of Brazil to meet the Canadian missionary Ron Morin. He arrived in Brazil in the '70s with his wife Joan and their children, and lived for almost ten years in the country planting and pastoring churches in the poorest regions with the Apostolic Missionary Church of Canada. Ron had invited us to join him on a 4000-kilometer drive to the states of Minas Gerais and Bahia to visit several churches and towns. We departed from Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, heading southward. After 8 hours on the road, we made our first stop in the city of Planalto. Pastor Jose and his wife Celia look after the congregation and a women’s Christian rehab in town. The following day, we drove about 600 km to Governador Valadares in the state of Minas Gerais. Over the next few days, we traveled almost 1000 kilometers, preaching in the towns of Tavares, Sao Gonçalo do Pará, Divinópolis, Belo Horizonte, and Pará de Minas. A few days later, we returned to Governador Valadares to visit and preach in four churches. We had witnessed great testimonies in these towns. One of them, an old lady from São Gonçalo came toward our car and looking at Ron with tears in her eyes. She embraced him and said, “Do you remember me? I am Sueli, I was one of the girls who attended the Sunday school you established here many years ago.” She added, “After almost five decades, more than thirty people in my family have turned to Jesus.” We saw tears in Ron's eyes as he reached out to find an old picture of a group of children with this sister in it. Many more testimonies were shared in the apostolic churches we visited of Ron’s missionary work in Brazil. In our third week (February 24th), we left Valadares for Almenara, embarking on a trip of 400 kilometers. It was just an overnight break as we were to head to Canavieiras, Bahia, the next morning (another 320 kilometers).

After a calm and smooth drive, we were very excited as our schedule was very accurate, and we were gaining almost two hours for an earlier arrival. However, about 60 kilometers from our final destination, we encountered the worst road I had ever seen in my life. The potholes were large and deep, and there were places where we didn’t know where to go. Miles full of crevices, holes, and pits made for a challenging journey. Driving at speeds of 5 to 10 km/h, we couldn't avoid a flat tire and clanking noises from the engine mount, adding a second challenge for us. Ron lifted his voice in prayer, and we got out of the car with the temperature over 40°C, the unmerciful sun burning our skin. As I was removing the nuts, my fingers burned against the tire’s frame because of the heat. In the midst of our agony, a truck driver stopped and came to help us  place the spare tire to take us to Jequitinhonha, a town of 25 thousand people in one of the poorest places in the country.  We were thankful that the Lord had sent Nelson, the driver, to expedite our tire exchange. After a few kilometers and a couple of hours of driving, we found a tire repair shop at the city entrance to fix our flat tire. Meanwhile, we drove around town for lunch. We had with us some booklets of the Gospel of John, which we used for evangelism during the trip. We found a very modest eatery that served us a single plate in a hot and dusty small dining room, while outside, a loudspeaker played folk music as some people drank beer at tables under trees. After finishing our meal, Gina went to the car to get the literature to hand out to people, and the first person she offered it to was one of the staff. I felt that I should talk to her and asked if we could leave some by the cashier, as I thought it might not be wise to give it to those who were already drunk. To my surprise, Janet not only allowed us to leave a pile of literature but also implored me to explain how she could be saved. In five minutes, she was in tears, and the Holy Spirit brought understanding to her. As I read the Scriptures explaining the gospel, she responded to God’s call with a broken and repentant heart, begging to receive Jesus as her Savior and Lord.  What a joy for all of us! At that moment, I prayed for Janet as she trembling held my hands, rejoicing to have just found Jesus. Gina met a lady across the road who attended a Christian church in town. She told her about Janet’s conversion and to get in touch with her. We advised Janet to start attending the church. As we walked out and went to get our repaired tire, we found out that the tire man used to attend a Christian church. He took a dozen of the booklets to hand out to his clients. We prayed for him and left for another 40 kilometers to Almenara. Ron, who used to be a mechanic by trade, drove to the town where we stayed in an inn. In the morning, as we finished our breakfast, the inn’s owner, upon receiving the Gospel of John, opened his heart in tears, asking for prayer for his family and also confessing Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

Upon arriving at our final destination, by God’s grace, I reflected on our journey, drawing parallels to the trials faced by the apostle Paul on his voyage to Rome. Like the crew in the ship, who initially set sail with optimism, we embarked on our trip with high hopes and a sense of purpose. However, just as they encountered a fierce tempest that shattered their plans, we too faced unexpected challenges along the road to Almenara.

After boarding the ship, almost all the crew thought everything was okay and that they would soon arrive in Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, to winter there. However, they were caught by a terrible tempest that changed their plans. After two weeks in the storm, the ship was broken apart, and they ended up on the island of Malta. In the midst of such a terrible shipwreck and loss, God had used the storm to bring Paul to preach the gospel to the islanders. The road to Almenara also took much of our time, strength, and plans; however, God had someone in Jequitinhonha and Almenara who needed to hear the gospel. He placed us on a terrible road because He knew that to stop our plans, He needed a nice deep pothole. Otherwise, Janet would not have had the opportunity at that point to know Jesus Since we had no plans to stop there. What a blessed road! What a blessed storm! What a blessed restaurant! What a blessed meal! What a blessed sun! What a blessed burn! What a blessed Jequitinhonha! What a blessed and valuable soul!

Within the broader context of our journey, I couldn't help but draw another parallel to a journey that far surpasses any earthly voyage – the journey of Jesus.

Jesus also walked on a terrible road. He chose to go to the Via Dolorosa. He chose to stop at Mount Calvary. He chose to be lifted up! He chose to die to save sinners. In the midst of His suffering, John the disciple was there with Him, witnessing His agony. The same John, the apostle who years later would write the gospel that would save Janet on the road to Almenara. Jesus’s journey was not in vain. Calvary was not in vain. The nails were not in vain.

What a blessed journey! What a blessed time! What a blessed cross! What a blessed promise! What a blessed Savior! He is alive, hallelujah!

The cross was not in vain. He looked forward because He knew that in the future, He would take all of us on an eternal journey. No longer on the road to Almenara, but on a heavenly highway:

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,…The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:1, 21

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To Jesus all the glory!

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