Work in Paraná

by Jim Burnett


We settled in Paraná in January 1978, fulfilling our desire to work in one of the five north-eastern provincial capitals where assembly testimony had been practically non-existent. We were suddenly on our own.


Beginnings were small and slow, and sometimes early growth was accompanied by discouragements. Despite that, the Lord increased the number of people being converted in this dark Roman Catholic city. Today there is a healthy, hard-working and predominantly young, local church with about 60 in fellowship. On 20th July 2014, the International Day of Friendship, all those who now meet and serve elsewhere were invited to a reunion. With over 100 present, it was a time of rejoicing. We are thrilled to see all areas of activity and responsibility now in the hands of local believers. This allows us to arrange a journey every month to help other assemblies. 


Only a few months ago the opportunity arose for a new outreach to be started. It is still in the very early stages, with a children's and young teens' work, as well as a women's ministry which is mainly among the mothers of those who come. This is being carried out entirely by local believers.



The outreach to north Paraná was begun and led by two married mission workers - this is their story.


There are two outreaches from our assembly, which the Echoes of Eternity campaign was fundamental in getting off the ground. One is related to Dani, who was saved during the campaign. Years later, completely transformed by the power of Christ, he promoted Rescate por La Vida (Life Savers), a ministry where the homeless receive a meal on a weekly basis and hear the gospel. This takes place outside in the main square of Paraná, the exact spot where Dani gave his life to the Lord.


The other is through a couple, who came along to small groups held during the Echoes of Eternity campaign, and were later saved, married and baptised. They are now faithful helpers in the outreach in the north of the city, where we are working to see a new assembly established.


The activities in the north of the city are: weekly children's meetings, a fortnightly teens' group, a gospel meeting on Sunday mornings, literature distribution, home groups and outreach activities. Throughout this period of breaking new ground, virtually every family has been tested: violent deaths, robberies, three car accidents, various illnesses, conflicts and crises, which sometimes took us to the edge. The spiritual battle is constant; despite this, we have seen God's faithfulness. We trust that God will continue to work and give the increase. At the moment there are 11 of us in fellowship in the north of the city.


In 1942, in Sydney, Australia, Arthur Stace was impacted by the message entitled Echoes of Eternity and started writing the word 'Eternity' in copperplate with chalk all over the city. In 2008, in Paraná, moved by this story we had the Echoes of Eternity campaign, writing the word in the streets, on billboards, etc, with the phrase, 'Where will you spend eternity?' This included preaching on TV and radio, and at open-air meetings, etc. Today, thanks to this there are two new outreaches:Rescate por La Vida (Life Savers)and the testimony in the north of the city.


DANI'S TESTIMONY - Me levantó (He raised me up).

My family lived by collecting rubbish on the streets, using a pony and a small cart. I did not go to school, and at 12 years of age I escaped and didn't go home. That was the beginning of 14 years of life on the streets of Paraná. I soon began to survive as others did, by begging, lying and stealing, but worst of all they drank and so did I. Later I began sniffing glue and got into drugs.


My dad continued collecting rubbish which the family sifted through every day. This was to look for any food, valuables, paper and cardboard, which they handed in at a recycling plant and were paid according to weight. This is a way of life for many people in Paraná.


One day, on opening a plastic bag, they discovered dollars, 30,000 of them! They had no idea where they had picked them up and had no intention of finding out. My dad came looking for me to ask if they were genuine, as I was streetwise and very sharp. They were genuine. I even changed a few to prove it. I also went back home. My family was now rich and I was not going to miss out.


However, others were watching and perhaps listening too. A few days later I woke to the screams of my sister. Our house was attacked at 4 am by masked gunmen demanding the money. Reasoning and lying was pointless. They said if we delayed any more they would shoot somebody - they did, and killed my mother.


I returned to life on the streets. Now, I had no money and no mother. I was depressed and often wanted to die. I was tired of this way of life but could not give up. You have no idea what goes through your head as you sit there watching people go past. After all, who cares about an unkempt, unwashed, long-haired, bearded, half drunk or drugged individual?


However, one person did care. During the Echoes of Eternity campaign, in the city square, one man wanted to talk to me about God. After what we had been through, I told him, "God does not exist". He spoke to me several times and said that what had happened to me did not excuse me of responsibility for my sins. He also told me about God's love and showed me the way of salvation, but I always resisted. Then it all hit me; I needed to be saved. Weeping and broken, I went looking for that man. That day I trusted Christ.


I came to a church service. I was saved but still on the streets, and despite my appearance I was welcomed. One lady, gave me a hug and a kiss - I will never forget that. The people from the local church took a real interest in me. Eventually, a small group funded a place for me in a Christian rehabilitation centre. While there I was baptised and learned to read.


Four years ago I returned home and was welcomed into the Paraná assembly. This is the best present I have ever had. It is great to belong. I now have an identity card and I also attend adult school classes. I am back on the streets but in order to reach others for Christ. Please pray for me. The adversary is strong and battles are won simply one day at a time. 

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