Streams in the Desert – The Story of Algodão de Jandaíra , Brazil
by Steve Loopstra
The city of Algodão de Jandaíra was dying. Those who could had left and the remaining two thousand were living in “survival mode.” No significant rain had fallen in that region of Northern Brazil for 23 years. The little available water was brown and brackish. Living in mud and stick houses, most of the people survived from day to day on meager rations – sometimes with only cactus leaves and coffee for breakfast. Those who lived there at the time described the area as “grey…everything was grey.” But God had a plan and a destiny for little Algodão. And in the Fall of 2002, He was about to implement His plan.
In the suburbs of the city of João Pessoa, First Baptist Church of Valentina was a fairly typical Baptist Church. Pastor Eneas was a fourth-generation pastor, and his wife, Simone, had known all her life she wanted to be a pastor’s wife. 2002 marked their seventh year in João Pessoa, as a church plant from a large church in São Paulo. They planned a seven-day celebration with worship, teaching, and outreach. As they prepared for that celebration, God began to meet them in some very special and deep ways. One day, after the choir had been practicing, the Spirit of God came upon them in a deep move of repentance and reconciliation. Then again, the next week, the same thing happened. This was new to them, so they were cautious about such experiences, but God was about to implement His plan.
One week, Simone brought a CD for the group to hear. The CD had deeply impacted Simone, and she thought it would move the group toward their missionary goals. Vitoria had come that night intending to resign from the choir, as the events in her life were just too overwhelming. Her father’s ill health had taken such a toll on her that she could not see any way to both care for her father and keep her commitments to the church. She felt she had no choice but to tell Simone this night that she would quit. However, as Vitoria began to listen to the testimony of the missionary on this CD, she felt like she was right there with him. To her it was so vivid that she felt next to him in the Amazon jungles, and then in the U.S. These stories so impacted her that, on her way home, she realized she had not had a chance to tell Simone of her intentions. Instead, she lay in bed praying for missions, unable to sleep. Finally, about 3 a.m., she slipped into a deep sleep. While she slept she had an amazing dream. She was standing at a road. A great hand pointed down the road and she heard a voice say, “My daughter, it’s not Cajazeiras. It’s Algodão. It’s Algodão de Jandaíra.”
Somehow, she knew at the end of the reddish brown dirt road was a city, and she responded, “I know.”
When Vitoria awoke she was in a panic. The church had been planning a great outreach event to Cajazeiras, a city out in the country. Now Vitoria must tell them they were not to go there, but rather to Algodão. The other problem was that no one had ever heard of Algodão.The next week, desperate for confirmation, Vitoria knelt on her living room rug and said, “Lord, if this dream is from you, you must tell me the other part of this name.” (She had forgotten the last part of the city’s name, only remembering Algodão.) “My family is not going to eat, and I am not going to get up from here until you tell me.” After some time, the Lord told her to get up and go to her daughter’s room. There she found new geography text books, and, as she turned the pages, she found a newer map of her state which included the city, Algodão de Jandaíra!
With this confirmation, the church planned to visit this city – about three and a half hours northwest of João Pessoa. They sold baked goods to raise money for gas, and since no one in the choir, the worship team, or the dance team had a car, they had to borrow an old Volkswagen to make the trip. Before they departed, Vitoria had another vision of Algodão. This time she saw a young girl with curly hair, wearing red shorts and a blue blouse. Four of them drove and found the narrow dirt road leading off into the distance. It was hard to imagine that any town was at the end of that road.
Everything was desolate and grey. The red clay and gravel road led over river beds that had not seen water in decades. Yet everything they saw was exactly like Vitoria had seen in her dream. When they came to the town and drove the few streets, a little girl with curly hair, wearing red shorts and a blue blouse, passed in front of their car three times. What confirmation! Yet more confirmation was to come. The team began going door to door to meet people and to share the reason for their visit. When Vitoria came to one house, she could hear someone inside praying. There, an old man was sitting at his table praying, “Lord, send missionaries to this town, it is so poor and so needy.” Through her tears, Vitoria shared that God was indeed answering his prayers.
Over the next year, First Baptist Church of Valentina sent teams to minister in practical ways to the people of Algodão de Jandaíra, along with preaching the Gospel of God’s love. Many of the people were touched by the love of these believers, and nearly every household had at least one person who received Christ. But the people from First Baptist were still heartbroken. All their efforts seemed so little compared with the great needs of the people of Algodão. Still they were faithful to drive the three and a half hours, sometimes enduring flat tires and mechanical breakdowns, because the Lord had laid this little city on their hearts. For Christmas of 2003, the church decided they would not exchange their customary Christmas gifts, but would instead pool all their money to buy gifts for the people of Algodão. It was a great celebration, and many were touched with the true meaning of Christmas. But as the church people again returned home they felt they had done so little. They knew if something was going to change God would have to do it.
As they made the trip up to Algodão in January 2004, something was different. They noticed it was not as dusty as it usually was. As they drove over the road, they began to hear a roaring noise. Nearing the formerly-dry river bed, they found it was impassable because of water now rushing past them.
Loading their boxes and goods on their shoulders, they walked the rest of the way into town. What they found astounded them. The formerly-dry reservoir was overflowing – so much that the townspeople had to help them walk across the spillway that had three to four inches of water rushing over it. The people were celebrating and were so happy to see them. The townspeople excitedly related that shortly after the church members had left in December, the rains began to come. At first, they were in the distance. Then great torrents drenched Algodão. People came out from their houses to dance in the streets to celebrate the falling rain. Water from a rock in a distant mountain joined with the rain to fill the reservoir and completely change little Algodão de Jandaíra. God was fulfilling His plan.
At that time, Algodão de Jandaíra was a city of about 2,000 residents with many living in mud-waddle shacks. There were few paved streets, and almost no water table. Water had to be trucked in and it was brown and brackish. Nothing grew in Algodão, and the reservoir was dry. Today, Algodão de Jandaíra is a community in the midst of transformation. The reservoir is full, and contains fish and shrimp that are harvested regularly. Several different kinds of crops grow in the area – enough to feed the city, with an excess to export to other communities. Many people now have new cinder block homes and are able to grow crops in their back yards. This was unheard of before the rains. The people of Algodão call the rains “showers of blessing.” Many said that when the rains came, everyone knew it was because of the prayers of the Christians. A Baptist church now meets there, and people are continuing to come to faith in Christ. The Christian mayor recently gave the keys of the city to Jesus. They now have paved roads, and they have built a community center along with a health clinic open 24 hours a day.
The Lord’s blessings extended as well to First Baptist Church of Valentina. Once a small church of 150, the church has come alive, and is regularly reaching out into the community of João Pessoa, and seeing people come to faith in Christ. Their acts of simple obedience were remarkable. If God said it, then the people obeyed. As the church reached out to pray for Algodão and share their meager resources with them, God’s hand of blessing and favor has been upon their church in João Pessoa. Over and over, one is impressed by the humble faith of these people whose “normal” Church life was interrupted by the power of God’s Spirit for a task beyond their understanding or abilities.
This story is based upon personal, on-site interviews conducted by Steve Loopstra in March 2009.
© 2009 – Steve Loopstra and The Sentinel Group. Reproduction and/or distribution for non-commercial purposes is permitted, provided this article remains in its original form. Please do not modify this article in any way without prior written consent. Source: www.GlowTorch.org.