A narrow escape



Dr. Taylor had returned from the States and we had decided to divide the work. He was to stay in town and build up the local church and I was to take up the interior work. Soon I left in the city of Bahia, my young wife, and started on a trip of about 1,000 miles inland to a city called Jacobina, one of the oldest in the State, a great gold mining center, and where we had several persons interested in the Gospel.

The train took me as far as Queimadas, the terminal of the railroad. I reached the place on a Saturday, the great market day, and found the town crowded with thousands of people that had come from all over that region to sell their goods. It was considered one of the greatest market centers of the State. Gambling and drinking as well as every other crime was the order of the day. I had with me an old colporter, a well-known and highly-respected character of that region, who was a great help to me, especially through his knowledge of the road, and of the medicinal value of herbs and plants.

I set up my little organ in the most public place of the market and began playing some of our hymns. If there is one thing a Brazilian appreciates it certainly is music, and it did not take much time to collect an enormous crowd.

Having their attention I began singing a hymn and the crowd continued to grow and to listen. They had never seen nor heard such a thing. Then someone thought that I was singing for money and the crowd began to place nickels and dimes on the little organ. This, of course, gave me my text. Standing upon a stool I began to explain to them my object and mission telling them that I had not come for their gifts, but to tell them of the great gift of God -- of a Saviour whose gifts were free and whose blessings were to be had for the asking. Oh, the joy of preaching the Gospel to hungry multitudes! My heart was over flowing with joy at the opportunity to tell those thousands of souls that had never heard of the love of a loving God, and of a Saviour mighty to save. And how they listened! With ears and eyes and mouths wide open they seemed to drink in every word of my message.

Just as I was reaching the climax of my speech the good colporter called my attention to a commotion that was taking place on the outskirts of the immense crowd, informing me, in frightened tones, that the relatives of the local priest were stirring up the fanatics against me telling them that I was the long expected anti-christ. It so happened that the priest who had charge of that town had a great number of children. Though not supposed to have children, almost all the priests, especially in the interior, live in sin, having one or more women, and consequently a good many descendents. As the income of a priest in a place like the one mentioned is large, he finds no difficulty in marrying off his illegitimate children, as the marriage is always accompanied by a good dowry. This, of course, enhances his hold upon the people. These descendents watch carefully over the interests that affect the income of the priest and will naturally oppose any movement that might injure his business which is also theirs.

These innumerable descendents of the priest were stirring up the fanatical elements in that great vast throng and it did not take me long to see the danger I was in. I kept on preaching fearing that as soon as I stopped they would fall on me and destroy not only my organ and books but also myself and the good colporter. While I preached I also prayed and asked the Lord to come to my rescue. I was alone in the place. I did not know anyone and had not even visited the Chief of Police to tell him of my work and stop over in town. My intention had been to pass through the place and go on the next day to Jacobina. How to escape this great crowd, growing every minute more threatening and dangerous, I really could not imagine. Several were taking out their daggers and passing the edge over the palm of their hands, and were pointing them at me as if to say, this will do you all right. Oh, how I prayed, asking the Lord to show me a way out, not so much for my own sake as for the sake of the man who had so willingly left his wife and children and come with me to help me in my work. He looked up to me several times with eyes full of tears as if to say, "we are lost."

...in less than five minutes about a half a dozen men came to me and surrounded the stool upon which I was standing and told me that they had come to take me to their homes. It certainly was a great surprise! Soon I was safely installed in one of the best parlors of the town, protected by soldiers with loaded guns. I thanked my Heavenly Father for delivering me so wonderfully from that infuriated crowd.


From: A Wandering Jew in Brazil: An Autogiography of Solomon L. Ginsburg