Chapter 7: The Old Bible

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 11
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DONA NICOTA is a farmer’s daughter, living near the Campo de Minas district. She is one of the most devoted and active Christian workers in that neighborhood, and a true evangelist. She was the first of her household to receive the Gospel, and through her, all the members have been converted. Their house is a center for Gospel preaching, and other meetings. During a visit there, I took the opportunity to ask her to give me an account of her conversion which is here related.
The family was strongly Roman Catholic, and her mother early taught her to say prayers to the Virgin Mary, the “good Jesus,” and to various “saints.” Without knowing quite why, she soon took a dislike to praying to the Virgin Mary, and the “saints,” so that her mother called her a “little heretic.” Amongst various prayers was one asking the “good Jesus” to enlighten her mind, and this became her favorite petition.
As she grew older, it was not only a prayer that she often repeated, but the great yearning of her heart. Whilst still young, she came into touch with spiritism, and at first was attracted by the teaching, as she believed that it contained some light that the “Holy Church” did not possess. Her mother was alarmed and warned her against it, and as she was in poor health and liable to fits, her daughter had to follow the “new light” with great secrecy.
One day, Dona Nicota went to visit a sick friend, and during the visit, she spied a large book sticking out of a box of rubbish under a table. She asked her friend what it was, and was told that it was a very bad book called the Bible, which the priest had forbidden the family to read, so that it had been thrown aside. Dona N. at once asked if she might have it, and her friend, very reluctantly gave consent, but warned her against reading so dangerous a book. Dona N. had heard of the Bible, and had an instinctive idea that it contained the light that she was seeking. She hurried home with her prize, and carefully hid it in her bedroom. She feared that her mother would find out that she had obtained some bad book, and would have one of her fits in consequence. By the light of a little smoky lamp, she read through the following nights to almost dawn, beginning at the first chapter of Genesis, especially to find out what the Bible had to say about the Virgin Mary. Night after night she read on, getting little sleep. At length she read through the Old Testament, and found in the Gospels what the Book had to say about the mother of the Lord.
About this time she heard that some people called “crentes” (believers), held meetings some twenty miles away from her home, having what they named “preaching of the Gospel,” and reading the Bible, the very Book she was now studying. News came that a special conference was about to be held there, and an Englishman was to be one of the speakers. A great desire took possession of her to attend that meeting, but there were many difficulties in the way of getting there. Her family would be horrified if they knew that she even entertained such an unholy idea, and her mother would most probably have a series of fits with serious consequences, if she heard that her daughter had gone amongst the heretics. Dona Nicota, however, is a very determined person, and was not going to allow such difficulties to hinder her when there was such an opportunity of hearing the Gospel preached. She made up her mind that by some means or other she would contrive to attend this special meeting in the hall. How was she to manage it? A young woman in Brazil may not go a hundred yards from her house alone without a breach of the conventions, and this undertaking would mean twenty miles by horse to get there, rising early in the morning, and staying a night away from home. It so happened that some friends of the family― “Big John” and his wife―on a previous visit had brought strange things to their ears, which some said was “Protestant heresy,” and was, no doubt, doubly dangerous owing to its being hidden like leaven, in some very fine thoughts and apparently Christian expressions. John had not been attending church ever since he saw a priest hit a poor woman on the head before a mass, and had been attending “Protestant” meetings. Dona N., therefore, thought of him as a suitable person to help her in her plot. She secretly had a message conveyed to him, begging him to visit her home with some of the family the day before the conference, and then to invite her to go back with them on a return visit, and incidentally to call at the Casa de Oracão (meeting hall), at the hour of the conference. The good John “casually” turned up at the house, and Dona N. yielded quite easily to his persuasions to pay them a visit next day. Her parents, nothing doubting, allowed her to go, and rising up early next morning, they set out and reached the hall in time for the meeting.
For the first time in her life, Dona Nicota, attended a Gospel meeting. She was the best listener in that congregation as she prayed fervently her old prayer for light for her dark mind. She followed every word with intense eagerness and with tears in her eyes. The preacher announced as his text the verse in the first chapter of Genesis, “God said; Let there be light,” and then proceeded to show that the Lord Jesus, the Light of the World came to enlighten men and women as to their sinfulness and as to the love of God. Dona N. there and then received the light into her soul, and returned next day, rejoicing in the newfound light, and to shine in her home. She had taken with her a servant of the house to whom she always confided everything, and she also received the Gospel message into her heart during the meeting. This servant, the night before this memorable journey had a dream in which she saw everything which happened the following day down to a small detail, such as alighting from the horse to pick up a coin, and later giving it to a beggar. She told Dona N. this dream, and all came to pass that day.
On arriving home, the mother was in bed, and the daughter feared she would have a fit if she told her. She was, however, far too full up with the good news to hide it. She began by insisting upon family prayers in which she led them. Fortunately, a well-to-do aunt, her mother’s sister, was staying at the house, and recognized what her niece expounded to them as similar to what she herself had read in an old family Bible she possessed; and championed her against the family, who thought that Nicota had gone mad, and embraced the “Protestant heresy.” The aunt was the first to believe the Gospel, and soon all the other members of the family did likewise. Her mother so far from having fits, arose from her sickbed, and has never had another during the 15 years that have passed since her conversion.
The neighbors prophesied terrible things, that the judgment of God Almighty would speedily fall upon the family for forsaking the “old religion.” Shortly afterward, a great storm dislodged a huge boulder from the cliff, nearby, and it came rolling down the hill in the direction of the house, but turned aside and stopped without doing any harm. The “prophets” pointed out that this was a fulfillment of their words, but Dona Nicota replied that it did but show God’s special mercy and intervention on their behalf, as the boulder, although aiming for the house, had been deflected in its course. The cheerful neighbors foretold further disasters. As providence seemed unwilling to aid them, some went to the proprietor of their land, and made a number of false accusations against the family in order to influence him to dismiss them from the house and grounds. He is a Roman Catholic, but in reply to the false charges, he suggested that the accusers might profit by their neighbors, and learn at least one very useful lesson from his Protestant tenants, which was not to tell lies.
So the work continues to this day, and Dona N. never loses an opportunity of letting her light shine in the surrounding darkness. She has sought to evangelize her well-to-do relatives, as well as her poor neighbors, and even the priests when she has had the opportunity.