June 27, 2020

First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brazil Turns 125

Daniel Gonçalves, South American Division, and Adventist Review

The Seventh-day Adventist church in Gaspar Alto, Santa Catarina, Brazil, recently turned 125 years old. Founded on June 15, 1895, by 10 German immigrant families, the church now holds services for about 50 active members. On June 15, 2020, regional church leaders held a virtual celebration to mark the date, which was attended via video by descendants of the Adventist pioneers, regional pastors, and Adventist Church president Ted N. C. Wilson.

“Greetings from the world church family on this, the 125th anniversary of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Gaspar Alto,” Wilson said in a video message. “One hundred and twenty-five years of being wonderful witnesses and missionaries for Jesus. One hundred and twenty-five years proclaiming the messages of the three angels of Revelation 14, calling people back to the true worship of God. One hundred and twenty-five years being the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing healing and hope. One hundred and twenty-five years of Total Member Involvement,” he said.

During the meeting, the local congregation launched an official website that includes the history of the congregation, a tour of the church’s adjacent museum, and registration to schedule a face-to-face visit.

“Amid this pandemic, we had nevertheless the opportunity to launch this website,” said Apolo Abráscio, president of the Adventist Church’s Santa Catarina Conference (SCC). “Now we can find out what happened in the past to inform our actions in the present. It is a valuable resource for everyone wanting to know the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brazil.”

The theme chosen for the celebration was “Every Day Closer,” a reference to the expected second coming of Jesus. It is a message pioneers have been consistently proclaiming since 1895, SCC secretary Paulo Lopes emphasized.

Gaspar Alto Seventh-day Adventist Church (left) in Santa Catarina, Brazil, next to the local museum. [Photo: South American Division News]

“The message about Jesus’ return and the seventh-day Sabbath were the key points that led to the conviction pioneers had,” he said.

In May 1895, Adventist pioneer Frank Westphal arrived in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. Westphal held a series of evangelistic meetings, baptizing eight people in Brusque and another 15 in Gaspar Alto. With 23 baptized Adventists, he decided to establish the first Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Brazil. The new congregation was officially organized on June 15, 1895.

Today the congregation lists 51 active members. It is a relatively large congregation, taking into account its rural location. According to local leaders, 91 percent of current members are descendants of the pioneers.

“I am a descendant of the Shirmers, and in our congregation, you can still find direct grandchildren of pioneer Guilherme Belz,” local church member Valdir Heck explained. “This celebration is special for all of us. It represents the beginning of Adventist work in Brazil. Currently, Brazil has more Adventist members than any other country, but all that started with the vision of those pioneers from Gaspar Alto.”

South American Division president Erton Köhler commented that what happened in the past gives him confidence about the church’s future.

“If God has done so much in these 125 years, I am filled with confidence in what He can still do in this pioneer church and across Brazil,” he said.

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language site.