The beginning of how some missions reached the Amazon region of Brazil
Adapted from Only One Life to Share by David J Phillips
The blackness of the green hell
While visiting Liverpool early in the twentieth century, when it was Britain’s major port, linking it with the Empire and the world, CT Studd had had the vision to reach those parts of the globe that had never had opportunity to hear. He himself went to northern Congo in 1913 and founded the Heart of Africa Mission as a basis for others to join him. The challenge went forth through his wife’s and other people’s speaking tours in Britain and abroad and through the magazine. This journal originally appeared in the shape of a large heart, like a gigantic Valentine’s card. It seems it was not sure what to call itself, on the back it was the Heart of Africa, on the front it was better entitled The Whole World for Jesus Now.
The early preoccupation was naturally northern Congo and soon southern Sudan was added. Its pages were filled with reports of treks into unknown parts, of ‘natives’ being converted, of recruits going out, and so often their obituary would appear within a few months or years. This only encouraged still more to offer for service and to consider other parts of the world as yet not ‘occupied’ for Jesus. Each continent had its dark heart.
Amazonia, with its unexplored vastness still excited attention at the beginning of the twentieth century. When the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1919 determined that the whole of Latin America had already been evangelised – by the Catholic Church – many keen Christians had deep misgivings, and sought to disabuse the Christian public of this false picture. The Whole World for Jesus Now, magazine of a new mission, The Heart of Africa Mission, issued a challenge in 1920 on South America. The continent was to be seen in two parts; the first part that was termed ‘occupied’ by other Protestant missions, although still unevangelized. This was because the cities had a slightly more open-minded population to Protestant ideas, and had had more contact by commerce with the traditional Protestant countries. Denominational missions could envisage reproducing their churches in these populations, as base perhaps for later expansion into the interior. The second part was the vast hinterland described as ‘unoccupied’. This interior was not only more conservative, but also more dangerous, where unscrupulous men, both ecclesiastical and secular, ruled by threat and debt slavery. Evangelicals recognised and were motivated by the spiritual peril of the two races, the Brazilian settlers and river dwellers; the Brazilians were Roman Catholic and superstitious, and the Indians were heathen and in witchcraft.
Amazonia was also difficult to reach, and once reached, lacked all the facilities that Europeans were beginning to expect as normal. In days when the aircraft were still unreliable, and in an area where there were no roads, the only possible route to reach inland was along the rivers. Hidden within the attractive display of nature was a less attractive human story. The original inhabitants and the poor peasants shipped there from the drought stricken north east of Brazil fared abysmally. Many were collectors of natural rubber. A few speculators had bought up vast tracts of forest, without reference to the Indians’ rights and even without rubber trees. Those that had rubber on their tract became rich, built elegant houses in Manaus and Belem, but lived mostly outside the region. The collectors often lived separated from their families; each was responsible for about 200 rubber trees growing at random along a track, stretching deep into the forest. They dug sloping grooves in the bark and the white latex was collected in cups or large shells then brought to camp and turned it into large footballs of primitive rubber over smoky fires. It was then carried to a point on a river for a canoe to take it to the trading station. These people were held in debt, which the traders, on behalf of the owners, manipulated to keep the collectors in virtual slavery. Gunmen would threaten and eliminate anyone attempting to escape downstream, or otherwise to question the system. The Indians were treated worse. Considered just a nuisance, they could be shot out of hand.
An extraordinary Christian, who is not mentioned in the history books, Rev Oliver Walkey made his first visit there in 1913. He went to the centre, at Manaus, the city a thousand miles up the Amazon that flourished as the boom-town for the rubber trade of the whole of the region. It had a world monopoly in the growing rubber markets, and had all the fineries of elegant late Victorian life, even an Opera House. Nevertheless, the decline of Manaus and the Amazonian rubber trade was already setting in when the missionaries arrived, due to the perverse commercial vision of a fellow Englishman, who a few years before had jumped on a ship with the seeds of the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). The disorganised exploitation of the rubber in the forest could not compete with the organised plantations in Malaysia.
However, Walkey’s burden was that the vast hinterland was untouched by the Gospel, and one might add basic justice. The major cities Manaus and Belem were ‘occupied’. Two missionaries Justin Nelson and William Taylor, Methodist Episcopalians from the USA had worked in Manaus since 1883. The larger port of Belem, near the mouth of the Amazon, already had a number of small struggling churches, including the beginnings of the Assemblies of God, later Brazil’s largest denomination. The same time that Walkey had passed through the port, two Americans of Swedish origin had prayed that God might show them where to start a new work. The name ‘Belem’ had been given them, but they had to look in an atlas to see whether such a place existed. They witnessed there and that was the beginning of another remarkable work of God.
Walkey set out to travel up the Rio Japurá towards Colombia with another extraordinary missionary pioneer, Fredrick Glass, a pioneer colporteur of the Bible Society, who had been converted while working in the gold mine of Ouro Prêto in Minas Gerais, a thousand miles south of the Amazon. Later his son David was to be a noted leader of EUSA, now Latin Link, and founder of a pioneer Christian bookshop in Rio de Janeiro. The Rio Japurá is one of the many southern tributaries of the River Amazon, 2,820 km (1,750 miles) long with its source in the Andes. In March 1921, Walkey returned to Britain and wrote of his experience there and of its vastness. Walkey, being like Studd a man who had the courage to act on his own vision, returned to Manaus as the BFBS representative for the Amazon Valley during 1919-1921. He was to have an unfading vision for Amazonia, in spite of long periods away, that was to motivate others to form at least four missions for there and to lead him to found the West Amazon Mission, some thirty years later, and return at the age of 71.
The great vision
This Black Heart of the continent, as Amazonia was called, challenged all those concerned that its deprived peoples might hear the gospel before the return of Christ. The size of Europe it was considered to have as many 5,000,000 ‘redskins’, but this was to prove a gross over – estimate. However, irrespective of the numbers intrepid Christians were willing to confront the dangers and take the message to these tribes. But Amazonia quickly proved to be the graveyard both of good intentions and often of the missionaries themselves.
From the start these visionaries of world evangelisation planned for the whole of Amazonia, from the Atlantic to the Andes. In the best military tradition, intelligence must be gathered. To do this Kenneth Grubb, later to be knighted and be the Chairman of the Church of England’s Assembly, had visited Manaus in 1921 and had suggested a project for missionary work on the Rio Negro, another tributary descending 2,250 km (1,400 miles) from the highlands of Colombia. However this suggestion was fulfilled by Brazilian WEC in the 21st century with a team of more than 30 workers.
Now Grubb had returned to Brazil and established himself a base in Manaus, sent by the new Mission to survey the West Amazon area. He quickly set up all the trappings of a missionary advance. He hung up his hammock on the stout iron hooks provided. A trunk provided a seat, a deck chair was his easy chair and two suitcases provided his table and desk. From here he was to write his dispatches to Mission GHQ (General Head Quarters) in London giving the need of the region, and a vision to urge volunteers to come. Military terminology was commonly used in the aftermath of the First World War, in fact the missionaries were to be called Crusaders. Grubb was later to travel over much of South America and publish a number of books on the subject.
First Grubb investigated to the west from Manaus; making voyages up the Rio Negro and later the Rio Juruá. There was a spiritual parable of uneven blessing in Rio Negro’s dark acid water that was fed by local rainfall along its length. Its level can still fall due to lack of rain, while the Solomões, the main stream of the Amazon, could still be rising and flooding large areas of the hinterland because of drawing its water from the distant melting snows of the Andes. A few Christians were already found among the Brazilians, while the Indians were constantly being attacked by Brazilian settlers and responding in revenge. There was always to be a tension in mission strategy between whether to concentrate on reaching the Indians, or meeting the evident need of the Brazilian settlers of the region. The Indians, of necessity, involved making contact with villages scattered in remote areas; while in contrast, to establish a church among the Brazilians meant the easier concentration of workers much closer to the lines of communication on the rivers.
From these expeditions an early strategy was outlined. The intention was to establish a fleet of boats, each with responsibility to evangelise two thousand miles of river, with two ‘apostolic’ messengers ‘to preach thousands of sermons’. In this way both the Brazilian settlers would be evangelised and the Indians would get to know white men who were not out to exploit them. In particular, the West Amazon area was no after thought, but integral in the original plans. Lack of manpower resources and the sacrifice in health were to be factors that limited the realisation.
Meanwhile a contact had also been established at the eastern end of Amazonia. Ernest Wooton had been in Brazil since 1911. His mother had shared her own enthusiasm for missions with him as a child and he had dedicated his life to the task at the age of ten, then as a teenager worked in evangelistic camps to children. He had worked on founding a church in a place called Rosário, Rosary, in the interior of Maranhão, the State to the south of Belem, until the priest had turned the people against him. He made a strategic withdrawal to the central town of Barra do Corda. Wooton, instead of taking a furlough in 1916 moved to Carolina, a township of 5,000 Brazilians, shaded by mango trees, on the upper Rio Tocantins, the first major tributary to the south from the Atlantic. Here he soon had a developing congregation among the Brazilians. He had just gained the advantage of being married to a Brazilian. He had also shown a desire to reach the Indians of the remote interior and in particular the wild Kayapó Indians on the Rio Xingu, some of which he had met. His previous experience was seen as the key to further advance westwards for the new mission. It was decided to start work in association with Wooton in Maranhão, and to make surveys from there into the whole Amazon basin.
This was the awesome challenge of Amazonia that Kenneth Grubb presented to the committee of the still young mission. Would God lead them to accept it and to step out in faith and look only to Him for recruits and finances?
“Full Steam Ahead” was the order from a two day prayer meeting at Heart of Africa Mission GHQ in May 1923, taking their guidance from ‘Go forward’ of Exodus 14:15. Kenneth Grubb praised God for this decision and a campaign around major cities of Britain for recruits resulted in over 300 people volunteering for missionary service. How many were to fulfil that initial commitment is unknown, but three young men were ready for Brazil. Messrs. C. Knight, L. Bland and Alex Hutcheson were ready to fulfil the vision. Hutcheson was to have a life-long service to north Brazil. With the hymn ‘We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves’ played on a concertina, on the Princes Landing Stage at Liverpool’s Pier Head, the three sailed on June 12th 1923. Among the third class passengers, they found a Brazilian snake charmer, a rare breed! In this way the Heart of Amazonia Mission began with the first missionaries going to the northern State of Maranhão. The two ‘Heart’ missions together formed the beginning of the original Worldwide Evangelisation Crusade.
One of the first things to be done was to gradually explore many of the rivers of Amazonia and find out the situation and identify both the Brazilian and Indian populations. The aim was to reach the unevangelized, which came to mean the Indians in every part of Amazonia. The ‘First Advance’ into eastern Amazonia was from Maranhão. Three areas of Indian tribes were to be later developed in Maranhão ‘behind’ this advance, on the Pindaré and Gurupi Rivers. Others were to ‘advance’ into Central Amazonia up the Madeira River and the West, the Rio Negro area, was to be reached too.
The immediate first advance was to reach right across Maranhão and beyond into the heart of the forests of southern Amazonia. Major rivers that stream northwards into the Amazon divide this great area up. The first is the Rio Tocantins, then the Araguaia that is divided here to form the inappropriately named Island of Bananal; that is, Banana Grove Island, home of the unreached Karajás Indians, among whom the men and women speak different dialects. The Xingu lays a long way to the west with among other tribes, the feared Kayapó. It was discovered later, that to advance in a rough straight-line westwards, roughly in a similar way to the much later Trans Amazon Highway, was the most difficult way to do things. There was a measure of uncertainty of how large the populations were; so that it was felt to advance overland was the only way to have contact. The way around by sea from São Luis and then by river up the Amazon also required careful planning but far less risk. Rapids would break the advance up each of the rivers, but small boats could be carried around these.
In the spirit of this missionary movement the Wootons trekked some three hundred miles over land where there were no roads with mules from the Rio Tocantins to the Rio Araguaia. Then further west through the forests to the Rio Fresco, a small tributary of the Xingu. They then descended this river to a decaying, but once prosperous rubber settlement called rather optimistically, New Horizon. This place, shut in by the forest on all sides, had neither physical nor human horizons. Wooton reported it to be filled with men who went continually armed, for both defence and offence against the Indians.
He then hired a canoe with a local rancher to paddle down the Rio Fresco to Nova Orlinda where the smaller tributary, Rio Zinho, joined the Fresco. This ‘Little River’ was to be tragically significant to the missionaries later. Here Wooton left his wife, while he, with a local guide and his wife, he pressed further down to where the Fresco joined the mighty Rio Xingu at São Felix. Here he turned upstream seeking people who had had recent contact with the Indians. Although he contacted many Brazilians, held meetings and distributed copies of the scriptures, that the people had never seen before, he was disappointed that he had had only one brief encounter with wild Kayapó. However, Wooton did meet a few so-called tame Kayapó. He was with an Indian guide who called to some wild Indians in the forest. The Indians came out to a sandbank in the river, but were fearful of Wooton until he convinced them he had no weapons. However, while the guide and Wooton were so engaged, another Indian enticed the guide’s Brazilian wife to the edge of the forest where she was seized and disappeared to spend the rest of her life with the Indians. Later a priest persuaded the guide to give him all the information and promptly went off the contact the Indians.
On this trip Wooton had in fact gone right around on three sides the area where the Kayapó lived. He also met rubber collectors fleeing across the forest from their cruel taskmasters on the Xingu. He and his wife returned from this nine-month trip suffering continually from malaria and he, with a large leg ulcer. The missionaries therefore had begun their surveys towards fulfilling the vision of reaching the whole of Amazonia.
The work established
The three from England were soon joined by a young recruit deemed ‘not to be strong enough for pioneer work’ to free the Wootons for the Indian advance westward. This was Norman Lang, and in the journey by steamer and horseback across Maranhão it was ironic he arrived in Brazil last and arrived in Carolina ahead of the others. On the way they had met up with a Canadian pioneer, Perrin Smith doing pioneer evangelism among the Brazilians. He supported his Brazilian family with a farm. His work met with constant opposition from the priests. In fact, the Crusaders visiting him were commended by the police for their restraint under provocation of a mob.
The other three started to work in Maranhão, Knight and Bland visited the Karajás, and Hutcheson was soon joined by Fenton Hall at the end of May 1924 to work among the Guajajáras in the north of the State. One of the first to have responded, Fenton Hall was a former Royal Flying Corps officer, and was to have a brief missionary career comparable, but shorter, to that of David Brainerd. He sought in Marahão, the eastern border of Amazonia, to reach with two Brazilian companions, the Guajajára Indians some two hundred miles inland, beyond where other missionaries of the Heart of Amazonia had begun to work. He disappeared into the forest on foot and months later he was found to have died of fever. He had served only about nine months. A memoir of Fenton Hall, written by Norman Grubb, was published anonymously by WEC in 1927, and like Brainerd it included excerpts from Hall’s diary. This book. was to prove a means to calling others, reminiscent of David Brainerd’s Journal.
In spite of the death of their first child, the Wootons soon moved to live at Conceição on the Araguaia River, while Norman Lang continued the work in Carolina. The ‘tame’ Kayapó that they had contact with, had recently been made into Catholics, although this made little difference to their conduct. While the aim was to reach the Indians, the Wootons soon found that the Brazilians were just as needy and a congregation soon grew. After a year this was to provoke Mrs CT Studd to publicly question ‘can we carry on here a work simply existing for the Brazilians.’ At the same time the unfortunate Mr Lang, left in pastoral charge at Carolina, was told by the London Committee to find another Society, as ‘we do not feel it in keeping’ with reaching the ‘unevangelised’, understood as the Indians! Just to add to the problems, rebels of a local uprising during 1925 occupied Carolina.
A ‘Central Amazonia Advance’ to the Rio Madeira began in 1925. Len Harris and Harold Morris arrived in Manaus to join Kenneth Grubb in April 1925. The Rio Madeira was another major river five hundred miles to the west of the Xingu, and the Parintintín Indians lived some 500 miles upstream from the Amazon. To identify the different Parentintin groups an exploratory expedition was made by Kenneth Grubb. He had just returned from a long journey by steamer and canoe up the Rio Juruá, a further 500 miles to the west with its headwaters in Peru. He travelled in relative comfort on a flat-bottomed steamer sleeping in a hammock over the cargo. The journey took two weeks to ascend the Rio Solimões, the mainstream of the Amazon, passing the beginnings of the towns of Tefé and Alvarães that are important later in our story of the West Amazon Mission, and then eight hundred miles up the Juruá to Cruzeiro do Sul. He rejoiced to meditate on Romans between witnessing to passengers and gathering information about towns and tribes they passed. Arriving in Cruzeiro he trudged around in the continual rain, reflecting on its decayed state, that most Amazon settlements have. He took another man to paddle up the Taumaturgo River, near to the Peruvian border, and spent some time witnessing whilst awaiting the steamer to return to Manaus. This was a round trip of four thousand miles.
The novice Morris and the now experienced Grubb travelled up the Madeira towards the southern edge of Amazonia. Having arrived in the area they set off in canoe with a motor which broke down, but they had no means to fix it. As is often the experience of Christians in such situations they met a mechanic from nowhere who got it going but their praise for this was short lived for it broke down again and they continued paddling. Some time later they met up with thirteen friendly Parintintíns, who were going to the Ipixuna, a tributary, where the group they wanted to contact lived. With hindsight one is tempted to ask why they had not paddled up the Ipixuna in the first place. They abandoned their canoe and trusted themselves to the Indians, who set off at a fast pace, stumbling over roots, climbing over fallen trunks, splashing through marsh and running across streams on narrow logs. Exhausted, they were relieved when the Indians uncovered a canoe from the undergrowth and at last they were moving downstream on the Ipixuna to a small Parintintín camp.
Here the Indians were hostile, taking what little goods they had, even though they had plenty of similar items given to them by the Indian Protection Service. This left them unable to cook and forced them to beg the children to bring them some food. Grubb wounded his hand, but much more seriously Morris his foot which became infected so he was unable to walk or sleep. The Indians merely ridiculed them, tore their cloths off and then paddled off to abandon them to their fate. Grubb had to carry Morris on his back to the riverside in the faint hope that a friendly canoe might pass. They cast themselves on God and found the idea of dying attractive. Then some of the original friendly Indians returned and carried them downstream and finally to safety.
After this weaker hearts would have abandoned the project of reaching the Parintintíns. However, Len Harris, Charlie Knight with his concertina, and the now experienced Hutcheson, established themselves on the Ipixuna in a two-room house known as Ogu Garkia. They soon had a group of Indians living around them. One of these began to torment them by waving a bush knife over them and shooting arrows at them. They attempted to pacify him by playing the concertina and repairing his canoe! This merely resulted in the concertina being stolen. One day, when Len Harris was on his own, fear struck the local Indians. A man with a fearsome reputation had arrived. He walked up to Harris menacingly swinging a large knife, demanding of the surrounding timid Indians ‘Is Leonardo good?’ ‘Is he bad?’ They saved his life by chorusing in fear ‘He is good! Good!’
The three missionaries did manage to explain the gospel to them using pictures and twice they persuaded the Indians not to take revenge on their Brazilian and Indian enemies. Morris, who had suffered so much from some of these Indians, returned to work among them for a time to allow Knight to have a furlough. They discovered that these were the ‘tamer’ Parintintíns who were at war with two other groups to the east. Beyond these further east were other Parintintíns in contact with the Kayapó. In line with the audacious strategy to reach the whole of Amazonia, it was hoped that converted Indians would link up between the two tribes across the southern band of the vast region. This has never taken place.
Nevertheless Joe Wright revisited the Ipixuna in 1928 and received a more positive reception. He travelled only with a Parintintín Indian and his wife, paddling upstream against the strong current and corkscrew eddies. On one occasion they crashed into a partly submerged log over which the water was rushing. The two Indians promptly jumped out onto the log, unbalancing the canoe, leaving Joe swimming trying retrieve his belongings from the riverbed. Then followed a neck-break rush through the forest leaving Joe behind lost, but his shouts brought them back to fetch him, laughing at his misfortune. They lit a fire to dry his clothes and fed him. He found many of the Indians in the settlement suffering from tuberculosis. He returned on his own, getting lost in a swamp. Only by urgent prayer was he able to find his way out.
Meanwhile reinforcements were being sent out. The Heart of Amazonia Mission could consider another ‘Advance’ into western Amazonia from Manaus. Most of the ships of the Booth Line were to get to know the missionaries. Billie McComb sailed on the Hildebrand from Liverpool in 1925. Joe Wright followed the next year, taking a great interest during the voyage in the Portuguese immigrants on board; giving out tracts, ‘preaching’ with the aid of a dictionary and even having a boxing match with one. While learning Portuguese in Manaus, they found that they could use their English with a ministry among the West Indians.
McComb initiated an exploratory trip up the Rio Negro, some 300 km to a township called Moura, and then up the third tributary on the right, the Jauaperi, whose headwaters are near the Guyana border. The Indians of this name had had horrendous experiences of treachery from the white men and had massacred some Brazilians in retaliation. The mission saw them as a goal to the north of the region. A Brazilian pastor, who was also a good hunter and needed to bring back meat to supplement his income guided McComb. Crossing the Rio Negro, which is about 20 km wide they were nearly sunk in a storm. McComb’s trip aimed to make contact with Indians who had six months before killed ten Brazilians. The trip was successful; they met with some of the Indians but were hampered by a lack of the Indian language. They left messages for Knight and Wright on trees and pressed on evangelising remote homesteads of rubber collectors in a labyrinth of lakes, and even killed and salted the meat of a mantee or sea cow.
Meanwhile Joe Wright and Knight set out from Manaus. Half way across the mouth of the Rio Negro opposite Manaus, they were caught in a storm and the boat started to fill. They made for a large clump of trees that they took for an island and safety. Getting to it they found that it consisted of the tops of the trees of the island which was now many metres below the flood level. Trying to work the sinking boat between the treetops their propeller got caught and the boat lost its freedom to rise with the waves. It sank as they scrambled into the branches of two of the larger trees. Here they spent the night, clinging, fearful to fall off into the tangle of branches under water beneath them. At first light they realised that the canoe could be seen only a few feet below the surface. Certainly help from passing boats would be a remote possibility, but depended on them freeing their own boat to bring it to the surface. This they managed to do and saved two of the floorboards in it to use as paddles. They had lost all their baggage, including precious letters from home for McComb. They paddled slowly back across the miles of open water to Manaus, safe, sadder and hopefully wiser. Here McComb found them on his return. It was soon recognised that an outreach to the Jauaperi would not be possible in the short term.
Back in the east, in the interior of Maranhão, work that Fenton Hall had commenced was continuing among the Guajajáras. Three Australians, Fred Roberts, Symes and Sharpe joined Bland at Sapucaia in the heart of the State. Bland had done an exploration along the Rio Gurupi, the northern border of the State to encounter the Tembé and Ka’apor tribes. Foster, Rice and Black who had originally gone to Manaus moved there in 1928. Harry Heath and George Stears moved to the south of the State in 1927 to work among the Canela Indians. One of the first lady workers arrived in Barra do Corda; Lillian Giles was destined to become Mrs Heath. Meanwhile Harold Morris’s experiences had affected his health and he had temporarily returned to Britain.
In a wonderful way that seemed to guarantee the realisation of evangelising the entire hinterland of Amazonia, recruits were arriving and beginning to make initial probes into ‘enemy territory’ from near the Atlantic to west of Manaus. This was the courageous beginning of the work that would involve members of the two families we are describing. Mrs C. T. Studd had been tireless in presenting the work for prayer and recruits in Britain and North America. So much would not have been achieved without her. She was impatient for ‘advances’ in Amazonia, and her tone sometimes appeared disapproving as if the difficulties encountered there might cause the Crusaders to deviate from their goal. It was to prove too big a task. Both she and her husband passed to glory in 1931 and the work in Amazonia continued under the name of Unevangelized Fields Mission (UFM).
In journeying often, in perils of waters
Stanley Phillips sailed for Brazil in July 1932 on the RMS Alban with George and Lily Stears, as probably the first to go to Brazil as UFM. travelling 3rd class had few comforts. George used Homeopathy to cure many ailments beyond the reach of modern medicine, for this was before antibiotics and modern diagnostic tools. It was also a time when white cotton suits were worn, and ties on most formal and informal occasions in the towns, even on the Equator. Every one was referred to by title ‘Mr, Mrs or Miss’, even in the mission magazine. Christian names were revealed only as Portuguese names, in quotes from letters. It was customary to refer to persons who had been to university, or had social connections, or inherited property with a certain implicit awe or deference. However, whoever you were, you depended in faith for financial support by unsolicited gifts. If one’s call and ministry was of God, then God could be trusted to prompt other Christians’ hearts to give and so sustain one’s work, and as was to prove the case, one’s survival.
The ship called this voyage at Forteleza, Ceará, and the furthest south that many of these earliest missionaries would see of Brazil. While they represented the needs of Brazil, of that vast country they saw very little and could only speak of Amazonia. The ship also called at Sao Luis, the capital city of the State in which Stanley would spend all his time, but first they had to go to Belem, the major city of the Amazon Valley. Many would argue about this in favour of centrally placed Manaus. Whatever the merits of the two cities, they have been for a hundred years the only urban centres in a vast area the size of Europe. ‘The City of Our Lady of Bethlehem of the Great Pará River’ is Belem’s full name; fortunately most call it Belem (Bethlehem) or Belem do Pará. It is an ancient city with roots in the time of the colonisation.
The first product sought by the Portuguese was brazil wood or pau da brasa, the wood of the burning coals, because of its red colour. The country was first called Feliz Lusitania, which might be translated as Happy Portugal, but because of this product it became known as Brazil. Belem went through various fortunes, politically, as a frontier town with violence, but also booms almost as a microcosm of Brazil. Sugarcane production, still considerable, came early and the cane was crushed to make the local cachaça or rum, a vice in many lives. Then came cattle ranching, rice, cotton and coffee; each began here, but each time these could be produced far better to the south as different regions of the vast country developed. Then there was rubber from the 1860 to 1913, until the boom burst.
An old fort, colonial cobbled streets, and the fishing harbour with its adjacent open-air market called Ver o Pêso, ‘see the weight’. This claim to honest trading needs constant looking into to be seen! In later years, new missionaries’ first serious use of the language would be in haggling and bargaining, bleary eyed at six in the morning, buying the fruit and vegetables for UFM base. The city had extended during the rubber boom to form a modern port with a commercial centre. At the time when WEC and then UFM came into being, Belem was being extended by stretching gridirons of projected streets, which were mostly muddy tracks, crossed or bordered by dykes that provided sewers for the largest section of the population, and the mosquitoes and other runners, crawlers, and hoppers. These suburbs had a scattering of self-built shacks. In time the shacks metamorphosed into brick houses as the owners gained enough cash to add a room or at least a frame. Windows and doors were left for the real windfall.
However, the focus of interest for UFM in the early days, other than the quay and Customs Hall, was the railway station, inexplicably on the edge of town, situated at the end of Independence Avenue. The Mission had its base in a small township called Santa Isabel, halfway along the 150 miles of railway toward the port of Bragança. Because a lot of the Indian work had developed in Maranhão this was considered a good place apart from the real need of the Brazilians in the interior, and fitted the desire to be ‘pioneers’. The mission used typical interior abode and plank houses, right beside the railway line. The mission house where Len and Doris Harris, as Field leaders, lived and the hostel for new missionaries were right on the road that was an overgrown strip of land with a footpath and cart tracks. The houses faced this road and beyond, running straight out of sight in both directions was the single track of the railway. New missionaries looking through the openings that passed for windows were reminded by the track of the outside world, or at least when the trains ran past twice a day in each direction. Many a new missionary would no doubt look at the track, and depending on their mood with health or language study, would prefer to think of either direction. One direction led to Maranhão where most of the work was and the other direction towards Belem, leading to either the vastness of Amazonia, to which all of them were ultimately called, or seawards and ‘home’ if they felt homesick.
The hostel was about thirty yards to the right of the mission house and the words hand painted on the white wall, Assembleia Evangélica, showed it doubled as the local church at the time. There was a yard or ‘garden’ planted with banana and other fruit trees. The ground around a house in the tropics was always kept clear, by hoe and broom, of every thing but dust or mud. Any vegetation, other than what was strictly useful, might shelter snakes or insects. At this time the missionaries would observe quaint English customs, such as ‘tea in the garden’. Later, with the influx of North Americans ‘tea’ would create puzzlement, and one would have ‘supper’ and definitely not ‘in the garden’, except if it were American Independence Day, when every one was willy-nilly expected to have a picnic.
After the first experiences of life in the tropical interior with the Harrises, Stanley Phillips, as all new workers, was sent up the railway line to Americano to live with a Brazilian family who knew no English. There being few roads, the railway track was used for walking and riding; because of necessity it ran level and as straight as possible and any inconvenient ravines, rivers and hills were bridged over or cut through. One saved a lot of energy just walking along or riding between the rails. After all there was only one train a day, pulled by a wood burning puffing-Billy made in England at the turn of the century. Belching smoke, covering everyone in smuts, and clattering slowly over the rough tracks there was plenty of time to get out of the way until it passed. A minor hazard was the four-wheel buggy that was lifted on to the rails and propelled by poles. Once it was going it whistled along faster than walking pace, delivering patients for example to the missionaries’ clinic in Santa Isabel. However, for most of the time the track was all for the pedestrians. Anywhere of significance was along the single track.
Access to Maranhão was also by the tracks, by train through Bragança and then across the estuary to Viseu on the two-deck steamer Capitão Assis, then by smaller steamer and canoe up the rivers like the Gurupi. Stanley was sent, with Horace Banner and Bob Story, up the Gurupí River that divides Pará State from Maranhão, working to reach the Tembé Indinas and still hostile ‘Urubú’ (Vulture) or Ka’apor Tribe.
Ruth Bennett sailed for Brazil from Liverpool on the Hilary on April 7th 1933. The ship was a new one, the largest size for the Amazon, and had been built the year before just across the Mersey at Cammell Laird’s in Birkenhead. The ship was later to be an Amphibious Warfare HQ ship at the landings in North Africa, Sicily and Normandy during the Second World War. Other missionaries travelled first class on the deck above, but Ruth travelled third class down below with Joe and Mamie Wright and Kitty Lee Archer. In the third class they served Portuguese food. The plenty of spare time was helped along by Joe’s entertaining them with tall stories of adventures in Brazil or in the Irish ‘troubles’. Reality and hilarious fiction of Indians and fifty-foot snakes became muddled in the minds of his less discerning listeners. Some entertained the vain hope that his recent marriage to his fiancée might make him more serious!
The Hilary visited Oporto, Lisbon, and Funchal, Madeira. Joe felt his responsibility as the male-in-charge of three very young lady mission recruits. In each port he knew and ‘must’ visit an ‘old missionary friend.’ Funchal is a beautiful place and he took them up to the heights to visit a toy fort out of a fairytale with cannons jutting out in all directions. Then he paid the tourist prices for them to hurtle down the cobble streets to centre of town on the wooden sledges.
On arrival Joe Wright had to take over the more sobering task of becoming Field Leader while the Harrises went for a furlough on the returning Hilary. In the two weeks while the ship went up river to Manaus and back he had ‘to learn the ropes’. This involved arranging language study for Ruth, Kitty and Martin Snow who joined them. Therefore, the ‘senior’ leader had a junior missionary wife in language study. Kitty had a shock when she arrived. She had been engaged to Bob Story, a fellow Australian. God had spoken to her at a missionary meeting. They both walked home in silence, she trying to sum up courage to tell him that God had called her to South America, and assuming that would be the end of the engagement. However, he spoke first that God had called him, making the same assumption. With joy they realised God had called them together. Bob had gone to Brazil before, and she arrived hoping after the two-year probation period they could at last marry, but she was confronted with Bob seriously ill, perhaps he had been bitten by something, and he was about to return to England for treatment. They were to be engaged for seven years before he returned and they finally married.
Ruth too went to Americano for language practice. Then she was assigned to work with the now married Harry and Lily Heath who returned from Britain soon after. The missionaries were expecting to see their baby Beth, but when the Heaths arrived, Ruth called out ‘Where’s Beth?’ Tearful parents merely pointed back to England, for it was mission policy not to allow children to the ‘field’; it was considered too dangerous from disease and Indian and they had had to leave their few months old daughter with a foster mother. The Heaths had a roving ministry, seeking to identify priorities in line with one small mission seeking to evangelise the whole of Amazonia. With the Heaths, Ruth was to see more of that part of Brazil than most of the others. They went to Macapá, through the maze of channels around Marajó Island, which is ‘the size of Switzerland’, in the delta of the Amazon. Then they went south again to Maranhão.
In those days there was almost paranoia of unmarried couples being seen to fraternise or even see each other. The mission had constant fear of misinterpretation by the Brazilians and their over worked minds, for they commonly had liaisons outside of marriage. Being sure of God’s will is never easy, and what now seems like stringent precautions were imposed and accepted on matters of the heart, lest they divert the called of God from the work. Being ‘unequally yoked’ in this content was marrying someone without the same call. The idea behind this was that they both might test their call to Brazil, learn the language and adapt to the climate and culture, and adopt the life-style imposed by the circumstances before marriage.
A new way of life
Ruth Bennett and Stanley Phillips, already engaged back in England, had to wait two years, during which they saw each other for only two days. Stanley came for those two days to Santa Isabel, not to see Ruth, but to see the doctor in Belem for various ailments, before returning immediately to the Indians in Maranhão. Away up the Gurupi River Stanley had been ill with fever and claimed a large snake had fallen on him in his hammock. His colleagues could not decide what this indicated of his physical and mental state. Was he physically so poorly, that the snake had disdained him for a quick meal? Then he must be in a bad state! However, if he was hallucinating such things, and there never was a snake, then how bad must be his mental state! His colleagues could not make up their minds, which would be the worst situation! Whatever it was, Horace Banner and the almost comatose patient decided unanimously, that Stanley must go to visit the doctor in Belem.
Frontier life in the forest with a poor diet, endless infections, hard physical work including felling trees and trekking to Indian villages, had exhausted him and given a narrow perspective of his future prospects and his ability to give a wife the attention she deserved. In this state he was seeing his future bride for the first time since leaving England nearly two years before. Ruth seemed to be getting on both with the language and better with the Brazilians, while he had been shut away in a remote spot with the Indians, with little chance to develop his Portuguese or look after himself. After rapid treatment he was boarding the train to return to Bragança and the Indians. He felt he was going to an early death and weakly turned to Ruth and said, ‘You could do better than wait for me.’
Ruth followed with the Heaths to Maranhão. The Rio Pindoré is one of the rivers that runs into the large estuary past the city of São Luis, although hardly shown on most Western maps; it runs southwards for 300 km. parallel to the River Gurupi towards the Rio Tocantins in western Maranhão. On these two rivers much of the work had been concentrated. At first they stayed with Billie and Margaret McCoombe at a place called Central; its real name was São Pedro. Ruth and a new colleague, Paddy, who liked horses, went riding together to visit an Indian village nearby and enjoyed talking to the Indians.
Seeking the place of greatest need the Heaths and Ruth then moved on to Santa Ignez on the Pindoré. They travelled on mules which had its comical moments, such as when the animals would slide down the muddy banks of red earth on their haunches. They carried little with them except for their hammocks. One goal was to visit three Indian villages on a cross-country road that was little more than an earthen track only passable in the dry season. They rode out to the first village, where a tall Indian wearing a battered trilby hat was very much in charge. He spoke passable Portuguese, but was too polite to be trusted, for these Guajajáras had too much contact with Brazilians to have a worthwhile relationship with the missionaries. The relationship was too unequal, and the Indians judged the missionaries according to the corrupting influence of the local Brazilians. The three missionaries were given a hut with three walls of woven straw matting, but open on the fourth side, so that inevitably the Indians could watch them. Their mules were taken back to Santa Inez; otherwise Harry would have had to guard them all the time. The chief co-operated enough to call the girls together for Ruth to teach them choruses, and simple stories. She was often in tears because she knew that, even at the age of ten, they were virtual slave wives of men much older.
One evening Harry made a pretence of calling them together to help tie their hammocks up to sleep. He told them that one young Indian, who had become friendly with him, had confided that some of the village men were planning to kill them. They had to be vigilant, although they would be unable to escape without their mules and the Indians would easily attack on the road anyway. Two nights later, Ruth was half asleep in her hammock. Lying in a hammock, with its cloth stretched taut around your back and bottom one is aware of any thing touching it. Something moved, touching the hammock. Instantly she knew this could only be a large animal or a man. She yelled. Immediately, Lily Heath yelled out for something had also knocked her hammock. They had startled an Indian who had come into the little hut with his large bush knife, either to cut their hammocks down or to kill them. The next day, Harry was able to send a message for their mules to be brought to the village. They left, feeling that only in the next dry season, with more workers, could a serious and lasting impression be made on these three Indian villages.
The Heaths and Ruth took a coastal liner around by sea to Belem. Ruth and Stanley were married in 1935. Harold Morris was now back in Brazil, recovered from his experiences with the Indians, and he and his wife Nettie had joined the Bible Society. He was already developing contacts for the eventual formation of Bible Societies in most of the republics of South America. At this time he was away on a trip to Argentina. As a couple who had only been married themselves for a few months, they wanted to make the time special for the newly weds, especially as their colleagues lived out of town. They had rented a traditional middle class house, with a wide veranda around it, in a residential street close to the centre of Belem. The reception room was improvised to make it a suitable sanctuary for the Christian ceremony.
Present was the best man Fred Wright, Stanley’s friend from studying together at the Missionary Training Colony, Upper Norwood, London. He had just arrived in Brazil and was already older than most at thirty, yet the Brazilians delighted to tease him before he could understand any Portuguese. He found they were comparing him with his brother Joe as to which was the more handsome brother and was delighted to find that he won the competition every time. The bride’s ‘father’ was Alex Hutcheson and the maid of honour was his wife. The Rev. Leonard Harris was the officiating clergyman and Doris his wife the musician at the portable folding organ. She looked over her glasses with mock disapproval at the smothered giggles of the ‘clergy’ and bridal party who found ‘with all my worldly goods’ somewhat ironic. None of them had more than a trunk or two of personal clothing and effects. Financial allowances in the bank were few and far between. The bank balances soon disappeared and one lived from hand to mouth as a missionary ‘living by faith’.
If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, no sacrifice is too great for me …
Stanley and Ruth had a simple honeymoon staying at the Pensão Suissa, in Rua Manoel Barata, a busy thoroughfare with trams rattling by over the cobbles. This was a complete contrast from the silence of the forests and the tension of working with Indians. The joy of being in a noisy bustling though laid back city like Belem was a real change. However, the wider hostile world intruded. The one sour note was a squat arrogant German guest, who made disparaging anti-British remarks in the dining room. Nazism was getting it grip on the humiliated nationalism of that country.
Another important event unfolded around them too, although no one realised how sombre it was to be. A week after the wedding the missionaries came up on the train to bid farewell to three men all called Fred. Fred Roberts had joined WEC from Australia and had been in Brazil some eleven years. He had first gone into the interior of Maranhão to Sapucaia on the Rio Pindoré. His long-engaged fiancée, Mabel, followed him from Australia, they married and she was thrilled to start work among Guajajáras in Sapucaia. Four months later she died, saying that she saw the Lord’s smiling face. In tears, Fred conducted the brief funeral service himself. She was buried alongside Fenton Hall among the Indians.
Now Fred Roberts had arrived back in Brazil for the third time keen for this new advance, to the Kayapó and brought the engine for the canoe he planned to use. He was to be the leader of a step towards reaching the whole of Amazonia that every tribe might hear the gospel. Together with Fred Wright, the best man of the wedding and Fred Dawson another Australian, who had also attended the wedding; he was going to the Rio Xingu. The wild Kayapó Indians were to be reached. They were situated between the Maranhão work and the Parintintín. Having come ashore in Belem on the Saturday after two weeks crossing the Atlantic, Roberts felt that no time must be lost. He immediately joined up with his two colleagues Fred Dawson and Fred Wright.
Being in Brazil only three months, and hardly being able to speak even broken Portuguese, Dawson was willing to go on this trip. Fred Dawson had been born an orphan, but became a farmer in Australia and had large frame and strong physique. Like Stanley, he had been impressed by Grubb’s memoir of Fenton Hall. God brought the call to the Indians of Amazonia to him even while he was driving his tractor, until he stopped it in the middle of the field, got off and knelt down there and surrendered his life to Christ for service among the Indians of Brazil. Just before the wedding Stanley had met him for the first time and stressed to Dawson that this expedition ‘would be a life or death job.’ Fred replied that he was willing to lay down his life for the Indians.
For Fred Wright this journey to the Kayapó was the culmination of years of preparation. He was a keen forceful football and rugby player, even breaking Stanley’s little finger in a game at the Colony. Yet he was also cheerful and given to humour like his older brother Joe. He claimed that thousands rejoiced at his arrival in Brazil, adding that these were the mosquitoes! Once converted Fred had told all at work the next day. He soon was keen to be useful to his Lord, learning New Testament Greek in his lunch hours and starting to preach in a Mission hall. He heard the call to Brazil through his brother’s letters.
Roberts planned to go immediately up river on Tuesday, April 28th 1935. This gave them two days for final preparations. The three men said farewell to the Brazilian believers in Santa Isabel and moved to Belem and had lunch at the Pensão. They were to leave that evening on the steamer. They spent their day making preparations for the expedition, with anticipation and trepidation of making a new beginning in an eternal task. All the missionaries said their farewells and most left again to catch the last train to Santa Isabel at 4 pm. The whole mission was excited about this venture, but the men were more realistic. Everyone called them The Three Freds, but they considered themselves Four with the Lord. They left at nine in the evening on the steamer Tuchaua for the Xingu. Together on the long humid days of steaming they studied together the Acts of the Apostles. The Brazilian passengers thought them mad. Fred Wright wrote home that ‘It may be we shall never get down (stream) again, the Lord alone knows.”
After three days on the steamer they arrived at Altamira on the Rio Xingu, where they had to wait two days before a launch left to take them to São Felix that took two further days. At every opportunity they gave out Scriptures to the Brazilians and tried to witness, holding meetings each evening, although only Roberts had sufficient ability in the language for this. They heard of four Brazilians who had recently been clubbed and shot to death with arrows, but as Wright wrote in a letter he left behind, ‘The Lord will have to work in a wonderful way to save us from their clubs, but we press towards the goal’. All three had stressed the need of people at home supporting them in prayer. They left copies of their wills, leaving their meagre possessions to their colleagues. At São Felix they bought the only canoe available, and because the boat builder was sick with fever, enlarged it themselves and set the engine in it in four days. Although outwardly the Brazilians considered them to be mad, many were also filled with admiration, especially for Fred Roberts, who obviously could communicate well in Portuguese. One man named his son Frederico. Their courage and confidence of heaven, if the worst happened, impressed many.
Into the unknown
The three set off to Nova Olinda and on up the Rio Riozinho. The Green Hell of legend; the dense forest spreads only along the rivers and is often waterlogged in the rainy season. Beyond the forest in the centre ground between the rivers the ground is higher and drier and covered in open grassland with scattered trees. The Kayapó were known to have their villages on this grassland, and came into the forest to hunt and down to the rivers to fish. Signs of Indian activity could be seen along the banks as they travelled cautiously on, but regrettably their engine would have been heard for miles. River dwellers can tell the identity and location of boats by the sound of their engines even when they are miles away. However, in the case of the Three Freds the Indians would have been aware of their presence even if they had been able to hire, or bribe, Brazilian paddlers brave enough. The dense foliage covering the banks completely and even reaching out over the water was a superfluity of cover for skilled spies.
The Rio Riozinho descends rapidly to fall over numerous rapids. Some low-level falls can be negotiated by skilled boatmen, but others can only be bypassed by cutting a path through the forest to reach the higher level above. One high rapid required a half a mile trek through the forest. Here the Freds cut round discs from a large log for wheels and made a simple trolley on which to lift their heavy canoe, to wheel and manoeuvre it over the rough ground between the trees, struggling to keep it moving over the many tree roots. At least they did not have to paddle against the strong current. It took eight days of proceeding in this way up the river; the silent forest close around them. The journey was notable for the sandflies that got in their clothing and covered them with sore lumps. At night they made a rudimentary camp, hanging their hammocks under a rainproof sheet. They cooked over a campfire, although this could attract unwelcome attention. After which it was the turn of the mosquitoes to feed on white man’s blood!
On the final day they heard the roar of water, that drowned the sound of their engine. There they saw before them a falling wall of water, throwing up swirling clouds of spray, stretched right across the river. This was the legendary Smoke Falls that was to prove the final barrier, 200 miles from Nova Olinda. The Freds came ashore by a small side channel where the water was relatively calm and moored their boat. Here they may have fished, because on these expeditions the amount of food that could be carried was limited and in the climate impossible to keep fresh. To get game and fish were the only possibilities for a reasonable meal. They probably climbed the path that skirted the falls to the higher level. One advantage of the sound from the falls would have been that the local Indians had not heard their motor. What the Three Freds did not know was a Catholic priest had beaten them to Smoke Falls a short time before. He had left the Indians gifts, and warned them that any other white man should not be treated as a friend. What happened next we can only imagine.
Living with Indians
Meanwhile Stanley and Ruth went to the River Gurupí among the Tembé Indians. The Gurupí was in full flood, and they made the journey upriver seeing only the tops of the trees above the water. In the village Stanley and Ruth set up their first home with the Indians around them. A young monkey joined the family; Stanley’s pet called José. Horace Banner, still single, was in charge with the shy young man Frank Houston. William and Kathy Johnston, who were later to serve with UFM in Scotland, were due to join them after language study. One positive feature of the Tembé was the growing of vegetables and fruit trees. However, their state was tragic, for half of them had died of influenza and measles in the previous few years. The pressure was on the missionaries to evangelise them, because for them and other tribes the time was running out. They were greeted every day by another tribe, the Ka’apor, who would come to the opposite bank of the river and make howling noises to frighten the white people. Horace insisted that the missionaries should come out on the riverbank and answer them in simple Portuguese sentences, as the Ka’apor language not yet been learnt by any one. This stand off continued for some weeks, but suddenly a ‘deputation’ of six Ka’apor warriors with their spears and their wives came into the village. This was a real break through in contact with this tribe.
Stanley and Ruth’s time with the Indians was to be short. Already expecting, Ruth became ill early in October. After experience with so many casualties, the policy was to act fast. Mabel Roberts had not been able to get medical help, because the river water was too low for the boats and the roads impossible. They left for the week long journey by canoes down the Gurupí in the launch called Evangel, having a rough ride as the boat shot between the barriers of rock on what water was available. The Indians steered them through the rapids, shouting to the patient “Hold on Dona Hooty” (Ruth). The baggage got wet from the spray but it was a welcome cooling experience after the humid heat upriver. Then they crossed the estuary by speedboat to Bragança, and on to the steam train to Santa Isabel and then to Belem and into hospital.
Meanwhile the missionaries all came together at Santa Isabel for a conference and a council member from London came as speaker. He was as noted for his large white walrus moustache, as being on the staff of All Nations college at Spa Hill, Upper Norwood. Their conferences could all be held around a large table, which made for intimacy of discussion and prayer, but rammed home the fact that they were very few to complete a gigantic task. Death had so easily depleted their small numbers at regular intervals.
At one point in her illness many thought Ruth might not survive the night, and the doctor recommended she should be got back to England. They had not contemplated going back to England, after all neither of them had been in Brazil long enough to have a furlough. Their only plan was to get Ruth well enough so that they might return to the Indians. Stanley went back to Santa Isabel, anxious and disappointed, to pack their things. Passages on the Hilary were booked, but she had to pretend to be well as she went on board, because third class passengers were not allowed to need medical attention on the Booth line.
What has happened?
Nothing had been heard of the Three Freds for a year and the Council in London called for volunteers, and it was suggested that Horace Banner and Jock Johnstone as two experienced workers go to search for them.
The three men had reached Smoke Falls and camped, and apparently tried to replenish their diminished stock of food by fishing. Then they had left their boat and climbed to above the falls. What happened next we can only imagine. Perhaps the Indians, startled or offended that white men had passed the Falls, reacted with instant violence. The Kayapó favour a long tampering club. Certainly, the Three Freds were hammered to death and shot through with arrows, one on one bank of the river the others on the other. Often they tortured their victims for long periods. This was admitted later by some of the Indians.
Their remains were never found, and no grave has been pointed out. The Indians found their canoe and motor and smashed and ruined them; anything detachable was stripped and thrown away and the wreck sunk in the channel. Many miles downstream passionate shadows of men diligently searched for the trolley and also smashed it to pieces, hurling the pieces into the undergrowth. In defiant mood the Kayapó set up camps for hundreds of their warriors near the river and built a shack across the canoe track the Freds had cut, for a sentry to watch down river.
Two years later pieces of a roll of easily recognizable cloth, sent by supporters in Britain as a gift for the Indians, was found among them. Strips of green canvas from their groundsheet were also seen.
Charles Spurgeon’s says in the book of daily readings called Faith’s Check Book, that when the Catholics burned the martyrs, the smoke which blew from the stake sickened men of Popery more than anything else. This sacrifice was to have its effect on the Indians too. Within two years of the martyrdom of the Three Freds the missionaries were making friendly contact with the Kayapó and some began to admit to being the killers. The work was not defeated but went on and continued among the Kayapó for decades.
Another advance in the evangelisation of Amazonia began in the vision of Billie and Margaret McComb to reach its south-west ‘corner’, a vast area, the furthest from the ocean yet already settled by many Brazilians. Having been active in the advance of the Heart of Amazon Mission from the beginning, they had been alerted to this area especially by the report of two Brazilian colporteurs. They formed the Acre Gospel Mission and returned to Brazil in 1937 with nurse Molly Harvey. They established themselves in Rio Branco, the chief town of the territory and started meetings on the edge of the town and a church was quickly formed. They found that the cost of living was very high, because everything beyond the most basic had to be shipped up from Manaus. They had the early disappointment of having four new workers leave the field for this reason.
Nevertheless, they were not content with this reaching down the Rio Acre from Rio Branco to both the Jamamadee Indians and the Brazilian river dwellers. They used a launch called Mensageiro to reach a number of rivers and townships in the area. The vast majority of these people had never heard the gospel, but the McCombs were surprised to find that national Christians were already reaching some parts of the area; a Presbyterian congregation and an isolated family of believers from Rio de Janeiro were found. The work of the Acre Mission extended downstream on the Rio Purus and founded a number of churches. In this way the great vision of bringing the gospel to the whole of Amazonia continued. UFM continues to work among the Indians and with its sister organization Missão Evangélica aos Índios do Brasil founded 1967. Later the Missão Evangélica da Amazônia in Roraima and the West Amazon Mission were formed. In the 1990s WEC returned to work among the Brazilian Indians with Projeto Amanajé on the Rio Negro with a team of more than thirty both Brazilian missionaries and Indian pastors working among a dozen Indian peoples.
- The Whole World for Jesus Now, original journal of WEC International, held in the library, Bulstrode, Gerrards Cross, Bucks, England.
- Banner, Horace, On the Trail of the Three Freds, London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1939.
- Banner, Horace, The Three Freds-Martyred Pioneers for Christ in Brazil, Marshall, Morgan & Scott (no date).
- Glass, Frederick C, Adventures with the Bible in Brazil, London: Pickering & Inglis, no date.
- Grubb Kenneth G, From Pacific to Atlantic, London: Methuen & Co, 1933.
- Grubb, Norman, The Journals of Earnest George Fenton Hall, London: WEC, 1926.
- Phillips, David J, Only One Life to Share, the time and life of Freda and those around her, private publication (2004).