When she lost her husband in 2014, Maria Petrina Gomes was, understandably, very sad. An Adventist since 1983 who lives in the city of Itabuna, in the south of Brazil’s Bahia state, she sought out a means of ameliorating her grief.
“I thought, ‘Look, I'm going to write. I will transcribe the Bible! I'm not going to do it in my own words, I'm going to copy it, '” she said. Since then, Maria has set aside a few hours each week to read and copy every word in the Scriptures.
At the end of June 2020, she turned 79. Maria continues her hand-copying, from the New Translation in Today's Language (“Nova Tradução na Linguagem de Hoje” in Portuguese) version of the Bible. It’s a modern-language version similar to the popular “Today’s English Version” published by the American Bible Society.
Copying from the Old Testament, Maria has already reached the book of Daniel and, from the New Testament, the gospel according to Luke. The portions transcribed so far have been bound in three volumes.
“For me, it is a good thing because I am both writing and learning,” Maria said. “It is very good because I have this wonderful contact with the Word of the Lord.”.
This personal project has inspired her family. Aryedna, Maria’s granddaughter, speaks admiringly of her grandmother's dedication. “Wherever she travels, her suitcase may be overcrowded, but she finds a way to take her Bible...with sheets of paper and pens. Wherever she is, she stops for a little while, even if it is to write five verses, but she stops. I think it's beautiful. Sometimes, she recites and shares with us the lessons she has just learned from reading,” Aryedna said.
Along with spiritual comfort, Maria said the habit of writing helped her remember her student days when her teacher taught her the first letters. “I'm close to 80. When I get older, I could stop writing and lose that beautiful thing, that ease, but thank God my handwriting is still beautiful,” she says excitedly. “For me, the best thing in life is to write the Word of the Lord. I feel fulfilled.”
“All for the Word”, in any circumstance
In 2019, the East Brazil Union (União Leste Brasileira), administrative headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church covering the states of Bahia and Sergipe, proposed that the next five-year period should focus on Bible study, Christian living, and teaching. Since then, Church activities have been carried out with a focus on “Everyone for the Word.”
This year, with the arrival of the new coronavirus in the region, some actions such as Bible classes, for example, had to be restructured to guarantee the safety of students and teachers, without interrupting the learning process.
In the south of Bahia, a “Digital Biblical Class” was launched, allowing instructors to share the lessons of the course “Listening to the Voice of God ” via video call. In addition, the series “Meditating on the voice of God” was produced, consisting of videos with reflections on each topic covered in the study. According to data from the Personal Ministry and Evangelism of the Bahia Sul Conference, the Church's headquarters for the region, currently, 271 virtual Bible classes are active there.
For the evangelism leader in southern Bahia, Pastor Ulisses Mendes, the beginning of the pandemic brought challenges. “Our style of preaching is with personal contact, through missionary pairs, Bible classes, public evangelism, and we think about how we could preach in a time of isolation, far from people. Even in the midst of this situation, we had a significant increase in the number of brothers involved in the mission of the Church.” he said.
According to him, “before, we had around 10 percent of our members involved. During the pandemic, we had 29.2 percent of members giving Bible studies to another person or to several people, setting up digital Bible classes. We saw the hand of God leading us even through tragedies.”
On the Church's agenda in the States of Bahia and Sergipe, the following project to encourage the study of the Bible was " the Manna Project (Projeto Maná).” The movement had Sunday, August 16, as "D-day", which was marked by an online task force of sign-ups for the Bible study guide, the weekly Sabbath School lesson. The task force was launched in a live broadcast on official Church channels in that region.