In the late 1940s, Harold and Mary Williams and their children spent four years as missionaries in Bolivia. For their last year of their five-year term, they moved to Brazil as our first missionaries to that country. Our hope was that they would be able to determine whether or not there would be any way of breaking what seemed like impossible barriers in order to get a foothold to establish a movement in that great country.
During that year, they realized they were up against a formidable wall. At the time, Brazil was the most Catholic country in the world, with 98 percent of the population being Catholic. The Catholic Church was not just a denomination, but also the state church, which made them not just a church but also a political power.
In Brazil, the Williamses were finding themselves doing a lot of sowing and little reaping. After one year, they had given it their best, but the results were sparse. It seemed to them that their potential field of work was only two percent of the population—and that small number had a chip on their shoulders toward religion.
When the Williamses came home on furlough, our denominational board was considering sending them to another country rather than returning them to Brazil. Nonetheless, Harold returned to the U.S. for their furlough with the full intention to equip himself to return to Brazil. He seemed to have an insight that there was the possibility for our missions endeavor to become a mighty spiritual force.
While on furlough, Harold attended Billy Graham and Oral Roberts crusades, when those evangelists were both young men and in the prime of their ministries. He was getting great ideas that would be transferable to Brazil. One such concept dawned like a light in his mind, one night at a Billy Graham Crusade that was being conducted in a tent. Harold thought: Brazilians love circuses. I think they would be drawn to a circus tent for a revival.
Mary Williams remembers the Lord was putting it in Harold’s heart that there was something special on the horizon, but he could not have anticipated the degree to which it would ultimately develop. Little did he know how God was using him and his wife to lay the foundation for a work that in five decades would number 10,000 churches, adherents totaling several million, and 300 training centers located strategically throughout Brazil. Because of their work, pastors and leaders are being equipped to helm churches that are part of the vision of today’s generations. Even into the 21st century, the momentum in Brazil continues.
Mary, who is now a clear-minded lady of 98, still holds great love in her heart for Brazil and its people. I speak with her frequently, and she offers an account of the Brazil awakening as though it were yesterday.
Prayer and Fasting
While on furlough before the start of the revival, Harold was on an itinerary in the Midwest, where he stayed in the parsonage of a church in the area. During the morning when he was packing, the pastor walked into the room and pitched a booklet on top of his clothes. Harold put it in the back flap of the suitcase, which he seldom used, and closed his suitcase.
A little miracle was in the making, but Harold had no idea. It would be six months before he recognized it. When the Williams family returned to Sao Paulo, they began unpacking. Finally, he unpacked that suitcase and discovered the booklet. He couldn’t even remember how it got there.
After he was through unpacking, he was drawn to browse through the book. It was on a subject that was foreign to him, the importance of fasting and prayer.
Even if the book was not a classic or written by a famous person, Harold couldn’t put it down. It seemed the Lord spoke to his heart as he was reading: “This is for you. It will be the key to your ministry in Brazil. Take this seriously.”
Before he rose from his chair, he determined to fast the next three days, which was Friday through Sunday. That Sunday night, Harold was scheduled to be the guest speaker at a Presbyterian church made up mostly of Americans working and living in Sao Paulo. When he returned from that service, he excitedly told Mary that he had never felt the anointing of the Holy Spirit on his preaching as he did that night. Mary suggested that it might have been his fasting and prayer. Harold knew that was it.
He told Mary that starting the next Monday he was going to fast for a week. She volunteered to join him. At the end of that fast, they observed that the anointing on their ministry increased. A few weeks later, they began and completed a 14-day fast. The effects were beyond imagination. He not only was empowered, but also he was surprised by a God-given comprehension of the Brazilian culture, along with ideas that could be put into effect immediately to help advance the upcoming revival.
I present this last story as an example of the lasting effect of the crusade that started in the late 1940s. Just recently I was talking with a bivocational pastor/international banker from Sao Paulo and his wife, Sueli, also a pastor. I was telling them of my interest in what I called the Williams Revival and what I had already written about the Williams Crusade, as I call it, in their city of Sao Paulo. I could see Sueli getting emotional.
She began to share her firsthand knowledge of her family’s experience with the Williams Revival. Long before Sueli was born, her grandmother developed a terminal illness and was expected to live only a short time. In her desperation, she visited a voodoo witch doctor, with no results. Then a friend invited her to the tent where, she was told, they prayed for the sick. The friend told her that many of her neighbors had been healed there.
Sueli’s grandmother was reluctant but went despite the fierce objection of her religiously devout husband. In the course of the service, Harold Williams stopped the service and spoke to the audience: “There is a lady visiting tonight who has an illness near unto death. You have gone to a voodoo doctor in desperation, but you have come here tonight for healing. And you are being healed right at this moment.”
Her grandma knew that at that very moment she was miraculously, fully healed. She went on to live for many years, and ultimately her husband came to the Lord.
Now, three generations later, her granddaughter is a minister in the Brazilian church movement that was founded in the tent crusade in which her grandmother and grandfather came to Christ. The impact of that spiritual awakening has moved from one generation to another.
This is Part 3 of a three-part article series.
To read Part 1, Financial Provision, click here.
To read Part 2, Physical Healing and Angelic Intervention, click here.
By: Dr. Paul Risser, well-known for his pastor’s heart and love for people, is a former president of The Foursquare Church and a popular speaker who has traveled worldwide. This article is adapted from his new book, An Eye for Miracles: Be Surprised by the Hand of God, published by Foursquare Media, copyright 2010. Used by permission. This article may not be republished or redistributed in any form. An Eye for Miracles is available for purchase from Foursquare Media.