One of the first converts to Adventism in Brazil accepted the Sabbath truth through the actions of a criminal and a drunk.
The story begins in Europe. While studying the Bible in his youth, the German-speaking Guilherme Belz discovered that God made only the seventh day holy. This discovery surprised him because his family observed Sunday. Guilherme asked his mother about it, and she took him to a pastor. But his answer that Christ had changed the day of rest wasn’t very convincing. Guilherme set aside the subject.
However, he encountered the Bible’s teaching on the Sabbath again years later in a distant land.
In the late nineteenth century, Guilherme emigrated from Pomerania (a region in present-day Germany and Poland) to Brazil. He settled in the German colony now called Gaspar Alto, located near Brusque, and married Johanna, with whom he had six children. Here the curious story of his conversion unfolded.
Encyclopedia of Seventh-Day Adventists
A brand-new online Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists (ESDA) is now available at encyclopedia.adventist.org. Launched July 1 by the Seventh-day Adventist Church General Conference, the ESDA features over 2,200 articles on the history and structure, culture, theology, and more of the Adventist Church around the world. The content includes more than 4,000 photographs and other historically significant documents. Hundreds of new articles and photographs will be added to the encyclopedia in the upcoming weeks, months, and years. The ESDA draws on the expertise of hundreds of authors and editors worldwide from many cultures and ethnicities. It is a great tool, not only for those seeking to learn more about the Adventist Church but also for those looking to witness to others. The above story is based on a longer article from the encyclopedia.
Around 1878, a man named Borchardt committed a crime. He ran away from Brusque and began working on a ship that sailed between Europe and South America. In his travels, Borchardt met Adventist missionaries who asked him for an address to send literature to. He gave them the address of Carlos Dreefke, his stepfather, who lived in Brusque.
In 1880, a package containing 10 copies of Stimme der Wahrheit (the herald of truth), addressed to Carlos Dreefke, arrived at Davi Hort’s grocery store, where all mail was delivered. At first, Dreefke didn’t want it because he thought he would have to pay for it. However, Hort encouraged him to open it to see what it was about.
Finding magazines in the package, Dreefke distributed them to nine people who were interested in the subject, and they received each new issue that came. Before long, Dreefke wished to stop receiving these deliveries. A teacher named Chikiwidowsky took responsibility for the magazines and any costs. Later, Chikiwidowsky passed the responsibility to Dressler, a drunk in the area. This man, seeking money to buy drinks, requested more literature. Dressler sold some of it to traders, who used the paper to wrap goods. This is how the Adventist publications reached Guilherme Belz.
After shopping in Brusque, Guilherme noticed that the wrapping papers for his purchased goods bore German printing. He read it and pondered the information for several weeks. After a while, he came across the book Gedanken über das Buch Daniel, a German translation of Uriah Smith’s book Thoughts on Daniel, which dealt with the same subject on the wrapping paper. A chapter title caught Guilherme’s attention: “The Papacy Changes the Day of Rest.” Comparing the content of the materials to the Bible, he concluded that Sunday observance was a human tradition, and the seventh day is God’s Sabbath.
On the Saturday after coming to this realization, Guilherme couldn’t eat his breakfast because he didn’t feel comfortable going to work that day. When Johanna asked him what was wrong, Guilherme explained about the Sabbath. He decided not to go to work and invited his wife and his younger children to join him in honoring God. Although they didn’t accept it immediately because they did not understand the matter, they observed the first Sabbath soon after, around 1890. His older married children didn’t accept it easily—“Emília, the oldest, never accepted” the Adventist message. However, the Adventist community records the Belz family as the first Sabbath keepers in Brazil—before any Adventist missionaries arrived!
Through the testimony of the Belz family, their neighbors began to keep the Sabbath. Around 1894 these Sabbath keepers were discovered by Albert Bachmeyer, a canvasser.
Albert shared his discovery with the missionary W. H. Thurston, who had recently arrived in Rio de Janeiro. Thurston contacted Frank Westphal, the first ordained pastor designated to work in South America, who was in Argentina at that time. Westphal arrived in Brusque on May 30, 1895, and baptized the converts, who formed the first Seventh-day Adventist church in Brazil.
God had His way to lead a seeker to the truth. Through unusual instruments, He provided means for the gospel to come to hearts that craved more light.
This article was prepared for the new online Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists (ESDA) by the Brazilian White Center—UNASP, a team of teachers and students at the Brazilian Ellen G. White Research Center at the Brazilian Adventist University. The team was supervised by Drs. Adolfo Semo Suárez, Renato Stencel, and Carlos Flávio Teixeira.
1. Michelson Borges, A chegado Adventismo ao Brasil (Tatuí, SP: Cas Publicador Brasileira, 2000), 59.
2. Henry Francisco Westphal, Pionero em Sudamérica (Libertador San Martín, ER: Universidad Adventista del Plata, 1997), 23.
3. Michelson Borges, “O pioneiro do Brasil,” Revista Adventista, November 2005, 9.
4. Borges, A chegada do Adventismo ao Brasil, 59–61.
5. Germano Streithorst, “O início de nossa Obra,” Revista Adventista, March 1958, 29, 30; E. H. Meyers, “Uma Recapitulação dos Começos na América do Sul,” Revista Mensal, October 1928, 4, 5.
6. Meyers, “Uma Recapitulação dos Começos na América do Sul,” 4, 5; Floyd Greenleaf, Terra de Esperança: O Crescimento da Igreja Adventista na América do Sul (Tatuí, SP: Casa Publicadora Brasileira, 2011), 25.
7. Meyers, “Uma Recapitulação dos Começos na América do Sul,” 4, 5.
9. L. H. Olson, “Progressos da Obra na América do Sul,” Revista Adventista, September 1956, 3, 4; G. Streithorst, “Santa Catharina,” Revista Adventista, December 1924, 10; Greenleaf, Terra de Esperança, 25; Borges, A chegada do Adventismo ao Brasil, 59–61.
10. Borges, A chegada do Adventismo ao Brasil, 59–61; Henry Francisco Westphal, Pionero em Sudamérica (Libertador San Martín, ER: Universidad Adventista del Plata, 1997), 23.
11. Isolina A. Waldvogel, História de nossa Igreja (Tatuí, SP: Casa Publicadora Brasileira, 1965), 308.
12. Meyers, “Uma Recapitulação dos Começos na América do Sul,” 4, 5; Rubens S. Lessa, “Nossa Trajetória,” Revista Adventista, August 2009, 23.