Mary Swedenburg, was born in Reform, Pickens County, Alabama, and grew up in Hueytown, Jefferson County, Alabama. Her ties have been so close and strong to Pickens County that we have called her our own missionary.
She has warm memories of Addie Estelle Cox and the churches in Pickens County where she visited often with her father James (Jim) R. Swedenburg, Sr., who pastored here. Mary believes that Addie Cox was the key to her Dad’s love for missions and ultimately for hers. She remembers that Cross Roads Baptist, one of the churches where he pastored, collected money for Addie to carry a bicycle back with her to China. This church was always active in praying for missionaries.
Mary later considered Addie Cox to be her model – her mentor. She remembered that she and her sister Martha stopped on one occasion at Addie’s home in Carrollton when Addie was on furlough. Addie gave her a Chinese Gospel of John and took up so much time with them that Mary remembers even today how special it was to spend time with Miss Addie.
To understand Mary’s story, it will be helpful to us to look back at her family and her upbringing. Her father James Swedenburg, Sr., was from the Millport area and her mother, Trannie Ola was from Kennedy with many relatives in Pickens County. The Swedenburg family was sharecroppers in Millport and from this humble beginning went on to touch many lives over our association, the State of Alabama, and eventually over the world. Bro. Jim Swedenburg quit school to be a barber. It was then that he felt the call by God and knew that he would need to go back to school to be prepared to be a pastor. He became bi-vocational and although he had opportunities to enter the business world, he knew that God had called him as a “preacher.”
As you read this post, these persons—Buddy and Emily Kirk, Cynthia Colvin, Billy Thomas, and Mac and Jeanne Fuqua, from our association are in Brazil on a mission trip. They are being led by Dr. Cecil Taylor, professor of Religion at the University of Mobile. Did you know that our mission heritage in Brazil dates back 126 years, very near the beginning of Baptist work there?
The story goes like this. Following the loss of the South in the Civil War several planters and their families moved to Brazil to continue their plantation lifestyle. Some were Baptists and wanted missionaries to come to Brazil and establish work. (Many of them located in the southern part of the country near San Paulo.)
At first, beginning in 1871, Southern Baptists worked with these immigrants by establishing English speaking congregations. Among the early preachers was a Jewish convert, Solomon Ginsberg. He evangelized in several of the South American countries. His biography is titled The Wandering Jew. Presbyterian and Methodist English speaking churches were formed during this time. And soon American Protestant missionaries were being sent to Brazil.
Brazil was a colony of Portugal and consequently Roman Catholicism was the dominant form of Christianity there. Protestantism was often persecuted. As in most of the world, religious freedom was not accepted by the government. The conflict began as missionaries began to seek to win converts from among the natives and from Portuguese speaking persons of European heritage. Since Vatican II in the early 1960s persecution has largely subsided. Since then Pentecostalism has experienced great success in Latin America. Our Baptist work has grown and the Brazil Baptist Convention is a strong one. Yet there is still much to be done. Truly, the fields there are proving to be “white unto harvest.”
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Hours for donations to help storm victims at the reception center of Pickens Baptist Association are:
- May 18 – closed
- May 19 – 9am-2pm
- May 20 – 9am-5pm
- May 21 – 9am-2pm
- May 22 – closed
- May 23 – 9am-2pm
- May 24 – 9am-2pm
- May 25 – closed
It is very possible that we will not be receiving donations here after this date. But donations can be taken to the Baptist Center in Stansel from 9 to 2pm on weekdays.
Reform Community Meeting with FEMA Team on Thursday, May 26 at 7pm at First Baptist Church Reform, Alabama. Everyone invited. Those with storm damage are urged to attend. The process for applying for assistance will be moderated during the event.