Prayer Changing History

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Solomon Ginsburg| Photo used by permission of International Mission Board

Gather together, yes gather, o shameless nation,

before the decree takes effect —

before the day passes away like chaff–

before there comes upon you the burning anger of the lord,

before there comes upon you the day of the anger of the lord.

seek the lord, all you humble of the land,

who do his just commands;

seek righteousness; seek humility;

perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord.

Zephaniah 2:1-3

These words of the Lord were spoken by the Jewish prophet Zephaniah hundreds of years before Christ, but they might well have been spoken by another Jewish prophet, Solomon Ginsburg, who warned the people of Brazil of God’s judgment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Following his conversion to Christianity in London, this Polish Jew witnessed to his fellow Jews, to ghetto youngsters, and to anyone else who would listen to him. He encountered fierce persecution, but time and again God spared his life – a sign, he was convinced, that God had a divine mission for him. As he prayed about ministry, Brazil “seemed to loom up with outstretched arms.” With the financial help of a woman who had previously served as a missionary in Brazil, he secured his passage, and was then commissioned by a group of ministers, including Hudson Taylor of the China Inland Mission.

Once in Brazil, Ginsburg quickly became involved in ministry, selling Bibles and tracts and preaching – sometimes attracting as many as five thousand people. Like Jewish prophets before him, his words were often focused on people who had a form of religion but not a religion of the heart. Once again he encountered intense opposition – often from Roman Catholic leaders who believed he was infringing on their turf.

In 1891, Ginsburg joined the Southern Baptists, and two years later he and his wife began a church planting ministry in Campos. They began their work with thirty believers, and in the decades that followed hundreds of congregations and preaching places were established in the region. But success only invited further opposition. More than once assassins were hired to take his life, but they failed to carry out their assignments.

One such assassin was Captain Antonio Silvino, a notorious bandit. One night he knocked at Ginsburg’s door. Convinced that this was the end, he whispered a final prayer and went to the door, only to discover that the hired bandit who had planned to kill him while he was preaching had been so convicted by the message he was unable to do so. Now he was at the door to seek God’s mercy. Again Ginsburg had been spared. Later a letter came from a women’s prayer group in Americus, GA, saying they had been praying for him that day – the very day that Silvino came to be converted rather than to kill God’s Jewish prophet.

                                                              —by Ruth Tucker

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