Gerald and Mary Holmquist
Jerry was born to Fred and Olive Holmquist, who farmed near Forest Lake. Fred was the one who prepared the Incorporation Articles of the Forest Lake Church. He was also an extraordinary singer, even serving thus late in life. Jerry inherited this talent. He was an active person in the Church, especially in Youth activities. He entered Minnesota Bible College and was one of the first ministers of the Circle Pines Church.
Mary's family moved to Forest Lake, and she, like Jerry, was an active worker in the Church programs. They married and served churches in the U.S.A. Until November, 1959. Then they sailed for Campinas, Brazil, to begin language study. Then followed years of hard but exceptional work in several areas. Great numbers were reached for Christ. Churches have been built, ministers and teachers trained. It was November 16th, 1959. The stillness of the evening was broken by the chugging of the tugboats as they pushed the Argentina Maru, a Japanese immigrant ship, out of the Long Beach, California, harbor. On board were more than nine hundred Japanese immigrants and a few Americans. Among them was Gerald Holmquist, his wife, Mary and their four children, traveling to Brazil to serve as missionaries.
After a pleasant, 24-day voyage which took them through the Panama Canal, the ship docked in Santos harbor. Upon clearing customs, they traveled inland by bus to the modern city of Campinas, population 200,000. There they enrolled in the Language and Orientation School for missionaries.
The first two weeks were spent with the John Nichols family, also Church of Christ missionaries. Then a Baptist missionary family asked them to house-sit while they traveled. Christmas was near and Mary was secretly dreading it. She wondered how it would be possible to have a merry Christmas when no one could speak the language and a house had not ye been found to rent. Besides that, there were fleas in the beds (due to dogs)! But just before dawn on Christmas morning the family was awakened by the strains of the age-old carol, “Joy to the World”, sung beautifully in English by a group of Brazilians on the front porch. As the last words faded away, so did Mary's sadness. God was obviously caring for His own, even in far-off South America. Everybody bounced out of bed, opened presents, and rejoiced in the fact that joy HAD come to the world through Jesus Christ and that very morning, specifically to them. It was He who had directed them to Brazil and all was well. (Later that day it was learned that the serenade-rs were teachers from the Language School).
Soon after Christmas, a new house was found to rent, just the right size and close to the Language School. Language study began on January 18th. Rochia, 10, and Dennis, 8, were placed in public school and Relda Lee, 5, attended kindergarten while Dean, 3, played happily at home. Graduation from Language School took place in December, 1960.
In early March, 1961, the family moved to Anapolis, a city of 60,000, in the heart of the country. An old house was found 8 kilometers out in the country in which to live while building a house in town. The first Sunday School was held in the new house on July 23rd, 1961. Boards were placed on kerosene cans to serve as pews. (It was a musical Sunday School as someone always manged to kick a can.) In January of 1962, an evening service was added. The house soon became crowded, so a lot was purchased and a small chapel put up.
March called for more rejoicing as another church was opened in Ouro Verde, a village 25 kilometers away. Meetings were held on Sunday afternoons in the home of Julia Bernardes da Costa, a widowed mother of ten. The older boys dashed out the back door and headed for the soccer field when they heard the 1931 Model A car coming. However, the whole family eventually became Christian. (Lucas, the youngest boy, preached at age 14. Iron, the oldest, is a fine pastor today and leads the first Church of Anapolis. Iran, a graduate of Emanuel School of Religion, Johnson City, Tennessee, is currently head of the Bible College in Brasilia.) After moving to a rented building, a Friday night service was also added.
From July to October of 1962, Gerald spent a few days each month helping the new work in Brasilia until David Sanders returned from furlough.
In November of 1962, a third church was opened in Nova Abadiania, a village about 25 kilometers northeast of Anapolis on the Brasilia highway.
Near the end of 1963, the mission work was temporarily placed in the hands of Lew Cass, a fellow-missionary. The Holmquists left on December 9th for their first furlough, almost exactly fours years after arriving. The children were on summer vacation from school at the time. The “flash-furlough” gave just enough time to report to all supporting churches and to visit family. A delay, due to reservation problems, caused the return to Brazil on April 1st. The plane was scheduled to land in Rio de Janeiro where a transfer to a Brasilia flight was confirmed. However, airports were closed and all transportation was at a standstill. The country was in the midst of a revolution: Permission was granted to land in Campinas and a chartered bus tool all passengers to Sao Paulo where each was left to shift for himself. By April 3rd a flight became available to the interior. The military forces had things under control and the Communist-leaning president had been ousted. It was an exciting way to begin a second term.
In June 1966, a fourth church was started in the Alexandrina section of Anapolis led by men from the first church. Services were held in a rented building until a lot was purchased and a building built with mission funds.
Three of the churches continued to grow well and by June of 1968 Brazilian leaders had been installed in each. Nova Abadiania was an exception. This town proved to be rocky ground and in April of 1968 the work was closed.
A second furlough began in June of 1968 with a flight to Arizaon where two weeks were spent with Mary's family in Casa Grande. After summer speaking appointments and attendance at the North American Christian Convention, the family traveled to Brainerd, Minnesota, to celebrate Mom and Da Holmquist's fiftieth wedding anniversary on August 6th.
The last of August, residence was established in Joplin, Missour. It was a special privileged to live on the campus of Ozark Bible College and serve as campus missionaries. Rochia had already completed her first year there. Gerald and Mary took a full-time schedule of classes. Gerald also taught missions. In May, 1969, he was awarded the [BSL] degree.
In July, Gerald received a special outpouring of the Spirit, resulting in a much closer walk with the Lord and a more fruitful ministry in Brazil.
On July 25th, Gerald, Mary, Relda Lee, and Dean returned to Anapolis. (Rochia had transferred to San Jose Bible College in California and Dennis was living by himself in an apartment in Joplin and taking his last year of high school.)
From July to November, Gerald held nine revival meetings in the central Brazil churches. The last was in Silvania. A new convert from Pires do Rio, a town of 15,000 inhabitants located 140 kilometers southeast of Goiania, the state capital, was there and mentioned to Geraldo that Pires do Rio needed a Church of Christ. The result was a move to Pires in November. The first service was held December 14th, the same day that Rochia was married in California. An abondoned Methodist building was purchased and an inaugural campaign was held January 21st to 25th, 1970. (The re-opening of that building was the answer to petitions of a small group that had for quite some time been praying for that purpose.) by the end of the 1970, the church had grown to 33 members and another group was preparing for baptism. Sunday School averaged 50 for the year. Gerald and Mary ministered in Pires for two and one-half years until time for a third furlough which began in May, 1972. At that time, Wade and Carolyn Pope arrived and gave leadership for about a year. After a summer of re-visiting supporting churches on behalf of Brazil missions, the family returned again to Joplin, Missouri. Relda enrolled as a freshman at Ozark Bible College and Mary re-entered to complete work toward a BSL degree which was awarded to her in May, 1973.
At the 1972 National Missionary Convention in Norfolk, Virginia, Gerald was chosen as president for the 1973 convention scheduled in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Dean had preceded them in August to return in time for classes to begin at the boarding school in Ceres.
Neropolis, a town 28 kilometers north of Goiania, became the next center of activity. A 160-acre farm at the edge of town had previously been purchased with inheritance funds looking forward to the move to that locality to start another church. Iron Bernades da Costa and family moved there from Ouro Verde to administer the farm. Both families worked together to start the new church in town.
During most of 1974, after the Popes returned to the United States, Gerald also traveled regularly to Pires do rio to give instructions and encouragement to that local church leadership. This continued until January of 1975 when Ulysses Borges de Oliveira was installed as pastor. Robert Yawberg, pastor of the Broadway Christian Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, preached the installation service.
Since Gerald and Mary were both raised in rural Minnesota, life on the farm was a delightful experience. However, as time passed, the farm began robbing more and more of the time that should have been directed toward the work to which they had been called. After much prayer in seeking guidance, the decision was made to sell the farm and return to the United States. Iron continued to minister to the Neropolis congregation until receiving a call to a church in Uberlandia which had been started by the Harry Scates family. (Uberlandia is a principle city in the state of Minas Gerais.)
After returning to the Unites States in May of 1977, Gerald and Mary were called to minister to the Grey Avenue Church in Yuba City, California. Two happy years were spent with that church and another five months assisting the Missouri Flat Church in Placerville, California.
While in Placerville, both felt a growing burden for the church in Brazil. God's clear direction came in the form of letters from Harry Scates and Iron and the church in Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, expressing the desire, and giving an invitation for them to return to Brazil to work with the church there.
Permanent resident status had been forfeited due to being absent from Brazil more than two years. It was necessary to start again from scratch on the long documentation process. After more than six months of waiting, two-year visas were granted with the promise of receiving an extension at the end of that time. The couple arrived in Uberlandia in August of 1980.
An extended fruitful ministry with the Christian body in Uberlandia was anticipated. However, an invitation came from the Anapolis church that altered plans. The first church they had started in 1961 was then without a pastor, none was available and they direly needed someone to fill the gap. With the blessing of the Uberlandia congregation, the move was made in February 1981. Initially an apartment was supplied for Gerald and Mary, located on the lower level of the church building. However, with a renewed spirit, the church began growing. It was soon evident that the space would be needed for church activities so a house was built with the money left over from selling the farm several years previously.
In July of 1982 an application was made for an extension of their temporary visas. Again, assurance was given that there would be no difficulty. However, months went by with no response. The year of 1982 bowed out and 1983 came in with still no work on the promised documents. On the morning of February 9th, Mary was home alone when a small Volkswagen pulled up in front of the house. The door-bell rang and as she opened the door, she was greeted by a Federal policeman who inquired if that was where pastor Gerald lived. The next question was, “Do you have any children that were born in Brazil?” When she heard that, she knew there must be a problem with documents. The policeman said they must appear at the police headquarters downtown that afternoon at 2 o'clock. As he drove away, Mary went to her bedroom and on her knees cried out to God, “Please, God, I need some kind of an answer. What's happening?” She then took a verse out of the promise bos, it read: “...and I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God, who bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” She then phone Gerald at the church office. At 2 p.m. They were handed an official notice stating that they were to leave the county within eight days. Visa extension had been denied. No explanation or reason was given. The people who handed them the notice were very sympathetic and apologetic. They were simply carrying out their required orders.
Within 5 days, Gerald and his wife were ready to leave, still not knowing why but confident that God is in full control. A family was found to live in the house. Gerald had made a trip to Sao Paulo to purchase plane tickets. (Matters were more complicated because of Carnaval, a national festival due to begin in a few days.) At 5:30 p.m. On Monday, February 14th, amidst a crowd of well-wishers and tearful Christians, they left the Goiania airport, wondering if they would ever be permitted to return.
Their first desire, after arriving in Miami, was to go to Arizona to see Mary's mother and step-father, Frank and Faye Bunten. They were pleasantly surprised to find both sons, Dennis and Dean, there visiting the grandparents. Paper work for acquiring new visas was begun almost immediately. Educational records from all schools attended, health exams, police clearances, photographs, documents proving financial stability , birth certificates, marriage certificates, ordination certificate, as well as piles or other information had to be gathered and presented to the Brazilian Consulate. Each document had to be notarized in the state it was issued.
While struggling with documentation, time was spent in visiting churches to strengthen the support structure of the mission. Carious churches were assisted in Faith Promise Rallies, Vacation Bible Schools, and Revivals. It was also possible to attend a Renewal Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, the National Missionary Convention. One special family happening made possible by this forced furlough occurred in August. Mary's mother was to celebrate her 80th birthday the 28th. All children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were planning to be present. However, celebration plans were drastically altered by the sudden death of Mary's step-father on the 23rd. She was with her mother at that very moment. It took nearly one year of combined efforts of the church in Anapolis and the Holmquist's to work through the proper government channels to obtain the visas. These were finally granted by the Brazilian Consulate in Chicago on January 23rd, 1984. They were for a one-year period. (Permanent visas were finally issued in early 1988.) The following day, Mary and Gerald left for Brazil, arriving in Goiania January 25th. A large crowd from the church in Anapolis was waiting to greet them as well as their daughter, Relda, and some of her co-workers from the “Youth Set Free” drug rehabilitation ministry. They all returned in a caravan the 50 kilometers to Anapolis and went directly to the church where a prayer meeting was in progress. Many prayers of praise and thanks were offered that night. Soon things were back to normal in the Anapolis ministry. While the Holmquist's were in the States, the church had called Waldir Garcia Pires and family to assist in the work. He was one of the first of the “Timothys” to be sent by that church to study for the ministry.
In the spring of 1984, Dennis Holmquist, his wife, Leslie, and their children, Annette and Andrew, visited their parents. Since most missionaries seldom see their grandchildren, it was a very special time for all. Leslie had at one time served with Wycliffe Bible Translators so she was able to renew some past acquaintances. On her birthday, February 4th, 1985, Relda became engaged to Fernando Nogueira, one of the workers in the drug rehabilitation ministry. The wedding took place in the Anapolis church September 21st. Dean, his wife, Judy and 17-month Leah Beth were the only family members able to attend.
Toward the end of 1985, the Anapolis church called Iron Bernardes da Costa to serve as one of the pastors. He and his family moved to Anapolis from Uberlandia in December. Gerald and Mary had been sensing for some time that God was about to lead them to another field of service. A visit to Itapuranga, 160 kilometers northwest of Goiania, resulted in a move there on November 7th. A few days later, Joaquim Pereira da Silva and family arrived from Ipameri to join forces in starting a new church. Much groundwork had already been done by Samuel de Castro, director of a local bank, and his wife, Abadia. They had built a chapel large enough to seat 250. The church explode in growth from the very beginning and in just two and one-half years, membership climbed to over 600. One of the reasons for such rapid growth was the influence of the popular daily radio program called “Lunch With God. One day Divino, director of the station, asked Gerald, “Why don't you buy the station?” He initially scoffed at the idea for he had no money for such an impossible venture. However, God began laying it on his heart that through His power such a transaction was a real possibility. The Lord directed him to go to visit relatives and friends, offering them the opportunity to share in buying “Springtime Radio Station.” On February 12th, 1986 an agreement was reached with the previous owners and Gerald's 1982 Ford was accepted as down payment.
During the eleven weeks of March, April, and May spent in the United States, Gerald and Mary traveled 15,000 miles. They talked with over 100 individuals and to 14 churches, presenting the challenge of acquiring the Itapuranga radio station. Most who heard the story were convinced that the project was the leading of God so gave generously toward the $35,000.00 purchase price.
The Holmquist's continue to plant new churches. Their last move was April 19th, 1988 to Inhumas, a city of 50,000 located 40 kilometers northwest of Goiania. A building was rented in the heart of the city. It had previously been a well-known restaurant. The first service in the new facility was held August 12th with pastor Ulysses of Pires do Rio preaching. Present also were Robert Yawberg, pastor of Broadway Christian Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and John and Leslie Kindler, member of Broadway and forwarding agents for the Holmquist's.
The seed planted in each place over the years grows, spreads and produces. The Pires do Rio church has especially been productive. Under the capable leadership of Ulysses Borges de Oliveira, the pastor, the congregation has grown to 1000. A radio station was put on the air in 1981 and this year a Bible College was started. Eighteen churches share a common bond with Pires do Rio. Ten are daughter churches started directly by its efforts. Five are granddaughters and three have received special assistance.
This group of churches work together and share a common goal to grow to at least 50 churches by the end of the century. Since this fellowship of churches is an outgrowth of the Holmquist's initial efforts, they are committed to assist the present Brazilian