History of BFM by H.H. Overbey (circa 1950)

H. H. Overbey wrote this undated article or letter apparently in response to an inquirer asking about Baptist Faith Missions. 

We are dating it ‘circa 1950’ because in the text of the letter, he states with reference to Brother R. P. Hallum: ‘In 1946 he made application to this mission and was accepted and went back to Peru in 1947.’  Then, referring back to the work in Brazil, he further states: ‘Just a few months ago, Brother Lawrence Smith, his wife, and baby went to Brazil as missionaries.’  

He also explains in this same letter how the missionaries’ newsletters came to be called ‘The Mission Sheets’.

This text is excerpted from the fuller original letter because in it he was also describing some of the logistics employed at that earlier time (for example, correspondence between the fields and the States and how the missionaries received their support funds, etc.) which have since been updated and streamlined – but our founding convictions, distinctives, and principles all remain the same.

We believe you will find it to be still very interesting “INFORMATION ABOUT BAPTIST FAITH MISSIONS”.

by Bro. H.H. Overbey (circa 1950)

How did this mission begin?
In 1923, J.F. Brandon went to Brazil with his family as a missionary under the Amazon Valley Baptist Faith Missions, which was started by Brother H.B. Taylor, who died about 1932.

After about 5 years on the field, Brother Brandon returned to the U.S. on furlough. He resigned from the AVBFM and went back to Brazil being supported full time by the First Baptist Church—Paducah, Kentucky—of whom the late Brother D.B. Clapp was pastor.

After four years Brother Brandon again returned on furlough and the First Baptist Church had split and part of the membership had organized another church, so the First Baptist Church gave up the support of Brother Brandon.

The Benton Baptist Church—Benton, Kentucky—of which Brother Dewey Jones was pastor sent Brother Brandon back assuming his support. Other churches joined in with the Benton Church and helped in the support. Brother Jones began to want the church to give up the work and to support the Co-operative Program instead, and in 1941 got the Benton church to vote to do so. This left Brother Brandon without support.

The writer lived in Wheaton, Illinois at that time and wrote to Brother Brandon to come visit in his home and discuss the work. Brother Brandon came and stayed for about two weeks and we discussed the work every night after I would get home from work.

Finally I told Brother Brandon that if he would write a letter to me about the work, I would mimeograph the letter and mail it out to those interested and since he was going on faith we would also go on faith on this end of the line and try to get churches and individuals to support him.

Brother Brandon and I came to Detroit and discussed the matter with Brother Z.E. Clark who was then pastor of Harmony Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. Brother Clark agreed to act as treasurer, I agreed to act as secretary and editor of the paper, and Brother Brandon went back to Brazil in 1942 on faith, believing that the Lord would supply.

In 1942 we sent out the first mimeographed letter, one sheet printed on one side to about 30 people. The next month we sent out more and the next a few more. The mimeographed sheet grew to be two sheets printed on both sides which made four pages. Someone referred to the mimeographed letters as the MISSION SHEETS, and that is how the paper got its name.  Finally we began to print the paper and then we enlarged the size of it as it is today.

What has J.F. Brandon accomplished in Brazil?
Brother Brandon has organized 11 Baptist churches in Brazil. He organized the first one in Cruzeiro do Sul in 1929, the second one in Japyni in 1951. Both of these are in the Acre Territory of Brazil. In 1932 he organized the third church at Coary and the fourth one in Esperanco, in 1934 he organized the fifth one in Codajaz. The sixth church was organized at Boa Fe in 1935. In 1935 he organized the church at Catua. These last five churches are all in the State of Amazonas and were taken away from Brother Brandon by the Convention in 1939. In 1943 he organized a church at Morapirango which was the eighth church, then in 1944 one at Parana and in 1946 one at Amonho for the ninth and tenth ones. These last three are in the Acre Territory, the same as the first two organized. Then on July 4, 1948, he organized the eleventh and last church at Manaus which is the capitol of the State of Amazonas.

In addition to these churches Brother Brandon had as many as thirty preaching points where he visited on journeys to take the gospel.

In 1949 Brother Brandon came back to the States with leprosy and is now a patient in the U.S. Marine Hospital in Carville, Louisiana, which is a hospital for lepers. This mission supports him and his wife and two youngest daughters, who are at home in school with their mother in Benton, Kentucky.

What about the work in Peru?
In 1935 Brother R.P. Hallum, his wife, and 15 year-old daughter went to Peru under the Amazon Valley Baptist Faith Mission, the same as Brother Brandon did in 1925. Brother Taylor had died and there were several thousand dollars left in the treasury.

Brother Hallum worked in Peru and organized the First Baptist Church in Iquitos, Peru and opened several preaching points on the nearby rivers that empty into the Amazon River.

No one took over when Brother Taylor died and Brother Hallum continued his work under the AVBFM until the funds that were left in the treasury ran out. In 1946 he made application to this mission and was accepted and went back to Peru in 1947.

He opened up a preaching point on his way back in Buenaventura, Colombia, and left it in charge of a native Baptist Colombian preacher. Since then, a church has been organized in that place also. There is also a native Peruvian preacher who is a missionary who works with Brother Hallum in Iquitos.

So as of today, we have works in Brazil, Peru, and Colombia, which was started as explained above. Just a few months ago, Brother Lawrence Smith, his wife, and baby went to Brazil as missionaries and he is doing well with the language and is now ready to make a visit to the churches in the Acre territory and see how the work is coming along and to encourage the saints who have been alone since Brother Brandon left. 

How are the new missionaries sent out?
They go out under the authority of the church of which they are a member. They apply to this mission and the directors of the mission. These brethren question the new missionaries and if they find them to be sound, etc., they are accepted and then they are sent out on faith with the understanding that they will be supported as the Lord provides.

How is the Mission financed?
By freewill offerings from the churches and individuals who the Lord leads to give. No one is asked to give, no one is obligated to give, and those who give can quit giving if they want to without any interference from anyone.

How do those who support the churches know what the missionaries are doing?
They read letters which are directly from the missionaries in the monthly paper telling about the work from month to month and what is being accomplished, etc. This way every supporter gets a monthly letter from all the missionaries.

How can one support the work?
All a church or individual has to do to support the work is to send their offerings to the Treasurer… The mission work is as much theirs as it is ours or anyone else’s. There is nothing to join or unjoin and no one is obligated. It is a Baptist Faith Mission work.

Isn’t it possible for a church to send out and support their own missionary without having to have a mission such as Baptist Faith Missions?
Yes. But how would they do it? Or how many would do it? That would be the ideal way if the church was large enough to support their own missionary themselves. However, sometimes when a church changes pastors, the new pastor may now want to support missions that way and lead the church to do otherwise and then the missionary is without support.

Also there is so much red tape to sending out a missionary and keeping up with the work that it is more than a church can or will do…although we believe it to be sound and right.

[Download a BFM History by HH Overbey.]