Missionary Update: Harold Bratcher on Permanent Furlough from Brazil [December 2013]

Harold Bratcher served the Lord in the Amazon Valley for 52 years from July 15, 1959 through December 29, 2012. His dear wife, Marie, faithfully served with him for 51 years until her death in February 2011. The Bratchers organized over 20 Baptist churches and many other missions in Brazil. He is now on permanent furlough in Kentucky, still in the service of the Savior.

December 10, 2013

Dear Brothers of the Blessed Lord and Sisters of the Savior:

Once again we greet you, not from the Amazon Valley of Brazil, South America, but from our permanent cold 30 degrees and cloudy Kentucky home where the sun is not shining bright right now. We thank The Lord for our new warm home in Lexington, Kentucky, in the Hamburg area, off Polo Club Blvd, close to the new Costco, which we have been in now for 11 weeks. Notice our new address below. We praise and thank The Lord from whom all blessings flow.

This Mission Sheets month began November 9 and finishes today. During this period I heard 21 sermons, or Bible studies, and had the privilege of preaching twice. Besides attending services at our home church, David Forks Baptist Church in Lexington, Bro. Mickey Hyder, pastor, we attended the 176th annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention in Paducah, Ky. Before that we had the privilege of having lunch in Owensboro, KY on Saturday the 9th of November with my sister-in-law, Jodie Bratcher, and nephew, Randy Bratcher. We then drove on to Morganfield, Ky, where on Sunday, I preached in the AM service and Asa Mark preached in the PM service, at the Northside Baptist Church. Please continue to pray for Pastor Jim Adams and his wife, Linda, as both continue to battle cancer. We have also each Saturday been able to visit and have brunch with my brother Charlie and his family in Frankfort, Ky.

Then two weeks later, on Monday the 24th, we traveled to Dearborn Heights, Michigan, with our excellent traveling companions, Bobby and Sandra Greene, to attend the 59th Annual Thanksgiving Conference. The preaching, singing, fellowship and food were all wonderful. Thank you, New Hope and Grace Church for making this a great conference. I had the privilege of being the second speaker on Tuesday morning, and spoke on the conference theme: Redeemed How I Love To Proclaim It, based on Psalm 107, the complete chapter! On Thursday, we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving, with my Brother Charles, and some 15 others of the Bratchers. On the 4th of this month, we had the privilege of receiving my granddaughter, Marcia Luciana Bratcher, from West Hartford, CT, for a quick Christmas visit. It was short but very sweet.

I hope that I have been a blessing to all of those that we have seen during this first year of my permanent furlough. I would like to thank each of you that have supported us with your prayers and love offerings during these past 55 years. If you want to continue to do so, just send it to our address here in Lexington, and it will be acknowledged and appreciated.

As I sing, “To God be the Glory,” for these glorious years, and the over 40 churches that we have started and helped during those years, and the over 4,000 Brazilians baptized, I also have to remember those two buried in Brazil. My wife of 56 years, Hattie Marie Moore Bratcher, who paid the ultimate price for these years of service, and my son, Joel Harold Bratcher, who 42 years ago, at the age of 6, drowned in the Amazon River, after a two weeks missionary trip on the Buzzard River. Because I know that I will see them and all those saved Brazilians again, I can also sing, as John Newton wrote almost 300 years ago:

Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come,
Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me, His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be, As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil, A life of joy and peace.

Yours in the Service of the Savior,

Harold Bratcher

1950 Falling Leaves Lane
Lexington, KY 40509
(859) 806-9827 cell

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Spring Conference 2013 [Ladies’ Seminar with Alta Hatcher]

The ladies at the Spring Conference had a special treat this morning by getting to hear Sis. Alta Hatcher share many stories from her life, all of which pointed us back to the sovereignty of God. {Romans 8:28}After serving in Brazil for 58 of the 87 years of her life, she is full of wisdom and still loves sharing the Gospel.

“My biggest interest is to see people saved so they can go to Heaven,” she began. “And it’s not just for missionaries to tell people how to be saved. It’s up to all Christians.”

One of her favorite verses that has been especially dear to her over the past few years comes from Matthew 21:22- “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Be sure that what you’re asking as you pray is God’s will because He knows what’s good for us and we don’t.

Sis. Hatcher exhorted us to “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “Do you pray all the time?” she asked. She prays when she’s cooking. She prays when she’s hooking the clasp on her necklace when she is getting ready, a task that has been a challenge in her older age.

She then shared several of her life experiences with us, all of which were used to point to the sovereignty of God. She was saved at the age of 7 years old after coming under conviction in her Elizabethtown church and begging her mother for several days to read all of John 3 to her. One evening, her mother finally read the chapter right before they went to bed. When they read verses 14-16, that is when Alta realized that Jesus died for her. She was familiar with the Numbers 21 story of the Israelites in the wilderness where they were dying after being bitten by serpents and how when they looked to the serpant on the pole they lived. The next day, she wanted to tell her 6 year old friend that she was saved!

Though saved, her mother thought she was too young and did not allow her to be baptized, telling her that she could be baptized the following Sunday if she obeyed all week long. When the Sunday came, she was not allowed to go forward for baptism because she had disobeyed one time. Therefore, she struggled with doubts because for a long time she thought that Christians didn’t sin. She encouraged all in the room to be careful what you say to children.

At 8 years old, she was trembling wanting to go forward, but she was scared her mother would spank her. She was saved four years before she was baptized and joined the church at the age of 11. At 9 years old, she was called to be a missionary while hearing her mother tell a friend about a single lady missionary in Africa whom they thought had died. She knew she wanted to be a missionary and knew that meant she needed to marry a missionary. She started to pray for a missionary husband at the age of 10 and strongly encourages children to start praying for their spouse at the ages of 7, 8, and 9.

God answers prayers in ways you don’t expect! She was a student at Georgetown College, where the students were all girls with the exception of 9 preachers. When World War II had just ended, she was invited to teach 3rd grade back in E-town. She walked 3 miles two times a week to study music and learn how to play piano. (She sees the sovereignty of God at work here because in all their years of planting churches, she has played the piano and taught children.)

The year she had left to teach, thousands of soldiers returned and enrolled at Georgetown, one of which was John Hatcher. A missionary from Rio came and preached and John was called to missions in Brazil.  The missionary started a club for those interested in missions and one of the ministries they decided to do was pick up new students who needed a ride when they were returning for the new school year. They went through a list of new students and John asked if his friends knew of any students on there who wanted to be a missionary. All of Alta’s classmates screamed her name! John wrote her a letter to let her know he’d pick her up at the train station when she was coming back to school. And…he didn’t show. He was called to preach a revival that evening, but he met her the following morning. They courted two months and married six months later.

Alta Hatcher with 4 of her 5 children in Brazil circa 1958
(courtesy of Hershael York)

In 1955, they moved to Brazil. 70% of the people there did not know how to read or write so they started a school so they could learn how to read their Bibles. They started Chapada Baptist Church and left there with 23 members in 1961. Now the church has grown to 4000+ with their son David as pastor.

When they bought a house in Urai, children started to come visit them, so she started to teach them using flannelgraph. On teaching children: Always tell them HOW to be saved! “During every class, I always taught the Bible, but every class I should have also taught them HOW to be saved,” she said.  

The Hatchers have always been good stewards. They received a $23,000 inheritance from her parents and after leaving it in the bank for about 10 years, they used it to build 4 churches. They are also still driving the same truck they’ve had for the last 43 years, which was bought by Bro. Fox’s 9-12 year old Sunday School class at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church.

This is only a snippet of what she shared with the ladies and by no means even an abridged biography of her extraordinary life, but her stories reminded us that God has a purpose in every little detail of our lives for His glory and our good.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” -Romans 8:28

Aren’t you thankful for Alta Hatcher?

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Missionary Update: Harold Bratcher [February 2013]

Harold Bratcher has served the Lord in the Amazon Valley since July 15, 1959. His dear wife Marie, faithfully served with him for 52 years until her death in February 2011. The Bratchers organized over 20 Baptist churches and many other missions in Brazil, and he currently serves at the 24th of March Baptist Church in Manaus.

February 10, 2013

Dear Brothers of the Blessed Lord and Sisters of the Savior:

Once again I greet you not from the Amazon Valley of Brazil, South America, but from my cold Kentucky home where the sun is shining bright!

This Mission Sheets month began January 6th and finishes today. During this period I heard 12 sermons, or Bible studies. On Wednesday night, January 9th, we had the privilege of attending at the New Life Baptist Church here in Lexington. We heard an excellent Bible study on Isaiah 7, by Pastor Steve Wainright. On Friday the 11th, we moved into the Mission house on 1012 Balsam Drive. We are enjoying the house, while we await the sale of my house in Manaus. We also appreciate the excellent condition it was left in by Anita and Sheridan.

The second Sunday of January found us at the Clarksville Baptist Church of Richmond, Ky where we participated in the lesson taught by dear pastor Bradley Johns, and then I heard Asa Mark preach in the AM service. We then had the privilege of having lunch with Deane Cruise. The next Wednesday night, we had the privilege of hearing dear pastor Mickey Hyder at the 212 year old Historic David’s Fork Baptist Church. We are attending Wednesday nights there for the Bible Studies, the Story, studying the Bible, book by book during the year.

On Sunday morning the 20th, we attended the also 212 year old Glen’s Creek Baptist Church in Versailles, Ky and heard the Pastor Justin Rader. We then participated in a Chili dinner to raise money for a Mission trip to Central America. The next Sunday we attended the am service at the Ashland Ave. Baptist Church here in Lexington, hearing the sermon by Pastor David Prince. That pm, we heard Dr. Greg Waltermire at the Heritage Baptist Church, in Lexington.

During the month of February, we have attended services at the Clays Mills Road Baptist Church here in Lexington where my niece, Carolyn Sue Bratcher is a member. Dr. Jeff Fugate is the pastor. We also have attended the service at Lexington Baptist Temple, at the invitation of our dear family friend, Sister Ann Burris. Appreciated the music and message by the pastor, Derek Holmes.

I hope to be a blessing to many of you, during this first year of my permanent furlough. I would like to report and thank each of you that have supported us during these past years. We appreciate the invitations to come during the Spring. Until next month.

Yours in the Service of the Savior,
Harold Bratcher

1012 Balsam Drive
Lexington, KY 40504
(859) 277-3716
(859) 806-9827 cell

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Missionary Update: Harold Bratcher in Brazil [April 2012]

April 10, 2012

Dear Brothers of the Blessed Lord and Sisters of the Savior:

Once again we (Asa Mark and I) greet you from the Amazon Valley of Brazil, South America.  The 2 million residents of Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas are enjoying the pleasant weather of not quite so hot, due to the frequent rains.  The rainy season continues, but we have had no more blackouts and floods, for which we are thankful.  Tuesday there was a city wide bus strike, and the city turned into chaos.  The mayor was conveniently (for him) traveling, and confusion reigned, but that is the present reality of Manaus.  Manaus and the Mayor desperately need our prayers.  During the month of March, each Sunday morning, evening, Wednesday evening,and some Saturdays, I have left my house and home and gone by the taxi of one of our members ,Bro. Raimundo, or the car of Bro. Mario Jorge, to the 24th of March Baptist Church, where I either preached or heard a sermon by another preacher.  My assistant pastor, Bro. Williams Mendes, 49 years old, and his family, have been a blessing to me and the church.  Continue to pray for them and for us.

This Mission Sheets month began March 5th and finishes today.  During this period I preached 10 sermons, all at the 24th of March Baptist Church where I serve as the pastor.   I have during this period heard a total of 5 sermons preached at 2 different places.   Also, I  was able to pray at Marie’s and Joel’s grave, on Thursday the 5th of April, which would have been Marie’s 85th Birthday.  It looks real nice, with a granite marker, pictures, and a bench in front.  Besides the names, dates of birth and death, it is engraved with the words God is Love in portuguese and english, and the word SAUDADES (Remembrances and precious memories).  We sure have a lot of those, and the pain of temporary separation is great, but as I prayed, we are thankful they are already safely home.

May we all continue to heed the pleas of Pastor Dave Parks for more offerings for Baptist Faith Missions. I am praying that during the remainder of this year of 2012, he will not have to reduce the benefits and salaries that the missionaries of Baptist Faith Missions receive.  The Bratchers in Brasil need the prayers of those we love, as well as those that love us. Until the 10th of May,at least, that includes Stephen who arrived last month, to continue his ministry here for 6 weeks. Please pray for him, that he may soon have his boat totally ready for the planned river trips.  He had to cancel the first one to Olinda, because of problems with the new motor.  He has already been a Big blessing to us personally and the work here, as he always is. Continue to pray also for Asa Mark, that his right eye may be completely healed, of the retina surgery.  He is about 50 percent better.  I am doing well, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  On the 24th of March, I turned 85 years of age on this old earth.  In August, the Lord willing, I hope to celebrate 65 years of ministry, 53 of those in Brasil and with BFM.  To God and Him only, Be the Glory, for what He has done, is doing, and will still do through his humble servants.  Until next month.

Yours in the Service of the Savior,
Harold Bratcher
Rua Francisco Jose Furtado No. 2
Bairro de Sao Francisco
69.079-200 Manaus, Amazonas
Brasil, S.A.

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