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Cibele Desidere Pontes posing with her father at her baptism in the Amazon River. (Adventist Mission)

Bullied at School, Favored by God

After the miracle on the boat church, Amazon River people began to treat Cibele with respect.

By Andrew McChesney,

Other than school, Cibele Desidere Pontes stayed all the time at home in her remote village of Piraí along the Amazon River in Brazil.

Ever since she was a small girl, the other children teased her when she left the house.

“Look, there goes that dark-skinned girl,” a boy said.

“You’re weird,” a girl sneered.

Cibele’s skin was a darker shade of brown than the other children’s because her mother was an indigenous Amazonian.

The children also mocked Cibele because her father couldn’t work after his leg was paralyzed in a boating accident.

“Oh, there goes the daughter of that hopeless man who can’t work,” they said.

Cibele felt humiliated, and she begged her parents to move to another village. But the family stayed put, and her mother ran their small farm of pineapples, bananas, cassava, passion fruit, oranges, and lemons.

Special Visitors

One day, when Cibele was 17, she heard a knock on the door of her home. She opened the door, and two young women greeted her with big hugs. Cibele had never seen the women before, and she was shocked. But she liked the hugs.

“Hi, we are missionaries from the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” one young woman said. “What’s your name?”

After talking for a short time, the two missionaries went to the next house.

The next say, the missionaries returned and chatted some more. On the third day, they told Cibele that a boat church called Amazonia de Esperanca (Amazon of Hope) had arrived and invited her to attend evangelistic meetings on the boat. Cibele, who had tried to avoid leaving the house for years, suddenly felt a deep desire to go to the boat.

“I’ll go!” she said.

She convinced her parents, sister, and a cousin to accompany her that evening. She and Mother carried Father from the house to the boat. Many other villagers joined them in the boat’s meeting hall, a large room with 150 seats, air conditioning, a projector, and a sound system.

Pastor Reno Aguiar Guerra, who lives on the boat with his wife, described good health habits and spoke about Jesus.

The next day, the missionaries gave Cibele an invitation card that she could exchange for a chance to receive a free gift at the evening meeting. Among the possible gifts were Bibles, music discs, food baskets, and electric fans.

Cibele again felt a strong urge to go, and she took her family with her. The boat church was packed that night, and many people sat on the floor.

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People leaving the boat church, Amazonia de Esperanca (Amazon of Hope), at the remote village of Piraí on the Amazon River in Brazil. (Cibele Desidere Pontes)

Praying for Father

As Cibele listened to the pastor speak, she realized that Jesus wanted to have a relationship with her. She thought about her father, unable to walk for 15 years, and believed that Jesus also cared for him. She began to pray every day for God to heal him. The pastor also prayed for him.

Two weeks after the two-month evangelistic series began, Father caught Cibele’s attention at a boat meeting and asked for help to walk to the restroom. Partway to the restroom, he said, “Let me try to go just a short distance on my own. I think I can make it.”

Cibele watched as he took a few steps.

“Wow, I think I have the strength to walk by myself!” Father exclaimed.

Father went to the restroom, and he and Cibele walked back into the meeting hall. The pastor stopped preaching, and people stared in shock.

“How are you walking!” someone asked.

“It’s a miracle!” said Cibele, tears flooding her eyes. “It is God’s miracle!”

The pastor praised the Lord, and all the people marveled.

After that day, Cibele’s once-unkind classmates began to treat her with respect, and they started to attend the meetings. 

“We have never heard anything like this before!” they told her.

A month after the meetings began, Cibele was baptized with her father, mother, sister, and cousin. Additional baptisms took place at the end of the meetings in October 2017. In all, 96 people were baptized, including 70 from Cibele’s village.

Becoming a Missionary

By this point, Cibele had graduated from high school, and her mother wanted her to study at a university. But the family had no money.

The boat church pastor saw Cibele’s dilemma, and her deep love for Jesus, and suggested that she attend an Adventist mission school in the city of Manaus, located two days by boat from her village.

Today, Cibele is 18 and preparing to become a missionary with the Adventist Church’s One Year in Mission program. She will be like those two young missionaries who first invited her to the meetings. Those young women also joined the One Year in Mission program, studied at the mission school, and traveled to remote Amazon villages to knock on doors, give Bible studies, clean houses, and help people on their farms.

“I learned to love God through the boat church, and I want to do the same for others,” Cibele said in an interview. “I am very shy, but I lose all fear when I talk about Jesus.”

The last time Cibele returned to her village for a visit, the people who once bullied her approached her one by one and apologized.

“I’m sorry for all the things that I said about you,” said one.

“I didn’t know you,” said another. “I didn’t know that you are a girl of faith.”

Cibele replied to each person, “I forgive you. I am a Christian now, and I forgive.”

Cibele Desidere Pontes describing why she wants to be a missionary. In English and Portuguese. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

Thank you for your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in fourth quarter 2016 that provided funds for the boat church where Cibele and her family learned about Jesus. Thank you for helping tell the world that Jesus is coming soon with your Sabbath School mission offerings.