Erik Nelson

Thrown in prison, mobbed and threatened, Erik had to flee for his life on multiple occasions, but nothing could keep him away from the people of the Amazon.

Most Brazilians were skeptical of Protestants when Erik began selling Bibles up and down the Amazon River. To those who couldn’t buy them, he gave the Scriptures and never hesitated to teach the truths of Jesus and His plan of redemption. Even when his life was threatened, Erik continued to return and preach the same message of grace.

Erik wrote to missionary Solomon Ginsburg and asked for him to help plant a church in the Amazon. Solomon came to him, and in 1897, the men planted the First Baptist Church of Belém, Brazil. Soon after, the Foreign Mission Board accepted Solomon’s recommendation that Erik be appointed as a Southern Baptist missionary. With a love for the Brazilians already in his heart, Erik continued his ministry with new energy.

At first he began to travel the Amazon River by steamship, stopping in ports to share the gospel. When his heart broke as he passed by villages where Jesus was not known, he bought a canoe so he could stop wherever he wanted. He paddled more than 700 miles, preaching to thousands along the way. When canoes were no longer sufficient, he acquired a small boat with an outboard motor, which he nicknamed Noah’s Ark. While it was an improvement over the canoe, it was still not adequate for the work. After Erik prayed for a substitute, First Baptist Church, Murray, Kentucky, donated $3,000 for a proper motorboat. Erik launched the Buffalo in 1920 and used this boat until just before his death in 1939.

He was appropriately nicknamed “The Apostle of the Amazon.”

Eric Alfred Nelson from IMB on Vimeo.

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