William and Anne Bagby

William lay unconscious after a rock struck him in the head. A few minutes later, he stood up and continued to preach.

In 1881 William and Anne Bagby boarded a boat to Brazil as newlyweds and recent university graduates. Less than two years after they arrived, they moved a thousand miles north to Bahia, the country’s seat of the Roman Catholic Church. There, with one convert and another family from the Foreign Mission Board, they began Brazil’s first Portuguese-speaking Baptist church in 1882.

In 1884 the Bagbys moved to Rio de Janeiro, where they faced opposition from the Catholics there. When no one came to the hall the Bagbys rented for worship, they took their folding organ outside and began to play and sing. After curious crowds started attending, the local Catholic priest sent hooligans to shake up the gatherings. They entered the hall and damaged lights and furniture. Someone threw a rock that hit William in the head and left him unconscious. Nevertheless, a few minutes later, he stood up and continued to teach from God’s Word. News of the attacks drew more curious visitors, three of whom heard the gospel for the first time and became leaders of Baptist work in Brazil.

William and Anne, who was the first Baptist female from Texas to become a foreign missionary, spent the rest of their lives investing in the spread of the gospel among Brazilians. In 1901 they founded and directed the Brazilian Baptist School in Sao Paulo, where they served until 1919. Even after they officially retired from the Foreign Mission Board in 1937, they continued living in Brazil until their deaths.

Five of the Bagbys’ nine children became missionaries to Brazil.

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