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The Missionary Career
Everett and Callie Wilcox
Charles W. Dickson
Everett George Wilcox –“I was born on a farm near Dawn, Missouri in Chilicothe County on May 28, 1887. My parents, Lorenzo D. Wilcox (b. 3/9/1855, d.1/24/26) and Jennie Wilcox, (b.1857, d.1/1916) moved into this section and cleared out our home from the virgin forest. Some of my earliest recollections were clearing the ground for the plow, sprouting stumps, etc. I had two brothers: John (b. 1879) and Lorenzo (b. 1881) and also two sisters: Mary E. (Wagy) (b. 1883; d. 1936) and Viola Lee (b. 1885; d. 1904).”
“I graduated from the Chilicothe Grammar School in 1901 and from Chilicothe High in 1905. Our home was a Christian home. Father was, and is, a deacon in the church in which I was received by baptism at the age of 14 (1901). I wanted to preach when a lad but when God called me to preach I rebelled for years. After surrendering to preach I sought more schooling. I entered Oklahoma Baptist College, Blackwell, Oklahoma in September 1911 (age: 24). The first year was spent in the Academy. I enrolled in Burleson College, Greenville, Texas in the fall of 1914 graduating there in the spring of 1915.”
“Then I entered Howard Payne College at Brownwood, Texas in the fall of 1915. On January 1, 1916 I married Callie Perrin. The ceremony took place in her home near Mt. Vernon, TX. We returned to Brownwood and both of us studied in Howard Payne. While in Howard Payne I was president of the Junior class during the Spring semester of 1916, and president of the Ministerial Association both in 1916 and 1917. I graduated in 1917 with a B.A. degree in Social Science. (age,30) In the fall of 1917 I continued my education at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. I received the E.B. degree in the summer of 1920 and the ThM degree in January of 1921. I studied in the New Orleans Baptist Seminary on two occasions (1926-27 and 1935-36) receiving the Th.D. in 1936.”
“I pastored the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Brownwood, Tx. from 1916 to 1917. I also pastored the Adamsville Baptist Church in Adamsville, TX. from 1917 to 1920. Ever since entering the ministry I have been impressed with the foreign mission work. After long and continuous prayer God has led us to Brazil. Great joy and peace have been ours since our appointment by the Foreign Mission Board of Richmond, VA. on July 15, 1920.”
Callie Perrin Wilcox – “I was born on a farm near Mt.Vernon, TX. (Huckleberry Community) in Franklin County, on March 20, 1892. I was the third child born to my parents William Joe Perrin (b. 1861; d. 1941) and Betty (Gill) Perrin (b. 1862; d. 1900) I had six brothers: Wirt (b.1890; d. 1968) and his twin, Kirt, (b. 1890, d. 1901), Willie (b. 1897), Joe Benton (b. 1905; d. 1966), Floyd Ector (b. 1908) and Thomas Edgar (b. 1912). I also had five sisters: Alice (Koonce) (b. 1888), Lucy (Cowser) (b. 1893), Victoria (Turner) (b. 1895; d. 1943), Clemmie Lee (Sims) (b. 1903), and Agnes (Sharber) (b. 1910).”
“I attended Sunday School and church from my infancy. My father was a deacon. I attended the public school for five or six months each year. I graduated from Grammar School in 1906 and from the Mt. Vernon High School in 1910. I was converted at the age of 12 (1904) and was baptized at the Huckleberry Baptist Church.”
“I was married to Everett George Wilcox on New Year’s Day of 1916. We had met when he preached a revival meeting in my home church where I was the organist. The marriage ceremony was held in our home in the Huckleberry Community. We moved to Brownwood, Texas where both of us studied at the Howard Payne College. Later we moved to Ft. Worth, TX. to attend the Southwestern Baptist Seminary. The Lord blessed our home with four daughters: Dorothy Mary Myers (b. Nov. 25,1916), Juanita Jo Dickson (b. Jan. 17,1918), Lorene Vermillion (b. Oct.1, 1922) and Trudie Jackson (b. Oct.26, 1927) “
“It has always been a delightful service for me to lead souls to Christ. I have served as church organist, Sunday School teacher and WMU worker. I go gladly with my husband any where the Lord leads him. We are both pleased that the Foreign Mission Board in Richmond, VA. appointed us on July 15, 1920 to serve the Lord in North Brazil.”
After her husband’s death in Recife on March 18,1940, Mrs. Wilcox retired from her missionary career in 1941. She and Trudie returned to the States in the summer of 1940 and built a house at 1307 Center Ave. in Brownwood, TX. She lived there until 1977 when she moved to Abilene, TX. Then, on October 7, 1979, at the age of 87, she joined her family in heaven and is buried in Elmwood Memorial Park in Abilene, TX.
2. First term of Service (Feb.1921 – July 29, 1926)
E.G. and Callie Wilcox were appointed for North Brazil by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention on July 15, 1920. Dr. J.F. Love was the Executive Secretary of the FMB at the time of their appointment. They left for their field of service in February of 1921 accompanied by their two daughters, Dorothy Mary (4 years old) and Juanita Jo (3 years old), They made the trip to Recife by ship sailing out of New Orleans. Thirty days later they arrived in the city that was to be their home. Their first residence was in a house located in the Quatro Cantos (Four Corners) area of the city. Dorothy entered kindergarten at the Baptist College in March of 1922. Their third daughter, Lorene, was born at home on October 1, 1922. A mid-wife was used in the delivery of the baby.
Mr. Wilcox taught Greek and Hebrew at the North Brazil Seminary In Recife. This institution was founded on April 1, 1902. It was the theological department of the American Baptist College. On week-ends he was always busy preaching in the churches, many of them located in the interior. They were members of the Zumby Baptist church until they became charter members of the new Capunga Baptist Church. It was organized on April 19, 1923 and was located at Rua Visconde de Goiana (now Rua Dom Bosco), 1461.
3. First Furlough (July 29, 1926 – Jan. 7, 1928)
Their first furlough was spent in Ft. Worth, Texas. This was in the summer of 1926. They lived in a duplex close to the old Spurlock home across from the present Music Building. Another preacher and his family occupied the other side of the duplex and shared a bathroom with the Wilcoxes. Later they moved to a house on Bedell St. Trudie Lee was born at this location on October 26, 1927. During this furlough Mr. Wilcox began work on his doctor’s degree at the Seminary in New Orleans. He completed one year of study. Because of the limited finances of the Foreign Mission Board each missionary had to raise the cost of the return trip to his field. Mr. Wilcox did this and he and the family sailed out of New York City for Brazil in January of 1928.
4. Second Term of Service (Jan.7, 1928 – May 15, 1935)
On arrival in Recife, they lived in a house in the middle of the Baptist College campus. Later they moved to another house that was close to the Girl’s Training School. Dorothy (age 11) began studying in the 5th grade at the Baptist College, and Juanita (age 10) studied in the 3rd grade.
In 1929 Pernambuco had 36 churches with almost 2000 members. Mr. Wilcox was elected as corresponding secretary for the Pernambuco Field, a position that he held until the return of L.L. Johnson from furlough in 1934. At some point missionary Arnold Hayes left the work in Paraiba and Mr. Wilcox became the field missionary of that State. He also continued teaching at the Seminary and preaching in the churches.
In the summer of 1933 Dorothy and Juanita came back to the States. Prior to their trip back to Texas Mr. Wilcox took them by ship to see the city of Rio de Janeiro. During their week-long stay in Rio they were guests in the home of missionaries Harvey and Alyne Muirhead. For the trip to the states the girls traveled by ship chaperoned by two Presbyterian missionaries who were going on furlough. The two girls were met in New Orleans by Dr. M. E. Davis who was the Bible professor at Howard Payne College. Dr. Davis drove them to Mt Vernon in East Texas where they stayed with some of their mother’s relatives until time for school in Brownwood. Dorothy entered Howard Payne College as a freshman and Juanita enrolled in the school’s Academy. She and Alcie Hoots were the only students in the Academy and the last ones to attend it since it closed the next year. In the fall of 1934 Juanita became a freshman at HPC.
5. Second Furlough (May 15, 1935 – Oct. 3, 1936)
The family spent the second furlough in Brownwood, Texas. It started in May of 1935. Dorothy was soon to be a senior and Juanita a junior in Howard Payne. All four of the daughters lived with their parents in a rented house at 1305 Center Ave. Mr. Wilcox continued studying at the New Orleans Seminary where he was finishing his doctoral studies. He made the long trip to New Orleans by train. He was awarded this degree in May of 1936. In October of 1936 Dr. and Mrs. Wilcox returned to Brazil with Trudie, leaving behind Dorothy, Juanita, and Lorene. The three sisters lived in an apartment on Center Av. that belonged to Mrs. Blair. Juanita was on the staff at the Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly during both summers of 1937 and 1938.
On May 21, 1937 Dorothy was married in the First Baptist Church of Brownwood to Charles Logan Myers who was also a student at HPC. He was the only one of the son-in-laws who had the privilege of knowing Dr. Wilcox personally. So, he was the only one who actually asked Dr. Wilcox for the hand of one of his daughters in marriage..
6. Third Term of Service (Oct. 3, 1936 – Jun. 1, 1940)
On arrival in Recife the family lived in a house near the Training School for Girls. The house became known as the Wilcox house. Later they moved to a house on Rua Porto Carneiro, 112. Dr. Wilcox continued his teaching at the Seminary and preaching in the churches. Trudie (age:10) enrolled in the fourth grade of the Baptist College. Along with his other activities Dr. Wilcox was secretary-treasurer of the Church Loan Board. Also after missionary Arthur Hayes left the Seminary, Dr. Wilcox took over some of his work.
In a letter of April 13, 1937 written to Dr. Charles Maddry of the Richmond Board Dr. Wilcox said: “I have felt more and more inclined since coming back this time to go to Ceará, and take over that great state. We have just one pastor in the whole state. He is begging me to come and live there. I have been Missionary of that state for years, as a non-resident missionary.” So, after the Seminary classes were over in November of 1937, Dr. Wilcox made another long trip to the State of Ceará in December of 1937according to a letter he wrote to Dr. Maddry on March 1,1938. The journey by boat took three days and nights. Two ladies, Miss Onis Vineyard and Miss Lain, went with him. These two ladies were on their way to the Amazon for the summer months. But first they helped with the work in Fortaleza, the capital city of Ceará. Dr. Wilcox preached for a week in an open air service. Such a service would attract some people who were afraid to go inside of any Baptist church building. This fear was planted by the local priests in an effort to intimidate any of their parishoners who might be tempted to stray outside of the Catholic faith. The next week Dr. Wilcox preached in the interior of the state, where the work was blessed with three conversions.
In January of 1938 he attended the meeting of the Brazilian Baptist Convention in Rio de Janeiro. During February, the last summer month, he preached in several meetings, one in the city of Recife (Arruda Church) and the other in the interior (Gamelleira Church).. These resulted in almost thirty conversions. In the same letter to Dr. C.E. Maddry dated the 1st of March 1938, Dr. Wilcox said: “I just returned yesterday from my week-end trip to Itamaracá. This place is an island. We have a small church there of some 16 members. You go first by bus to the isthmus that cuts off the island from the main land. Across this little neck of water you go in a canoe. When the tide is low you have to pull off your shoes and socks and wade in the mud to the hard ground. I missed my bus on the island this time so I had to walk to the other side, some 5 or 6 miles. The last mile is in the deep sand. When I reached there my clothes were as wet as if I had been in the water. Sunday morning we had a small crowd. Several of the members were sick. At night we had a large crowd and much interest shown. We hope to see many saved there this year and the church’s debt paid.”
In the fall of 1939 Dr. Wilcox became ill but he didn’t let his health interfere with his Seminary classes nor with his long hard trips to church appointments. In December he and the family took a vacation with missionaries John and Blanche Bice at the Riacho Doce beach in the neighboring state of Alagoas. But he would sit in his chair for hours at a time, just too tired to move. In January he attended the meeting of the Brazilian Baptist Convention in Salvador, Bahia. After the convention he preached a revival in Glycerio even though he was not feeling well. It was at this place that he finally had to spend a lot of time in bed. But in spite of this he spent another week preaching at the church in Vermelho. In March of 1940 his condition worsened in spite of all the doctor’s could do. Finally on Monday, the 18th of March, at 6:15 PM, after almost 20 years of missionary service, he passed away at the age of 52 years and three months. The cause of death was officially listed as “Hepatite cariosa hepatica”, or, a breakdown of the liver. Mrs. Wilcox and Trudie were with him at the time of his death. Dorothy and Juanita were students in the Fort Worth Seminary, and Lorene was a student in Howard Payne.
Dr. Wilcox’s funeral was held on the 19th of March at the Capunga Baptist Church. The pastor, Rev. Jose Munguba Sobrinho, presided at the service. Several of his missionary colleagues spoke as well as Rev. Livio Lindoso representing the Seminary, Rev. Hermes Silva, representing the Pernambuco State Convention, and Dr. Jose Nigro, representing the National Convention. He was buried at the English Cemetery in Recife, plot 485, grave 485.
Mrs. Wilcox and Trudie left Recife on June 1,1940. They were met in New Orleans by Charles Myers. He accompanied them on the long train ride back to Brownwood. While Mrs. Wilcox was building a home at 1307 Center Ave. in Brownwood, Texas she and Trudie stayed in the apartment with Juanita and Lorene. Then in 1941 Mrs. Wilcox officially retired from the Foreign Mission Board.
The period of 1920 to 1940 were stormy times for the work in Brazil, especially in North Brazil. But it was also a period of growth for Baptist work in all of Brazil. The Wilcox missionary career spanned these twenty years. At the beginning of this era there were 210 churches in Brazil with 20,000 members, but twenty years later the churches had grown to 730 with 60,000 members. The Wilcoxes and their missionary colleagues worked under very trying circumstances. To their everlasting credit they faced the challenges and set the foundations for the future development of the Lord’s work in this land of the Southern Cross.
Paul’s words in First Corinthians 16:9 are especially appropriate: “For a door that offers wide and effective service stands open before me and there are many adversaries.” The adversaries of the Brazilian believers were from outside sources as well as from within. Naturally there was a continuation of the opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. This was to be expected from a world-wide organization whose members were convinced that they had a monopoly in spiritual matters. Outsiders to their religion were treated as evil personified, and were to be defeated by whatever means necessary. Baptist missionaries had suffered their animosity from the beginning of the work in Brazil in 1882. So, their antagonism was nothing new in the two decades of the Wilcox missionary career.
Besides these trials from without, there were also other conflicts from within. Controversies from without are never pleasant, but are easier to deal with than those from within. The former are to be expected but the latter come as a surprise. The former come from enemies, the latter involves friends. For instance, around 1918 there was a movement among Baptists in Brazil to close the Seminary in Recife and to limit all Baptist theological training to the new Seminary (organized on March 15, 1908) in Rio de Janeiro. Even the Foreign Mission Board in Richmond favored this change, mainly from a financial viewpoint. Money was scarce for the work on foreign fields and the Board knew that their resources would barely sustain one Seminary in Brazil and certainly not two. But finally, the national Convention recognized that there was indeed a need for two seminaries in Brazil, one in the north and the other in the south. And for the first time the Brazilian Baptist Convention nominated an administrative Board for the Seminary in Recife that was separate from the Board for the College. Also the Board in Richmond went along with this decision and did what they could to support the two theological institutions. But this did not settle the issue. In 1920 there was an effort on the part of some Baptists to merge the two Seminaries in Recife and Rio into one institution and locate it in Salvador, Bahia. But in 1922 the national Convention rejected this idea. So, the demise of the Seminary in Recife was greatly exaggerated. It had survived these two attacks from within Baptist ranks.
Another problem from within began about 1919 when some Brazilian Baptist leaders in the north challenged the distribution by the missionaries of money from the Foreign Mission Board in Richmond. The Brazilians thought that they should have more control over the money designated for the work in the churches. This tension led to divisions among pastors and missionaries, and among churches in the State conventions of the north. Some missionaries were excluded from membership in their churches. The Capunga Baptist church was organized on April 19, 1923 by a group that was friendly to the missionaries. The Wilcoxes were two of the thirteen charter members. Also, a new State convention in Pernambuco was organized in November 1923 by those who were tired of the bickering and wanted to proceed with the Lord’s work in cooperation with the missionaries. This conflict was gradually worked out even though a lot of bitterness remained. The national convention appointed a committee to study the issue and work out a plan of cooperation that would be agreeable to both sides. This plan of cooperation was updated from time to time. Finally, as the Brazilian leadership in the north matured and as finances from their churches increased, the missionaries recognized that the time had come for their Brazilian co-workers to be given more and more responsibility in every area of the work. But even this did not eliminate all of the harm that years of dissension had created.
Another crisis in the work came during the Great Depression of the 1930s. This was a purely economic catastrophe. But it did have a tremendous negative affect on the progress of the work. The Richmond Board did not have the money to appoint new missionaries because of the large debt that it owed. Neither was it always able to return missionaries to their field of service after furloughs. This caused an additional work strain on the few remaining missionaries. And many of these had to dip into their personal funds for their living expenses or for their return to their fields. The new missionaries who did come to the field were “independents”. That is, they were dedicated individuals who were sent out and sustained by family or friends in the USA. Many of these were later appointed by the Foreign Mission Board after the Depression had passed.
Following this problem, there was one final outburst from within Baptist circles that threatened to sink the boat in 1939-40. The Seminary in Recife was the battleground for this additional denominational conflict. This involved two fine Brazilian pastors and which of them would be the director of the Seminary. Pastor Munguba was a friend of the missionaries and was just completing two years as director. But the majority of the new Board of Trustees were not friendly toward the missionaries and therefore favored Pastor Orlando Falcão. The recently elected Seminary Board advised Munguba that his leadership was over and that Orlando would be the new director. Finally in February of 1940 the president of the Seminary, Rev. Munguba, closed the Seminary doors on his last day of office and turned the keys over to missionaries of the North Brazil Mission rather than giving them to the Board of Trustees. This created chaos. The few students who were wanting to study were sent back home or drifted toward the Presbyterian Seminary. The Brazilian teachers were fired and the missionary teachers were placed on leave of absence. But, on the very day that Dr. Wilcox died the missionaries turned the keys to the Seminary over to Dr. Jose Nigro, the president of the National Baptist Convention. He had been sent to Recife to try to work out the problem. Later, after due consideration, the Brazilian Baptist Convention nominated a missionary, Dr. Stephen Lawton Watson, as director of the Seminary. He was from the southern area of Brazil and was considered neutral in the controversy. He opened the doors for students on April 29, 1941. This was a little over a year from the day of the lock-out. Dr. Watson proved to be an able administrator although his health forced him to leave his post after a few months. However, before he left Recife he appointed some fine Brazilian pastors to take over the various departments of the Seminary. Finally a missionary, Dr. John Mein was elected by the Seminary Board to lead the Seminary, and under his leadership of 10 years the Seminary grew and prospered.
All of this is an amazing story! The Wilcox family of four arrived in Brazil in 1921. Their dream must have been to be used by the Lord to spread the Good News of His salvation everywhere that they could. But they were soon awakened to the harsh reality of the situation. How surprised and disillusioned they must have been to learn that many of the Brazilians did not welcome but really resented their presence. And even some of those with whom they were to work were suspicious or jealous of them and their colleagues.
To their credit the sense of God’s call would not let them take the next ship back home. But what difficulties the Wilcoxes and their colleagues had to work through! Their many accomplishments are even more brilliant because of the dark backdrop against which they labored. Satan was working overtime to cripple and destroy what God’s servants in Recife were trying to accomplish. One missionary, Miss Mildred Cox, wrote that these problems in the Seminary probably hastened the death of Dr. Wilcox who so dearly loved that institution. Certainly the Devil knew that the work in Recife had to be destroyed to keep it from future successes. How brilliant those successes would be could not have been imagined at the time, but are now well known. In the 1970s the Seminary in Recife would not only be the oldest Baptist Seminary in Brazil but also the largest. Thousands of young people would be and are being trained in its facilities for the work in the churches of Brazil and on foreign soils. Now there are not just two Baptist Seminaries in Brazil but almost twenty.
Just how much credit for this progress is due the pioneer missionaries like the Wilcoxes? Only God knows for sure, but none would discount their very valuable contribution. The Seminary Board tried to make its gratitude tangible toward the Wilcoxes on December 19, 1961 as it named one of its new buildings as “The Wilcox Building”. Missionary Juanita Wilcox Dickson had the honor of cutting the ribbon at the ceremony of the opening of this new apartment building for married students. Besides this visible monument to the Wilcox missionary career, there must have been thousands of invisible fruits that indelibly mark the results of those twenty years of painful but faithful seed sowing. It is just another proof that even a short number of years can produce a substantial and significant harvest in God’s vineyard.
This harvest in God’s vineyard was all of the reward that the Wilcoxes could have asked for. God had blessed them by placing them on one of the most fertile mission fields in the world. It was a field “white unto harvest.” In his book entitled “Baptists in Brazil” (1953), Dr. Crabtree wrote: “The city of Recife is the most thoroughly evangelized city, and the second most powerful Baptist center in South America.” (p. 222)
And God walked with them through every step of the way even though their journey might be considered next to impossible by human standards. But the results were more than satisfying. They were privileged to sow seed in the North Brazil area where much of the seed fell on good soil and bore fruit in abundance. This more than compensated for the difficulties that they encountered. It was not an easy twenty years of work but its results will continue to pay dividends throughout all eternity! In the 1930’s Dr. Wilcox wrote a book in Portuguese entitled “Graõs de Ouro”. The English translation could be “Seeds or Nuggets of Gold”. The book is no longer in print. It was a collection of fifteen brief messages. Most of them were evangelistic but others dealt with the duties of the believers. Each one was based on a golden nugget from God’s word. The author used these precious truths from the Bible to help sinners as well as the believers to understand and apply God’s spiritual riches to their individual lives. For twenty years the Wilcoxes were privileged to plant such golden seeds in the hearts of the people of North Brazil. And in eternity many will rise up to call them blessed. Surely this satisfaction is all that they could have asked for in their twenty-year missionary career.
1. Esboço Histórico do Seminário Batista do Norte do Brasil – 1902 – 1977 by Dr. David Mein
2. Letters from Mildred Cox
3. Letters from E.G. Wilcox
4. Report of the Foreign Mission Board to the Southern Baptist Convention, 1922, 1923
5. Letter of missionary L.L. Johnson
6. Biographical data from the International Mission Board
7. “The Commission” of February 1962
8. “Panorama Batista em Pernambuco” by Zaqueu Moreira and Ramos André
9. O Que Deus Tem Feito – Compiled by Dr. David Mein
10. Family recollections
11. Baptists in Brazil by A.R. Crabtree
12. Historia dos Baptistas em Pernambuco by A.N. Mesquita
13. The Lasso – 1916, 1917
Grãos de Ouro by E.G. Wilcox
Compiled by Charles Dickson in cooperation with the Wilcox daughters: Dorothy, Juanita, Lorene, and Trudie.
Juanita, E.G. Wilcox, Dorothy, Trudie , Callie, Lorene