Caught Between the Spouse and the Spirit
"If she could, she would be every day serving the Lord and serving her home," says Railis (pronounced "Hia-leece"), who sits with his hands folded in his lap and round glasses resting behind his ears.
His house is five minutes—and an entire world—away from Francisca's.
His living room and kitchen alone are the size of Francisca's house. The living room floor is tiled, and a tall entertainment center displays family pictures and books by Billy Graham and other Christian writers.
Railis's job as a presbytero places him directly under the pastor, so his church salary is bigger than the fisherman's salary that Francisca's husband earns. In a city where 83 percent of households are classified as low-income, almost half of the 2,877 families are somehow linked to the fishing industry.
Railis says he worries that women like Francisca with non-Pentecostal husbands will cut back on their church participation to satisfy their husbands.
But his own story gives him hope.
Eleven years ago, Railis, now 48, was a similarly reluctant husband with an active Pentecostal wife.
"Before, his priorities were parties and friends," says Maria da Conceição, who leads the women's ministry at Templo Central.
Railis says he never forbade Maria to attend church, but he did complain that she spent too much time there. He also resisted her efforts to bring him into the church because he thought following her faith would emasculate him.
When he complained, she would stay home to avoid an argument, but she would still pray on her own.
That's when things started to change, Railis says.
Templo Central's melodies drew him in, and he eventually decided to learn about its teachings on family so that he could understand why his wife wanted him to become a Christian.
Now he visits other Pentecostals in Icapuí to teach the importance of the entire family belonging to the church. On a recent Tuesday night, Railis shared his message with the Bela Vista congregation of Melancias, another neighborhood in Icapuí.
"The family is the base of society in the church," he said. "The family wasn't created by man; it was created by God."
Like Railis's church, Bela Vista belongs to the Assemblies of God, which was established in 1911, only one year after Pentecostalism arrived in Brazil. According to a 2006 survey by the Pew Forum, 42 percent of Pentecostals in Brazil belong to the Assemblies of God.
The pastor of the Bela Vista congregation invited Railis to address his church members, many of whom face the same hardships as Francisca and other women in Templo Central. Of the 24 people who fill the wooden benches and white plastic chairs, only 6 are men.
Maria do Socorro Rebouças da Silva, a 48-year-old Bela Vista member known in this community as Socorro (pronounced "So-coh-ho"), sits alone that night, as she does most nights in the congregation.
"He does not forbid me to come to the church, but when the place is far away, he complains," Socorro says of her husband. "When I stay too long, he complains."
His attitude prevents her from taking leadership roles in the church, she says, leaving her unsatisfied even though she attends all services and prayer meetings.
It would be such a blessing if her husband joined the church, she says wistfully.