Caught Between the Spouse and the Spirit
But she says she did not want to go without her partner, like so many of the other women she saw.
Meanwhile, Carlos says, he resisted Pentecostalism because he was ashamed of what his friends would think if he went to church. At the time, he was part of a popular musical band, and he knew that the group's lifestyle of partying and drinking would not be compatible with the Christian life.
Ednira says she tried to talk to him about Pentecostalism, but he always hesitated and asked many questions.
He asked her to describe the joy of praying.
He asked her to explain what Pentecostals believe about proselytizing.
He asked her to justify how the Creation story could possibly be true, given the biological processes he learned about as a chemistry student.
"My life was just answer, answer, answer," Ednira jokes.
Even though she was able to answer his questions, she noticed they were fighting more and more as he continued to resist joining the church she longed to be a part of, she says.
"I told him, 'We need God. We are fighting all the time. We're in a hard situation. We need God.'?"
Finally, Carlos agreed to attend the Bela Vista congregation in Ibicuitaba after she assured him that it was small and hidden, so no one would see him.
That first service led to his gradual transformation into a Pentecostal, Ednira says, culminating in his conversion in February.
Seven months later, she watches as Carlos comes to the front of the room one Sunday night to share his testimony with the congregation of ten women and four men.
Carlos describes that transformation with intensity: At first he was ashamed to say "God is good, God is my friend," he recalls. But then he attended more services, and each time he felt a warmth and acceptance that inspired him to keep coming back—"They called me 'brother,' even though I wasn't a Christian yet."
Carlos had once heard a pastor say the word of God is a seed that you must hold and let grow, and he felt that seed growing within him. Soon he was writing songs about God and faith. He says to the congregation before him, "Can you believe, I never felt pleasure in my singing," before becoming a Christian.
And then one day, he sat in the front row and turned to his wife, saying, "Honey, today is my day."
"If I could tell you something tonight, never give up," he tells everyone. "Never give up. If you have a burden, put it in the presence of the Lord."
One burden after another
The burdens of life in Icapuí are often the same in each family: how to survive on a fisherman's salary, how to clothe a child who grows faster than the money comes in, how to keep going when no relief is in sight.
For the Pentecostal women in this city, coming to church helps with all of these challenges, particularly the last one. But it can also add one more: how to deal with a husband who refuses to attend church and wishes his wife would stay home too.
Francisca, Maria, Ednira, Socorro, and Socorro have all struggled with this burden. After years of pushing and waiting, Maria's and Ednira's husbands have joined them in the church, but that outcome is rare—and, by their accounts, it was certainly not easy to come by.
It's clear that the battle for Brazil's families is uphill. Still, religious winds are shifting, and with those winds comes the hope that the Spirit will finish the good work it's begun among these and countless other women nationwide.
Deborah Swerdlow is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.