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Like many other missionaries, the Bagbys exhibited a restless, pioneering spirit: their pattern was to establish a small church, then leave its maintenance and growth in the hands of a missionary replacement or a native preacher (sometimes a converted priest or Protestant of another denomination) and move to begin a new work. At times, they lived in the building where they held worship services, so it was impossible for Anne, even when she was homebound, not to be actively involved in the evangelistic enterprise. Crabtree, p. 44.

The Bagbys' emphasis on congregational self-support and native leadership created the healthiest of the Southern Baptist mission stations. By 1901 there were Baptists in most Brazilian states, eighty-three churches and 5,000 members. The missionary couple finally settled in Sao Paulo and, with the demands of motherhood lessening, Anne began a project that established her reputation as an educator: the founding of a school for girls, the Progressive Brazilian School. Roman Catholics who were not cooperative with any other aspect of the Baptist work would entrust the education of their children to the foreigners. For the next twenty years Anne Bagby devoted herself to teaching in and administering the school, whose future was finally guaranteed with the purchase of land and the construction of an impressive building with funds from the 1920 Seventy-five Million Campaign of the Southern Baptist Convention. The school was eventually granted college status and the administration was taken over by missionary males, then by natives. The name of the school was changed in 1934 to Colegio Batista Brasiliero Ana Bagby in honor of the founder.

In the early decades of her life as a missionary, therefore, Anne Bagby's church work was unlike that of most of her Texas counterparts in that she often gave full time to it and expended the energy necessary to begin and run a school despite having a large family. She was also called upon to give frequent testimony of her faith to members of a different culture, a process that forced all missionaries repeatedly to examine themselves and their task, in the process either raising doubts or strengthening convictions. In Mrs. Bagby's case, belief in Christianity and its Southern Baptist interpretation remained firm. After her first, most trying decade in Brazil, a period that included the death of two children, she wrote:

I would rather my children die now than be even cold Christians. I want them to be afire with love to Jesus. God grant that we may, none of us, grow cold or indifferent to his service. If I must be kept warm by losing what I love best, I cannot ask otherwise. Hesler, p. 102.

The confrontation with a new culture was generally handled positively by Anne Bagby. She and her husband viewed Brazil as inspiringly beautiful and most of the people as friendly. Crabtree, p. 39. A common tie with Europe facilitated the mastery of language and provided a form of Christianity, Roman Catholicism, with which Brazilians were already familiar, although Baptists conceived of the latter as their greatest menace rather than a boon. Given General Hawthorne's original hope of perpetuating the antebellum South, it is no surprise that the cultural and denominational guidelines the Bagbys set generally followed those of Southern Baptists in the United States—district associations, a nationwide convention, local church governments, women's missionary organizations, seminaries and printing facilities were all based on American models. But the operation and occupation of these institutions by Brazilian natives created a difference, one that was sufficiently marked to make the United States rather alien to the Bagby children.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Patricia martin thesis. OpenStax CNX. Sep 23, 2013 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11572/1.2
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