On November the 18th, Betty Smit heads for Brazil at the age of 23 to work as a child care proffessional in an orphanage operated by a Dutch missionary couple. Her first encounter with the large country of Brazil was not a great success. She was not welcome in the orphanage. But extraordinary happenings where confirmation for her that she was on the right track. In that period of time she started to experience great satisfaction with the work she was doing. She was evangelizing, visiting the ill, took care of infants and fought against the influence of the many evil spirits. Or to put it shortly: she did anything her hands found to do. It became clear to her that she was functioning at her best when she set out by herself. She wanted to make a directional change in her mission work in Brazil. So she decided to go back to the Netherlands. When the airplane that took her back to the Netherlands took off from the Brazilian soil, she said to herself: “I will be back here. This will be the land of my destination”.
Betty stayed in the Netherlands for six months. In those days, she got a hold of the book by Anthony van Kampen: “the land that God forgot”, about the work amongst the lepers in the Brazilian state Amazonas. After she read this book she made up her mind. She would go the Amazonas. On November the 27th of 1968 she flew to Manaus. Even to this day, Betty is not sure where the money for her airfare, which was Hfl. 2.200,--, came from.
Because she couldn't find a place to stay after her arrival in Manaus, she stayed at the house of the Dutch consul for six weeks. From Manaus she brought the gospel into the villages surrounding this large city. It was surprising to her that there where many near the the city of Manaus that had never heard of God. But Betty knew that it was her mission to go further inland. She encountered a practical problem. For this kin of work, she would need a boat. Such a boat would cost approximately 4.000,- Dutch guilders. She didn't have the money. Much to her surprise, someone she didn't know in the Netherlands deposited the amount of 4000,- Dutch guilders on her bank account in Manaus, for the purpose of buying a boat. With this boat her journeys over the great rivers, such a the Rio Negro and the Amazone would begin. She would explain the gospel to people, and handed out food and medication. She gave information about the diseases that where common to these lands. This work was made possible for her because of her small group of Dutch supporters who would send her funds and supplies on a regular basis.
Besides her work in the inlands, the city of Manaus and especially the ghetto's of this city had her attention. With a guitar and her ever present harmonica she would musically accompany her own street preaching. Whoever knows the ghetto's of Manaus, where the poorest on Earth live under miserable circumstances, knows that this work is very difficult. She barely had money for herself, not even enough to be treated in the hospital when she got malaria. She encountered many hardships. There was jealousy, unbelief, lies and slander. She was even accused of theft. But the work continued. In April of 1970, Betty received a prophecy to go to Porto Velho and to visit the tribe of the Pagas Novas which was one thousand kilometers away.
Her work among the Indians would begin.
Through contacts with different Indian tribes, she reached the tribe of the Cinta-Largas in November of 1970. This tribe did not want to be in contact with whites and had never seen a white woman. The Indians called her Beja.
Betty had many great experiences during this time. She learned to eat foods that would make most whites gag. It was a fortunate thing that Betty couldn't dance as this spared her for a marital tie with a tribe's chief. If she was too dumb to dance, she couldn't marry an Indian. She was willing to eat not noodle soup but worm soup to reach this people with the message of God. She stayed with the Cinta-Largas for six months. The representatives of the Indian protection foundation wanted her out of the area. In May of 1971, during a feast of the tribe of which no woman could take part, she was picked up by a small airplane. No one noticed but Beja felt like a traitor with the tribe. In November of 1971 she left to the tribe of the Satare Mauás. She worked here with them until March of 1972. She had to drink out of the river and this should have killed her. But it didn't.
In September of 1972 she flew back to the Netherlands after making a stop over in Surinam. She was received much more positive then the time before. More and more people know knew of her work in the Amazones. During her stay in the Netherlands she would speak at several different conferences. She had formed a clear goal in her mind. She would need a boat for her work in the Amazones. A boat that would not only transport her, but would at the same time be a place to live and work. Such a boat would cost approximately 40,000,- Dutch guilders (approx. $20,000,- US dollars). How could she come up with that amount? Eventhough Betty always tried to avoid publicity as much as possible, she knew that it was almost impossible to raise 40,000,- Dutch guilders without any publicity. Although, what is impossible in Betty's life with God? On Saturday September 9th 1972 an interview took place between Jan van Hillo and “the phenomenon Betty Smit” as she was being called back then. The title of the interview was: “the woman who humanly speaking should have been dead”. Right after the broadcast, boats where being offered to Betty and 380,000,- Dutch guilders were raised for her. All of the sudden she became rich and famous. Her first prayer was: “Lord, teach me to stay humble”. Her departure to Brazil had to be postponed. She was to come and speak about her evangelistic outreaches in Brazil in almost every large city in the Netherlands. On October the 18th Betty left for Manaus in the Amazones again. What a contrast compared to the first time she headed to the land that forgot God.
Carried by financial gifts and the prayers of thousands of Dutch people, Betty started her second stage in her life of serving God in the Green Hell of Brazil. The financial support and monthly monetary gifts allow Betty to do an amazing amount of work.
The boat that Betty bought, the SEMA I (Servico Missionario Amazonas) took Betty from the harbour of Manaus all the way to the inlands. Betty now not only had food and medications, she could also transport these supplies and bring them where they were most needed.
After the televised broadcast, a foundation was founded in the Netherlands:
Stichting Zending Amazones (Missionary Amazones Foundation). The head of the foundation takes care of finances, mailing funds and medications. They also send funds on a monthly basis to Manaus, from thousands of steady supporters in the Netherlands. Regularly, the foundation receives gifts and legates. Without these funds it would not be possible for Betty to keep doing what she does. Because it is difficult for foreigners (which Betty still is) to buy land and buildings in Brazil, it was decided 1973 to found a foundation in Brazil as well: Serviço Missionário do Amazonas. The monetary gifts are being deposited from the Dutch foundation into the bank account of the Brazilian foundation monthly.
It wasn't until 1977 that the method of the work changed. That's when the Serviço Missionário do Amazonas (or Missionary Service of the Amazones), which had been founded, was given the opportunity to utilize an island in the river Rio Preto. It was there that the small mission post of Monte Sinaï was realized. This mission post would be a blessing and serve a large area. Together with the people who were asking for help, Betty and José built a small hospital, a church and a school. Job opportunities arose and they were able to build their own house with wood from the island sawmill.
Monte Bethel followed 1980. A second “hiding place in the jungle”. It became a smaller version of the first, but here too means were offered to start a new life. Spiritual, social, medical and economical help were provided so that people were able to live their lives independently. Aid included, very practical and immediately offered, ranging from pulling teeth to giving instruction on infant- and childcare. The missionary posts became more and more independent in their operations and leadership of the projects was passed on in 1993 to a Brazilian church.
For the past 20 years she has been the driving power in the aid of street children in Manaus, a metropolis in the Amazon area. Betty now, together with her Brazilian husband José de Almeida Pimenta, leads a staff of forty co-workers. Working on the future of glue sniffing, addicted street kids demands a great variety of talents, but most of all courage. Betty's courage produces respect, over and over again. Courage that inspires others to trust God together.