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Maria Alida Baar Nigri

Photo courtesy of Brazilian White Center - UNASP.

Nigri, Maria Alida Baar (1904–1995)

By The Brazilian White Center – UNASP

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The Brazilian White Center – UNASP is a team of teachers and students at the Brazilian Ellen G. White Research Center – UNASP at the Brazilian Adventist University, Campus Engenheiro, Coelho, SP. The team was supervised by Drs. Adolfo Semo Suárez, Renato Stencel, and Carlos Flávio Teixeira. Bruno Sales Gomes Ferreira provided technical support. The following names are of team members: Adriane Ferrari Silva, Álan Gracioto Alexandre, Allen Jair Urcia Santa Cruz, Camila Chede Amaral Lucena, Camilla Rodrigues Seixas, Daniel Fernandes Teodoro, Danillo Alfredo Rios Junior, Danilo Fauster de Souza, Débora Arana Mayer, Elvis Eli Martins Filho, Felipe Cardoso do Nascimento, Fernanda Nascimento Oliveira, Gabriel Pilon Galvani, Giovana de Castro Vaz, Guilherme Cardoso Ricardo Martins, Gustavo Costa Vieira Novaes, Ingrid Sthéfane Santos Andrade, Isabela Pimenta Gravina, Ivo Ribeiro de Carvalho, Jhoseyr Davison Voos dos Santos, João Lucas Moraes Pereira, Kalline Meira Rocha Santos, Larissa Menegazzo Nunes, Letícia Miola Figueiredo, Luan Alves Cota Mól, Lucas Almeida dos Santos, Lucas Arteaga Aquino, Lucas Dias de Melo, Matheus Brabo Peres, Mayla Magaieski Graepp, Milena Guimarães Silva, Natália Padilha Corrêa, Rafaela Lima Gouvêa, Rogel Maio Nogueira Tavares Filho, Ryan Matheus do Ouro Medeiros, Samara Souza Santos, Sergio Henrique Micael Santos, Suelen Alves de Almeida, Talita Paim Veloso de Castro, Thais Cristina Benedetti, Thaís Caroline de Almeida Lima, Vanessa Stehling Belgd, Victor Alves Pereira, Vinicios Fernandes Alencar, Vinícius Pereira Nascimento, Vitória Regina Boita da Silva, William Edward Timm, Julio Cesar Ribeiro, Ellen Deó Bortolotte, Maria Júlia dos Santos Galvani, Giovana Souto Pereira, Victor Hugo Vaz Storch, and Dinely Luana Pereira.

 

 

First Published: July 7, 2021

Maria Alida Baar Nigri, dean, teacher, and missionary, was born in June 1904 in Riga, Latvia. Her parents, Christoph Baar and Maria Sophie Amalia Von Elblaus (1872-1934), owned a restaurant in Riga, where they raised their three children—Wally Baar, Edgar Friederich Baar, and Alida—by Lutheran principles. In 1910, Edgar Friedrich died of scarlet fever. The birth of another son one month after the child’s funeral alleviated the pain, and the new son was also called Friederich Baar.1

Shortly after, difficult events arose due to the First World War that began in 1914 in Europe. On finding out about the war during vacations at the Baltic sea, the Baars decided to move to the countryside of Latvia in an effort to distance themselves from the German border to stay safer. Their oldest daughter, Wally, was in Moscow, Russia, working as a housekeeper for a wealthy family. This worried the Baars even more. At the beginning of 1915, the Baars saw a German plane attacking the city; a bomb dropped and exploded in front of the building they were living in. In 1917, Alida's father and her younger brother, Friedrich, died in a cholera epidemic. From the family, only Mother Sophie and Alida were left to face this trial together without news from Wally in Russia.2

The same year, Sophie and Alida had their first contact with the Adventist message through a local newspaper; this led them to an SDA evangelistic series that was being held in the region. Attending the meetings, they noticed there were only women in the church because most of the men had been recruited to serve in the war, and the pastors were arrested for their non-combatant position. A nurse, who was also a Bible instructor, was responsible for preaching during the series. Alida and her mother were very interested in the Adventist message. After receiving Bible studies from the staff, they were secretly baptized in April 1918 in a bathtub in one of the church rooms because in Latvia baptisms could not be performed in public at that time.3

After her baptism, Alida struggled at school due to her faith. Because of the war, classes only took place when the situation was favorable. As a result, most classes occurred on Sabbaths. Even with her mother insisting that her daughter should be released, the school director did not give in and Alida attended classes on Sabbaths. For that reason, she did not regularly attend church, which caused a certain detachment from the community. Noting Alida's absence, the young Missionary Volunteers (now Adventist Youth) began to assign her some roles for Sabbath afternoon meetings so she could participate and be present at the church.4 Due to the difficult situation they were facing in the place they lived, Alida and her family decided to return to their old home in Riga. The city faced dangerous situations until the end of the war in 1919.5

In 1922, a young man from the Riga Adventist Church, named Edmund, went to the Baar´s home to speak with Alida's mother about his trip to Friedensau Missionary College, located in Germany. In conversation with Sophie, he said he would like to be a missionary in China and that he intended to have Alida's company, whom he intended to marry. He said he would be willing to pay for all her studies at the missionary college. Sophie agreed with the proposal and packed up her daughter’s belongings. Alida was now 18 years old. She arrived at Friedensau in January 1923. She worked for about three years doing tailoring at the college to pay for her studies. However, Alida had no feelings for Edmund and at the request of her mother offered to return the payments he made, but he would not accept the money back.6

Alida graduated from theology in 1926.7 In that same year, Pastor Thomas W. Steen, who at that time was director of Brazil College (now Central Adventist University of Sao Paulo), visited Friedensau in search of young missionaries to work in Brazil. Steen asked the Friedensau College dean to suggest some girls for the interview and, after talking to Alida, he invited her to serve as an overseas missionary. Alida accepted the call but was reticent on account of her mother, because their small family was only composed of the two of them. For this reason, Steen traveled to Riga to talk to Sophie about his missionary plans for Alida. Although she would miss her daughter a lot, she authorized her trip so she might serve the Lord in Brazil.8

On August 26, 1926, Alida boarded the Monte Sarmiento ship destined for South America. On September 15 of the same year, she landed in the Santos harbor, São Paulo, where she was welcomed by pastor Steen and his wife. Arriving at Brazil College, she shared her testimony with the students after a Friday night worship service. Three weeks later, she took over the dean’s office at the women´s dormitory and people began to call her “Miss Baar.” The young Alida, who was 22 years old at the time, began to renew her dreams while serving in the Brazil College women´s dormitory. Alida often used her creativity to make up for the lack of resources.9

In addition to being dean of women, Alida taught history and held a German foreign language course,10 participated in the chaplaincy team by preaching at worship services, and also supervised the kitchen, cafeteria, and laundry. She sang in choirs and groups as well as playing the piano. In her eleven years serving at Brazil College, she taught solid Christian values to many young students. In recognition of her work, the women´s dormitory of that institution is called “Maria Baar Hall.”11

In 1929, Alida received permission from the school administration to visit her mother in Riga, to try to convince her to move to Brazil. However, it was not until 1934 that Sophie, at the age of 62, together with her son-in-law and grandson, arrived in Rio de Janeiro. While at Rio de Janeiro, Alida saw her future husband, Moysés Salim Nigri, for the first time at the Rio-Minas Mission office. On returning to São Paulo, the Baar family bought a house in Santo Amaro near Brazil College, where they lived until the end of their days.12

Sometime later, Alida was able to see Moysés Nigri again, who, in 1935, became a boarding student at the Brazil College to study theology. Moysés and Alida saw each other during meals in the school cafeteria and, after a while, started dating. Because of the 10-year age difference the couple suffered prejudice from the local community. After Moysés paid a visit to Mrs. Sophie, the courtship became official.13 They married on February 21, 1938, after Moysés’ graduation from theology. The civil ceremony was held at the Santo Amaro registry office, and Pastor João Meier conducted the religious ceremony at the school chapel.14

Soon after their honeymoon, Moysés and Alida received a call from the Northeast Mission (now Northeast Brazil Union) to work in the city of Recife, Pernambuco. The Nigris stayed at Recife for a brief period, but they received a new call to the Paraíba do Norte District, located in the city of João Pessoa, Paraíba State.15

While Moysés traveled through the interior of Paraíba to preach in the regions far from the capital, Alida led the Adventist church in João Pessoa, taking care of the Sabbath School for children, the welfare services (now ASA – Adventist Solidarity Action), and teaching vegetarian cooking classes.16 From the union of the couple four children were born. The first two were born in João Pessoa: Rejane Erina and Elmano Moysés, and the other two were born in São Paulo: Cássia Alida and Hélvia Meryan. The Nigris worked in the Northeast Region for four years before they were called to serve at the São Paulo Conference, in the city of São Paulo.17

Around 1952, Alida began to dedicate herself to child evangelism in São Paulo, encouraged and guided by the missionary couple Don and Dotty Christman. This work took place initially in the churches São Paulo City, then later in the countryside of the state, and later throughout the entire southern part of Brazil. She was finally called to work with child evangelism throughout the territory of the South American Division, presenting classes, holding workshops, guiding other women with lessons, materials, and financial assistance. Today child evangelism is present in the majority of SDA churches in South America.18

In 1962, Moysés Nigri was called to be secretary of the South American Division, with headquarters at Montevideo, Uruguay.19 During the eight years he worked in this position, Alida often accompanied her husband to the countries of South America to promote child evangelism, which she did as a volunteer for the Church, receiving no salary. In 1970, the couple was called to the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church where her husband served as a vice-president for ten years. Always dedicated and enthusiastic, Maria Alida accompanied her husband in his various activities.20

In 1980, Alida retired with her husband and continued living in the United States. Even so, Alida continued to perform activities in the children's departments of the Church.21 In 1988, at 84 years of age, Alida began to fall ill with problems in her lungs. She underwent surgery, but the problem persisted for a number of years. She died on October 24, 1995, at the age of 91.22 Two years before her death, in 1993, Brazil College gave her a tribute by naming the women´s dormitory after her. Her biography was included in the Notable Adventist Women of Today, a publication that honors 149 women for their dedication to Adventist work.23

Maria Alida Baar Nigri made a significant contribution to the Seventh-day Adventist Church for over 60 years. Leaving Latvia behind to immerse herself in a totally different culture while still young, she served as dean of women at Brazil College. Alongside her husband, Pastor Moysés Salim Nigri, she served as a missionary in five countries as well as in Northeast Brazil, in the state of São Paulo, and in South Brazil. She pioneered children evangelism work in South America. Alida’s efforts are recognized in Brazil and worldwide for helping advance the Adventist message.

Sources

“Dormiram no Senhor.” Revista Adventista. December 1995.

“Maria Alida Baar Nigri,” in Notable Adventist Women of Today, edited by Selma Chaij Mastrapa, 173-176. 1995.

Nigri, Moysés S. Sem Fronteiras: A envolvente história de um homem que marcou época. Tatuí, SP: Brazilian Publishing House, 2014.

“O Ensino de Línguas Extrangeiras no Collegio,” Revista Adventista, December 1926.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1938.

Notes

  1. Moysés S. Nigri, Sem Fronteiras: A envolvente história de um homem que marcou época (Tatuí, SP: Brazilian Publishing House, 2014), 11, 12, 20.

  2. Ibid., 11, 12.

  3. Ibid., 12, 13.

  4. Ibid., 13, 14.

  5. Ibid., 14, 15.

  6. Ibid., 15–17.

  7. “Maria Alida Baar Nigri” in Notable Adventist Women of Today, ed. Selma Chaij Mastrapa (1995), 174.

  8. Moysés Nigri, 17, 18.

  9. Ibid., 18, 19.

  10. “O Ensino de Línguas Extrangeiras no Collegio,” Revista Adventista, December 1926, 6.

  11. Moysés Nigri, 17, 18; “Maria Alida Baar Nigri,” 174.

  12. Moysés Nigri, 20, 36.

  13. Ibid., 40, 43, 44, 46.

  14. Ibid., 52.

  15. Ibid., 54, 56.

  16. “Maria Alida Baar Nigri,” 174, 175.

  17. Moysés Nigri, 58, 59, 68.

  18. “Maria Alida Baar Nigri,” 175.

  19. Moysés Nigri, 80.

  20. “Maria Alida Baar Nigri,” 175.

  21. Ibid., 175.

  22. Moysés Nigri, 93, 119.

  23. “Dormiram no Senhor,” Revista Adventista, December 1995, 30.

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UNASP, The Brazilian White Center –. "Nigri, Maria Alida Baar (1904–1995)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 07, 2021. Accessed February 29, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AGM0.

UNASP, The Brazilian White Center –. "Nigri, Maria Alida Baar (1904–1995)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 07, 2021. Date of access February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AGM0.

UNASP, The Brazilian White Center – (2021, July 07). Nigri, Maria Alida Baar (1904–1995). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AGM0.