John McCann was saved at the age of seventeen. He was later baptised and received into the assembly in Kilmore, Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland. He had a deep interest in the Scriptures from the moment of his conversion and endeavoured to be a help in all assembly activities. As he grew spiritually, he became very exercised as to Gods will for his life, and his interest was directed to the needy land of Brazil. Eventually, as he read over Numbers 13 and 14, he became convinced that the Lord was calling him and that to fail to "enter the land" would manifest unbelief. His brethren in Kilmore gave him full support and commended him to the grace of God for the work, surrounding assemblies joining in the commendation.
He sailed for Brazil in March, 1948 being followed a few months later by his bride to be; Miss Kathleen Boston. They were married in the British Embassy in São Paulo, and made their home in the State of São Paulo until they had a working knowledge of the Portuguese language. Eventually they moved to live in Rio Grande do Sul, the most southerly State of Brazil. This move presented a great challenge to faith and courage, as there was no known work connected to New Testament assemblies there. They set up home in a modest way in the city of Caxias do Sul where the population was comprised largely of people of Italian origin.
In 1952 they were joined by Henry M Wilson, also from Northern Ireland. Many contacts were made amid much opposition. Nothing seemed to be accomplished at the time, but all was not in vain, for a man, contacted at that time, was saved in 1956 in the city of Porto Alegre. John and Kathleen moved to Osório in 1953, and it was there they had the joy of seeing the "first fruits" of Rio Grande do Sul. A young man called Alécio Freitas was reached and saved. This brother is still going on well.
John and Kathleen (who predeceased him in 2004) moved to various areas as they spread the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They pioneered a work, the results of which are today seen in the nineteen assemblies in the State of Rio Grande do Sul and the two in the neighbouring State of Santa Catarina. In later years other workers, including the writer and his wife, came to labour in the area. Our brother sought to help and encourage these younger workers.
He paid his last visit to Brazil in 1999. Already the early signs of his illness were developing. Eventually he was taken into care in Faith House Eventide Home in Finaghy, Belfast. There he was tenderly cared for both by the staff and by his daughter and son. On 9th March, 2012, he was called to be "with Christ", his passing mourned, not only by his family, but also by those who knew and loved him both in Ireland and in Brazil.
His funeral took place from the Gospel Hall in Lurgan on 12th March. The writer paid tribute to him at the hall, after which Mr McCanns nephew John McCann (junior) prayed. At the graveside Noel Fleck preached the gospel with Lindsay Carswell closing in prayer.
Tribute by Carlos Da Silva (Brazilian Worker)
With the departure of Mr John McCann to be with Christ the people of God here in Brazil feel that we have been orphaned, and respectfully request that we may share in the grief of the family and of our brethren in Christ in the UK.
We, here, in the poverty stricken areas of Brazil would never have known that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" if this illustrious son of Northern Ireland, with his late wife, had not come to South Brazil to labour for God, to suffer, to weep, and to love us. Many of us are alive today because he found us in time with the message of the gospel. May God help us to follow such an example to serve and to follow the only true God.
Carlos Da Silva