SHE STOOD BESIDE ME
Life often lives itself over and over again in our minds. It could happen when we turn a corner in the road, hear a long-forgotten phrase or visit stories while in a half-awake sleep. For me history came alive when I was scrolling through pictures from long ago and I came upon one of my wife Doris.
There is Doris with an accordion on her shoulders standing in front of a dozen of so children. If I listen carefully I can hear the music she leads. The place is a small hall in the interior of the State of Sao Paulo in a village called Neves Paulista. What was Doris doing in this little place in the middle of this huge coffee country where some farms grew a million bushes? Why was she there in this little village where every building had a rose tint built over time by the dust stirred up from the red dirt of the streets? Why in this village where two strange Canadians were so foreign that when either of us walked down the street, conversation stopped and heads turned to follow our steps?
The obvious reason is that she was there because I was there and I was a Christian missionary. But there’s more. She was there because long before arriving at the Sao Paulo Congonhas airport she was sure that is where she wanted to spend at least part of her life. As I look at that picture I see a bigger panorama. Doris was doing more than teaching children about the Christian faith. She was a partner with me constructing something together. She had the big goal of building lives that would be successful because they were built on confidence in Jesus as Lord.
Some day I shall pull pictures from her own written story to give you the details of her ministry in Brazil. At this moment I want to tell you a bit about her talents otherwise the story will never be told. At times I wonder if I’d have been any benefit to anyone in Brazil if it had not been for her.
I’ve mentioned the accordion—well she comes from a wide family connection that is rich in music talent though her dad could not carry a tune in a bucket. We bought the first accordion after moving to the interior for we knew it would be useful. That was in spite of the fact that Doris never took a lesson on it. Oh yes, she played the little portable pump organ in church services and out on the coffee farms in open air services. There the “colonos,” the farm workers from the row of poor housing were fascinated by what they saw and heard. That itself is another story.
As well, Doris played the cowbells. Some of those bells were for cows yet the high notes were the small ones made to hang on sheep. But she never got her hands on a set of those till well into our second term in Brazil. She picked the bells up quickly—don’t mind the pun for that is how a person plays the bells. The bells were laid out on a long table in the same pattern as a piano keyboard. That was something she knew well.
Wherever she played the bells in a church or a hall, people craned their necks to see the magic. If it was on a street corner or in a park, people would crowd in with the children getting closer yet. Playing the bells is indeed a special talent even for those who know something of the piano.
But her ministry to people went beyond music. She organized Sunday School classes and mid-week programs for children. Add to those tasks a youth program as well.
One of the boys from there in the interior recalls as an adult that one of the big attractions to the youth group was the cake that Doris would bake for them. Remember this, among the poor people in the interior, a cake would be the occasion for a celebration.
Hey, I almost forgot to mention she cared for our daughter Monica who was just a few years old. Our son Vernon was born in the interior. That story includes her memory of the birth of our 10 pound boy without the benefit of even an aspirin.
But since this blog is about her ministry I must include one trip she made from Neves to Rio Preto to speak at an evening meeting for ladies. Doris got behind the wheel of the big old Ford work van and headed out alone on the one hour drive over dirt roads through the coffee fields. They were wet from a previous rain and we understood from experience that there is no mud like the red dirt gumbo after a rain. But those roads dry quickly and Doris faced the drive because of her speaking engagement. From the top of one hill he she could see a mud hole so deep cars were getting stuck. But a group of men would then help push it through, of course looking for a tip.
Doris just gunned the engine, sent the men scurrying and the mud flying. She made it through. But night descended and a rain as well before she was free to tackle the return trip. There was the fear in the air of what might happen if a person were stuck in the mud on that road. A taxi driver had been robbed and murdered just a few weeks before at an intersection. My evening work was over so as the clock ticked passed 8:00 p.m. I put the children to bed but then had nothing else to do but fuss about Doris not pulling into our yard. A couple of hours later she drove in. It was explained this way—she had started late to return and the muddy driving had slowed that old van.
But whatever reasons now come to mind for her safe arrival, this is one incident that confirmed by belief in guardian angels. During our time in Brazil those angels worked overtime. Often their tasks had something to do with Doris’ ministry or exploits—whatever you want to call them. Those were hard days for Doris there in the interior but years later I see them as some of the most satisfying. Well, at least I see them that way.
About guardian angels, all of us can remember the times and places where those same angels were present.