Travelling Light

When the bus pulled up to the station, my colleague Murdo and I moved quickly to toss our small suitcases through an open window onto empty seats. We did not want to travel on the interior roads without a seat for if we had to stand in the aisle we would be bent over all that trip. You see, the roof of any of those primitive buses was so low we’d not been able to stand erect. The small hand-lettered piece of cardboard on the windshield had the name of the interior town or village where it would next stop. With that in mind we boarded the bus with the idea of buying tickets from the driver. He was not there, perhaps off to a bar nearby to have a cafezinho or lunch.
We took a number of trips on one of those buses in the early part of 1956, not quite a year after we landed at the Sao Paulo Congonhas airport. Murdo and I were checking out the neediest places to set up our missionary efforts. It was not just that we travelled light so that we could get a suitcase through a small bus window, for Doris and I were just out of seminary. We owned little more than a few suitcases of clothes. As I think back over those days with a small daughter not two years old and another on the way, travelling light seemed natural, normal for the kind of work in which we’d be involved. The plan was to work with some of the poorest people in the interior of the State of Sao Paulo. And that is exactly where we ended up—in a small village surrounded by millions of coffee bushes and poor, poor people. However that is another story that I’ll share with you over a cup of coffee.
Now back to the buses used in the interior. They were nothing like the modern ones you’d find in Brazil for some buses now may have a stewardess plying the passengers with cafezinhos, um sandwiche or a pillow. Back then the buses in the interior, I imagine were made by some handyman on a truck chassis. They had hard seats crowded together so that there was hardly room for one’s feet let alone the suitcases we carried. At times chickens or goats along with bigger luggage would be carried on the bus’s roof.
On one occasion we were stopped from further travel on the red dirt roads by a stream that had no bridge. Apparently the bridge had been carried away with the high water of a heavy rain. But having no bridge did not stop us for long. The driver descended from behind his steering wheel, opened up the door at the back of the bus and pulled out some sturdy planks. Those he placed on the firm footings that were still there and so he made his own bridge. After the crossing the planks were returned to the bus. That little episode was repeated again on that trip.
During all of our time in the interior, we travelled light. When we moved to the little village of Neves Paulista, it was to house not yet finished. We had been able to buy a property that had a hall that could be adapted for religious services and a lean-to behind it. We hired bricklayers and carpenters but they did not have the place finished before we moved in. The floor was just rough bricks, there was no kitchen and the bath did not have running water. Since there were no shelves anywhere, I took the rough boards from the few packing cases we had and made them serve another function…shelving. It was a lot like camping but in this case we were far from anyone who spoke English.
Neves Paulista had electricity so we planned to put a pump in the dug well to push water up to a reservoir above the bathroom. But the well was some 25 feet deep or more. The solution? Doris used the windlass at the well to let me down to the water level to do the installation. The windlass was normally used to draw up a pail of water, one at a time for use in our home. I suppose I must have inspected the rope on the windlass to make sure it would carry my weight for I am not sure what might have happened if it had broken.
No doubt we all have thought about travelling light as we pass our time in this world. That seems to make sense as we begin to clean out our house or hold a yard sale to get rid of junk. There comes the time when we begin to downsize—giving away a few things, throwing other stuff out or making a donation to some charity. I’ve finally moved a tape recorder with dozens of tapes, a high-fi player with a huge box of records out to the garage. The next step for that stuff is the dump.
Travelling light makes sense for our time in this world is so short. I tell myself that it would be better to focus on treasures that go beyond this world to the eternal one. Arriving at the end of life’s road, travelling light here might well mean that you and I have been wise in the treasures that will not pass away.


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