Brazil Unravelled

Putting Down Roots in Rio Preto (a continuation)

The street on which we lived had cobblestone and many of the other streets in town were the same. Asphalt paving was scarce for Brazilians imported most of their petroleum products. Fear of the foreign oil companies developing Brazilian resources was palpable. The cry by leftist politicians and most newspapers was, “O Oleo e Nosso,” that is, “The Oil is Ours.” All that has changed and now Brazil is energy independent, but not back in the late 50s. I mention this to explain why a street from our home to the edge of town was just dirt and why this was important then.

Imagine us carrying our little daughter Monica and pushing a carriage with our baby Vernon up a dirt street to a rented hall where we held religious services. The wheels of that carriage were mostly invisible in the soft dirt…sweating work in the constant hot weather. Of course the street was worse when it rained.  Then the dirt turned to a slippery red gumbo. I could say more about wet dirt roads but it would add little to this posting.

Now a story about something that didn’t happen. The protestant churches in town were organizing unity services with each congregation distributing invitations in a part of Rio Preto. Since we were just beginning to plant a church, I alone had the job of daily dropping off flyers in the homes in our area. All went well all week as far as I knew. But one family was thoroughly upset at me for leaving propaganda every day at their gate. Two of the young men from that family decided to stay home from work, wait for me to come by and give me a good thrashing—something that would teach me a lesson.

Well, it never occured because a friend of theirs from down the street had happened to drop in for a visit at the very time I was going by. What difference did that make? Well this lady, Dna. Zenaide was host every week to film strips that we showed in her yard. Those film strips drew a lot of attention for folks had no electricity, no TV and few radios. Those same film strips may have contributed to this family’s hostility. Anyway, the fellows who had decided to beat me up were embarrassed to administer this important lesson in front of Dna. Zenaide.

She later told Doris that the plan was not just to beat me up but to kill me. Whatever the purpose they had, I believe God had sent his angels to arrange circumstances so that it never happened. I often wonder if God’s angels are not involved behind the scenes in our lives, bringing blessings untold.

You’ve gathered we had no vehicle at this time in Rio Preto. And since there was no bus service how did we get around? If we had suitcases added to our two children, we rented a charrete which is a two-wheeled open buggy. That may seem primitive but we did not mind too much for a person makes do with what they have. And the rest of the time? Well we got around using “shank’s horses.” Let me explain this Irish expression that I picked up from my dad. A shank is the part of the leg between the knee and the ankle. So our legs were the horses that took us where we wanted to go. Mentioning that I remember the long hike—the four of us–down to the city market that took the place of grocery stores.

The most important of our memories are of the friends we made in Rio Preto. Many of them fashioned new lives based on a living faith in the love of the Eternal Father. We came to know a girl not quite a young teen when she came with her family to see the film strips I’ve mentioned. Her name is Vanilda and as she grew her beautiful voice matured along with her so that when she sang, a person would be enchanted. Nostalgia wells up in my mind clutching at my throat when I recall not only Vanilda but the wonderful people we came to know and love in Rio Preto.

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