Monthly Archives: December 2014

Christmas Memories of Beaches in Brazil

It is Christmas Eve as I prepare to post a piece on my blog. The day has been dark and damp so for something cheery and handsome my mind goes back to the beaches we knew and visited in Brazil. Those beaches fit into our Christmas memories for as a family we celebrated a few of those Christmases at a beach. Our children enjoyed the sand and the water, then of course Christmas dinner Doris had prepared all spread out so nicely on a blanket over the sand.

No doubt about it. If you like beaches with lots of sand and sun, then you’d love Brazilian beaches. But still you’d never get to visit them all unless that was your fulltime job. You see, Brazil is huge with an immense coastline and the coast is basically beach after beach. If you looked down from a plane you’d see they are scallops of sand, kilometers long broken by rocky hills jutting out into the water. It is those beaches one after another, after another that make Rio de Janeiro so popular to tourists. Mind you, Brazilians love and crowd those beaches as well.

Many of those beaches are lined with hotels that you would find reasonably priced. The same goes for a condo especially if you don’t mind buying one a block or two from the water. A friend who visited Brazil with me was so enthralled with the Guaruja  beach and condo prices he even considered taking his holidays there. That may have been just a wonderful fantasy but to imagine it would lend relaxation to one of our wintry days.

Even as missionaries we got to spend time on the sand and shores. When we lived in the interior I needed to travel occasionally to the capital of the state to change money and work with an agent to try to get our car out of customs. This one time we went as a family taking the bus from Sao Paulo down through the mountains to the one of the beaches. That time we had that beach all to ourselves for it was during the cooler part of the year that Brazilians called winter. We rented a cabin on the beach for a few days but did not spend much time in the water—it was a little on the cool side. Doris reminded me that our son Vernon, was then just a baby in arms.

I recall the fishermen on the beach and their work. We never saw how they did it but they had somehow placed a huge net out in the water and were using oxen to pull one end of it into the shore. We did not see their catch, unless it ended up in restaurant nearby where we took our meals. The fish they served there was fabulous. That of course reminds me of the wonderful Brazilian restaurants.

You will find Brazilian cuisine excellent no matter where you go. It makes my mouth water just to think of the sandwich “bife a cavalo” (translation—steak topped with a fried egg)  I’d get one in a spot in central Sao Paulo right near the Cathedral da Se. I’d love to say that I’d take you with me to Brazil just to enjoy their cuisine but I’m sadly afraid those days are past. Perhaps I can share stories of their gastronomical delights with you over a cup of coffee some day.

While we lived in Rio our day off was most often spent on the beach just over the mountains from our home. We all enjoyed the beach but our two children never did seem to tire of the water and sand. One time when friends from Sao Paulo were visiting, we went to the famous Copacabana beach. As I think back I am not sure why we went to there unless it was the hotel we liked not far from the water. When I mention that hotel, food comes to mind for a continental breakfast went along with the room…and what a breakfast! As for the ocean, the waves were high that day so if a person was agile enough he could body surf on an incoming wave. Lots of fun and laughter but I recall one wave almost being the death of me. At least I thought so. Instead of being able to surf the wave, it drove me head first down into the sand. I wonder if the intent was on breaking my neck. Perhaps there is an advantage to being hard-headed.

When I think of the beaches, the oceans and the forests in Brazil my mind goes back to the Creator who nearly fourteen billion years ago at the big bang had an idea that included all of nature that we ever encountered and enjoyed in Brazil. I continue to be amazed at what I see of nature around us and I give thanks to the wonderful foresight of the Eternal One.  His big plan I am sure includes more than the beaches I remember—I believe it includes the offering of the hope of Eternal life. Wow! That will surpass the beauty of anything we ever experienced in this world.

 

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Miracle Shirts for Christmas

 

Sixty some years ago times were tough in Brazil. Money was scarce especially for a young couple who were planting a church in the outskirts of the city of Sao Paulo. Rev. Jose and his wife Irene were facing a bleak Christmas for money needed to be set aside for surgery on their five year-old daughter Cleide. Their surgeon had recommended the surgery on an umbilical cord hernia for she would begin school the first of the following year. And though the surgeon promised that he would not charge a fee, yet the hospital would need to be paid.

With no money, Jose and Irene went to a Japanese friend for a loan and promised to pay it back month by month.  But there was no money for Christmas. Nothing. It was Irene’s practice each Christmas to buy her husband a fine white shirt. But this year she explained there would be no such gift. Generally Irene would take his old shirts and turn the collars to hide the wear but this was not an option that Christmas. Every old shirt Jose had had been reworked as much as possible.

At family devotions as they knelt in prayer, Irene laid out her dilemma of having no shirt to give at Christmas. At that Jose replied that all the shirts in the world belonged to God, and if He wished to provide a shirt for him that would be no problem. So in prayer Jose and Irene laid the matter of a shirt before the Lord.

A few days later, still before Christmas day, a sister to Irene who lived nearby noted that a truck apparently moving a family had dropped a box in front of her house. She advertised for the owner and watched for any truck looking for a box—but no one came to claim it. Opening it she found linens and shirts. Her husband and others of the family tried on the size 37 shirts but they found out that not one of them fit. Then thinking of Jose she brought the box to him, wondering if there might be somebody in the congregation that could use them.

Just then when Irene saw the size was that of her husband, she started to cry for she was sure the box of ten shirts was sent by God. The shirts, most of them almost new fit Jose exactly. Pastor Jose had more good shirts on hand than ever before in his life. God had provided not just one shirt but many shirts for Jose’s Christmas.

But God’s answer to prayer did not end there. During his many years of ministry as a pastor Jose never again had to buy a shirt. Always shirts were given to him from one source or another. Always Jose had shirts on hand…good shirts until the day of his death. The shirts always came to him from unexpected sources

Still, the story has not ended. Remember the little girl Cleide that had surgery? Well, later in life she married Luiz Roberto—a man who has been the administrator of our seminary and sung in citywide crusades. Now get this—ever since he became Jose’s son-in-law he has never had to buy a shirt. But the miracle of the shirts has not only touched Luiz but that of his son Ivan. Cleide told me that she gets so many shirts from a variety of people—yes, so many shirts that she has to give them away. Apparently the answer to Jose and Irene’s prayer of faith is that the blessing of shirts falls from one generation to another.

Now a final note: Often when we have been in Brazil with a work team we have stayed in the home of Luiz, Cleide and Irene. Just before I rewrote this story, I chatted with Cleide and Luiz just to be sure I had the details right. Apparently it is all straight. Surely one of the proofs of the goodness of God at this Christmas season is this story of “Shirts for Christmas.”

 

Sixty some years ago times were tough in Brazil. Money was scarce especially for a young couple who were planting a church in the outskirts of the city of Sao Paulo. Rev. Jose and his wife Irene were facing a bleak Christmas for money needed to be set aside for surgery on their five year-old daughter Cleide. Their surgeon had recommended the surgery on an umbilical cord hernia for she would begin school the first of the following year. And though the surgeon promised that he would not charge a fee, yet the hospital would need to be paid.

With no money, Jose and Irene went to a Japanese friend for a loan and promised to pay it back month by month.  But there was no money for Christmas. Nothing. It was Irene’s practice each Christmas to buy her husband a fine white shirt. But this year she explained there would be no such gift. Generally Irene would take his old shirts and turn the collars to hide the wear but this was not an option that Christmas. Every old shirt Jose had had been reworked as much as possible.

At family devotions as they knelt in prayer, Irene laid out her dilemma of having no shirt to give at Christmas. At that Jose replied that all the shirts in the world belonged to God, and if He wished to provide a shirt for him that would be no problem. So in prayer Jose and Irene laid the matter of a shirt before the Lord.

A few days later, still before Christmas day, a sister to Irene who lived nearby noted that a truck apparently moving a family had dropped a box in front of her house. She advertised for the owner and watched for any truck looking for a box—but no one came to claim it. Opening it she found linens and shirts. Her husband and others of the family tried on the size 37 shirts but they found out that not one of them fit. Then thinking of Jose she brought the box to him, wondering if there might be somebody in the congregation that could use them.

Just then when Irene saw the size was that of her husband, she started to cry for she was sure the box of ten shirts was sent by God. The shirts, most of them almost new fit Jose exactly. Pastor Jose had more good shirts on hand than ever before in his life. God had provided not just one shirt but many shirts for Jose’s Christmas.

But God’s answer to prayer did not end there. During his many years of ministry as a pastor Jose never again had to buy a shirt. Always shirts were given to him from one source or another. Always Jose had shirts on hand…good shirts until the day of his death. The shirts always came to him from unexpected sources

Still, the story has not ended. Remember the little girl Cleide that had surgery? Well, later in life she married Luiz Roberto—a man who has been the administrator of our seminary and sung in citywide crusades. Now get this—ever since he became Jose’s son-in-law he has never had to buy a shirt. But the miracle of the shirts has not only touched Luiz but that of his son Ivan. Cleide told me that she gets so many shirts from a variety of people—yes, so many shirts that she has to give them away. Apparently the answer to Jose and Irene’s prayer of faith is that the blessing of shirts falls from one generation to another.

Now a final note: Often when we have been in Brazil with a work team we have stayed in the home of Luiz, Cleide and Irene. Just before I rewrote this story, I chatted with Cleide and Luiz just to be sure I had the details right. Apparently it is all straight. Surely one of the proofs of the goodness of God at this Christmas season is this story of “Shirts for Christmas.”

Our Visit Experiences In Paraguay

Were we just plain careless in not contacting the Hustons about our arrival in Asuncion? Not really though a phone connection was non-existent as was every other means of getting a word to or from them. But we had chatted with them once in the U.S.A., I believe, about dropping in on them. In any case we found the mission residence but none of the Huston family. We learned however that Ernie, the father was out on his motorcycle travelling somewhere doing missionary work. So we just walked in with our suitcases. Well, what else were we to do in a country like Paraguay over 50 years ago?

The four of us moved in lock, stock and barrel. But there was almost nothing to eat so Doris decided to bake something. She went through the cupboards and found everything she needed including the flour. But when she opened the container she found it full of weevils. A person might cook, with the weevils adding protein but Doris and the rest of us did not have a hankering for this kind of biscuits. Or was it cake? I suppose when anything was cooked, the weevils could be mistaken for a whole wheat mix. Doris was ready to throw it all out with my permission. Then Ernie arrived home. He said, “No, absolutely not. I bought that flour across in Argentina. It was both expensive and any case any flour a person might buy would have weevils.” The solution was to sieve them out before baking had begun. So the cooking went ahead.

While there Ernie took the four of us across the river to visit an Indian village in Argentina. I don’t recall much about our time there except that when we got out our cameras the ladies began to pull off their blouses. Ernie quickly explained that we did not want pictures of them semi-naked and we would not pay to take such pictures. We did get pictures of the chief in his gorgeous dress up, one where he holds a huge anaconda snake around his neck. Vernon is included in the photo standing close to the chief but not too excited about that adventure.

There was so much we learned about Paraguay on that trip. Most educated people there speak Spanish but the language of the ordinary person in the street is Guarani. This language has captured the hearts of the people and comes from the Indian Guarani people. We also met a professor at the University of Asuncion, a Dr. DeCoud la Rossa who was well known for his then recent translation of the New Testament into the Guarani language.

We also met a Rev. Minoru Tsukamoto who worked among his people, the Japanese immigrants in the country. He was small of stature, a humble hard working man with a mission to help his impoverished people who were trying to settle in an inhospitable land. He and his family were so poor I wondered how it was possible they did not starve. There is no one I will ever respect more than Minoru, his wife and children.  He told us stories of the Mennonites who left Europe to find a new life there but discovered instead their non-combatant stance made them victims to any Paraguayan with a penchant for evil. Policing in the remote interior did not exist. Minoru told of men breaking into Mennonite homes, raping the women and robbing them of anything they wished. All this while the men would do nothing more than kneel in prayer. Draw your own conclusions but I say in this case religion had gone awry.

Much of the rest of our time there has faded from the synapse of memory. I do know this that we did not return by bus, not wishing of course to spend days on the road because of a possible prolonged rain. My assumption—correct me if you have any details I have forgotten—but I assume we flew home on a direct flight from Asuncion to Sao Paulo.

A Stop at the Falls, the Foz de Iguacu

It is noteworthy to stand beside the Iguacu River for it divides Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. But for us it was more than that for we needed to cross this river from the small town of Foz de Iguacu in Brazil to the country of Paraguay on the other side. The huge swirling eddies of the water would threaten any small boat, so the crossing before us appeared more than exciting—it seemed dangerous.

But let me tell about our trip so you understand what in the world we were doing in that part of the world. You probably know from previous blogs that we were missionaries in Brazil. On this occasion we were travelling to visit the Huston family in Asuncion, Paraguay. But since we wanted to do a bit of sightseeing along the way we stopped part way there to see the world famous falls, the Foz de Iguacu. The trip began at the city airport in Sao Paulo that now handles only local traffic. This was before short-haul jets but we were lucky to board our first turboprop plane. It landed on a grass runway and our visit to the largest falls in the world began for Doris, myself and our two children, Monica and Vernon.

If my memory is correct we booked into the only hotel in town, and then took a bus out to the falls. When we stopped close by the falls we made sure we were all together. We kept track of our children for we were perched on a rock about halfway down to the pool where the water fell from the precipice above. From there we stood we could see not only the three Kilometres of the whole falls but the horseshoe part named the A Gargunta do Diabo.  Actually the falls is a network of 275 individual falls, some small and others huge. The numbers about the falls would not excite any anyone including those who read this blog. You would need to stand beside us, hear the roar from The Devil’s Throat, feel the surging clouds of spray and watch the water that cascades from the Parana; this river is only exceeded in length by the Amazon.

When we visited, there were no catwalks or jet boats to take us over the roiling waters just below the falls. But we did see this! Boys from below where we stood were diving into the pool formed by the falling water. Me–I had no desire to dive in for I could imagine jagged rocks under that boiling water. However the boys I assume were there just for the fun for none came to ask for a few centavos.

For the geographers I should say a word more about the Parana river. It is so huge the Tupi Indian language for the word means, “like the sea.” The Itaipu dam and hydro electric generators on the lower Parana produce 90 % of Paraguay’s electricity, 20 % of Brazil’s power and is only superseded in size by China’s Three Gorges power plant.

But back to our family, this time at the hotel. I don’t remember much about it except that it was acceptable and in a way that was special for this frontier town. And it had a good restaurant. Perhaps the dining room was crowded for we shared a table with a handsome lady. As we chatted about what we each did, she shared her work using euphemistic words—her task was to make men happy.

It was the next morning that we descended the hill with our luggage to the Iguacu river close by. We were apprehensive when we saw our transportation to the little backward village in Paraguay across the water.  Our only option was a wooden boat that would hold perhaps a dozen individuals. When loaded with people and a treadle sewing machine, the gunnels were about six inches above the water. That did not seem nearly enough for the half Km. crossing on fast moving water swirling with eddies. But we had no choice…either it was pay our fare and take this boat or interrupt our trip. So we said our silent prayers and counted on God to post his angels to the task of getting us safe to Paraguayan soil. We made it but then loaded on a bus for Asuncion that did not look much more promising than the boat.

But then we ran headlong into the laws regarding the roads. No traffic moved at all in any direction when it began to rain. The purpose was to preserve the integrity of the dirt highway and sure enough it began to sprinkle. The bus pulled into a little roadside stand that we thought might provide a respite from the rock-hard seats of the bus. They did have soft drinks for sale but you can imagine how appetizing they were in a tropical climate when there was no refrigeration. But we drank it anyway and ate the little sandwiches available on stale bread. The sprinkling stopped—thank you to God’s angels—and after a while the road dried up a bit and we were on our way.

Added to the complications of this trip is that we had no confirmation from the Hustons that they knew we were coming.

(Catch up with us next week!)