Monthly Archives: January 2015

I Forgot to Leave the Keys

I FORGOT TO LEAVE THE KEYS

And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of His hand.   African Song

Living in the interior of the State of Sao Paulo meant I had to travel 600 Kilometres to the big city of Sao Paulo to exchange money. Since those dirt roads could either turn to mud or create clouds of dust that would blow through the open windows of any bus—the only option was take the train. Even so sparks from the wood burning engine would come in a window and could burn a hole in my shirt. And I’d come awake with a start. But the story of this post is something else.

Since we lived in Neves some 40 kilometres from the station, I would go the city of Rio Preto where I could catch the train. Doris with our two small children would drop me off and then return home. The vehicle we had was an old Ford Carryall that had seen better days but she had mastered the old beast. So I was not much concerned about her and our little ones getting back to Neves.

But I forgot to give her the keys to the vehicle. I might invent excuses for my carelessness related to being busy with last minute instruction. She of course had to be in charge of a number of  churches with their services and programs.  Or I could say I was flustered in just getting my ticket purchased and my suitcase in hand. In any case the keys were in my pocket as I stepped up into the train. The worse part yet is that I’d normally be away from home for more than a couple of days for I would do more than exchange money. I would check with the agent who was trying to get our car out of customs down in the port city of Santos. What a shock when well on my way on the train I discovered the keys. But then there was nothing I could do—well I could say a prayer. But such a prayer was not with much faith for the keys were in my pocket.

When Doris reached to turn on the engine there were no keys in the ignition. What was she to do? Doris says about the situation, “Well do I remember how I felt.” Of course she was unhappy for she knew hardly anyone in that city—especially someone that might be a mechanic or a locksmith. She had two small children with her and darkness was descending for the day was ending. Then she recalled me fiddling with some wires under the dash for one reason or another…perhaps to start the Carryall when there was a bad connection in the old contraption. So she began to try connections between one wire and another. I can imagine that with some of those tries, the sparks flew. Then she connected the right ones. The vehicle started and kept on running. So that was how she was able to get home.

I’m sure we both had our own stories about my being away when I arrived back in Neves. If I recall correctly I took a bus from the station back home for there would be no way Doris would want to try her luck fiddling with those wires again. Once was surely enough.  Just now as we chatted about how she got that old vehicle to start it came to mind that it must have been one of the Eternal One’s angels who were watching all the time and guided her fingers to make the right connection.

 

A Painting From Brazil

“As the blossom cannot tell what becomes of its fragrance, so no one can tell what becomes of his influence.” Anon

There is a painting on our fireplace that at times I stop and think about. Other stories then spring to mind. It is not just the painting that grabs my attention, but it is the memories that tag along with the name of the painter. A whole life is reborn in my mind as I think of Maria at her easel in the part of her living room that Doris and I know so well. But before I am washed away with the flood of memories and feelings that go along with the painting, I shall be more cold and factual, telling you about the painting itself.

The brush strokes show two jangadas that are leaving the shore to sail out into the vast Atlantic Ocean. So what is a jangada? It is a raft tied together of balsa logs and since balsa is an extremely light wood the poor have used them instead of boats. But there is more to these rafts than balsa for there is a sail fitted to those logs that will take each raft out into the ocean. The purpose is to fish. But this fishing is not a sporting adventure for these jangadeiros. This jangada is such a small adversary facing these waters for tropical winds can hurl huge waves at these rafts that would destroy any small, defenceless boat.  Behind the jangadeiro who sets the sail and guides the raft out into the deep waters there is a family that depends on his catch.  This fisherman hopes to haul in enough fish to provide a meal for his family he imagines is hungry at home. Yet some of those fish will be sold so that he can add rice and beans to his table.

You might find the jangadas anywhere along the great hump of Brazil that pushes out into the Atlantic. But there are two contrasting pictures that come to my mind. The painting on the fireplace tells the story of the beauty of the land. Then there is the courage of these fishermen who have given their bodies day after day to be burned black with the sun. But they have no choice but to face the dangers of the winds and the waves

Yes, Maria has set my mind to wandering among the balsa rafts, the sea and the poor who find a living on the water. But now it is the lady who painted this picture that becomes my focus.  So many Brazilians are so like Maria in her ability to be an artist in one way or another. Maria not only paints but she plays the organ that is placed between her “painting” corner and the light from the front window of her living room. I recall one day—perhaps a Sunday she gathered her hymn books and began to play. The music gathered her husband Alzenir, Doris and myself and the four of us sang those wonderful old hymns that give us hope for an eternal life beyond this one. It moved me deeply for I love the Portuguese language and I am sure we learned quickly this Latin language for it was tied to the music of hymns. In this case the music we already knew.  We learned those new words and they perhaps grew more precious to us than the English from our childhoods.

It was in a simple brick church in a new poor area of Sao Paulo that we first met Maria. My wife Doris had begun a youth program and Maria along with her future boyfriend Alzenir began to attend. But since help was needed to run the program these two young teens began to help out. They later married, raised a family and Alzenir eventually directed this same youth program across the country. For many years Maria suffered with seizures and though medication helped yet it took some sharpness from her personality. Just a few years ago she had brain surgery and is so much better. Still through it all Maria was always the perfect hostess, always had a smile though it was occasionally with a twist related to her illness.

Ah Maria! If by some strange fate we should travel once again to Brazil, you with your family would more than likely meet us at the airport and insist that we spend a few days in your home. What wonderful stories we would share with smiles as we recount events nearly forgotten over many years. We might have to wipe away a tear before we say our ate logos ,our goodbyes. I’m almost sure you’d pick up another painting hidden close by your easel and put it into our hands before we step out your front door. One thing is for sure—we will not forget you Maria and the jangadas you painted into our hearts.

There is a paradox in all that I have written. On the one hand the painting on the fireplace has stirred up memories of friends and places from days past. But I might suggest this; we are still ministering in a small way in the Brazilian church through the people we love. But there is also the future that is totally hidden. Both are God’s gift to Doris and me—the nostalgia for people and places we have touched that are now fading into the fog of history. Then there is the hope He gives that looks beyond this world and its struggles. We live now in the present—content in the eternity that is now with us. And we are content as we consider the coming eternity when we shall meet our friends and no doubt some of the jangadeiros. Our faith affirms the Eternal Father in one way or another. He will continue to bestow good upon us.

The Rivers of Memories

“If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God.” George Macdonald

With the beginning of this New Year, I suppose there are some who are doing what my wife Doris and I have been doing recently. We’ve been floating down the river of memories and on that quiet voyage little wavelets have washed back to mind so many circumstances both good and bad. Perhaps for you the reader, just the passage of one year to another calls to remembrance years and experiences long past.

Since we’ve had to clean out part of our home and re-arrange other parts, we’ve come upon pictures that take us back over 60 years to when we were married. Nostalgia almost blinds my eyes with tears as we recall when and how both of our children were born. Our daughter Monica came to us in Kentucky and our son Vernon in Brazil. Do you too remember the scrapes and joys that went along with raising your children? Perhaps your days of raising a family were tight ones financially as they were for us. Now you recall how you cut corners to make ends meet and care for each other and your children.

Then there were those high points of joy as we float down this river. You’ll recall those many times it flowed along so smoothly.  Scenes come to your mind of school or university graduations, perhaps the landing of a good job. Soon after the happy moments of wedding ceremonies arrive. Add to that your memories, as Doris and I do, of the birth of grandchildren. For us that now extends to great-grandchildren—would you believe four of them?

We’ve both had to sort through boxes of files that contain so much of our professional lives. It seems as if we are destroying life itself as those boxes go into the stove or out in the garbage. What am I going to do with hundreds of sermons in Portuguese? And Doris has boxes of Christian Ed stuff all in Portuguese that she prepared and used in programs for children. You no doubt know what erasing memory is like something precious full of history that has to be discarded. For us both for an instant we remember from the days in Brazil, churches we built and the people we helped. Sometimes a little current around an eddy will trigger those memories.  Mostly it feels like pouring important parts of life over a precipice; we watch the waterfalls carry it all away. Ah, it is the watching that hurts.

Along that flowing river of mission work, we encountered some swift waters and some dangerous rapids. Those times come back like dark ghosts to remind us of our weaknesses and hurts. My, oh my, how I wish the waves of that river might have the power to wash away the venom of some experiences. But there is no way to escape on this river the recalling that brings pain again to the heart. As you read you no doubt understand us and our longings; I am sure you too have been there. The fast water of that river of memories seems to drown out the ten years we spent in Brazil; at times we wonder if they may  never have happened.

There is no way to take our little raft down the river of memories without wondering when and where that river will end. A dark veil covers the moment that river will ceases to exist. Or will that river go with us just the same as when we close our eyes on a pillow this night. The waking the next morning will be both an end and a continuation. As for me I trust in that awakening and the serene place of that new life, all in the hands of our Eternal Creator. You perhaps believe as I do that Jesus our Lord has prepared a place where we may recall past memories and build others that will flow on and on and on.

If you wish to share memories and nostalgic moments over a cup of coffee, give me a call. Since I’m long retired, I’ll have time.

Roy C. Kenny, 613-354-6929

A Séance at Racioncalismo Cristao

“The blue of heaven is larger than the darkness of the clouds.” Anon

After living in the little coffee village of Neves for a while I came to know that the largest religious draw in that whole area was the Spiritist Center. The owner of an auto repair shop where I had my old van fixed repeatedly counselled me to attend their séances. He told me how his dad had been very seriously ill, had attended the Center of which he was a part, and was healed as a result. I had no doubt that it really happened but I might have a different explanation for that miracle than the one the son offered.

I learned a good deal about this brand of Spiritism through my mechanic friend. That Center even had a pharmacy in the village and though it filled regular prescriptions by the local doctor, yet it was explained to me that the spirits often spoke to the mediums giving them detailed instructions as to the medicines to buy at this pharmacy and how they should be taken. At this point I should explain that any person off the street could buy medications at a pharmacy if they know exactly what they wanted. But the pharmacist could not prescribe for anyone.

This particular brand of Spiritism that I’ve described in Brazil is not the one we might encounter here in Canada—that one would be the Allan Kardek Spiritism. Then there is another very popular Spiritism called Umbanda that combines African religions, Brazilian Indian cultures and Catholicism. That movement began among the Afro-Brazilian population in Rio de Janeiro and spread quickly even to Brazil’s neighbours. The only Spiritism I knew of in Neves was Racionalismo Cristao and it had a large following. On any night with a séance the yard at the Center would be crowded with horses and the streets nearby lined with cars.

Nabor was one of the young men in the village that left Racionalismo Cristao and professed faith in Jesus at our church planting project. We occasionally discussed his previous faith and one day he invited me to go with him to a séance. I accepted—they say “ curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction resurrected it.” Some would declare that going to such a séance would do me serious damage but I would still just smile and say, “It didn’t affect me, didn’t affect me, affect me, affect me.” Anyway, whatever you think about how that séance affected me–I went one night.

The hall there would hold a couple of hundred people or perhaps more and was moderately well lit. A raised platform from the far wall extended about half way across the hall and was wide enough to accommodate a long table with chairs around it. The rest of the hall was filled with chairs and it was there that Nabor and I sat. There was a small light left lit on the far wall above the table when the place went dark. Then a number of people gathered at the table and everyone began to repeat a particular mantra—“Grande foco, vida da universo, vibracao dos nossos pensamentos…” and on and on. I used to be able to repeat all of that invocation and I suppose could look it up—but why?

It was not long into the meeting when I was invited to sit in one of the chairs at the table. I accepted and a person known as a medium began to tell of this stranger among them who had travelled the whole world looking for peace and was now seated at their table where revelations occurred. Of course everyone in the village of Neves knew about the strange Canadian missionaries who were there preaching the Christian faith. Then someone in the almost total darkness walked behind us at the table and squeezed all of the shoulders including mine. That was a bit startling, a bit eerie. I began to understand the individuals at the table were the seekers, other than of course the mediums. The mediums continued telling about the varied needs, illnesses and troubles of the other seekers, most often pointing out the cure or remedy.

So what do I make of this brand of Spiritism when those who were part of this movement declared that miracles occurred. Mostly I think I would believe what they said. Of course there are some good things that might happen just through positive thinking. Some other instances of what might be called miracles could happen because of the kindly support and fellowship of that large Spiritist group. Then I must admit that there well might be some real miracles—but I should explain what I mean before you run off to some Spiritist séance.

I quote from statements I wrote long years ago. “The fact is that Satan will do little favours so that we will turn our worship of God to lesser things where he (Satan) has some power. (He) is willing to cure the little vices and sins of the flesh—if he can trade with us for the great one.” The great one of course is worshipping anything that is first place in our lives instead of the Eternal Father.

In any case, I believe it is true that the blue of the sky is greater than the darkness of any cloud.

Me ‘fraid of a local anesthetic?

“To get out of a difficulty, one usually most go through it.” Samuel Easton

It was unbelievable. My blood was squirting from my mouth and staining the white apron before me.  How could this happen to me?In Brazil? Oh I knew right well why and how it was occurring but in such frightening circumstances unbelief seems to take over. There in the chair I wondered if it was for real or was it some nightmare? My only consolation was the warm presence of my wife Doris with me in that small room. The whole scenario had an aura of comfort about it for she was there.

What was happening is that I was having my tonsils out in a doctor’s office under a local anesthetic. I do not know if the lady assisting the surgeon was a nurse. Doris is as nurse but she had no part in the surgery except to comfort me. No anestheologist  for the surgeon took care of that by puncturing my throat with shots of a deadening pain killer. There was no backup surgeon if anything went wrong.

I was counting on my own private nurse to be there but she had to argue her way in. The surgeon did not think Doris had the stomach for a Brazilian tonsillectomy. She explained, however, there would be no problem for she was a Registered Nurse. Now I think back on that situation and many others in life where Doris was a key saving factor. I believe that there was more to our marriage than two young people falling in love. I am sure that God with all of his foresight was part of the plan so that we could be together in that surgeon’s office.

One part I recall of that surgery is that I was scared of drowning in my own blood for it was hard to suction it away fast enough. The helper was doing her job the way a dentist in Canada might but that was no comfort to me.

In any case, the surgery ended and Doris led the way to the streetcar stop where we could get transportation across the city. But it did not stop near our home but at the top of hill some distance from our front door. But I could handle most anything at that point for the freezing had not disappeared. Soon in our small home and bedroom the pain came with a vengeance and I recall feeling as if my throat was cut. Of course that was true to some extent.

With the intense pain I wanted nothing more than to have Doris sit on the bed beside me and hold my hand. The only relief I could get was from a cold drink of water though that created another problem—swallowing. It took a number of days before I graduated from cold liquids to food made into mush.

But I never did explain the why of the surgery. For some time I had recurrent throat infections and my doctor thought the problem was my tonsils. But nothing improved after that ordeal and it was yeas later that a doctor in Ontario hit on the solution. Another question? Why surgery in such Spartan conditions? Well, the custom then in Brazil was to have all such surgery to be done in the doctor’s office.

And that reminds me other another tonsillectomy. When we lived in the interior of Sao Paulo state, a lady from the church asked me to go with her young son who was having a tonsillectomy while awake but with freezing. Well, I was in pretty good shape accompanying the young lad till the blood began to flow—I could use more descriptive words. In any case my stomach would not stand it and I left to sit with the mom and dad in the waiting room. Oh yes, the young lad recovered and on a trip to Brazil years later I met him once again and his mother.

I guess we can say, “All’s well that ends well.” But as I look back over my experience in a surgeon’s office I am sure the good Lord with his angels were doing their part. That surgery was back in 1956—but I am still thankful to God for his grace and mercy in getting through it as well as I did.