“One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness—it is usually returned.” Court R. Flint
The people in Brazil surprised me when we landed back in 1955 at the Sao Paulo airport. We had gone there to live and work as missionaries. I suspect they might surprise you too if you ever visit that country no matter the reason. Brazil may be known for its coffee and in recent years most everyone understands it has become the 7th. largest economy in the world. Of course when Doris and I with our months-old daughter went to Brazil we had no idea of what to expect. But we soon found out that Brazilians are the kindest and friendliest people in the whole world. Well, that is our experience though I have no idea what all of the rest of the world is like.
Back then, their espresso coffee took some getting used to but their hugs taking the place of handshakes were more than acceptable. Hugs were not only delightful but were evidence of their proven track record of friendliness. Right here I should mention we struggled a little bit with the hugs for they came from both men and women. The hugs seemed almost too friendly. I recall on one of our recent work visit to Brazil that I preached one Sunday night in a church with about 350 people attending. It was a wonderful service and as I stood at the door greeting people as they left I estimate that I received about 300 hugs and another 50 with kisses added. There kindness overwhelmed me.
I would like to celebrate the many people that now come to mind and give you the details of all our contacts—but it would never fit in with this posting. Many cherished individuals are left out.
Naomi Lopes was the teacher we met when we moved to Rio de Janeiro–for us it was a new strange city; there we needed to get our children into a school. Naomi was a teacher in a private school run by her parents though her dad also served as a Baptist pastor. She received us as if we were her family and so made our children feel at home, something that was needed after we spent a year in Canada on home assignment. We were there in Rio only a couple of years but we’ve kept contact with Naomi—she even visited us once here in Canada. This gracious lady will not be forgotten.
When we look for someone who is important to the church in Brazil and has been exceptionally kind to us and who often opening her home and heart to us—then we’d need to name Dna Irene Emerenciano. She treated the rich and poor, the children and adults with exceptional kindness. She told me a story that tells of her patience and compassion. She directed a Sunday School at one time where a little boy would not stay in any class. The lad followed her everywhere hanging to her skirt. Over time with Irene’s leadership his shyness diminished and later he made his career in the Brazilian army. That may not seem a big deal till a person knows of the mother who lived almost as a prostitute in a poor, poor home with another son that did not turn out well.
Unless you have a very good map you might never find the Brazilian village of Neves Paulistas. It was there that Luiz Roberto da Silva as a young teen became interested in the music he heard from a hall used for religious services. We will not describe the poverty of this family but with a little encouragement and the determination of the mother Dna Olinda and the five children—each one has done well. Luiz with his musical talent has been the soloist in many churches and city-wide crusades. But I mention him not because of his many accomplishments but because he has been most helpful in organizing the numerous work teams we and others have led to Brazil. With his wife Cleide they meet us at the airport, open up their home, provide transportation and leadership till they leave us once again at the airport. Luiz is one of our family in everything except name.
Then there is Maria and her husband Alzenir who, every since they began to attend a church youth program—one organized by Doris. A piece of Maria’s beautiful art hands on our fireplace. Then there is Bishop Jose Ildo de Melo and his wife Cristina who not only give great leadership to the Brazilian church but been more than kind to us. On a trip there not too many years ago he invited me to address their church conference with its representatives from all of Brazil. What a privilege! I might go on and on but I already I have written too much.
As I close with these wonderful memories I try to force tears away from my eyes. It is all because of our privilege, Doris and mine, to have so many great friends. It does not matter that they are far away in Brazil.