“The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid.” G.K. Chesterson
During our first year in Brazil Doris and I were apprehensive about our safety. Those attending language school were of no help in allaying any fears for they also were new to the country. At the same time we could not yet chat with our teachers to be able to get our facts straight. We were in a strange land and heard stories about violence and robbery though we had no way to know what to believe. So what should I do to protect myself and family? The advice we heard was to arm ourselves–so we scraped together money during that first year, enough to buy a gun. I grew up being familiar with long guns and have proof because I still carry some lead in a foot. But in general a long gun may be of little help in protection.
So I went to a shop in the city of Sao Paulo and purchased a 32 Calibre revolver. It was a nice little gun with a 6” barrel but a foolish move because anyone who has ever fired a handgun knows that it is very difficult to be accurate with it. Then too, I at least was still learning the important lesson that our Eternal Father often sends his guardian angels to watch over his children; my faith was small indeed when I purchased that handgun. As well I needed to remember that we were in Brazil to encourage people to trust in God for everything related to this life and eternity. So you can say, “Without doubt you blew it”
Now a humorous story that illustrates just how useless such a gun was for our protection. Our family had travelled with other missionaries, the Mannoia family, down to a beach outside of Santos. It was a lovely beach and totally isolated from anyone—we assumed we were there all by ourselves. The plan was for the two ladies and the children to sleep in the VW van while three of the rest of our group would go a short distance towards the water and sleep there on the sand. Yes, we had pillows and perhaps a blanket or two. We all supposed we could then protect our families by carrying the gun to the beach and hiding it under a pillow. Did it help?
Not at all for with the surf breaking just a few feet away from where we men slept, we could hear nothing, unless it were a bombardment by cannons. Since the van was full of people sleeping, the pots and pans with other things were placed under the van. The next morning all that stuff was gone. Those in the van heard nothing and we who were on the beach were likewise deaf to the robbery. We could all smile at the protection we thought we had. Actually I do believe we were protected by the angels sent by the Eternal Father to watch over us.
During our time in Brazil there was only one time that there was an attempted break-in at our home; that was in Rio Preto where we found that someone had tried to jimmy our back door but had failed. Oh, we had stuff stolen once when we lived in Rio but that was an inside job—our maid. Our own personal experiences with Brazilians was always pleasant—what a wonderful generous and kind people!
Now I don’t want to give anyone the idea that there are no dangers in Brazil’s big cities. The fact is every big city in the world presents challenges. I recall a Brazilian pastor insisting that we rent a van for our work team to go to Rio instead of taking a bus. He considered the city dangerous, especially the bus and train stations for he believed crooks were there on the lookout for those not familiar with the country. On that particular trip we met a friend, Senhor Paulo who said he and his wife felt like prisoners in their own apartment because of crime. Doris and I never felt that way through the time we lived in Brazil, whether it was out among the coffee plantations or in the big cities of Sao Paulo and Rio.
For us, there is nothing that clears away fears whether those fears spring up in Brazil, Haiti, the USA or right here in Canada. The opening words of an old poem says it so well—“My hope is in the Lord…”