“Fame cannot tempt the bard, who famous with his God, nor laurel him reward, who has his maker’s nod.” Thoreau
The humblest of homes we’ve lived in meant more to Doris and me than just a space where we hung our hats. You’ll understand when I say that each home still holds memories that grip us. Each place is tied up with both difficult and wonderful experiences that yet are alive, stirring up deep emotions.
I must mention one home not connected to Brazil–that was the small one bedroom with bath that we lived in Kentucky while I was finishing up my M.Div. It was a rush to get to Kentucky in time to register—so we were married on a Saturday only five days after Doris had finished her three years in residence at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. We bought a hide-a-bed for our little spot else there would have been little space beyond crowding in a couple of chairs and a small table. We cooked on a hotplate that popped the breaker when anyone else on the floor tried to do the same. Doris and I moved into that room just days after our wedding near Ottawa, for I had to be there for the next seminary semester. It was during our second year in Kentucky that our daughter Monica was born. Doris went back nursing just one month later, working nights. The rule was that no babies were allowed in this residence but our baby never cried and no other couple ever squealed on us. While Doris slept during the day I’d drop in between classes to care for our baby. “Precious memories, how they linger…”
During the summer of 1955 that I graduated, we left for Brazil. If my dad had known how poorly prepared we were for mission work he might have used one of his Irish sayings, “The Lord looks after children and fools.” We had no one to meet us there, no Brazilian money, no language and didn’t even know the location of the city where we were to go to language school. The Lord sent his angels in the form of Mennonite missionaries who after helping us through customs they paid our way to a reasonably priced hotel in the right city, a place called Campinas. The incident that sticks in our memories of that hotel is that we pulled out the bottom drawer of a chest of drawers to make a bed for our six month old daughter. They was no place to do laundry but the Mennonites took Doris in to do the necessary washing. Within days I went to the language school to register and while there I read a note of a small furnished home available for rent—an urgent call had led a missionary family to return to the States. It was easy for us to move in for all we had were a couple of suitcases.
Every place has its memories and there in Campinas I had an experience that still gives me the shivers. I had suffered with a series of throat infections and a local doctor tacked it up to infected tonsils. So I went to surgery–but it was done in the doctor’s office. I’ll not mention any details except that later when I was in bed in our little home the local freezing evaporated. I thought my throat had been cut. All I wanted was Doris to sit by my side holding my hand. But the surgery did not solve the throat problems for they returned to plague me during our first term in Brazil.
Winters in that part of Brazil can be cold and wet and our first winter in Brazil was just that. Homes of course had no heat so we were dismayed that our clothes and books molded after a month or so. A navy suit began to switch colours. We both have wonderful memories of that home for Monica, our baby began to walk and it always seemed whatever she did it was with a smile. She took everything in stride and I suppose it was because as a baby that was all she knew. Or who knows—perhaps it was because she thought she had great parents.
Our next home was in the hot Northwest interior of the State of São Paulo in the city of Rio Preto. It was a brick two bedroom house with an eight foot yard, a low wall and gate that separated it from a street with the name, Jorge Tibiriçá. Vernon was born in Rio Preto and I’ve posted that dramatic story on my blog. Before we moved from that home both or our children came down with chicken pox. They were so very sick with pox showing up in their hair and all over their bodies to the bottom of their feet. Out of pure kindness they passed the bug on to me and I was as they say, “sick as a dog.” I don’t recall why we once took Vernon to a doctor but the medicine made him agitated so that he cried much of the following night and we spent the hours walking the floor with him. Our time in Rio Preto was busy for I was still learning to converse and preach in Portuguese while doing all the work related to planting a new church. But our home with our two children was my refuge—a refuge for Doris and myself.
While in that Rio Preto home we became good friends with a family right behind our home. Dna. Henriqueta Mendes gave us an interesting insight into Christian living for Doris and I had both come from very conservative church backgrounds. She was about as stylish as any lady ever, but I recall her fervor in serving the Lord evidenced with her giving out Gospel tracts in the streets of the city during special celebrations. One day they took us out to a small acreage and there we picked oranges with us bringing home half a bag full. It was a great experience for we had never before picked oranges. Through her we got to know another family that lived nearby and that was important for that lady taught me more of the Portuguese language and corrected my sermons. From our home we walked about half a Kilometer downhill to a market. It was tougher getting home with the groceries with Monica about two years old and Vernon just a baby. With no air conditioning in our home, I recall this: the weather was always somewhere between very warm and hot.
To continue another time