Brazilian Ladies Teach Us

“To possess ideas is to gather flowers; to think is to weave them into garlands.” Anon

I was relaxing in my swivel chair checking hundreds of pictures from work trips to Brazil when inspiration dawned. I ought to write a blog about some of the important people showing their faces on my computer. What stand out in memory are the women that Doris and I knew there. When I asked her thoughts about Brazilian women, she said, “The ladies are the key influence in their homes and often in society while letting the men think they are in charge.” My response? Silence, for I was wondering if that is also often true in our world. But no matter, I will tell you a little about a few of the ladies we knew in Brazil.

Olinda comes to mind. We met her in the interior village of Neves; in those days she worked cleaning coffee earning then about 30 cents a day. She also washed clothes for others while hauling up water by hand from a well. She always did her best to support her five children and an alcoholic husband. Before we arrived there she had begun to attend the little church of our denomination with the result that through faith in our Lord Jesus hope dawned. Through her transformed life her husband Louis experienced a life-changing conversion and later the whole family was baptized. Her husband died from longstanding TB but yet every family member has gone on to be successful. I could write a story about everyone of that family. Olinda is now reaping her Eternal reward but I shall not forget both her faith in God and her determination to bless her family.

In the village I’ve mentioned in the interior of the State of São Paulo, I met a lady at church who later told her story. The background for her words was the abuse that some suffer at the hands of their husbands. She told me that just months after their marriage that he beat her. The next morning she had made up her mind–she told him that if ever again he mistreated her, she would use their axe to take it to him while he slept. When he went to bed that night she said that again and again he would doze for a bit and wake with a start. He never again mistreated her. The threat worked though with some men it might have ended differently.

Vanilda was just a slip of a girl when she with her siblings came to see the film strips I was showing in the yard of a simple home. Everyone brought their own chairs to set on the dirt facing the castor oil bush for that is where the little screen was placed. It was a battery projector with just one picture at a time accompanied by my explanation in poor Portuguese. But it was enough that Vanilda’s family was deeply moved by the story of Jesus. Vanilda, her older sister and her mother began to attend our little rented hall and were baptized. I lost track completely of her two older brothers and only later did I again meet up with Vanilda in the city of São Paul. I mention her for she developed a beautiful singing voice; it is that voice and her ministry that stands out in my memory. Later she married, moved to a suburb of the city and her ministry expanded into the church where she attended. What a wonderful story of a discovered talent that has been used to bless her countrymen.

I must not forget Senhora Irene Emerenciano for she was considered the matriarch of the church in Brazil. Irene was the wife of José who with his knowledge of English, Japanese and Portuguese was a lifesaver for our first missionaries to Brazil. Irene, as a pastor’s wife in the early days of their ministry, knew poverty. I remember her telling of turning the collars of José’s white shirts so the raggedness would not show. When she had no more collars to turn, in answer to prayer, a miraculous shower of shirts came to them. That story is somewhere on Nobody ever had a bigger welcoming hug nor a more gracious reception for any pastors, lay people and visitors. Many times I’ve enjoyed her meals and her conversation. The last time we met was in front of her São Paulo home saying goodbye—something we both assumed would be for the last time. There were tears in both our eyes as we hugged and she said, “We’ll meet again—on heaven’s shore.”

There are so many ladies that come to mind—Senhora Cristina, wife of the present Bishop of the Brazilian FMC, is one of them. She now has a grown family but what comes to mind is a picture I have of Cristina in Ottawa near to the Parliament buildings. Her husband, Bishop José Ildo de Mello had been the guest speaker at our Canadian Conference. During the days they visited with us we took them on a whirlwind tour of Ottawa. The picture I have is of Cristina having tea with larger than life statues of Louisa McKinney and Henrietta Muir. Those women with others had worked to get the word “persons” in the law of that time changed to include “female persons.” As those Canadian women enlarged our understanding of the ladies at that time, in the same way those I have met in Brazil have made a transforming contribution to their world.

In such a short posting I have not done duty by any of those mentioned but be assured of this–they with many others have made the Christian church and society stand tall.




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