Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Unity in Brazilian Families

“Trouble in marriage often begins when a man or woman gets so busy earning their salt, that they forgets their sugar” Anon

I stood on the sidewalk waiting for a ride to the church where our group was helping with construction. A car pulled up and family spilled out to immediately be surrounded by the folks where I was staying. There were also sorts of hugs and kisses exchanged and joyous greetings. Anything remarkable about that? Well yes, for the visitors were close relatives and they had been together just the previous day. This is so typical of Brazilian families. They maintain close relationship with parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, the wider extended family along with god-parents.

Traditionally the family has been the basis of the Brazilian social structure. Families in the past tended to be large with the expectation that a newly-wed couple would integrate quickly into the larger family structure. That is what I saw being played out on the sidewalk and I must say the warm family relationships touched me deeply.

The weddings I have attended there are a great time for socializing, with lots of commotion and good food. Such a wedding would no doubt stretch the budget of the parents for a long time for they include those I might describe as “shirttail relatives.” Those connections are considered valuable. The owners of businesses feel confident in hiring their kin for they trust the honesty of family members.

Though hiring family is widely approved yet when corruption occurs, because of those connections it can be a disaster. Friends may also be a part of the wider connection and that can lead to corruption. Recently that has happened on a vast scale in Brazil with billions pilfered from Petrobras.

In days past families were run by the father. He was the patriarch and his word was law. I recall the situation of a family when we lived in the interior. Mr. G and family came to church with all of them being baptized. But the father would not allow his wife to step outside the front door unless family was with her. And I recall riding on a street car and being made fun of because I might be one of those strange foreigners that washed dishes and changed diapers. The assumption was that men should not do women’s work.

At the same time the lady of the home was the glue that held the family together. That happened though most women had a minimum of education and were relegated to domestic duties. But there have been significant changes in family values from the time we lived there. To-day one may find two working spouses and the number of single parent families has jumped. In a way family culture in Brazil is changing to mimic our own bringing on all the problems that our culture experiences.

Though the family structures have experienced change, yet family closeness remains important. It not uncommon for three generations to be living in the same home though it would be strange for this to happen in our land. Grandparents and older parents are seldom put into a senior’s residence or a nursing home. And I’ve seen those families function beautifully.

When children marry they do their best to live near their parents. The children are considered part of the family group and accept duties and responsibilities. They help the family to function. Those same children are often included in family activities.

Though changes are happening in the family structure in Brazil, close-knit relationships are valued. In all of this the children who get an education move at times far away to find work. In the huge city of São Paulo, even across the city is a long way–at least in travel time.

The different religions in Brazil generally foster family unity: true at least of the branches of the Christian faith. When we peruse the Bible we find the close and important link between family and faith. And that is something I’ll deal with in the next posting pointing up some unknown statistics.

Until later…



Brazil in Crisis

“We would be more grateful if we knew how much of what we take for granted is planned by God.” Anon

If it were not for the World Olympics coming up this summer, few would care much about the number of crises facing Brazil. A crisis? An authority on world health recently called for the cancellation of the Olympics. The concern is not just for the Zika virus that could infect anyone visiting the Olympics but it is that the Zika virus could then be carried to other areas of the world and thus become a pandemic. Of course a cancellation is not going to happen—too much preparation has been made worldwide for those games.

The fact is I’m hesitant to write about the country itself for in most minds, Brazil is almost half of a world away. But Brazil is nearer to our interests than we might think. The Brazilian plane manufacturer, Embraer is in direct competition with Bombardier. They both are trying to sell the same size planes around the world. Jobs in both countries are at stake in aircraft manufacturing. Yet I imagine not one of is in the market for one of their mid-sized commercial jets. But who knows about your economic bracket?

One key issue that touches the church and our friends in Brazil is the endemic corruption. You see corruption is partially behind the collapsing Brazilian economy, a free-fall that is beginning to resemble the great depression of the 30’s. Brazilians are saying, “The corruption is no longer tolerable.”

When we lived there, we never met corruption that was directly affecting us. But we knew it was happening. A missionary we knew  had recently arrived in Brazil and wished to get a driver’s licence. He was advised by those who knew the situation, to be ready to slip a certain amount of money under the table. That would make it possible to be issued the licence. The answer was, “No I can’t do that. Why it would be wrong!”  He then took the test and failed—of course. He was warned that a “gorjeta” under the table was necessary and so he flunked once again.

So how was he ever going to get his driver’s licence? The advice among the others of the group was that tipping someone to do what is legal and right is not bad. But a person should not do anything to encourage a person to do what is wrong. With that in mind he passed the next driver’s test. I can understand the situation for without doubt the test examiner depended on those “gorjetas” to make a half-decent income. I suppose it was a system worked out over the years that helped pay employees.

But corruption has become big time with important people siphoning off not just millions of dollars from the national oil company Petrobras but the theft is declared to be into the billions. Recent news pointed up that elected and unelected federal government officials are being charged by the police. The accusations are landing at the feet of president Dilma Rousseff adding to her all-time low satisfaction rating. Brazilians are unhappy with a contracting economy for it is making it difficult for the working man to put food on the table. Right now a trial is looming to oust Rousseff from the presidency though I am not sure how much that will help. The vice-president has little more support than the president herself.

I recall during the time we lived in Rio the news was that off-duty police gangs were being paid by businesses to clean up the streets by killed both criminals and the indigent. A few days ago I saw a report on TV of police brutality in the slums. The police were trying to get rid of the drug traffickers and criminals. The reporter mentioned that in the slums it was not uncommon to hear gun shots and a machine gun firing during the night. The number of “desaparecidos” leaves most everyone in the slums afraid to cooperate with the police in any way or to take their complaints either to the police or to the courts.

Why should I mention these problems? From my viewpoint an answer is simply this—a request for prayer for this land so that a revival of the acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ might touch lives. Oh that the whole culture of Brazil might be transformed into one of honesty, goodness and Christian love. As I write this I know well enough that we here in Canada also need a good dose of the Grace of God that results in virtuous lives.


Believing In Angels–4th on topic

“When all the traffic is coming against you, you may well be in the wrong lane.” Anon

Science explains reality by stating something we all understand and experience– that there are three dimensions: height, width and depth. Some may add “time” as another. Yet scientists, speculate with complicated mathematics that there may be up to nine dimensions. That opens the door for us to think about a spiritual dimension that surrounds the material universe. It is a universe not accepted by those who believe only in science. As for me, I believe in science and this spiritual dimension that includes angels touching our lives.

This dimension contacts our world in strange and wonderful ways. Some think of those strange happenings as luck or happenstance. All of us at one time or another experience strange occurrences. But luck just does not cut it as an answer.

There comes to my mind is an accident that happened to me a year or two before I got my Driver’s Licence. That means I was thirteen or fourteen for my permit was issued when I was fifteen. I got it because I was a farm boy. It happened one summer day when the neighbours were together at a farm threshing grain. The big threshing machine was set up and the tractors and horses were hauling in the grain that had been stooked in the fields. For some reason another tractor was needed and dad sent me home to bring our 8N Ford to where they were working. I took a shortcut across the fields to our home.

To get back to the neighbour’s place, I drove the tractor on a gravel road. Along the way I crossed a narrow bridge with a creek that only ran in the spring. Then I met a car where the road was not only narrow but with a deep ditch on either side. I was afraid of getting too close to the car that had not stopped. In doing so I drove onto the gravel shoulder. It gave way. The tractor rolled into the ditch and landed on its side. Instead of being crushed by the tractor it threw me off when it rolled. I was little hurt except to my pride. But the tractor had to have repairs.

The accident could have been serious. I recall the time and place where an older brother was killed in a tractor accident. I’ve wondered why the same thing never happened to me.

The more I think about angels being involved in my life, another strange story comes to mind. This happened on a farm on Sunbury Road where dad and mother lived with the two youngest of us children. It was late spring and I my sister Alma and I were exploring some of the farm that extended back to Dog Lake. There were a number of soft maple trees along the fence row that was next to the farm trail used by the horses and farm machinery. I knew about maple trees providing syrup and when I discovered a tree with a slick line of sap running down its trunk I tasted it. I found it sweet.

That was when the trouble began for I was curious as to where the sap was coming from on the tree. Normally a person would have to drill a hole in the tree and insert a spile to get the sap but not in this kind of maple. As the tree grew it had divided into two huge trunks forming a narrow V. I began to climb the tree and when I was some ten feet off the ground I stepped into the V. But I could not get my foot out. Worse, in my struggles I fell backwards and hung upside down by my foot. I was stuck.

Alma could do nothing to help so she ran to the house to get mother. She came quickly as possible over that distance but she could not dislodge my foot. She then ran back to the house and across the road to the neighbours, the Hitchcocks. Joe then came back with an axe and cut down half of the tree. That of course released my foot. I recall later dad saying that if he had been there he’d not have cut the tree but would have been able to yank my foot out. As I remember the pain of my twisted foot caught in the tree, I am sure Joe with his axe had by far the best solution.

For days my face was red from that experience though not from the embarrassment but from the blood embedded in my skin.

As I think back on these experiences and others I have no problem imagining a spiritual world beyond our material world. Angels touch our world in strange and wonderful ways. You may never experience hanging upside down from a tree but you too have had strange occurrences. Luck just does not cut it as an answer. I am sure that in the crises experiences of life, angels are often involved.

Why not tell me about some of your experiences that could point to the angels at work.