Monthly Archives: July 2016

Use Your Talents

“Be wary of the world, lest it unawares steals away your heart.” Susanna Wesley

Snapshots bring back memories for blog postings and this suggestion was a bit strange. The one I refer to was taken in Brazil during a street meeting. The picture is of Doris playing the cowbells and believe or not, I’m accompanying her on the accordion. Doris had the talent for music since she played the piano, the organ, the cowbells and often led church and school choirs. When out in coffee country Doris went with me to play the portable organ or her accordion. And me? I always was just dragging along, trying to keep up.

My beautiful picture

I love music, good music and some of that goes back to a class in Music Appreciation that I took in college. I had the entire required course under my belt so I could take an easy one just to get the credits. This class did what it was supposed to do—Mrs. LaDue taught me to love good music—classical music. Actually  when I was a child on the family farm I took some 25 piano lessons. But I hated to practice. The piano was in the parlour I would skip out the door to more exciting outside stuff.

My mother played the piano though I seldom heard her hit a note. My sister Grace played it and my brother Clifford fitted in with his mouth organ. Dad liked nothing better than the family to get together to play and sing—the old hymns of course. It was common to hear him singing as he went about the farm work. Add to that, the little Pine Grove church where our family attended had a pump organ on which my sister-in-law Gwen played the grand old hymns that had instructed the church for centuries. Those hymns still raise goose bumps.

That is the windup. Now this is the story of when we moved out into coffee country. There I felt the need for music for we purposed to travel to interior towns to plant churches. The result—I bought an accordion. But it was not for me, it was for Doris. As I look back, surely that purchase must have been with her permission. The important part of the story is that without even one lesson she soon was playing the accordion wherever we went.

It was during our second term in Brazil, Doris showed me where middle C was located among all that mixture of black and white keys. And she showed me how it related to the music on a page of the hymnal. I’d like to say that my talents helped me so I was soon playing the accordion. No way. No matter how I practiced there were too many notes for my fingers.

But desperation is the father of invention. So a couple of times when Doris had nobody to accompany her on the cow bells—I was forced to give a hand. Would you believe it—on the accordion?

We’ve all heard those marvelous stories of people who discovered an exceptional talent and went on to become famous. That was not me. But I trust God that I did use any other of my few talents to build His Kingdom. No matter that people covered their ears when I attempted to play. This I know—I used the talents I had. I hope it is the same for you.

Trusting in Prudence

“The butterfly counts not months, but moments, and yet has time enough.” Anon

I’ve always wondered why Doris and I ever went to Brazil for in many ways it never made any sense. We knew no Portuguese, had no Brazilian and little Canadian money, knew not one person in Brazil, nobody to meet us there and had no idea where to go when we arrived. In any case I do believe in God’s guidance. But when I read an article by Myrto Theocharous in Christianity Today, her insights filled in much of the blanks in my thinking. The title, “Prudence is Overrated.”

If Doris and I had been prudent at all, we would never have considered going to Brazil as missionaries. But that might have set us to wasting away the biggest and most dramatic adventures in life. We had every reason to think twice about venturing into something for which we were totally unprepared. Prudence would have nudged us away from the drama of ministry in another land, Brazil.

With a little baby to care for it is obvious we could not live on a São Paulo street corner. But prudence might have paralyzed our spirits. We’d then have said “no” to what later proved to the unfolding of perhaps the greatest period of our family’s life. I was just out of seminary and as look back I would say that I was not yet dry behind the ears. But dropped into the interior of Brazil forced us to grow up, to learn to fit into that society and into Christian ministry. We learned lessons in weeks that otherwise might have taken a lifetime to imprint on our thinking.

It is true that the secular society of to-day claims control of what we might call the good life. That would include income, health, prosperity, marriage and life’s comforts. In other words the world around us demands power over our future all in the name of prudence. The world promises that if secular ideals manage our lives then everything the world offers will fall into one’s lap. The secular mind sets the rules–prudence is the way to go.

Doris and I had many reasons to be prudent instead of listening to God’s call. Doris had her R.N. with added studies in psychiatry; I had my M.Div that with a few years of experience might have given me a prospering church somewhere. Between us we could have been quite secure in every way. Prudence pointed the way.

But God claims this world as his own, first through creation and then through the price He paid at the cross. So when Doris and I both felt deeply the divine call to a totally unknown future in Brazil, we trusted implicitly that he had control of the future. God’s control of the future—our future—encouraged us to place our bets on His future for us. Added in were risk, adventure, imagination and change.

There is always the sense of risk in God’s call. Even with all the faith we can muster in God’s leadership, still it is terrifying to rely only on trust in Him. That is so true from the moment He first calls for us to follow Him. It is true for all of the Christian life so that often prudence must be cast aside.

That faith in God’s calling to Brazil meant that we understand His control of our future. We believed that our family with all its unknown circumstances were in God’s hands. That fact becomes evident as you have read this blog, the story our time and ministry in Brazil. Every obstacle had a solution; every heartache and frustration had a consolation. As I put this blog down on paper the mystery and wisdom of God’s guidance stand out in “bas relief.” I now see that prudence was never the way to go. To trust totally the future into God’s hands may not be wise according to our world. But it is both the smart and most successful way to live. My experience in this life tells me that I can trust God for all eternity.

An old hymn says it better than I ever can. “Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go;

Anywhere he leads me in this world below,

Anywhere without him dearest joys would fade,

Anywhere with Jesus I am not afraid.”

Contagiousness

“To enjoy the things we ought and to hate the things we ought has the greatest bearing on excellence of the character.” Aristotle

When we lived in Rio de Janeiro, we had no idea what the little dirty creek behind our home had waiting for us. Our home was in Méier, one of the suburbs of Rio on the main commuter line from the center of the city. Though the area might have been considered middle class, yet the city was not quite able to do a top job in sanitation. Doris recalls that the creek carried not only run-off water but effluent from a nearby hospital. That creek was dangerous.

But it was also supremely attractive to boys in the neighbourhood for little minnows survived in that water. So the lads would take a bottle or a can and scramble down to the creek. There they might corner and snatch up one of the fish. What a delightful experience for the boys, but that is when the trouble began.

Our son Vernon was then about five years old and had made contact with other boys who lived nearby. That was possible for Portuguese was his first language. As a result he would go down to the creek with them to “go fishing.” Since our imagination told us all sorts of things about this dirty creek, we warned our son not to go near it. How many times he went fishing with his friends I’ll never know. This is for certain, he paid little attention to our warnings. Why not go fishing? All his friends were doing it.

Pollution and diseases were of little concern to him. What was important was his friends and the excitement of catching a few of the minnows. That was when he came down with hepatitis. The water of course was contagious with diseases. Of course hepatitis itself is contagious. So shortly after Vernon became sick, Doris came down with the same bug. We knew we had a major problem on our hands when tests showed hepatitis. Hepatitis is a serious disease.

As I now think about our situation and continue to write, goose bumps raise up all over my body. You see this is one of those fortuitous situations where I believe God sends his angels to provide solutions. Of course Vernon and Doris were confined to total bed rest. Doris could be a good patient but for a five year old to be quiet was a near impossibility. Having me as both caretaker and chief bottle washer took care of the home logistics but…

how do we medicate two very sick people in bed with hepatitis. We needed a doctor to help us though I do not recall how we found the one we did. Was this doctor referred through a friend or a newspaper ad? I have no idea but this I know that we had the best medical person in all of Rio de Janeiro when it came to treating hepatitis.

The story is remarkable. This doctor had worked with an Indian tribe in the interior of Brazil, a tribe struggling with an epidemic of hepatitis. The doctor knew he had no easy answers but decided try his luck instead of inadequate treatments. So he gave the sick people massive shots of Chloromycitin—even though it was not recommended for hepatitis. There in the jungle his stab in the dark (the pun is intended) was successful.

So that is exactly what this doctor prescribed for Doris and Vernon. In about three week’s time both of them were back on their feet. A bit wobbly of course. That story says a lot of things. I’m convinced that when we ask, God sends his angels to give us a hand, this case in the form of a knowledgeable doctor.

Then I think of the water in the creek being contagious and our son Vernon so easily passing it on to Doris. Now my mind ties those thoughts to the Christian faith. It too is contagious in a healthful way. It brings good sense to every believer while they live in this world and it gives hope for all eternity. What a wonderful contagion! I trust you’ve already picked up this bug.

Freeing our Car from Lockup

“Daily duties are daily joys, because they are something which God gives us to offer unto Him, to do our very best, in acknowledgement of His love.” Pusey

It was a mistake back in 1955 to have taken our car to Brazil. At that time Brazil had put up huge barriers to the importation of durable goods. They were attempting to grow their own industry especially wanting to build their automobile manufacturing. So our ’55 Plymouth was stuck in a customs warehouse in the port of Santos.

Shortly after the car was impounded we contacted a despachante in São Paulo to work on getting it loose. You see. almost nothing can be accomplished in government offices without a despachante , that is a special agent. They are only a step down from being a lawyer. Their job was to fill out the forms and to contact the right people in government. I even needed such an agent to get a driver’s license and an identity card.

We could not get the car released that year while we were in language school. No success either during our next years in the interior of São Paulo State. To get money exchanged, every month I would take the train the 600 Kilometers to São Paulo. While there I would go down to Santos to see how our agent was doing to get the car free. I was hoping, always hoping but was stalled at every visit. That situation continued during our four years in Brazil. Even after our year long furlough and our move to Rio de Janeiro, the car was still locked up in Santos.

Our move to Rio was now under the auspices of the Free Methodist Church. Immediately we found out that the F.M. mission had a car—I think it was it a 57 Chev. It was impounded and stored on a wharf in Rio. Since I had some experience trying to get my own car through customs, I began to work with a lawyer in Rio. He thought he might unravel the complicated laws and paperwork.

Wow! About year later the lawyer had his case accepted before a judge. The lawyer used a plea of Habeas Corpus. Actually that law had its usefulness years ago in England to get an improperly imprisoned person out of jail. Now the lawyer used it to get that car off the wharf and into the mission’s hands. With that behind us the next step was to get our Plymouth out of the Santos lockup.

Within a few months I had the proper documents and drove the Plymouth out of the warehouse. It did not run well but I was tickled pink after the car sat in storage for over five years. At least it was not sitting out on a Rio dock in the ocean’s salt air as the other car did. It was a day’s drive to Rio–but we arrived safely. However the next day gasoline from the carburetor had flooded over the engine. Cleaning the carb was not a big job. But the source was old gas in the tank. Over time a layer of solids had separated out of the gasoline. Some of that junk did not stay on the tank bottom but dissolved into the fresh gas.

There were no gas tanks to be bought so in desperation I removed it, chiselled open the top of it and cleaned it out. Then I soldered the top back in place. What a job but it did work well.

But none of us used those big cars for long but bought into the VWs that were being produced in Brazil. The mission bought VW vans and the VW bug. But they did not call it the “Bug” but the “Fusca.” For a while Doris and I drove a VW van. That was handy for we could load our apartment-sized piano into and go with our own music wherever we wished to hold services. I never learned to play the piano or the accordion. But with Doris along, we had lots of music.

As I wrote about getting those cars out of lockup, I could not but think of the freedom that comes with owning Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Saint Paul states, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Every follower of Jesus is able to tell the story of how Jesus gave them freedom. The writ of “habeus corpus” was proclaimed at the cross. Now with that writ imprinted on hearts the followers of Jesus walks free.

There is an old Gospel song I haven’t heard in years titled, “Glorious Freedom.” The first verse begins with, “Once I was bound by sins galling fetters…” That freedom is so much more important than getting a car out of a padlocked warehouse.