Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Beauty of Brazilian Flowers

A Mountain Ash stands in the sun on the edge of my lawn flaming its life out in a blaze of red, orange and trace of yellow. As I look past my computer I am amazed at a row of maples a kilometer away that is flaunting its colors along with some green. All I can say is that this autumn’s colors rival what one might find in most countries.

Except Brazil. Doris and I were there a short time studying Portuguese in a school for missionaries  when we noticed the variety of flowering trees and shrubs. Since then one sticks in my mind’s eye, the Kapok trees in full flower. You will recall that years ago the fibres in the Kapok pods were used to fill life jackets. But the flowers were new to us especially when the fallen petals covered the ground the way the Maple’s leaves do here.

My beautiful picture

The Kapok Tree

The Orchid is indigenous to Brazil and is the national flower—perhaps that is one reason that I have some 17 orchids facing a South window. I recall visiting a home in the interior of the state where the mother and children were poorly dressed. But orchids bloomed on a tree in her yard for she had tied orchid slips to some of the branches. And Maria and Alzenir in the city of São Paulo took me to their small back yard to show me their orchids.  There were 4 types of orchids thriving on that tree. The Brazilians’ artistic nature shows in their love of beauty.

 

Brazilian flowers took my interest though a hobby was the last thing on my mind when we moved interior. But a rose bush in the flower bed that separated our front door from the street took my interest. I could only remember the Portuguese “enxertar” so I had to look up the meaning in English—it means “to graft.” Well, that is what I did so that the rose produced some 3-4 other types of roses.

My beautiful picture

The Passion Vine Flower

 

We never knew the names of the incredible number of flowers in Brazil but we enjoyed them anyway. Here’s another one.slides-atv-etc-brazil-019

I recall the ladies in our Odessa church had returned from a retreat that had the theme of “Bloom Where You Are Planted.” So that Sunday evening I could not resist a pun as they came to bring a report, “And now we have a report from the ‘bloomin’ ladies.” They were a great group with a good story about the retreat.

And finally a picture I love and the love of my life—my wife Doris who labored faithfully in the Lord’s work whether in Brazil, Haiti or on a pastorate. I could write on and on about her many ministries with youth groups and choirs, Sunday School, lady’s groups, adult choirs, pianist & accordionist and on and on.slides-atv-etc-brazil-028

Why Did We Go To Brazil

Why Did We Go to Brazil?

“If you live for the next world, you get this one in the deal; but if you live only for this world, you lose them both. C.S. Lewis

To properly answer this question, “Why did we go to Brazil” would require a dozen or more postings on this blog. Life for every one of us is so unique and complicated that there is no one easy answer for the decisions we’ve made. Sometimes years must elapse for any of us to understand our motivation—hind-sight may clarify history and bring understanding. In this posting I want to tell about how the Gospel of our Lord transformed a family—a real happening that says as much about our reasons for going to Brazil as a lot of verbal jargon. I will let the oldest son in that family tell some of it in the first person.

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(The children in this story are grown now with 3 of the 5 children shown. Next to Luiz are his sisters Marlene who lived with us for a bit, and then Marlí.)

“My father was a shoemaker and very poor, his name was Luiz Tustão.  Since his marriage he was an alcoholic, as well he had an addiction to smoking cigarettes and gambling at cards.  Almost all the money he earned was spent on satisfying his vices.  My mother took care of the home with five small children and to help support the home, she worked hard in the coffee fields earning 35 cents a day, as well as washing clothes for other families, by hand after cranking up water from a well with a windlass. It was my father’s habit, when he left work at the end of the day, to go directly to the bars to drink and then to gamble.

Since I was the oldest of the children, I often would go late at night, with my brother Valdir and my mother, to look for my dad who was always drunk in one of the bars in our small town of Neves Paulista. Neves is located in the interior of the state of São Paulo, Brazil. I was a pre-adolescent at that time and when I would go to bed to sleep after bringing my dad home drunk, I would ask myself, ‘How long can this situation last?’  I was not able see any perspective that was good in the future of my family. The greatest dream of my mother was to see my father free from his addiction to alcohol and to cards.  She tried to find a cure for these terrible evils even going to the Spiritist center; however she never found a solution.

I was only eleven years old at that time but I already worked selling fruit in the streets and at the football field. The first time I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ was when I was selling candy in the central park.  It was there I heard the singing of hymns that came from that small hall used for worship and where my mother attended.  The congregation sang accompanied by an instrument  that I had never before seen or heard.  It was a portable organ that used pedals for air.  Since I had a great passion for music, I entered the hall still with my tray of candies, and sat down on the front bench and I was transfixed with all that I was seeing and hearing.  There were children in the service and I remember selling candy to some of them there in the hall.

Giving attention to the appeal that night made by Rev. Campbell, I did as my mother had done some weeks before, surrendering my life to Jesus Christ. It is now over fifty years since that time and I must confess that it was the most important decision that I ever made during my years of life.  My mother many times invited by father to go to the services, but he paid no attention to the invitation but continued his bad routine of work, bars and gambling.

 

However, one Wednesday night instead of him going to the bar, he decided by himself to go alone to the service to hear the preaching of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit touched his heart deeply that night, in such a way that he decided once and for all time, to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and personal Saviour and at the same time to leave his addictions.  That night my father came home sober at the same time as my mother was thinking about looking for him in the bars of our town. We were all astonished at this and when my mother asked what had happened, he said, ‘Olinda, this evening I went to a place where you never dreamed I would go.  I went to that little church where you have gone and something special has happened.  I accepted Jesus as my Saviour.  I am a new man and I am going to leave behind all my bad habits.  That is exactly what happened. With the conversion of my father everything changed in our home.  He really did abandon his addictions of alcohol and tobacco, not going to the bars any more.   He left gambling at cards and drinking but he did go to church.100_2522

This coin was found during the construction of a church and reminds us of the story of Jesus about a lost coin referring to a person found by God. Thank God for those coins.

Luiz Roberto who recounts this story is a man of some stature. Luiz with all of his immediate family have great artistic ability and in his case it is music.  He plays a mean guitar and has sung at city-wide crusades.  He has also been the administrator of our FMC seminary in São Paulo and has been a businessman owning a wholesale optical company. His sister Marlene lived with us for a while after the father’s death, picking up enough music in our home to become an organist in a large Baptist church in the interior of the state of São Paulo.  As well she took the necessary training and taught school for years.  The story is similar for the others in the family.

I recall Luiz Roberto telling me in later years that without the help we gave, their family might have starved. Add to that the transformation of his dad through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you will understand a bit of why we were missionaries in Brazil. As I look back over the years I imagine our lives would have been worthwhile it we had done nothing else but helped this family.

 

 

 

 

The Secret Ingredient in the Pie

“Friends fight for you, respect you, include you, encourage you, need you, deserve you and stand by you.” Anon

It had never before happened during the time we lived in a small village in the interior of the State of São Paulo. An ordinary weekend became special when the Executive Secretary of our new mission board came to visit us. He wanted to see firsthand what we missionaries were doing out among the coffee ranches in that corner of Brazil. Since my wife Doris wished to be a good hostess doing what she could to impress , she took the unusual step of making a pie for the dinner following the Sunday morning service.

Yes, pies were unusual in our home for she was so involved in our missionary work that fresh fruit was generally the easy option for desert. But on this occasion she wanted to present our visitor with a pie. But there was little available for a pie filling in our village except the fresh Brazilian fruit– those came mostly in season. But she had to try something and that is where the secret came in.

A Papaya tree grew in our yard close to our home and it was usually loaded with fruit weighing at least four kilos. Here North Americans might know it as Pawpaw but no matter the name, we enjoyed it. We ate Papaya as we might a slice of watermelon, sometimes with a spoon or in a smoothie. The papaya became the ingredient for Doris’ pie though as far as she was concerned it was no secret. At the same time it did not seem so very special that she should spread the news. You see, we simply ate Papaya fruit whenever it ripened enough to pick.

We gathered in our home after the worship service for a simple meal made up of what we could buy locally. Our visitor raised not a question about any of the food till he had finished his piece of pie. Then our visitor, Dr. Myron Lamson asked, “Where could you find peaches for this pie? You’ve probably never ever seen peaches in a fruit market in this end of the land?”

Doris answered, “That is not a peach pie. It’s Papaya. This fruit is from the tree you’ve seen in our yard.”

Our visitor was incredulous, “But it tastes just like a peach pie.” So once again Doris stated that it was a Papaya pie and there was no hidden recipe that made it taste as if it were peaches.

Doris never made it a secret about the pie and our visitor never complained about it. But this I know–he returned to his home having learned the secret of what he thought was peach pie.

My beautiful picture

 

It may take time to get used to foods in other countries and at other times unusual fruits and vegetables have a wonderful taste. It took some time for me to get used to the taste of mangoes for the taste resembled axle grease—whatever that might be. I recall later on that folks from our church planting project brought a half sack of mangoes. What a treat. No doubt about it, the fruit we ate were at times different, but wonderful.

My beautiful picture

 

There is another taste we are encouraged to try. The Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Yes, try out the way of Jesus for it includes the forgiveness of sins and hope of eternal life. You will never know the good “taste” of being a follower of Jesus till you try him as your Saviour and Lord. “Taste and see…”

Delivered from the Spirit(s)

“The trouble with some self-made people is that they worship their creator.” Anon

The picture below tells the story of Macumba Spiritism in Brazil. This is an offering to the spirits with dishes of food, a bottle of cheap rum, a cigar with matches and a black chicken wing and foot. Offerings to the spirits may include a whole chicken or just part, but it must be black. And wax on the ground shows a candle had burned into nothing.

My beautiful picture

 

Such offerings were generally made at the intersection of roads. The roots of this type of Spiritism go back to Africa but if we know much about Spiritism in Canada, it is the Allen Kardek type where mediums are involved in séances. With the decline of the Christian faith in the Western World there is renewed interesting in contacting the spirits. However this blog is about a family delivered from the presence of a spirit or spirits.

My beautiful picture

 

We first met this family when we were attempting to plant a church in the small town of Poloni in the interior of the state of São Paulo. Among the number of curious people who filled the hall, one family opened their hearts to Jesus as Lord. I am sure this family wished to be free of the presence of a spirit or spirits in their home for during a number of years eerie things happened: furniture would move and voices heard. This family hired an exorcist to come and cast out the spirit but the response from the spirit came in a written form, “I’m not leaving. This is my home.”

My observation is that such things generally happened only to those who dabbled in one kind or another of Spiritism. The appeal of Spiritism is that the spirits can bring healing and resolve other conflicts. My mechanic in the interior urged me to attend such a séance for he proclaimed his own father had been healed of a serious illness. Such things may happen but they are the bait on the hook leading to bondage to negative influences—a spirit world that leads away from the teachings of Christ.

Now back to Poloni. When this family opened their hearts to the Good News of the power of Jesus, then all the strange happenings in the home ceased.

Our interest in planting a church in Poloni was sparked by the discovery that no evangelical church existed there. Since we felt that the Gospel of Jesus needed to be preached there, we renewed contact with a Presbyterian friend who had a small plane. This pilot friend took me and another couple of people along on a flight in which we threw out thousands of leaflet inviting everyone in Poloni to attend the services in a rented hall. (Excuse the colour of the picture for it is almost 60 years old.) That first night the hall was crowded and people stood in the street trying to get a glimpse of what was happening.

My beautiful picture

 

But interest in this new church evaporated partly because we did not have time to give it our full attention. The project  finally closed up but this family we have mentioned never gave up their faith in their Saviour. The freedom from the molesting presence of a spirit no doubt made a big difference in encouraging their faith in Jesus.