Our Time in Neves Paulista

There are no famous streets in Neves

Just local names for dirt and dust it yields.

A park separates our small house, no big deal

From where the grand village church stands.

And there’s our home close by the rich coffee fields,

Though tied to the hall that was in any case

An insult to the big church where most worshipped.

Strange Canadians midst untold coffee trees!

In language, culture and aloneness struggled

Pa Craig had said, “See them again? Twill never be.”

 

We moved to Neves, to a building so forlorn

Only a rope and bucket for the well, a rough brick floor.

No cupboards, no closets, no shelves, a place not splendid

Far down from the simple homes where we were born.

There our boy slept with a mattress on the floor, till I made a bed

In our home, linked by a wall to the mission hall.

An old lady offered Doris help, but naught could she yield

Nor rice and beans to cook. She was from the coffee fields.

To entertain during services, Vernon huge beetles tended

In the offering plates till they were needed.

My beautiful picture

Our family, missionaries: Campbells and the Crawfords

 

 

So blond and light skinned, Vernon wished and dared,

With black shoe polish covering himself, no big deal.

So soap and water with scrubbing left red skin, but done with care.

And our two kids loved the little yellow mongrel

Till he died in scarcely moving traffic. Some tears.

Worse the fate of guinea pigs for a pair gave birth

In the wet and seldom cold of our interior years.

To warm and save them, a moment in the oven.

Forgotten, they were deceased. Tears–no cause for mirth.

 

How did our children survive the language and few white faces?

Yes, we moved to Neves when both were under three.

There Monica oft’ spent all day with friends, caring not for races.

Vernon too young to wander to other homes and places

Found solace with us, the maid, a parrot, guinea pigs and more.

The low wall out front–a mountain challenge to any boy.

He fell. That night in pain we found a green-stick break.

The adventures of a little boy! To heal? No great chore.

Folks there found us strange, perhaps Canadian freaks

But for the converts to Jesus, for them we were a joy

My beautiful picture

Monica with friends when we lived in Rio Preto–that was before Neves.

 

Monica was just four then, now a step down memory lane,

When in the mail, Barbie dolls came. So precious, so dear

But no sign of clothes. Doris had no time to sew that was clear.

But Mum taught her quickly at the sewing machine,

Then a complete wardrobe the little girl sewed.

Our children talked like “caboclos”, no accent discernible

So later with other missionaries, she said,

“They don’t speak very good Portuguese.”

Take time for them? From our work to rest? Who can tell

Yet they always were precious, always as a baby on our breast.

My beautiful picture

Monica with friends in a Sunday school class

 

 

T’is sure, to tell the story of Jesus, a noble project is

For there in Neves with baptisms followers grew

Saved from the lostness of their lives,

The Gospel from witness to witness flew

From coffee fields to towns. Our youthful energy seeped away,

Till exhausted one Christmas, nothing for our children.

No dinner, no toys, no fun for Monica and Vernon.

Yet there was the hope from the carols, the gift of hugs and smiles.

Both then and in eternity, it was all worthwhile.

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