Monthly Archives: March 2017

Poison in the Creek–a revised re-post

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

That creek behind our house was dangerous–that was when we lived in Rio de Janeiro. But we had no idea what the dirty little creek had waiting for us. Our home was in Méier, one of the suburbs on the main commuter line from the center of the city. Doris recalls that the creek carried run-off water and the effluent from a nearby hospital.

Yet the creek attracted the boys in the neighbourhood for little minnows survived in that water. So the lads would take a bottle and scramble down to the creek where they might snatch up one of the fish. What a delightful experience for the boys, but that is when the trouble began!

Sorry, but I don’t have a picture of our son at five years. This was a year of two before our time in Rio.


Our son Vernon was then about five years old and played with other boys who lived nearby. That was easy for Portuguese was his first language. Together they climbed down to the creek to “go fishing.” We feared this dirty creek so we warned our son not to go near it. Yet he went fishing with his friends—how many times we’ll never know. For certain he paid little attention to our warnings for all his friends were doing it. So why not go fishing?

Pollution and diseases were of little concern for his friends were excited about catching a few minnows. That was when he came down with hepatitis–the water carried the disease. Since hepatitis is contagious, shortly after Vernon became sick he passed it on to Doris. When tests showed hepatitis we knew we had a major health problem on our hands.

A picture of Doris a while before our time in Rio.

The question was how to medicate two very sick people in bed with hepatitis. Only a doctor could help us, but I do not recall how we found the one we did. This I know, 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. There the doctor had no easy answers but decided to try his luck on what was thought an inadequate treatment. He gave the sick Indians massive shots of Chloromycitin—even though it was not recommended. There in the jungle his shot in the dark (the pun is intended) was successful.

As I now think and write about our situation, goose bumps rise up all over my body. You see this is one of those wonderful situations where I believe God sent his angels to provide a solution. This doctor confined Vernon and Doris to total bed rest. Doris could be a good patient but for a five year old to be quiet was a nearly impossibility. I became their caretaker and the chief cook and bottle washer for our home. (I wonder now how either of them ever survived.)

Doris, well and happy in Rio with hepatitis in the past.


So that is exactly how this doctor cared 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 a hand, in this case a doctor who had a cure.

At the moment, my memory carries me back to the contagious water in the creek and how our son Vernon and Doris became so sick with hepatitis. Then my mind ties those thoughts not just to God’s angels but to the Christian faith. You see, the Faith too is contagious in a healthful way. It motivates every believer to live well in this world and provides hope for eternity. What a wonderful contagion! I trust you’ve already picked up this bug of faith, faith in our Lord Jesus.


Brazilian Gemstones–a revised re-post

Brazilian Gemstones

“The mind that opens itself to a new idea will never return to its original size.” Anon

The diamond is not the most precious gem available in our world. It is valuable but the best emeralds exceed the diamond’s value because they are so rare. In Brazil the emerald is at the top of the list among the country’s many precious gems.

The emerald is cherished by the Inca and Aztec peoples for they regarded the emerald as holy. The State of Minas Gerais–translated General Mines–produces not only the emerald but the world’s largest variety of other gemstones.

For the persons who cannot afford one of the best Brazilian gems they may purchase a slice of a geode that has been cut and polished to reveal its gorgeous interior. Available as well are lovely necklaces made of stones that do not quite achieve gem quality. I cherish those stones and at times I have had them set in rings. The wings of this butterfly were two feet long. Wow.

Yet far more precious than the best of Brazil’s gemstones is the people themselves. I think especially of the  children.

I opened a series of pictures of a small congregation in a favela, a slum that would be typical of areas where our churches are planting congregations. At times the children there may go hungry when parents do not have jobs that could lift their families out of despair. But the children smile and sing with all their hearts.

This favela has been around for a while so structures are more solid.


. A few children have almost blond hair and a light skin while others show their African blood lines. Most of the children have black hair with chocolate shaded skin. The variety I see proclaims an incredible beauty in each eager face. There before me is a spectrum of light that can only be compared to gemstones. Each child exceeds in value any of the Brazilian gemstones you may mention: Topaz, Alexandrite, Amethysts, Aquamarine, Quarts, Onyx, Turquoise, Tourmalines and many other gems including the Emerald.

I wonder if their parents have jobs or perhaps have to travel a couple of hours each way to earn a survival wage? Will another baby arrive soon to this family, and then another and another. Will it happen one day that the father burdened and tired with his work gives up and in despair leaves his family? Our churches open schools in some of these poor areas and provide meals for the children,



I think of every child there as an uncut gem. Ah, they could one day flash with a brilliant color—that is if they were cut and polished. You see, so many gems can easily be mistaken for just stones till the cutting and polishing takes place. People will “oh” and “ah” at the beauty of a ring or a necklace when the process of manufacturing is complete. But what chance do these children have?


You can be one of those who give  a hand in such projects. Just give me a call.

I get a hint of how this cutting and polishing is happening in small rented halls. I suppose that when the children have finished lunch they will hear a story from his Bible. That story, for some child or perhaps an adult, will have the power to begin the cutting and the polishing. Those children may catch a glimpse of what their Saviour, Jesus of Calvary, can do to shape their lives into something truly astounding. Yes, one day there will be gemstones of rarest beauty so that even heaven will be amazed.

A few years before this was taken, these youth from one of our congregations were children involved through our church in the cutting and polishing. Now the gems!

You don’t need to visit a Brazilian jewelry store to find beauty. That hall in this slum has more beauty there that those millionaire shops. You don’t think it is possible? Believe me I could so easily erase your doubts! Again and again I’ve watched the message of Jesus cut and polish lives till they are jewels of remarkable beauty. If you have doubts about those gemstones, give me a call or contact me on my blog. I dare you.

Roy C. Kenny –


Every Day on the Job

Brazilians love a big juicy steak on their dinner plate though of course many of the poor we knew in the interior could not afford to eat much meat.

It was the Zebu animals brought over from India that produce most of the Brazilian beef. The reason is they adapted readily to the South American climate and conditions. This breed is interesting because of their creamy white color, their long drooping ears, a fatty hump on their shoulders and a large piece of skin hanging low from the neck. It is called a dew-lap.


These men were pleased and able to show off one of their yearling calves. That was possible for the Zebu is a quiet animal. When the cowboys would take a herd from one pasture to another, they would ride ahead coaxing the animals along by blowing a low note on a horn. We have one of those horns made from three pieces of Zebu horn put together to form one that is some four feet long. When we have coffee someday I’ll bring it along and hit that low note for you. On second thought, we might have cattle coming in from all over.

                Coffee was the big export during our time in Brazil though now corn and especially soy beans are big money earners. However at that time the government was experimenting with corn and in this picture it certainly did grow well. The two chaps in the picture are agronomists, one a Brazilian and the other Japanese from that large community in Brazil. A bit of a sad story—an agronomist friend from our days in Rio Preto was killed in a car accident while travelling to a farm. There is a big story but this is important–his wife helped me out with my Portuguese and corrected my sermons.


The Butantan Institute is famous worldwide for its snake anti-venom some of which is sent worldwide. Butantan is similar to a small park but in this case it takes care of hundreds upon hundreds of poisonous snakes. This picture shows a caretaker at the Institute demonstrating how venom is extracted from the snakes.  That is a first step in preparing the shots that will save lives though it is a job that not everyone might like.

A lady said of her husband, “I don’t know whether he is a dentist of a missionary. This was spoken of Dr. Tércio Obara, a successful dentist who had a fine clinic in São Paulo with two or three other dentists working with him. Tércio indeed was a missionary in his own right for he has led dental teams to help native Indians with other teams going to countries in Africa and the Far East. One of his projects now is planting and building a church in Eldorado, an exceptionally poor area in his city. He works there as a lay leader but in many ways has been the spark that initiated the project.

In another blog I’ll tell about other Brazilians and their interesting work. Now I must mention a lady that gave her best to the Lord’s work, the lady that without whom I’d not have accomplished much during all of my life and ministry. The lady is Doris with her accordion, and the picture was taken in a humble home somewhere out from Neves in the interior.


Brazilians love music so Doris’ accordion was a hit with the folks there singing church music together. Doris said when she saw the picture, “That accordion was as big as I was.” That statement was close to being true for she weighed in then at only one hundred pounds.

I am firmly convinced that what we do to build the Kingdom of Jesus Christ will yield great results both in this world and in eternity. That is a theme recurring repeatedly in the words of Jesus and again in those of the Apostles. We would do well to remember their counsel.

Black Shoe Polish and our Children–an edited repost

Well, it was fun for a bit.

“Don’t let the abundance of God’s gifts cause you to forget the Giver.” Anon

Were our children trying to become Brazilians when we found our son Vernon plastered with black shoe polish? Monica was standing by his side so it is hard to guess what our two children were thinking. As parents we often have no idea what goes on in a child’s mind. You might try looking back to your own childhood and remember some of the strange things you did. So Doris and I have never figured out what Monica and Vernon wanted to do when we found them playing in the black shoe polish.

Next comes the cleanup


Were they really weren’t playing in it? Their idea seemed to be to change Vernon from a little blond-haired two year old into a Brazilian. But it would have been a Brazilian much darker than the average person we’d met there in the little village. Oh yes, there were children just as light skinned as ours and one of those families attended our church. But that is another story that I shall put off till I share it with you over a cup of coffee.

Friends at any age or colour.

Brazilians are proud to have a little European blood and that of course started with the Portuguese immigrants. And they are proud to have mixed in some Indian blood from the indigenous tribes. Add to that the darker colour of the Africans who were brought over as slaves. So the mixture of skin shade is a coffee colour of dark roast with added milk.  We assume our children felt just a bit out of place among the deeper hued children with whom they played.

But it probably was not Vernon’s idea about being black for he was just in the two year age range.  I doubt at that age he had any great philosophical ideas about colour. So it might have been Monica who was almost four that decided to make him black with shoe polish. It seemed a good idea.

Our maid might have stopped the shoe polish from blacking Vernon’s legs and arms. But she might have been working in our apartment while we found our children out in the carport. In any case our little boy mostly was partly8 black. We were amused…perhaps a little bit. Well, it was funny enough for me to go get my camera and take a picture of the two of them.

But there the fun ended for that black shoe polish had to come off of  tender skin. Doris says one scrubbing with soap and water did not do the job. But I don’t think that colour made much difference to our children or those with whom they played. They fit right in.

We were never concerned for Monica’s safety as she disappeared in the morning and sometimes not come back till supper time. When we’d ask here where she’d been she might say, “Playing with so and so at such and such a place.” We had no idea where she had gone but assumed all was well.

The way I see it is that the folks in the village knew what was going on with the strange Canadians. People kept close track of us. I recall another missionary couple, Murdo and Isabel saying that when they left their parrot with neighbours while they’d be away that the parrot would be arriving back at their house about the same time as they arrived home from the bus.

A happier picture this time–no shoe polish.


It was about then when Vernon was developing his vocabulary that he had difficulty pronouncing Monica’s name. He would say it as Mókada. In a year or so he got it right but once in a while for fun I still address our daughter as Mókada. Portuguese is an easier language to pick up than English so our children spoke it well, probably without the foreign accent that we must have had.

Whether it is language, home or country, children seem to adapt and do it so well. Were our children thinking about adapting when Vernon was slathered in black shoe polish? We’ll never know, but it is one little episode in Brazil that our family will not forget. Of course they can’t forget—we keep re-telling the story.

And there is one story we’ve told and retold over the years. It is the story of God’s love shown in Jesus that changes lives in this world and gives hope of Eternal Life. Wow, what a story that is!


Travelling Light–an edited re-post

“I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life. He gave me life that I might enjoy all things.” Anon

Mission work may seem to be nothing more than a great adventure.  But as I write about travel in the Brazil we knew in the fifties, I want you to see that our purpose was bigger and different. The truth is we wished to minister the Hope of the Gospel of Jesus–especially to the poor. So keep that in mind as you read.

My beautiful picture

These folks we knew well at one time. This is their home.

My beautiful picture

This father made a dangerous living by gambling–until he came to Christ.


Now about travel. When the bus pulled up to the station, my colleague Murdo and I moved quickly to toss our small suitcases through an open window onto empty seats. We did not want to travel on the interior roads without a seat for if we had to stand in the aisle we would be bent over that entire trip. The roof of those primitive buses was so low we’d not been able to stand erect. The small hand-lettered piece of cardboard on the windshield had the name of the interior town or village where it would next stop. With that in mind we boarded the bus with the idea of buying tickets from the driver.  His seat was empty; perhaps he was off to a bar to have a cafezinho or lunch.

We took a number of trips on one of those buses in the early part of 1956, not quite a year after we landed at the São Paulo Congonhas airport. Murdo and I were checking out the neediest places to set up our missionary efforts. We were not travelled light to get a suitcase through a small bus window. Since Doris and I were just out of seminary we owned little more than a few suitcases of clothes. As I think back over those days with a small daughter not two years old and another on the way, travelling light seemed natural. It was normal for our vocation. The plan was to work with some of the poorest people in the interior of the State of São Paulo. And that is exactly where we ended up.

Now back to the buses in the interior. They were nothing like the modern ones you’d find now–some now may have a stewardess  offering cafezinhos, um sandwiche or a pillow. Back then the buses in the interior were made by some handyman on a truck chassis. They had hard seats crowded together so that there was hardly room for one’s feet let alone our suitcases. At times chickens or goats along with bigger luggage would be carried on the bus’s roof.

On one occasion we were stopped from travel on the red dirt roads by a stream with no bridge. It had been carried away with the high water of a heavy rain. But having no bridge did not stop us.  The driver descended from behind his steering wheel, opened up the door at the back of the bus and pulled out some sturdy planks. Those he placed on the firm footings that were still there and so he made his own bridge.  After the crossing the planks were returned to the bus. That episode was repeated again.

No doubt we all have thought about travelling light as we pass our time in this world. That seems to make sense as we begin to clean out our houses or hold a yard sale to get rid of junk. There comes the time when we begin to downsize. The next step for that stuff is the dump


How much better it would be to reach out with hope to the many people in these Brazilian slums. This one is a cut above the average where bricks have replaced shacks.

.100_2558This lad shows off this bracelet earned in a children’s program in a slum. Each bead represents a story that comes from the Bible.


Travelling light makes sense in this world for our time here is so short. I tell myself that it would be better to focus on treasures that go beyond this world to the eternal one. That counsel comes from our Lord—to lay up treasures on eternity’s shore. Arriving at the end of life’s road, travelling light here might well mean that you and I have been wise in the treasures that will not pass away. And Jesus also tells us that those we have blessed in this world will reach out to bring us into an eternal home.