“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.
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
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.