She Stood Beside Me

“Things are not to be done by the effort of the moment, but by the preparation of past moments.” Cecilk

Life often lives itself over and over in my mind. Pictures may blow in when I turn a corner in the road, hear a long-forgotten phrase or visit stories while half-awake. For me history comes alive when I scroll through pictures taken in Brazil long ago. I must tell you about the stories that cascaded in with a picture of my wife Doris.

I’ve seen Doris so many times with an accordion on her shoulders standing in front of a dozen children. Believe it or not, as I listen carefully I can hear the music and the children. The place might be the small hall in the interior of the State of São Paulo in a village called Neves Paulista.

What was Doris doing there in the middle of coffee country where some farms had a million bushes? And why was she there in this little village where every building had a rose tint built over time by the dust stirred up from the red dirt of the streets? She was one of the strange Canadian family who were so foreign that when one walked down the street, conversation stopped and heads turned to follow their steps?

This was a church planting project–Doris in the back row with another missionaries visiting from Paraguay. 

The obvious reason is that Doris was there because I was there. But there’s more. Her plan was to be somewhere in Brazil before arriving at the São Paulo airport. As I think of that  I see scene unfold

picture. Doris was doing more than teaching children about the Christian faith. She had the big goal of building lives that would be successful because they were grounded on confidence in Jesus as Lord.

At this moment I want to tell you a bit about her talents and work for the Kingdom of Jesus. I wonder at times if I’d have been any benefit to anyone in Brazil if it had not been for her.

I’ve mentioned the accordion—well she comes from a family connection that is rich in music talent though her dad could not carry a tune in a bucket. We bought the first accordion after moving to the interior for we—or was it I that thought it would be useful. Doris quickly learned to play it though her only lesson was from a friend who showed her middle C on her left hand.

She played the little portable pump organ in church services and out on the coffee farms in open air services. There the “colonos,” the farm workers from the rows of poor housing were fascinated by what they saw and heard. That ministry itself is another story.


Doris is at the little portable organ with Lucille Damon leading the children

As well Doris played the cowbells. Some of those bells were for cows yet the high notes were the small ones made to hang on sheep. But she never got her hands on a set of those till well into our second term in Brazil. She picked the bells up quickly—don’t mind the pun for that is how a person plays the bells.

This does show the bells but that is her playing them

Wherever she played the bells in a church or a hall, people craned their necks to see the magic. If it was on a street corner or in a park, people would crowd in with the children getting closer yet. Playing the bells is indeed a special talent even for those who know the piano.

Flannelgraph was old fashioned but it worked great then

But her ministry to people went beyond music. No matter where she saw children and quickly organized Sunday school classes and mid-week programs for them. When young people began to attend services, she provided a youth program. Doris would already have a program functioning perhaps about the time I might see the need.

One of the boys from there in the interior recalls as an adult that one of the big attractions to the youth group was the cake that Doris baked for them. Remember this, among the poor people having a cake would be special.

Hey, above all I must mention she was a mother and cared for our daughter Monica who was just a few years old. And our son Vernon was born in the interior. That story includes her memory of the birth of our 10 pound boy without the benefit of even an aspirin.

This is from later in Haiti. Doris is seeing our children off to Canada to avoid me and my Typhoid Fever

This was on deputation with Monica helping–but it shows Doris and her ministry

But since this blog is about her ministry I must include one trip she made to Rio Preto to speak at an evening meeting for ladies. Doris got behind the wheel of the big old Ford work van and headed out alone on the one hour drive over dirt roads through the coffee fields. Those roads were wet from a rain and we knew there is no mud like the red dirt gumbo after a rain. Since those roads dry quickly Doris faced the drive because of the speaking engagement. From one hill he she could see a mud hole so deep cars were getting stuck. Then a group of men helped push them through, of course looking for a tip.

Doris just gunned the engine, sent the men scurrying and the mud flying. She made it through. But night descended and a rain as well before she was free to tackle the return. There was the fear in the air for any person stuck in the mud on that road. A taxi driver had been robbed and murdered in the area just a few weeks before.

With my evening work over and as the clock ticked passed 8:00 p.m. I put the children to bed. Then I had nothing else to do but fuss about Doris not pulling into our yard. More than a few hours later she drove in. She explained it this way—she had started late to return and the muddy driving had slowed that old van.

But whatever reasons now come to mind for her safe arrival, this is one incident that confirmed by belief in guardian angels. During our time in Brazil those angels worked overtime for both of us. Often their tasks had something to do with Doris’ ministry or exploits—whatever you want to call them.

Though we were young, energetic and full of ambition yet those days as hard for both of us, especially Doris. Now years later I regard them as some of the most fruitful in her ministry—and may I add, in mine too.

Well, I see them that way. And I trust that at the final assize God will see it that way too.




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