Where the Jaguar Roamed

“Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.” Anonymous

Strange, that is how I’d describe how our family ended up in Neves in the interior of the State of São Paulo. Its population would have been in the hundreds and almost a day away from other English speaking missionaries. Looking back, I can now imagine our loneliness. Then Bob and Ruth Kasperson and family came to visit us and provide encouragement.

They drove their Jeep from the pioneer territory in the State of Paraná to our place; all that trip was over dirt roads that were either dusty or muddy. About that Jeep, when they were with us I borrowed it one evening to take a family from the service back to the farm where they lived and worked. I thought the Jeep would be better suited to the terrible road than our old carryall. But I hit one hole in the road too hard and the Jeep took one leap right into the ditch. I walked all the way back to get Bob for he knew how to drive that cantankerous vehicle.

Later we returned the visit to Paraná, leaving Monica with the Campbells, the other couple who  pioneered that work. Vernon, as mentioned in our last blog, stayed with Maria and José and we took a number of different buses to first stop to visit OMS missionaries at their seminary in Londrina Paraná. Rev. Hubert Clevinger’s work beyond that of teaching was to plant churches using services in tents. Back in the 50s those tents attracted big gatherings.

While in the Londrina area Doris played the cowbells. One Sunday Clarence and Betty Owsley took us to visit in a couple of churches. Betty played the accordion and Doris the bells. That was such an attraction that the services would go on for hours with the folks calling out numbers from the hymnal for the ladies to play. The cowbells were a novelty and Doris never missed a beat on any hymn.

Then another bus and more dirt roads but interesting country and at one place real live cowboys were herding their cattle. But this area of Paraná was largely given over to coffee though the planters found out that frost came occasionally destroying the bushes. Then when we came to Maringá we located the home of Bob and Ruth set on the edge of the town with the logs of fallen trees scattered nearby with corn planted in between. It was a pity to see the logs being destroyed by termites for that wood would now be worth a fortune on the world’s markets.

Bob Kasperson and his children at their home. When Bob and I were together folks mistook one for the other.

We thought we had it hard as missionaries but nothing like the Kasperson family. Their home was made of rough-hewed boards that often left cracks to the outside. We all used a small chemical toilet in the home that I di-stink-ly remember—get the pun? Ruth did their cooking over a rough brick stove with a steel top over an open firebox—notice the fire burning.  It was situated in a rough lean-to beside the house. And Ruth had a smile on her face.  Wow.

Bob asked me to speak in their church on the weekend—I recall this family was loved by the people in this church planting situation. Then Monday we piled into their Jeep and they drove us on out to the village of Cianorte to visit another missionary family, the Hartmans. This village was right on the edge of the area where the jungle was being cut to plant coffee and there the jaguars indeed roamed free.

The Hartman’s church in Cianorte

The Hartmans had built their church on a hill overlooking the village and the small planes that often landed in Cianorte used the church as a pylon before turning to land on the main street. The first flight over the village alerted mothers to get their children and dogs off the strip.

The Hartmans told me the story how just a few days before, a man adept with a machete had killed a jaguar that had been taking a neighbour’s piglets. We visited the little store where the salted skin of that jaguar was rolled up on the rough bar used for serving their cheap rum. We have that skin still to-day and I’d be glad to spread it out for anyone to see the machete cuts on its head.

I’ll never forget those missionaries, especially the Kaspersons who took care of us. Bob looks down on me from his picture on his funeral bulletin. I am told Ruth is now in a nursing home. As for the Hartmans—a wonderful outgoing couple that would have been a success in any church in North America. I’ve lost complete track of them and Google does not help.

May God give each of these wonderful missionaries a great eternal reward, especially those who labored in areas where the jaguar  silently padded along on its silent ways.

 

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