Monthly Archives: June 2017

A Stop at the Falls, the “Foz de Iguaçu”

“Consider that this day ne’er dawns again.” Dante

It is special to stand beside the Iguaçu River for it divides Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. But our family needed to cross this river from the small town of Foz de Iguaçu in Brazil to Paraguay on the other side. The huge swirling eddies in the river were frightening for they might swamp any small boat; so the crossing before us appeared more than exciting—it seemed downright dangerous.

Where we wish to cross was not this bad–of course.

But let me tell about our trip so you understand what in the world we were doing in that part of the world. As you know, we were missionaries in Brazil and on this occasion we were travelling to visit another missionary family, the Huston in Asuncion, Paraguay. But since we wanted to do a bit of sightseeing we stopped part way there to see the world famous falls, the Foz de Iguaçu. The trip began at the city airport in São Paulo and we were lucky to board our first turboprop plane. It landed on a grass runway with Doris, myself and our two children; later Monica and Vernon were able stand close to the largest falls in the world.

We booked into the only hotel in town, and then took a bus out to the falls. When we stopped close by the tumbling water, we made sure we stayed close together. We kept track of our children for we were perched on a rock about halfway down to the pool where the water fell from the precipice above. From where we stood we could see not only the three Kilometres of the whole falls but the horseshoe part named the A Gargunta do Diabo—The Devil’s Throat. Actually the falls is a network of 275 individual falls, some small and others huge. The numbers might not excite any anyone reading this blog until you stand beside us, hear the roar, feel the surging clouds of spray and watch the water that cascades from the Parana River. This river is only exceeded in length by the Amazon.

When we visited, there were no catwalks or jet boats to take us over the roiling waters just below the falls. But we did see this! Boys from below where we stood were diving into the pool formed by the falling water. Me? I had no desire to dive in for I could imagine jagged rocks under that bubbling water. The boys, I assume were there just for the fun for none came to ask for a few centavos.

For the geographers I should say a word more about the Paraná River. It is so huge the Tupí Indian language for the word means, “like the sea.” The Itaipu dam and hydro electric generators on the lower Parana produce 90 % of Paraguay’s electricity, 20 % of Brazil’s power. The power produced is only superseded in size by China’s Three Gorges power plant.

But back to our family, this time at the hotel. I don’t remember much about it except that it was acceptable and in a way that was special for this frontier town. And it had a good restaurant. Perhaps the dining room was crowded for we shared a table with a handsome lady. As we chatted about what we each did, she shared her work using euphemistic words—her task was to make men happy.

It was the next morning that we descended the hill with our luggage to the Iguaçu river close by. We were apprehensive when we saw our transportation to the little backward village across the water in Paraguay.  Our only option was a wooden boat that would hold perhaps a dozen individuals. When loaded with people and a treadle sewing machine, the gunnels were about six inches above the water. That did not seem nearly enough for the half kilometer crossing on fast moving water swirling with eddies. But we had no choice. Either it was paying our fare and taking this boat or interrupting our trip. So we said our silent prayers and counted on God to post his angels to the task of getting us safe to Paraguayan soil. We made it but then we loaded on a bus for Asuncion that did not look much more promising than the boat.

The Huston family in Rio when they visited with us.

 

But we soon found out a law that governed traffic on that highway.  No traffic was allowed to move at all in any direction when it began to rain. The purpose was to preserve the integrity of the dirt road—well, sure enough it began to sprinkle. The bus pulled into a little roadside stand that we thought might provide a respite from the rock-hard seats of the bus. They did have soft drinks for sale but you can imagine how appetizing they were in a tropical climate when there was no refrigeration. But we drank it anyway and ate the little sandwiches available on stale bread. The sprinkling stopped—thanks to God’s angels—and after a while the road dried up a bit and we were on our way.

Wonderful missionaries, Ernie and Lucy Huston with a Paraguayan family.

 

Added to the complications of this trip is that we had no confirmation from the Hustons that they knew we were coming. You need to understand that communication of any kind was practically non-existent. But it all worked out well and that fits in with the New Testament promise—“All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” The experiences of my life have proved again and again truth of that promise. You too may commit your life to Him and experience that trust.

LASTING VALUES VERSUS PHYSICAL PROWESS

“I must be measured by my soul; the mind’s the standard of the man.” Isaac Watts

I’ve always been glad that success or failure in life did not depend on my physical abilities. You see, even though I stood six feet tall yet I was not especially coordinated. Perhaps behind the scenes the angels planned for me to be deficient in that area so that I would have to depend on studies, books and the manoeuvrings of the mind. Now as usual, the spark for writing this blog is the memories that take me on the journey back to my family during our time in Brazil.

I quote from my writing years ago. “…I’ve been glad that success or failure did not depend on physical abilities.” Doris and I both found out in Brazil that it really made little difference how well we had performed on any athletic field. Those talents wouldn’t amount to much in learning Portuguese or accomplished the work to which we felt God calling us. Doris remembers the comment of our pre-school daughter Monica who learned Portuguese among the children in the interior. After visiting some other missionaries in a big city she said, “They don’t speak very good Portuguese.” Monica learned it easily for children have that ability. As parents however, the language was difficult.  We succeeded for we depended on our fluency in Portuguese to survive our isolation out in coffee country.

Miss Cummings, our excellent director in language school She was trained in phonetics–that helped us.

 

I wonder at the value our world places on physical abilities especially in sports. I recall arriving at the Congonhas airport in São Paulo when the Brazilian soccer team came home after winning their 2nd. international championship two years in a row. When their plane landed police used truncheons to beat back the crowd that tried to get to the plane on the runway. We all rejoiced at the win; Pelé was part of the team and the world’s most famous scorer. Their physical superiority in Soccer racked up salaries into the millions. But I wonder how much good each person’s fame and fortune will mean a hundred years from now. I believe the physical is the least important part of the man.

A service in a home in S.P. interior. The light came from a bulb powered by a 6 Volt battery–that also powered the projector. I trust God that the Gospel seed grew.

After our family left Brazil for the last time we found a story about the legacy we left to our children. Monica was not yet ten and Vernon almost eight but they wanted to see the Catacombs during our visit to Rome. We had included that city on our trip to Egypt where my sister Velma and family lived as missionaries. So in Rome we made it a point to descend down into the underground rooms and pathways of the Catacombs under the city. Our children saw where the persecuted Christians lived and were buried. We also went with them to the Appian Way where it is thought that the footprints of Peter exist in the stone roadway as he fled persecution. There he is believed to have encountered the Christ who said to him, “Quo vadis?” At that question, Peter returned to a martyrs death.

Keeping the Appian Way clean

Why would our children want to visit these places? It was not because either Peter or the martyrs who were buried in the Catacombs were sports heroes. I understand that our children had heard about the faithfulness of these Christians who followed the Lord even to death. In Peter’s case he died crucified head down for he did not consider himself worthy to die as his Master had.

I may consider physical values of little importance since I never was great at horseshoes or softball or soccer, though it is never fun to be ridiculed for being inept. But I feel good as I look back on many things Doris and I accomplished in Brazil. There was a teen whose parents and siblings we helped in some small way. Though I had no idea the value of that help yet now he refers to me as poppa. I am hoping he will be able to speak at my funeral.

A Sunday School group in Rio Preto in which folks from the Presbyterian church gave great help. This work had value that extends into eternity. The lad at the back right became a church leader later in life. 

 

So I could not care less that I have scored low in any sport. There are other values in this life that rank higher—much higher. Isn’t that the way it should be for all us at any moment in life? Keeping the eternal in mind helps every one of us to focus our lives on lasting values. It is Jesus who states that during our time here, we are to lay up treasures in heaven.