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.


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