Monthly Archives: July 2017

We Always Have Time

“We always have time for the things we put first.” Anon

We were just a year in Brazil when we left language school and moved to Rio Preto. This city is a day’s travel from São Paulo but there in the interior I learned something about the use of time. It is this; we can accomplish so much when we put our minds to it. I had never thought much about the quote above till Doris and I with our baby daughter Monica moved to Rio Preto.

There we became good friends with the pastor and lay people of the local Presbyterian Church. That is a great story of how some of the young people gave us a hand in establishing more than one congregation. Those wonderful people came across the city on Sunday afternoons to teach children Bible stories in our little rented hall. Now back to the incident I have in mind for to-day.

Just across a shallow valley from their church and new section of the city was being built up with poor homes. They decided to begin a weeknight service there and they would use the home of one of their members. If you should step into this home you would notice that there was no ceiling and you could see the slits of light coming in between the roofing tiles. The floor was made of rough bricks laid in the dirt with a wash of concrete filling all the joints. Quite obviously this room served as a kitchen for in one corner was as brick stove with a chimney and beside it a rickety cupboard that held utensils, dishes and food. A table, a few chairs and a well-worn sofa completed the ensemble of this room; it was here every social event happened in this home.

 

This family had invited their neighbours in for religious services and the man of this home was chosen to be the leader for the group. But how could this be possible? He could neither read nor write. How could he explain the teachings of Jesus when he could not open those pages and make sense of them? This is how he did it. Since his wife could read she would find the part in the Bible in which he was interested in using as basis for his “palestra” talk. Then she would read it again and again to him till he understood the truth of that passage; he was then prepared.

As I look back on those days and that man, something else comes to mind. He felt that through his church he had been given a divine trust to conduct religious services. For him this was not some obligation placed on his shoulders for he had received a heavenly calling. Not being able to read or write did not provide an opportunity for escape. From what I recall of those days is that this lay leader never was a Billy Graham but in any case a congregation was created in this poor “bairo.” He blessed his friends and neighbours by using the abilities he had.

 

Now for another story that sticks in my mind from this same “bairro.” I was walking one day there alone along a dirt street in this sparsely built-up area when a little dog began to follow me. I never worried about her for her belly hung low with unborn pups; I could not think of any danger for she was just able to waddle along. But she grabbed my ankle just above my shoe and then quickly turned away to struggle along in her campaign of protecting her city. The lesson once again: the little mongrel put her task of protection ahead of her own struggles. The little dog preached a sermon—use your time and energy wisely.

It is true isn’t it that we spend our time on what we consider valuable, the things we put first in life? This treasured lesson I picked up from this uneducated man and this little dog. They understood that there were values so much more important than any of their abilities or lack of abilities.

So I have to ask myself this question, a powerful question that comes from this little story. What are the values that I now live by? What do I put first in life? How and where do I spend my energy and money? And are they eternal values and will they be important to me 100 years from now? Or longer? Am I obeying the counsel of Jesus to “lay up treasures in heaven?”

Priming the Pump–Pouring in More Water

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” Anon

Much of our work as missionaries in providing hope and help took place in areas of Brazil that may never be widely known. This picture from the little interior village of Neves speaks loudly to me of our efforts to pass on the story of the love of God in Jesus. In the last blog I compared the message of Jesus to water that was needed to prime a pump to get it doing its job. Now I wish to pass on stories of how some of that priming water worked to change lives.

I must start with Doris who is in the back row on the left. Her studies in Christian Ed. during Bible School prepared her well for the work of starting and teaching a Sunday school. This large group was a success in itself for it was taken less than year after we moved to Neves. I can nail down when we moved to there for Monica is the little girl on the right in the front row and we have her age figured out. As I checked out a larger version of this picture I noticed her bare feet. I suppose at that time we did not know of the parasites that could infect bare feet and one Vernon later picked up.

Now about the people whose lives were transformed through the Gospel. The lady in the back row, 2nd. from the right, is senhora Dna Olinda. Her husband Luiz had been an alcoholic and a gambler so that it was Olinda who then earned about 40 cents a day to care for her five children. She sought help for Luiz from other religions in the village but nothing changed. Then she was attracted to a little hall and the services begun by Rev. Murdo & Isabel Campbell. Senhor Luiz was resistant to her urgings to attend but finally all by himself he went and accepted Jesus as Saviour. God’s grace broke his habits and a few years later he died in the Faith. His funeral was my first ever—but it was a time of hope for the Water of Life had brought eternal life.

Some of her family are in this picture—perhaps it is Marli, the blond girl standing beside Monica. Difficult years zoomed by till we met her again, then a retired school teacher (perhaps a principal as well)and married with children. She with her family has been faithful to Jesus and active in a Presbyterian church in São Paulo. The youngest in the family is, I believe, her little brother Ademar, in the middle of the front row—in this case not looking very happy. He and his family too are now faithful to Jesus and priming the pump for others.

Right behind him might be Marlene, a sister. She came to us when her father died—in fact all the family were split up. Marlene was blond as were all her siblings so that when she was with us, many in her class thought she was a Kenny. At that time Monica was taking music lessons and she passed on her knowledge to Marlene. Later in life she taught school and her talents in music led to her being an organist in a large Baptist church. And in that same church she may still a lay leader helping out with varied ministries and home Bible studies. Wow! More priming water provided!

In the middle of the back row, the blond boy with his face half hidden, I think is a brother Valdir. Our contact with him has been minimal over the years. More important is his firmness in the Faith of our Lord. He too is priming the pump for others. The same goes for Ademar and his family.

Then the oldest in the family is Luiz and I must speak of him though he is not pictured. When Luiz was not yet a young teen, he would sell peanuts or candies in the streets while carrying them on a little piece of board steadied by a string around his neck. Luiz loved music and one day while in the streets he heard the music at a hall and came in to sit and listen–as well as trying to make a sale or two. Through him his mother and children began to attend—and as mentioned in another blog, it was there that his father Luiz gave his heart and life to Jesus. God blessed his son also named Luiz so that he later married a pastor’s daughter Cleide and went on to years later have his own business. What to me is truly marvelous is that Luiz has sung in city-wide Christian crusades, led a church radio program and has made a number of Gospel music tapes and CDs. Luiz later completed the ministerial courses required and has been ordained as a minister. What a story! A little water for priming in Neves has led Luiz to deliver the Living Water to many others. That story is truly miraculous.

Luiz ministers in music in churches and provide with others supervision for church construction.

 

Back to the picture–the tall chap next to Doris is Nabor and then Octávio, each with their own story. I do recall Lourdes on the left back row who with her whole family began to follow the Lord. She studied at a Bible school for a year. How wonderful to have been touched by our Lord Jesus. And all those children and others from the four preaching points and churches? We trust that along life’s road that many have found hope in Jesus, the Water of Life.

 

 

Priming the Pump

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” John Ruskin

We hauled up water from a well when we lived in the interior of São Paulo state; the little village of Neves had no water mains. For that matter there was no sewage mains either. The well was dug before we came, done by hand of course down some twenty-five feet through hard soil. Those who had done that work built a stone curbing that extended a few feet below the ground to a few feet above. We learned to draw water with a windlass, a rope and bucket. The apparatus situated on the curbing was made, I assume, right there in Neves by a craftsman.

Doris and our well

 

We installed an electric jet pump down near water level—a task I might better have left to someone used to those wells. My recollections are vivid of Doris lowered me by rope with a loop for my foot down where I could work. But the pump at timers was obstinate; it would not provide water for our family and at times it simply quit working. So I would have to go down that well again and make repairs.

But the job was never done till the pump was primed. It needed enough water to allow it to begin its work of pushing water up to our tank under the roof of our home. No priming—no water for a shower. So I would take down into the well not only tools but a bottle of water for priming. With the depth of the well and that slim rope in mind, Doris and I both tried to be very careful.

If you are familiar with a hand pump at your cottage or hunt camp you would know its leathers might dry out and then the pump lost its prime. Or if a defective foot valve in the well began to leak, then that pump needed to be primed. The last person using the pump then must leave some water in a pail for the next priming. That water was essential. If there was no water, the next person at the well would go thirsty.

Just imagine if you were travelling in a desert area and were desperate for a drink. An oasis with trees and grass would provide hope but suppose the pump there would only suck air–you might then be in a bad way. But if you saw a sign: “Prime the pump—water is in the bottle by the tree.” Then water from the well would slake your thirst and save your life.

The traveller who had drunk deeply always needed to leave water to prime the pump for the next person. If you had drunk deeply does it not seem fair that you would prime the pump for someone else?  Now I’m getting to what I really wanted to say when I mentioned the well out there in the village of Neves.

This is Christmas program in which the blond girl at the middle and back, when she was in Neves drank of the Living Water and later began an organist in a large Baptist congregation. This is some of the priming Doris did while in Brazil.

 

If anyone of us has drunk deeply of the life that Jesus the Christ has provided through family and church, does it not seem fair that we leave the Living Water to prime the dry pump of someone who is thirsty. My word of counsel is, “Don’t throw away the water that will prime the pump for others.” Let us pass on some of that water that may save the life of a thirsty traveller.

The Kaspersons, Lutheran missionaries visited us in Neves. They were great folks in passing on the Water of Life.

Let me tell you about the feelings that are behind what I have written. Doris and I during the last few weeks have been spending time sorting through boxes of stuff we used in our ministries in Brazil, Haiti and pastorates here in Canada. We both had worked hours putting some of that priming water into buckets that could be used to prime the pump for other thirsty people. As we now discard those buckets it seems we are erasing memories built up over the years. Part of life seems to be lost. But as I have thrown out stuff I came across a couple of notes from people who were thankful for the priming water we had left them. Those words of thanks made it all worthwhile.

Now I am hoping that others, many others will pass on that same water of life to those who thirst.

A Strange Visit to Paraguay

“Fire is the test of gold; adversity is the test of strong persons.” Anon

Were we negligent in our plans when the Hustons were not home when we arrived at their mission residence in Asuncion? Not at all for phone connections were non-existent, as it was with every other means of checking in with them. We had chatted with them once in the U.S.A. about dropping in on them. But in any case we found the mission residence but none of the Huston family. We learned however that Ernie, was out on his motorcycle travelling somewhere doing missionary work. And Lucy with the family were in the U.S. So the four of us just took over the house, lock, stock and barrel. Well, what else were we to do in such a situation over 50 years ago?

There was one option–we could have sent a letter with our parret.

 

But there was almost nothing to eat so Doris decided to bake something. She went through the cupboards and found everything she needed including the flour. But when she opened the container she found it full of weevils. A person might cook, with the weevils adding protein but Doris and the rest of us did not have a hankering for this kind of biscuits. Or was it cake? I suppose when anything was cooked, the weevils could be mistaken for a whole wheat mix. Doris was ready to throw it all out with my permission. Then Ernie arrived and he was adamant, “No, absolutely not. I bought that flour across in Argentina. It was expensive and in any case any flour a person might buy would have weevils.” The solution was to sieve them out before baking began. So the cooking went ahead.

While there Ernie took the four of us across the river to visit an Indian village in Argentina. I don’t recall much about our time there except that when we got out our cameras the ladies began to pull off their blouses. Ernie quickly explained that we did not want pictures of them semi-naked and we would not pay to take such pictures. We did get pictures of the chief in his gorgeous dress, one where he holds a huge anaconda snake around his neck. Vernon and Monica are included in the photo standing close to the chief but as I recall, they were not excited about that adventure

There was so much we learned about Paraguay on that trip. Most educated people there speak Spanish but the language of the ordinary person in the street was Guaraní, and still is. This language has captured the hearts of the people and comes from the Indian Guaraní people. We also met a professor at the University of Asuncion, a Dr. DeCoud la Rosa who was well known then for his recent translation of the New Testament into the Guaraní language.

Dr. La Rosa with Delight Kent at the little organ

 

We also met a Rev. Minoru Tsukamoto who worked among his people, the Japanese immigrants in the country. He was small of stature, a humble hard working man with a mission to help his impoverished people. The newcomers were trying to settle in an inhospitable land and people. He and his family were so poor I wondered how it was possible they did not starve. There is no one I will ever respect more than Minoru, his wife and children.

Minoru told us stories of the Mennonites who left Europe to find a new life but discovered instead their non-combatant stance made them victims to any Paraguayan with a penchant for evil. Policing in the remote interior did not exist. Minoru told of men breaking into Mennonite homes, raping the women and robbing them of anything they wished. All this while the men would do nothing more than kneel in prayer. Draw your own conclusions but I say in this case religion had gone awry.

Monica with one of those South American ant hills. There is so much to see around the world that is different.

.

Much of the rest of our time there has faded from the synapse of memory. I do know this that we did not return by bus, not wishing to spend days on the road because of a possible prolonged rain. My assumption—correct me if you have any details I have forgotten—but I seem to remember we flew home on a direct flight from Asuncion to São Paulo.

Because of that visit we developed a great admiration and appreciation for these two missionary families in Paraguay. Above all else I remember that this call, to spread the Gospel of Jesus to all peoples in the world, extends beyond our friends in Paraguay, to all of us. And that has been our privilege in Brazil, Haiti and wherever we have been.