This is one of those strangely moving times for me. Doris sits playing at our piano; with the notes come a whirlwind of emotions and memories. She complained that her fingers were not working just right but she kept on with Gospel Songs. Right now I hear, “What a day that will be.” The words tell of meeting Jesus in the land where there will be “…no more sorrows or burdens to bear.” That day we’ll meet the multitudes of those that have followed Jesus. But now the stories that come to mind.
When Doris sits to play at the piano, stories blow through my mind from days past. For instance, I find it strange how I dragged her to 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 imagine our loneliness though our intense schedule left little place for that. How was it possible that this lady who has taught seminary classes, led church and Bible School choirs would play the accordion and teach Gospel songs to crowds of children and adults on coffee ranches?
Then Bob and Ruth Kasperson and family came to visit us and provide encouragement. They drove their Jeep from pioneer territory in the State of Paraná to our place; all that long trip over dirt roads that were either dusty or muddy. Later we returned the visit to Paraná taking a number of different buses to first stop to visit OMS missionaries in Londrina, Paraná. There we met Rev. Hubert Clevinger who taught seminary and planted churches often holding services in tents. Back in the 50s those tents attracted huge gatherings.
There one Sunday Clarence and Betty Owsley took us to visit a couple of churches. Betty played the accordion and Doris the cowbells. 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 hymns, even ones she did not know.
Then another bus and more dirt roads with at one place cowboys herding their cattle. This area of Paraná was largely given over to coffee though the planters found out that frost occasionally destroyed the bushes. After a hard trip we came to the city of Maringá and located the home of Bob and Ruth. It was 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.
I don’t suppose Bob now cares about hard days except as part of an eternal reward; we may have had it hard but nothing like the Kaspersons. Their home was made of rough-hewed boards that 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 plate over the open firebox—we could see the fire burning. The kitchen was a rough lean-to beside the house. And Ruth had a smile on her face. Wow.
Bob asked me to preach on Sunday—I recall this family was much loved by the people in this church- planting situation. Then Monday we piled into their Jeep and they drove 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 where the jaguars roamed free.
The Hartmans had built their church on a hill overlooking the village; 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 us the story how just a few days before a man adept with a machete had killed a jaguar that had been killing a neighbour’s piglets. We visited the little store where that salted skin was rolled up on the rough bar, the same one used for serving their cheap rum. We have just now passed that skin on to our daughter for she was with us on that trip—payment perhaps for her patience as a three-year old.
I’ll never forget those missionaries, especially Bob who took care of us. He looks down on me from his funeral bulletin on my office wall. 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 track of them.
These meanderings began with Doris playing our piano—memories that take me back to our time and ministry in Brazil. And those wonderful missionaries! May they have a great eternal reward, especially those who labored where the jaguar silently padded along on its silent ways.