Monthly Archives: February 2018

Art Runs in the Brazilian Blood

“The usual fortune of complaint is to excite contempt more than pity.” Samuel Johnson

The original inhabitants of much what we know as Brazil produced extraordinary painted pottery but it was in the 16th century that Baroque art came with Portugal and its priests when they colonized the land that hey then called Brazil. Now art seems to be alive in every Brazilian.

I was amazed to see it thrive when the wife from the poorest of homes, who raised a number of children yet cultivated orchids on some trees across the dirt yard.

 

 

 

I’d never seen a Christmas tree like this till it was the centerpiece in an open area that extended up through three floors in a mall. Wow.

Brazil is famous for its semi-precious stones many of which come from the state named Minas Gerais – General Mines. What workmen have done with different geodes is art, incredible art.

 

The art extends to the public parks with nothing quite as dramatic as the area in front of the central cathedral, Praça Da Sé in São Paulo city.

 

The art that raised goose bumps on me was the group of children learning to play the guitar. The place was a small hall in a favela and the guitars and the teacher were there as a gift from another church. Some players struggled with the notes but for these children and the music was the highest of any art form.

One day Emília took a group to visit the Jardim das Fontes where a church was being planted and where a number of children were supported by the donors from Canada. As the name indicates, springs from the hills fed a creek that was totally contaminated but no matter, people claimed a piece of land by building their simple homes on soil that in a rain might cover them in a mud slide.

These children and their parents I’ve mentioned are the real art for when their lives are moulded through the acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Saviour. The little church hall tells of conversions from the vices, leaving them behind and the hope in God that penetrates their hearts.

When you wish to be part of the ministry that transforms what is ugly into a beauty that last eternally contact your local church for a similar opportunity—or give me a call. Contributing in such an opportunity is to create a life of beauty greater than the jewels from Minas Gerais.

Advertisements

Fantastic Food in Brazil

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” John Bunyan

We experienced so many kindnesses from the hands of Brazilians that we can never add them all up. One was this young lady beside her outdoor oven; worked with her sisters and parents on a coffee farm—hard work with low pay and no benefits. If I remember correctly she handed me warm bread from this oven. Oh yes, there was a bit of ash on it for a fire was made in the oven to heat it for baking—and the bread was delicious.

While I’m thinking of the same girl, she went and picked some oranges from a tree nearby for me to take along. That fruit may not be much better than what I can now buy in a store but they sure tasted great. Most of the time we’d get fresh fruit and vegetables at street market.

 

Wow, so many oranges! A truck dumped them on a grassy spot beside the road and I supposed hoped to see them. Few came to buy from the pile and I wonder whatever happened to those oranges.

For me there was no better meal than a sandwich called, “bife a cavalo” which means rudely translated “beef topped with a friend egg.” The best place to buy one was a small restaurant on the public park in front of the great Catedral da Sé. Every time I was in downtown São Paulo I had to stop there whether meal time or not4

It took us sometime to begin to like certain fruits with the mangos being one of them for they seemed to taste like axel grease—not that I am sure that that tastes like. But we soon developed a taste for them and while interior one day a man from a coffee farm dropped off a half sack full. Then another fruit that I don’t remember its name—the reason I suppose I never did like it because of its seeds.

Of course every meal and every visit whether in our home or that of another had to have a demi-tasse of coffee. Here is the coffee on a drying floor long before it ever got the roaster and the super sweet little cup

And Vernon found a good bit of a sweet something on this mixer. No doubt many of our readers may recall doing the same thing.

Rice and beans were the important food and still is for Brazilians. To mention rice and beans it might seem so bland and ordinary. Not so, for our family all loved their rice and beans. It was the staple of everyone’s food planning.

And that brings me to another diet. This one that builds our strength to live the Christian life each day and gives us hope for eternity. Jesus puts the focus on himself as nourishing our faith for he says, “I am the bread of life.” When we receive him as Lord and Saviour, a person begins build a faith that gives strength in all of life and forevermore.

As we approach Easter, what a wonderful time to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

 

 

The Cathedral in Jardim Colônia

“One can live in the shadow of an idea without grasping it.” Elizabeth Bowen

In an instant there was a transformation. I was sitting in a cathedral, not the shabby hall in a São Paulo slum with sorry shacks just a stone’s throw away. The light came from the doorway, a window and a single bulb handing from the ceiling but for me I was surrounded by liquid gold from a dozen stained glass windows. I felt I was in the presence of a great robed choir as the children and adults sang with all the volume they could muster.

 

But the transformation was complete when half a dozen children trooped in and played their guitars. One boy had real trouble getting his fingers on the right chord, but no matter. What I heard surpassed any pipe organ.

If you had been able to sit with me, watch and listen you would have been as amazed as I was. You see, this was happening in a small rented hall in a slum where none of these children were able to put down the money to buy their own instrument. Nor would they have been able to pay for the teacher to help them learn to play. But they were strumming—more or less together—a church song in their little corner of that favela.                                             Sorry–I lost the pictures of the guitars

It all happened this way. A small congregation called the Igreja da Aeroporto sponsored this project—not just the guitars and the teacher, but they covered the rent for the hall and a frequent distributions of food, milk and clothing. I rejoice as I think back on that simple cathedral and our experience with them. You see, the sponsoring church worked with us so we had the opportunity to load up a truck with foodstuffs and clothing to give a hand in Jardim Colônia.  Here pastor Dorivaldo poses with some of the foodstuff we distributed–nd the tape totalling the purchased we made for the folks in this congregation.

 

 

 

 

 

That would have been experience enough but dropped down on us as we listened to their worship program. But it was the guitarists, all shy and fumbling with their guitars to get it right in front of Canadian visitors that for me truly transformed that simple block structure into a cathedral.

My experience there may have been unique but what is happening in those poor areas all across that city and others is helping boys and girls not just learn the guitar but get an education. None of the sponsoring churches are big and fancy but the beauty I saw in Jardim Colônia is repeated hundreds of times; no it is repeated so often they cannot be counted.

One day I had the opportunity to visit one such school smack dab in the middle of a slum. It was providing education for pre-school children and the lower grades. As well the school gave those children a lunch every day. I found out that such schools take in problem children that other schools will not accept. But with care and love the teachers see them made over into kind and gentle boys and girls.

There are a number of ways anyone can experience something of my cathedral experience. You might join a work group, perhaps from your local church and go yourself. Or you can give money for just such a project. If that does not work for you, then contact me for a needy spot where you donation will be well spent.

It may be hard to imagine what your handclasp is doing without going there yourself. In that case you may pause, say a prayer and in your imagination sit in the pew of your own special cathedral in a land far away.

 

Family Crisis in Haiti

“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” Anon

This is one blog that is hard to write—so hard that I can barely see the computer keys. It is a story from our time in Haiti based on a conversation that Doris had with our two children at a family birthday party for my 87th. I had not known all that happened so Doris filled in her side of the story that I had not experienced. Those days in Haiti were a most difficult time for our children and it still creates a hurt for Doris and myself. We shall not easily forget, nor should we.

The crisis happened in Haiti and it blew with a destroying force similar to the hurricane that we experience in Port au Prince. I had not felt well for a day or more but one morning I was sick, sick. Doris contacted our doctor who suggested it was Typhoid Fever. He put me in a hospital—not the best hospital in the city for the administrators did not want my infectious disease on their turf. Another of our team, Doreen Hawley ended in the same hospital with Typhoid Fever but in a worse ward than I. Precautions for a terrible disease were totally absent and meals were bad. Doris took the responsibility to provide meals for us both and check out our situation; that of course involved a drive all the way across the city of Port au Prince.

This would be a typical church shelter where the group team members ministered.

Since I was absent, both the administration and the finances for the mission fell to Doris. That included the responsibilities for the Haitian churches including their schools. That was a huge task at any time for I recall folks coming to our door as early as 6:30 in the morning asking for one thing or another. On top of that a group from the U.S.—perhaps twenty or more were coming to provide a DVBS at the mission and offer teaching helps for our many of our teachers in outlying areas. They all were descending on our mission and Doris had to sort those groups out and put the program together. She tried to cancel the U.S. group but that could not happen.

One of the tasks Doris had picked up was to train the Bible School boys into a great choir that then travelled to a number of our churches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I was in the hospital I have no other pictures except of other groups that came to give us a hand. This VISA (Volunteers In Service Abroad) group is from the Kingston area.

My beautiful picture

 

 

 

The situation in the hospital was so grim that our doctor, Dr. Bonhomme told Doris that Doreen and I could return to our mission home—as long as our children were not there. Apparently he was afraid we might still be infectious. This was right after the U.S. team returned home so it was possible to have Doris look after–a miracle in itself. it was so much better for us and easier for her to make our home into a hospital ward than care for us the other side of Port au Prince.

 

But how would Doris care of our children who were then about ten and twelve? They could not stay in the mission home with us.The solution was to send them to her parents near Ottawa. So Doris bought the tickets, sent a cable to her parents about their plane’s arrival time, dressed our children in their Sunday best and instructed them to contact the Craig family when they landed at the airport. They both had flown alone from one country to another before but this option was different for communication with her parents was nearly impossible. Thank the good Lord, it worked out. Doris’ parents got the cablegram just in time, barely minutes before their plane landed.

Monica and Vernon are here helping with some office work shortly before they were shipped off to Canada.

Just days ago we found out from Monica that she and Vernon were able to take it all in stride. I had forgotten they had been allowed to visit me in the hospital, otherwise they might have wondered if I might not survive. Our home was a center of the mission resulting in it being the focus of confusion with Doris working out details of the U.S. group’s ministry, travel and hospitality issues. Then add on the Haitians that arrived to stay at the mission property. One day an interpreter did now show up for a class at the mission so Doris in desperation asked Monica if she thought she could interpret. Later Doris was told she did well with Creole even though we had been there for just over two years. Add to that she was taking care of two-year-old Myrna Hawley, carrying her around on her hip.

We asked Monica how she handled what for us was a huge crisis. She said that she expected her grandparents to be waiting for them at the Ottawa airport. And they were. About all the details of my sickness and the huge task at the mission our children simply expected everything would fit easily together as in a jigsaw puzzle. And with God’s grace it did.

Were our children suffering from stress? Of course for they left their dad sick in a hospital. And Doris was so swamped with the mission and the American visitors that her time to mother our children was limited. As well, Monica and Vernon must have wondered how everything would work out for them in Canada.

Doris leaned against my office doorway a few minutes ago as we discussed that situation and she added the words, “I wonder how in the world we ever got through it.” Those words included our children and their struggles during the more than two years we lived in Haiti. They had previously spoken both Portuguese and English, then moving to Haiti they had to pick up French and the Haitian Creole.

I thought of titling this blog, Failed Parenting but that would not be fair though Doris and I were caught up in a whirlwind of circumstances over which only God had control. I’ve known some children of missionaries who later in life have little attachment to their parents while others are alienated to their parent’s Christian faith. In our case our children have done well in life and our mutual connections are strong. But at times I still wonder; yes I wonder. A partial answer for me is a word from scripture that “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” Yes, that may have been an important and reasonable moment to leave Haiti. My understanding is not the science connection between cause and effect. I see us each on a pilgrimage between earth and heaven. In this world in which much pain exists, we only find complete answers for suffering in the life and death of Christ.