Author Archives: rkenny2014

About rkenny2014

My wife Doris and I spent ten years in Brazil as Christian missionaraies. Half of that time was in the interior of the State of Sao Paulo. We worked largely with the labourers on the coffee farms, then later in Rio and Sao Paulo. I keep in contact with friends there and handle well their Portuguese. Later we spent two years in Haiti before returning to Canada with Typhoid Fever. Those were difficult years but some of our best.

Overtime Work for God’s Angels

Bishop Morneau of the Catholic Church wrote this prayer, “Lord Jesus, purify our desires. Help us to long for what really matters and help us to be done with things that are insignificant…”

I’ve always wondered since that time years ago what might have happened to me if our neighbour Joe had not come with his axe. As I tell you this story you will see that the time and happenings are all in God’s hands. His angels are quick, so very quick to be involved. And you’ll understand why I write about such a crisis, for if it had gone the other way, I’d never made it to Brazil.

A baptism in the interior of São Paulo state where we lived and ministered. what a privilege to be in Brazil and encourage folks in following Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

It was the spring of the year when my sister and I formed a simple conspiracy to explore the new farm my dad had bought. Each night a white frost laid its touch on grass and trees making this the right time of the year for Maple trees to lend their sap to make syrup. About a ten minute walk for our young legs—she was about nine and me ten at the time—and those legs took us back across the brown stubble of a hay field towards a dark woods. We by-passed the swamp and Dog Lake to follow the farm trail around a huge rock cliff then up the hill. On more level ground we followed the line fence with its row of Soft Maples.

This picture is a few years before this story unfolded, but there is Alma my sister, myself and a cousin, Hollis Mainse. Pictures are scarce from that time.

That was when the trouble began for I had watched my dad boil down the sap from Sugar Maples to make the sweet syrup. One of those trees had a streak of sap marking its trunk; that was an invitation for me to try its sweetness. Since it was sweet I surmised wrongly that it might be sweeter closer to where the sap oozed from the bark. A new purpose sprang into my mind. I’d climb that tree but I never thought it would make me pay for the taste I’d taken. You see the Soft Maple is set apart from the Sugar Maple for the trunk often divides into a very narrow V.

That is the way it was that day. I was about ten feet up in my climb when I placed a foot in that narrow crotch though that was no problem. But when I put my weight on that foot to climb further the tree grabbed my foot so securely I could not get it loose. My sister watched my struggles from below till I fell over backwards with my foot held more securely in the bite of those arms of unyielding wood. My sister could not reach me and even so she would not have been able to lift me to be released.

I was becoming desperate. “Run, get mother ,” I cried out. With that she headed for the house and though it was a long hike for her within the half hour mother returned. Though mother could reach me yet there was no possibility of removing my foot especially since it was more painful by the minute. Her solution was to return to the house as fast as she could, cross the road to another farm house and explain her problem in gasping breaths to Joe.

It must have been another half hour before Joe and his axe made his way with mother back cross the fields, up the hill to the tree that held me prisoner. But the pressure on my foot and my suffering meant only one thing—cut down half of the trunk that held my foot. I’m vague about this part of the story but of this I am sure, Joe laid all of his strength into making those wood chips fly.

Soon I was on the ground and hobbling towards the house—with a red face. You see, with my head down for at least an hour the blood that had been forced into my skin and remained there. Even after a couple of days I still had something of a red face though part of that might have been embarrassment.

Dad had been away that day but when he returned and heard the story his response was, “I’d have gotten him down. No need to cut that tree.” To hear that almost made me faint for I felt once again my twisted foot pinched between the parts of the tree trunk.

There are questions I’ve asked myself during the seventy-five years since that painful escapade. Why was it that mother that day did not go with dad on his errands and as a result leave me alone hung up in the tree?  I wonder why my young sister was with me for often I explored that farm by myself. As well, since farmers are always busy how did it happen that Joe was not out of reach of my mother, perhaps working in his back forty?

The answer I’ve learned over the years is that God’s wisdom, his plans and his love are often beyond our understanding. That sort of trust often grows slowly until one day the light dawns, explaining most problems. That isbecause of a total commitment a person makes to Him as our Eternal Father. An old hymn speaks to this issue, “Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidd’st I come to thee…” then the surrender, “…Oh lamb of God I come, I come.”






The Angels Worked Overtime

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “No man can predict when God will visit him, but he can leave the door open.”

The sunshine of old memories enlightened my sleeplessness a few nights past. Awake for a few hours I went to a reclining chair where often I can sleep and not disturb my good wife Doris. Frustrated by continued sleeplessness, I picked up an old hymnal dated to the 1940s. The opening words from a song threw open a door to angel wings that whispered to me of how those angels kept me alive when I should have died.

Those words begin with, “Dear Lord, take up the tangled strands where I have wrought in vain…” So what is the story? It occurred during a break from classes when I was in Bible School in Brockville, a time when the boys went outside to horse around on the lawn. I was involved in some wrestling when the other older chap dumped me on my head. Immediately I did not know who I was or where I was. Nothing but darkness and confusion.  Yet somehow old habits led my feet to my room.

Then my friend Colin from across the hall, began to play his guitar and sing the words that I’ve mentioned. I knew the “tangled strands” fit me for I had no certainty if those “tangled strands” would ever come together. Would my life form anything more than a blank slate? I felt  my short life was summed up in, “…where I have wrought in vain.” I had no inkling that I would ever recover. However by the next day I was able to be back in class but groping along disorientated. Some are going to say that my confusion continues. Oh well!

The story continues though it goes back some ten years earlier when I was eight or nine. On that day God sent his angels to slip their soft wings under that boy’s life, my life. My sister and I along with another chap about my age were playing in our cow barn one summer’s day. There was a manure bucket that we called a “litter carrier” that ran on a heavy cable from the cow stable to dump far from the barn. With a strong shove it would leave the barn to dump is load and then return. Well, during the summer it was dry and we played shoving it and also bouncing it on the cable–that was until it jumped the cable and fell on me.

There I am in the back row with the rural school–at about the age of the accident.

A long bolt that held a pulley in the carriage that ran on the cable, penetrated my skull leaving my left side paralyzed. After they got me to the house, I lay on the couch unconscious and bleeding– during the evening meal, during the milking and the time when dad and mother went to a prayer meeting at the church. Much later I was told that my older brother who was having supper, was overcome with the sight of blood and he fainted backwards with his chair. In those days many people including my dad were afraid of being ripped off by doctors and hospitals. I imagine my mother’s tears insisted they get that unconscious body– to a doctor in Gananoque. He sent them to the Kingston General. With surgery the next day they removed the circular piece of skull pressing on the brain and cleaned up the mess the dirty bold had left behind. That was before any antibiotics.

Doctors said that cartilage would form over the place of surgery that extended across half of my skull. And that did happen though for years if I rubbed a finger over that scar, I would feel it down my left side.

So why include this in blogs about Brazil and our time there as missionaries? Simply this. In some ways I felt that my life had been spared to fulfill some divine purpose, though that was years before Doris or I had any inkling the other person existed. Those angels were putting pieces into a puzzle that perhaps only God in heaven knew about.

Some details. As I was finishing seminary our church suggested we go to Brazil as missionaries. I look back now, when I am just now weeks away from my eighty-seventh birthday and see the plan of God in the accident. Yes, and I hear the whisper of angel wings. You see I could easily have died for doctors explained to my parents that the bolt had barely missed large blood vessels and with that miss, my life was spared. Now any blow to my head can create a problem similar to what I mentioned.

So I am reminded that every day, the life I live now is a gift from God. Certainly the ways of God and the strange twists and turns of life all create a faith that extends beyond this life to Life Eternal. A hymn says it well, “My hope is in the Lord who gave his life for me…”

My prayer for you as a reader is simply this, “Dear Lord, take up the tangled strands…”








Trusting in Providence and Prudence

“For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his plans.” Proverbs 5:21

I’ve touched before on our total unpreparedness for Brazil and how it all worked out. I am not sure just how much we trusted in God watching over us, perhaps more in our own ability and prudence in any situation.

In 1955 the planes all used the piston engines with props. It was an incredibly slow trip with our baby but the airline let us keep baby formula for her in their frig.

(This is an edited review from other postings.) We went to Brazil but we had no one to meet us. We could not say one word in Portuguese and that was so important for not many there speak English. We had no Brazilian money and Canadian money was not often accepted. We had no sure idea of the city where we were going so it seemed we were marching off the end of the world. Strange? We went to Brazil as missionaries living by faith–some might call that foolish gambling.

Here is the Musselman family, one of the two couples we met on the plane to Brazil. You may not see their wings–they are just folded out of view.



What happened is that God sent his angels to keep us not only safe but get us ready for his work in Brazil. Here is what happened. When our prop plane took off from Porto Rico after refueling, two other couples boarded with each having small children. They were Mennonite missionaries going to Brazil and when they found out our predicament they offered the help of one of their families in São Paulo. These folks helped us through customs, and then explained that  Campinas, the city with a language school was too far away to take a taxi. They did get us to the bus station and paid the taxi fare. They bought our tickets, escorted us over an hour away to Campinas and there arranged a modest hotel.

Not only will I ever respect and appreciate those Mennonite missionaries but when I think of the chance of them meeting us at that airport—it seems now an impossible situation. You see, they had missed the plane the day before. We all could say it was just chance. Perhaps, but what a wonderful chance—for us better than winning the 649 lottery. When incidents happen like that again and again and again, I can only say that God’s angels were there all that time. Not just all the time but working overtime. Wow.


Trusting in Providence not Prudence




The butterfly counts not months, but moments, and yet has time enough.” Anon

I’ve always wondered why Doris and I ever went to Brazil for in many ways it never made any sense. We knew no Portuguese, had no Brazilian and little Canadian money, knew not one person in Brazil, nobody to meet us there and had no idea where to go when we arrived. In any case I do believe in God’s guidance. An article by Myrto Theocharous in Christianity Today, “Prudence is Overrated” fills in the blanks about our family and missions.

If Doris and I had been prudent, we would never have considered going to Brazil as missionaries. But that might have set us to wasting the biggest and most dramatic adventures in life. We had every reason to think twice about venturing into something for which we were totally unprepared. Prudence would have nudged us away from the drama of ministry in Brazil.

The Picture: Elsie and Sparling Craig with grandma Craven and of course Doris. Pa Craig said after we left on the plane in Ottawa, “We’ll never see them again.” Common sense was with him.

With a little baby, Monica with us it is obvious we could not live on a São Paulo street corner so that prudence might have paralyzed our spirits. We’d then have said “no” to what later proved to the unfolding of perhaps the greatest period of our family’s life. I was just out of seminary, both of us young and confident and me with no experience in ministry–not yet dry behind the ears. But dropped into the interior of Brazil forced us to grow up, to learn to fit into that society and into Christian ministry. We learned lessons in weeks that otherwise might have taken a lifetime to imprint on our thinking.

It is true that the secular society of to-day claims control of what we might call the good life. That would include income, health, prosperity, marriage and life’s comforts. In other words the world around us demands power over our future all in the name of prudence. The world promises that if secular ideals manage our lives then everything the world offers will fall into one’s lap. The secular mind sets the rules–prudence is the way to go.

Doris and I had many reasons to be prudent instead of listening to God’s call. Doris had her R.N. with added studies in psychiatry; I had my M.Div that with even with little experience might have given me a prospering church somewhere. Between us we could have been quite secure in every way. Prudence pointed the way.

But God claims this world as his own, first through creation and then through the price He paid at the cross. So when Doris and I both felt deeply the divine call to a totally unknown future in Brazil, we trusted implicitly that he had control of the future. God’s control of the future—our future—encouraged us to place our bets on His future for us. Added in were risk, adventure, imagination and change.

Vernon was born in Brazil and here is making friends with a neighbour boy. Perhaps if Doris had known the difficulties of that birth we might have thought of returning to Canada. It might have been quite prudent.


There is always the sense of risk in God’s call. Even with all the faith we can muster in God’s leadership, still it is terrifying to rely only on trust in Him. That is so true from the moment He first calls for us to follow Him. It is true for all of the Christian life so that often prudence must be cast aside.

That faith in God’s calling to Brazil meant that we understand His control of our future. We believed that our family with all its unknown circumstances were in God’s hands. That fact becomes evident as you have read this blog, the story our time and ministry in Brazil. Every obstacle had a solution; every heartache and frustration had a consolation. As I put this blog down on paper the mystery and wisdom of God’s guidance stand out in “bas relief.”

I now see that prudence was never the way to go. To trust totally the future into God’s hands may not be wise according to our world. But it is both the smart and most successful way to live. My experience in this life tells me that I can trust God for all eternity.

An old hymn says it better than I ever can. “Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go;  Anywhere he leads me in this world below, Anywhere without him dearest joys would fade, Anywhere with Jesus I am not afraid.”

P.S. I have more pics but WordPress apparently has limits. RCK

Beautiful Children and Cities


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller

We cannot forget the children—how wonderful and charming. Our churches reach out to them with church programs, schools and other efforts to encourage them along life’s way—a route at times that families and their children find difficult.

The Volunteers in Service Abroad have worked with our bishop José Ildo de Mello and our valued friend and contact Luiz Roberto da Silva. Here we are making plans for the work of just one of our groups that have visited and worked there—with those children, youth—in fact everyone we’ve been able to touch.

 This picture is of Dan Cooke part of our VISA group and young people from the youth group of a congregation that our VISA group was helping with the food gifts 

The city of São Paulo with its twenty-three million is divided into many suburbs each with its skyscrapers. So from any high point it seems so endless and strange. See what I mean with a partial view of Praça da Sé in downtown São Paulo.

And then there are the beaches of Santos and Sao Vincente, that are down over the mountains to the ocean. But when a person gets down to street level it is so different. If I remember correctly a street, named São Bento is part of the center of the city and closed to traffic, and open for people and shopping. Generally São Bento Street is great for shopping even though there are malls in all of the suburbs.

Then there is few places in the world more attractive than the beaches of Santos and São Vincente–and they are less crowded than Copacabana.

All Brazilians have some artistic blood flowing in their veins and it shows in this city. Even in the center of the city where a meter of soil is worth its weight in gold, the city fathers have left space for parks that include beautiful palm trees.

But no matter the beauty of their parks and skyscrapers, it is the people that are truly beautiful. No doubt during the Olympics you heard lots of negative things about this country—even the impeachment of their president. But I want you to see and remember the people—so wonderfully kind and welcoming to those of us who stumbled along with Portuguese.

The beauty that last beyond anything in this world is the beauty and with it success that is built into the lives of children–and we do not forget the adults as well. That all happens when Jesus, the Saviour is master of a life.

P.S. I’m having trouble with my blog on WordPress so I ask forgiveness with errors and problems. RCK


Caring Pastors and Leaders

This is one blog in which there may be more pictures than usual for the title tells me that I’ll have too many pictures of wonderful Brazilian than I can possibly include. And there were so many pastors and leaders of whom I never did get around to taking pictures. Remember this, back in the 50s it was so much more complicated and expensive to use film for cameras

Pastor Dorivaldo Masson holds in his hand the check list for Basic Food Baskets that were being distributed to the poor in a church planting project. If my memory is correct, the lady on the left gives leadership to the folks in this rented hall–the other lady is a destitute woman of Indian origin.


Midori and Takero Oshima pastored among the large Japanese population in Brazil–and Mika on the right, as well a great friend. Wonderful dedicated Christians.

This is pastor Antônio of our Rio Preto church a few years ago when we visited with a VISA team. He helped support himself with a small clothes production business. God bless all these folks who do so much to build the Kingdom of Jesus.

WordPress has stopped functioning properly so that dragging pictures into the blog is almost impossible–and then I can’t drag them to the place I need them. If the problem is straightened up this week, I may add to this piece. In any case I want to say that I have highest regards for these friends who Brazil, for their extreme sacrificial work for the Kingdom of Jesus.









Competition on the Roads


Sorry, but most of the pictures I could not paste and even those,  I could not shift to where I wanted them. The one above is with me checking out our VW van that would not run, happened in Rio when some crook plugged the gas line. The guy came to offer his help and of course to get paid but I understood the hanky-panky involved and quickly made the right connection, then drove off.

The next picture is of Vernon in Neves–if I have it correct. Sorry again but WordPress is not up to par. No danger on that road.

“The only real risk is the risk of thinking too small.” Frances Moore Lappe

During travel in São Paulo one day I noticed two motorcycles lying in the middle of four-lane traffic with the cyclists apparently unconscious. What a sad scene! So many of these bikers make a living by delivering parcels and mail around this city of some 23 million. Traffic is heavy and these bikes speed in between cars even when there is little space. Accidents do happen–too often.

Of course Vernon was safe on his trike while we lived in Neves for half the traffic was made up of horses and carts.


Seldom do we see a horse and cart competing with cars for a bit of the road in the big cities—though of course the law lets it happen. Any chap with the reins in his hands needs to be given a hurrah for his courage—not so much for his wisdom.

This VW bug saw its last day trying to manoeuvre and compete in the traffic. We saw it after we had distributed food survival items to the folks that came to the church planting project from a favela. Those who lived there—os favelados—wanted us to come to their homes to pray with and for them. And it was behind this poor home that this VW sat, so very forlorn.

There are so many cars on the streets of São Paulo city that the law is that one day vehicles with an odd numbered plates may use the roads. The next day the even numbers get the right to pull out from their parking spots. Police are often at an intersection getting the plate number of those with infractions. I know one couple who bought an extra car just to get a different plate number. They each had to have a vehicle ever day for work.

It is not that the engineers have not tried to keep building roads but the population grows so quickly. To see what they have done—that was back before we went to Brazil in 1955—they built a highway through the mountains from São Paulo down to the port city of Santos. One tunnel on that road is 3416 meters long, another is 2083 meters and another yet a little shorter.

Now the words of Jesus come to mind, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except by me.” The way to God is through Jesus and scripture in other places explains that this is so because Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross. A person may be afraid of this “narrow way” that Jesus mentions. But remember also his wonderful promise for he says, “Come unto me all ye that are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest. The way, or we call it the roadway, is so much easier than we might ever have imagined.