Getting the Clothes Clean

“Just because the past didn’t turn out like you wanted it to, doesn’t mean your future can’t be better than you ever imagined.” Anon

We found it complicated getting our clothes washed and clean in Brazil. We never did have hot water but putting the clothes on the line helped with the stain from the dust coming from the red soil And we needed to beat the stain that came with the hot weather–well, at times it was just very hot.

Here is Doris using the windlass at our well in Neves. We soon moved on to an electric pump.

 

We had electricity but not a washing machine. Doris scrubbed the clothes by hand for awhile but soon needed help. For a while our maid took the clothes home to wash. It was the only solution and that was what those who could afford it did in “coffee country.” As Doris and I talked about the washing we had a lady come in and do the washing. The picture tells the story.

The result of red dust in the air meant all my white shirts had a pink tinge. Why use white shirts? Well, professional people wore white shirts on work days, on special occasions and in fact, most of the time. For me that included more than Sunday services. Some of those shirts also had small holes that were not noticeable—they came about by riding on the wood-burning trains with the open windows. Imagine those sparks quickly wakening a person out of a deep sleep.

As you can imagine the “by hand” washing was hard on the clothes. Doris just said to me as I was getting my details straight, “I couldn’t put up with that.” Besides she objected to paying for every single item. So we saved from our small salary, or was it from gifts from family in Canada? In any case we bought a washing machine, a wringer washer back then in 1957. It was possible to install it in our home in Neves for we allowed for the plumbing as we did a re-building project.

By the way, I’m not complaining about the salary under the Holiness Movement church. We knew early all about the challenges we would face and we are thankful for the leadership that did so well to support a huge mission program with a small membership. But when union came with the Free Methodists it seemed we had died and gone to heaven.

During our second term in Brazil we bought an automatic washer but the rented house in São Paulo did not have the plumbing for a washer. So we found a spot for it in an oversized toilet in the backyard. We then had to carry the baskets of clothes down a set of stairs to get to the washer. With cold water there was much soaking and scrubbing of the items that were really dirty.

In any case the clothes line was close by. And if the Jobuticaba tree in the yard had fruit, a handful added to the interest in getting the clothes done. Of course if a person did not have a clothesline, then the grass served as a place to dry clothes. But a gear broke in the machine shortly after the end of the guarantee. That is the way most guarantees work but in this case I bought the parts and was able to fix it.

When thinking of “washing” a person might recall all the ritual washing laid out in the Old Testament. The good sense of that is obvious—washing saved people from a multitude of diseases. Of course there was also the symbolism—the spiritual cleansing coming from the worship of God.

My beautiful picture

 

 

But then I came across the words of St. Paul, “…he saved us, not because of the righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

That washing is both a mystery and perhaps more difficult for many than getting those pinkish white shirts of mine clean. St. Paul then makes clear that this washing is offered by “Jesus Christ our Saviour.” With that addition the story of washing clothes in Brazil is complete.

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Hope For The Children

Hope for Children

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubts; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” Ullman

The Olympics in Brazil were a smashing success before the world for the government swept clean Rio’s streets of the homeless, drug dealers and children who lived on the streets. Many of those children were abandoned by families that could not feed or clothe them. After a few months on the streets those same children become almost impossible to rehabilitate.

Here is a group of youth that came to help us from the Rio Preto Presbyterian church to help us work with children in this hall and other towns. These wonderful folks had a deep concern to teach children the Christian way.

 

We never knew about children being abandoned when we lived in the interior but we were struck hard by the poverty they faced. What can I write as I look back to the wonderful children we met who faced a bleak future on those coffee ranches? I’ve often wondered what became of those to whom we ministered. Most children had little opportunity to get more than a few years of education with absenteeism a central problem.

Here children from a Sunday School class show off the New Testaments they have received. The word of God often goes home to the parents who receive the Word and become CRENTES–believers.

 

The answer we carried was the Gospel of Jesus: a new life through his grace leads to hope and often to changes in lifestyle that opens up a better life. When parents have no hope they may abandon children; when children have no hope the answer often is violence and drugs. The promise of the Gospel is that if anyone is born into the family of God, that person becomes a “new creation” with new hope and ambition. And if a person cannot escape the pain of this life, the Gospel at least offers consolation for all eternity. It is no small thing to be sure of Eternal Life

Here Lucille Damon teaches a song to children while Doris Kenny plays the portable organ.

Whether it was a missionary or a Brazilian wishing to plant a new church, the work often began with the children. When the children were excited, the parents often began to attend out of curiosity. The love shown by the leaders often brought help for the children who later became both community and church leaders. The Gospel song says it so well, “A Wonderful Saviour is Jesus My Lord.”

Fred Lester as a faithful VISA volunteer to our church in Brazil for many years poses with some of the children in one of our churches.

I look to the church of Jesus Christ and His salvation to provide hope for these children and others. Our church offers everyone the chance to minister through its international program for children. Check it out! Help change the lives of Brazilian children. 

 

Was It Really a Furlough

“What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” Ano

The year missionaries used to have at home away from their field of service was called “furlough.” But I never found that to be really accurate. Now they call it “home assignment” and indeed that is what it was for us in between our two terms in Brazil and another in Haiti. Indeed it was good for us to be home with family though after a month on our first furlough, I spent up to two months at a time during the rest of the year away from my family presenting missions across Canada and the U.S.

When our family dropped out of the sky at the Canadian airport, we had no home but we as missionaries had no key for a roof over our heads ; the only solution was to find a place to rent or bunk in with family. We did a bit of both but that gave us little more than a spot to hang our hats, yet we did not complain—perhaps my memory fails me. In any case it was “root hog or die.” Friends often filled the gap as in this fishing picture for it belong to Mr. Hawley.

 

There  were many good times on our furlough and right off the bat I include one with Vernon and Monica fishing up the Gataneau on a small lake noted for its bass.

Our first trip home was on a Columbian plane that I’ve written about in a blog, telling how the same flight one week later crashed at Medellin, Columbia. A friend, Yoshikazu Takiya accompanied us from Brazil and after buying an older car in Miami, we took him up to Asbury Seminary in Kentucky. I recall buying that car—a private sale but when the chap found out we were missionaries he went ballistic expressing his dislike; no it was more like hatred of Christians.

After a few weeks staying with my parents in Seeley’s Bay I was sent on a speaking tour but Doris and our children needed more space and liberty. She went with our children to bunk in with her parents on their farm near Ottawa. The date and place for this picture is all wrong but it includes our children with grandma Elsie Craig. In fact all the pictures for this blog cover three furloughs—not to worry though.

 

 

During that time I travelled by bus, plane or used our car though that left Doris depending on her parent’s wheels. Since that Olds car was allowed into Canada on a temporary permit, before we returned to Brazil I dropped it off in a pastor’s front yard in Watertown. Somewhere I’ve written a bit of a blog about that dependable jalopy.

It was great to be able to take time to visit Expo 67 in Montreal; it was a wonderful view on  the world at that time.

 This picture of Vernon ready to fire a cannon, perhaps against the English for it was on one of the forts in Quebec. Monica is on the left with a cousin Darlene barely showing her face.

 

 

 

At times Monica and Vernon could be with us doing deputation and this was taken in front of a camp reserved for the missionary speakers.

 

Oh yes, a furlough was great in many ways for our family could reintegrate back into structure of families and friends some they had never even met. As well, we could share of what God was doing in the Brazilian section of His harvest fields

Does God Heal?

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I answer the question I’ve raised about God’s healing with a strong “Yes!” Such stories are more complex and anyone of us can offer many other insights. However I’m not going to try to answer a lot of questions but to raise your faith with what I’ve seen and known first hand.

This story occurred in the rustic hall where we gathered for prayer. This was in 1957 or ’58 and occurred in Rio Preto in a rented building that we used for services; you see we hoped to plant a church there. This hall was little more than a shelter. There was no ceiling and just wooden doors to cover the openings that served as windows. For pews we had some rough-cut planks that might give a worshipper unwanted slivers, yes slivers of wood.                       This hall is a cut above the other we had rented.

 

At that time I was still struggling with Portuguese so that if someone asked me a question outside of my small range of the language, I was stumped. Yet blundering on was our only option; but prayer for healing was answered in those difficult circumstances.

One evening at the weekly prayer time in this hall, Dona Maria brought a lady who was a relative to this service for prayer. Dona Maria had been part of the Spiritist religion but after professing her faith in Jesus, she no longer felt she could take this lady to a séances for their rituals. So that evening a small group knelt to pray around this woman at that rough front bench.

This lady had come into Rio Preto because of a tumor in her abdomen. In fact she was scheduled for surgery the next day to have this grapefruit-sized growth removed. She was at the hospital as scheduled, prepped and ready for surgery. But the surgeons never picked up their scalpels for after an initial examination they could find no sign of a tumour. As for me, I saw every reason to believe in God’s healing.

My comments are: first, it seems that God at times provides extra help and healing for those who find themselves in difficult situations or sick with few medical open doors. Second, this lady with this story of God’s intervention on her lips returned to the roça–this country area—with a powerful story and influence for Jesus

                 All the families in Poloni were poor, poor.

Something similar happened in the village of Poloni. It began with an invitation from a man to hold a service and show film strips in his yard. Interest was high with families crowding in to watch and hear about the life of Christ.

Then one day a message was relayed to me that one of those families wished me to come to their home and pray for them. I found that the children in this home had what may have been pink eye, though I have no medical studies to say what it was. In any case I believed the problem could only be cured with an antibiotic. So it was with little faith that we prayed together there, asking for God’s healing mercy and intervention in the eyes of these suffering children.

 

 

A week later when we returned for the service in the back yard, those same children were present but this time with no sign of their illness. I understand of course that pink eye may disappear with proper care after a week or so. But infections may continue because of the septic situation in these simple homes. This I believe—in such difficult situations where neither doctors nor medications are available, God indeed may have mercy and heal.

 

The next chapter in this story of our work in Poloni is that we were able to rent a small hall and hold services there every week. I suspect the story I’ve just told may have created curiosity and made that possible; God at times uses pain that tumbles in upon us to build his Kingdom. His intervention in our lives is both remarkable and miraculous.

I’ve mentioned just a wee bit about what I’ve seen of God’s work in the lives of others. But I could tell you story upon story of what I believe has been the work of God’s angels in my life and that of our family. If you like some day we can share those stories over a coffee.

 

The Christ Stands Over Rio With Arms Outstretched

“Choice , not chance, determine destiny.” Anon

While living in Rio de Janeiro our family enjoyed visits to the statue of Christ the Redeemer. You might have guessed it—we frequently ended gazing upwards at the Christ with visiting friends. The statue is perched on the peak of Corcovado Mountain and looks over Rio and the Bay of Guanabara. O Cristo Redentor stands with arms outstretched as if it were embracing the city. If we paused for a moment while looking up and recall what we know about the Christ we might easily feel those arms were stretched out to us in love and compassion.

This statue is from another city but is the exact copy of the Cristo Redentor in Rio.

 

 

The mountain of Corcovado rises to 2,300 feet or 690 meters over the city, the Bay of Guanabara and the city’s beaches. The meaning of Corcovado is hunchback and refers to its shape that makes it a nearly impossibility for climbers. The statue itself stands 100 feet on a 20 foot pedestal and weighs 700 tons. At night powerful lights transform this statue into a protective presence. No matter where we stand and gaze from the city below toward O Redentor, faith easily reaches into our hearts.

The last time I visited this statue was with a work group that we had organized to help in the construction of one of our churches. We used taxis to climb the winding road up through the forest and that gave us the opportunity to see butterflies and birds that made their home in the jungle. As we stood looking over the city below and the Sugar Loaf mountain across the Bay of Guanabara,  in the distance a helicopter took off below us and rose to circle the statue; I am sure it’s payload was tourists.

There is another way to ascend through the jungle to get the feet of the Christ and that is to take the cogwheel train built long ago in 1885. Trains leave the Cosme Velho station every thirty minutes for the 17 minute ascent through the forest cover with the added attraction of a good view of the famous Ipanema and Leblon beaches.

Still there was a different way our family often used for we would come from the South, the opposite direction from downtown Rio . Vernon then four and Monica six would pile into the little Renault and travel East from our home to the top of the range of mountains known as the Tijuca Forest. To get to O Cristo Redentor we turned North and wound through untamed jungle. Along that ridge a spring flowed out of the hills and down to the road. We’d pile out to have a drink and fill any water bottles.

From the narrow road through the trees, along the summit and through the branches and leaves  we could see the stature. As well lookout points gave us views of famous beaches, the Freitas lake, the Jockey club and the Emperor’s Table. That high flat rock interests us for it is thought to be the landing site for extra-terrestrials.  In any case this bit of history is true–Brazil’s last emperor Dom Pedro II took his court there for picnics.

 

My mind goes beyond the variety of ways to ascend Corcovado and in memory I stand with Doris and our children facing the stature of O Cristo Redentor . Those memories flood in on the strange routes I took during my youth to finally bend my knee to the one I call Saviour. Yet I must ask myself if I was alone as I took those strange roads, or were there guardian angels sent by the Eternal Father to overshadow and to guide? As the years go by, my conviction is this that I never searched alone for roads or walked them by myself. The same is true I am sure for you as you climb and search; simply remember all along the way that the arms of the Redeemer are stretched out for you

Something moves deep within me every time I have been in the city of Rio and looked upwards to the Redeemer. Ah, there is something more magnetic yet happening for the Christ himself, yes the Christ himself draws everyone of us to bow in awe at His feet.

Every Day On The Job

“Progress always involves risk; you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Anon

This title comes from those I knew in Brazil who worked hard, often not earning hardly enough to put food on the table. And with that comes to mind words from a Gospel song, “Work for the night is coming when man’s work is done.” As for Doris and me, we now have little energy or place where we can do a bit of work for Jesus. This blog sadly only can deal with memories from days of long past.

Years ago Brazil was famous for its rubber trees till other countries grew their own trees and the invention of synthetic rubber that took away the profit. But some rubber trees still produce the latex that is formed into rubber for special purposes. This lady uses a sharp tool to cut away a bit of bark to form a V in the trunk from which the white sap flows into a container. The whole process needs patience to grow the trees till years later the raw rubber goes to market.

 

This street vender may not be spending a lot of energy on his corner but getting there from his favela

and setting up his equipment is more than any ten hour job. Though most visitors and missionaries would not buy food at such a little cart—nor would I advise it. But me, I shunned my own wisdom and often enjoyed their foods. But I never got sick from those gastronomical delights while some I knew took more care but were often sick.

My beautiful picture

 

This lady did our washing—if you can call it that—in our backyard though that work may not have been worse than the early washer my mother used that was operated by a hand lever. On our second term in Brazil while in São Paulo we had an automatic washer. The problem there was the quality of manufacturing so that I had to tear it apart after a year or so to replace some gears.

 

 

This picture of cowboys may be touched with romance from watching too many movies about cowboys in our history. It is still hard work. Brazil raises many of its Zebu cattle for their own tables for they love a good steak, while beef is also exported to other countries. No doubt I have mentioned this somewhere, but the Zebu are not herded but led with a cowboy blowing the low notes on a long trumpet made of horns. I still have one of those long horns but I don’t do well with the low notes. I might scare the cattle.

 

 

I love this picture for is shows our Canadian team that worked with the members of our Airport Church to prepare food packages and clothing for the poor in a church planting project. That was an exceptional experience for us to be able to give a hand to some of Brazil’s poorest while encouraging them to a new life in Christ. It is so very encouraging to see churches in Brazil giving time and energy to further the Kingdom of our Lord.

Yes, “Work for the night is coming, under the sunset skies,

While the bright tints are glowing, work for daylight flies;

Work till the last beam fadeth, fadeth to shine no more;

Work while the night is dark’ning, when man works no more.”

Indeed, our Lord calls us again and again to be workers in his harvest field while at the same time we rejoice seeing the fruit of our labours.

 

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.