Here is a sneak preview of the first page of our fourth memoir, From Adventure to Mission: The Brazil Decades. I hope to finish the book this year, at least in a pre-publication draft.
A Rough Beginning but a Glorious End
“Jo, our parents are not going to believe this! I’m taking a photo to mail to them.” It certainly was an unforgettable scene.
Our four-year-old daughter Valorie had just swallowed some pain medication and lay on the bed with an icepack on her knee. Her leg was held straight with a removable sleeping cast. When she was just three years old, she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Our doctors had warned us not to take her to live under stressful conditions.
“Don’t take her to live under stressful conditions,” the doctors advised. “She could end up in a wheelchair by the time she is a teenager.”
Valorie lay next to her four-month-old sister Cheryl who was suffering from a severe case of diarrhea and dehydration. She was prescribed antibiotic drops, which we gave to her every hour and every ten minutes, squirted some oral rehydration solution into her little mouth. A fellow missionary with nursing experience checked Cheryl regularly, saying, “Call me immediately if her temperature rises.”
Meanwhile, three-year-old Leanne stood by the side of the bed, consoling her two sisters, her left leg in a cast. Three days before, she had cracked her shinbone in a playground accident involving a swing.
I thought back to my prayer as the airliner flew over the dark mass of the Amazon. Jo and the girls were asleep on the plane, and as we flew towards Rio de Janeiro for our early morning landing, I re-committed myself and my family to serve God.
“Whatever it takes, Jesus, you are our Protector and our Provider. You promised to be with us, so I am ready to go, do, or experience anything to serve you, no matter how long it takes. Yes, I am ready to die down there if only you will use Jo and me to translate your Word for some people group in their own language.”
I took the picture, and before we mailed it with our next letters home, I wrote on the back of the photograph, “Our tenth day in Brazil.”
Those first weeks in Brazil were a blur of activity. Our arrival in Rio and the next day’s flight to Brasilia was marred by the news that Customs was holding every piece of our checked baggage.
“It may take a few days to clear Customs,” officials told us. All we had was our carry-on baggage. Also, our two duffel bags shipped airfreight to save overweight charges were lost. They contained much of our clothing.
Week after week, our checked baggage continued trapped in Customs with hints about money needing to change hands. Wycliffe’s field partner, SIL, had a no-bribes policy, so for five months, we did without our clothes and many other personal items before Customs finally released our baggage. Several weeks later, the two duffels were found and released. Opening our luggage and bags, we were not surprised to find that Cheryl had outgrown most of her little outfits. We had expected this, of course, and had already bought some clothing during those months of waiting. All this added to the strain of arriving without adequate financial support.
The Glorious End
God took care of us during our twenty-two years in Brazil. Instead of being a stuck-in-a-wheelchair teenager, Valorie was captain of her high school’s volleyball team. And best of all, the Canela people gladly received God’s Word in their language, and Jesus established His Church among them.
This year, fifty-four years since I took that photograph, God continues to bless Jo and me, our families, and the work He led us to do among the Canelas.