Friday, October 20, 2017

Headed Home

This morning Steve spoke in chapel. A nice group of students who interacted well with Steve’s question-answer approach to Psalm 150. I coveted their classroom for my Sunday school class. It had plenty of space to sit and write and still a wide-open area for more active learning, although I’m not sure how much these college-age students use it for that.

We leave for the airport after lunch today. I had not been to Brazil since 2012 when we visited Campo Grande where we had lived from 1978-82 and again for a few months 1984-85 on our way to Mozambique. I thought I would leave this time not knowing if or when I would return.

But Steve’s conversations yesterday at JUVEP, the missions training school, were productive. It is exactly the kind of program he would most like to help in retirement since its goal is to train Brazilians for the kind of cross-cultural ministry we have done. It seems that he will be returning over the next couple years to help them evaluate their curriculum, including the need for extension training in the interior (Brazil-speak for rural areas far from the coastal cities.) We had joked about a retirement place in Pedra Azul at China Park. Now I think of JUVEP’s proximity to the beach with its wonderful breezes and the possibility of escaping the Wisconsin season of melt and mud for sand and sunshine. Very inviting.

We shall see what the Lord has in store for the future, but for now, baring some unforeseen travel adventure in the next twenty-four hours, I expect this to be my last entry as a wide-eyed wanderer for now.

a typical settlement outside Recife yesterday

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Remembrances in Recife

We took off right after breakfast for Recife. Recife is a city of nearly four million, and we saw very little of it. Due to a construction back up, it took almost three hours instead of the usual hour and a half. I was glad I had my thermos of tea.

Our lunch cost R9.99—about $3—for a plate of salads, rice and beans and two meats. Simple food, but very nicely seasoned. "Self-service" usually means they weigh your plate and you pay so much per kilo, but this one was a flat fee instead.

Our friend Milzede had to see the doctor in the morning but thought she would be home between 11 and 12. We showed up at 12, and she had just arrived. We found the number on the street, but the house was down this narrow lane at the back of the property.

Milzede was our language tutor when we first arrived in Campinas, São Paulo, in 1978. She was pregnant at the time with the young man who greeted us at the door today. She is not in good health, and we didn’t stay long considering how far we had come, but it was so good to see her again and thank her for starting us off in this beautiful language. As a former missionary to Bolivia and the widow of a pastor, she is pleased to have had a part in our ministry.

It took much less time to return to João Pessoa (by a different road) between miles and miles of sugar cane fields. Sometimes we got behind a huge truck laden with cane on its way to be processed, but mostly we sped along. 

Pastor Idemar and Brother Rodrigo dropped us at JUVEP Mission for a conversation with Barbara Burns, an old friend of Steve’s from his days of doctoral study. This missions training school is built around a courtyard with this prayer chapel in the middle. 

The school trains workers from a variety of mission groups from around Brazil in anthropology and cross-cultural communications.

Supper was at a place where they weighed your plate and mine weighed too much.But this place specializes in local dishes.

You'll probably be able to pick out the shrimp on my plate. Below it are chicken hearts and a carmelized banana. To the right is a crepe stuffed with dried beef and further over shredded chicken with cheese on top. The yellow cone shape at the top right is a cornmeal sweet. To the left of that is grilled cheese (without bread. Just toasty cheese.) I tried several salads and a couple other dried beef dishes--all delicious. LIke I said, it was more than I needed to stay comfortable.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Being Productive (More or Less)

Today was a more relaxed day—at least for me. Steve had a session this morning with faculty and administrators of the local schools. It is an amazing thing that they cooperate so well. In too many regions, theological schools see themselves as being in competition rather than all working for the same goal of preparing workers for the kingdom of God.

While Steve was out, I worked on a chapter of my own book, Black Mountain, before turning to an editing job I have been doing. It felt good to be productive. A woman came by who works for a local publisher. She wanted to record a couple interviews with Steve to promote a book in which he has a chapter. When she learned that I write fiction, she wanted to know more and talk about the possibility of translating and adapting some of my books for a Brazilian audience. We’ll see if anything comes of it. She also made me a present of her mother’s memoir of growing up in the interior of the province. It sounds much like my mother-in-law’s book of memories, only obviously, from a totally different culture. I look forward to reading it.

Steve went this evening to speak at a seminary an hour and a half away. I didn’t think I needed the time sitting in the car. I HAVE heard him speak before and on these topics. Tomorrow we are going to Recife to visit our Portuguese language tutor from almost forty years ago so I WILL get a chance to see the countryside.

I realized I hadn’t shown you the dining hall here at Betel. The food is simple, mainly meat and starch whether rice, sweet potatoes, manioc, bread or some combination. Tonight there was a thick soup and choice of stewed chicken or stewed ribs with rice and/or sweet potatoes. Lettuce leaves and minced tomato and onions were available, but the only dressing is olive oil. Tomorrow night we have plans to go to a restaurant that specializes in local dishes.

Students begin lining up for supper

The kitchen with the ladies who so graciously boil water a cople times per day for me to make tea in my thermal mug.
This is coffee country, not tea.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Where the Sun Rises First in the Americas

Steve taught for two and a half hours this morning. It was supposed to be just seminary leadership from the various schools that were here last night, but the Betel Brazileiro students were so enthusiastic about what they heard last night that they asked to be excused from their regular classes to come. It was a good and enthusiastic group; Steve loves teaching with such a receptive audience.

I worked in the room sitting directly in front of the fan. I took a bit of a walk to explore the campus. We are staying on a suite in the left here where the car is parked. We have a tiny sitting room, a kitchenette, a much larger bedroom and bathroom. This evening I heard a baby crying at the other end of the building, which made me think this might be married student housing. The dining hall is on the left. The ceiling is high and open under the eaves to let out the heat.

 The library is tiny by US standards, but reminds me of what we first had in Campo Grande or in Mozambique.

It's the best place to get Internet access, so here I sit. Not bad in the evening, but pretty hot during the day.

After lunch Pastor Ildemar took us out to see the city. Well, it was for me to see the city; Steve has been here before. Several points stick out into the water with beautiful beaches in between. The point you see here is Cabo Branco (White Cape), the eastern-most point of South America. Beyond is the Atlantic all the way to Africa.

We couldn’t drive out to the point due to erosion that is undermining the road although we could get near enough to take this picture looking back at the city. The tide is in or the beach would be much wider.

The tip of the point is also eroding, which I suppose means that the Americas do not extend as far east as they once did. We parked and walked out. The old wall has collapsed, and we were not allowed near enough to look down although you can see the sand cliff in the background.

Ildemar took us by a very modern event center and museum out on Cabo Branco.

We loved this 6x9 meter painting of the history of the city where the sun rises first in the Americas. You see some of the indigenous peoples to the left and then various hstorical personages, including famous authors, in a setting of the oldest buildings of the city. The Atlantic (with Cabo Branco) is to the left, the Paraíba River to the right.

And of course, we stopped for ice cream on the beach before returning to the school. They had some unique flavors. Steve had carmelized banana; I had brigadeiro, a Brazilian sweet--chocolate made with sweetened condensed milk rolled in chocolate pieces. I could try to tell you they weren't very good, but I would be lying.

Monday, October 16, 2017

On to João Pessoa

It was easier to say farewell to Queila and Vicente since we convinced them to look seriously at the possibility of a visit to the US in the coming year. But after Queila left for work we realized we had failed to get a picture of the four of us together or even of them with their son Natan. Too much chatter and too much time watching football or eating pão de queijo.

We caught a mid-day plane to João Pessoa on the eastern-most tip of the Americas. Steve has been here many times before and enjoys the people involved in theological education in the region. For me it is the first visit. We could see some tall buildings down at the shore as we landed, but the city is much smaller than Rio. The seminary, Betel Brasileiro, is inland, close to the airport, so we haven’t gotten into the city center yet. Tomorrow I’ll have to get some pictures around here. It is very simple, reminding me of Mozambique in the old days. They had saved lunch for us even though it was three inthe afternoon, and it was delicious--spaghetti and chicken with Brazilian seasonings or ground beef, salad.

Several schools came together tonight to hear Steve speak on challenges in theological education in Brazil today. Judging by the reaction of students and faculty, he hit some nerves. We'll see how many come back tomorrow.