Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interior Trips - Madeira Cortada, Ceará

I plan to post some old letters about our trips across Brazil over the years.  Traveling here is always an adventure.  Once when we lived in Fortaleza and all the boys were little I decided it would be neat to travel with some of our church members to the interior village where many had grown up.  Every year in January there was a mass exodus of people from our church being the month of vacations here in Brazil.  As I have been going through old photos lately, I also found this old letter about one of my trips to the backwoods of Ceará.  I believe the trip mentioned in this note took place in 2001.  The boys and I went back a few other times as well.  Each time was a wonderful experience for each of us!

William, Taiana, and an interior cousin
This was taken on another trip to Tia Neide's wedding.

Dear Ones,

I was invited to go interior with some of our Joao XXIII church members. Many of the people in our work all come from in and around the same interior town called Boa Viagem. A great deal of them actually are all from the same little "villa" called Madeira Cortada which means Cut Wood. It is a little group of houses around the only Regular Baptist church for many a mile. All the people work in some kind of farming. There is a small water reservoir and a wind mill that pumps up water from a deep well. Years ago Baptist Mid-Missions missionary George Kircher and his wife worked in this little place. Many of the people there were saved during his ministry. Today the church runs about 80 on Sundays. It has a faithful Brazilian pastor who tends his flock well. Many times tithes come in the form of dry beans and corn which are the principal products of the area. When no rains come, life is hard. This year has been almost too good with so much rain that the bean crop actually suffered a little.

The boys and I went in last year around September for a few days. Vans run people in to Boa Viagem relatively cheap. We went that route then spending the night with the relatives of one of our group. The next morning we rode a very interesting bus into Madeira Cortada itself. The bus has no seats in the very back. It looks like an old city bus with hard plastic seats. The back was piled up with sacks of feed and supplies, boxes with live chickens, and even a tied up goat. The people are an interesting mix as well with some looking right out of the tour guide book as truly interior and many going in from the city to visit relatives. We were very out of place with light hair and light features. William and Greyson's very blue eyes drew lots of attention.

This year when we were invited I was told that those going were to go by truck. What of kind of truck? I was told it was a long, covered flat bed truck with skinny benches for passengers and an area in the back for luggage and livestock. I wasn't too certain of traveling with three little boys on the back of a rather open truck. There are rails but one good bump and I could see us all flying right through the air. I was told that the good thing was that the owner of the truck could pick us up right at our house and would take us right in to Madeira Cortada without going through the other town. That sounded good.  Three women from church and two men as well as a few children were all traveling on this truck on the same day. I decided to go for it. The boys had a bad experience on our return last year getting very car sick in the hot stuffy van, I thought maybe the openness would be good!

And so the day arrived. We were told to be ready by 9:00 am on a Saturday morning. I had little personal luggage, but had two large feed sacks full of used clothes to give away. Around 8:50 am I moved all my stuff out to the sidewalk to be ready, and had all the boys dressed and prepared. The truck didn't get there until 9:30 am, not really too late considering Brazilian standards, but it was a bad sign. We meandered all over several nearby neighborhoods picking up more passengers. At one stop the lady that was to go was not there. Her apparent husband was waiting with their daughter, but she was late. The man's cell phone rang. It was the woman asking that he wait a few minutes, she was on her way. We waited for an hour! Still she did not come. Brazilians are too patient. I would have given the lady ten minutes maximum. This kind driver called her back and said if she was still coming to meet him farther down the road as he had a few more people to pick up before heading down the highway. When we got to the arranged meeting spot, she was still nowhere to be seen. She was kindly allotted a few more minutes, in which time she finally showed up only to promptly sit her pretty little self in the front cab while her ten year old daughter sat in the back?! At least we were off. It was around 1:00 pm already.

After such a late start it was apparent that our lunch stop would be delayed as well. William, Dalton, and Greyson's 7:30 am breakfast was long gone. We snacked on things I had brought and were just happy to have the wind blowing as it was getting warm in the afternoon sun. Finally around 2:30 pm the truck pulled up to a little restaurant and we climbed out for a break. I bought popsicles, pasteis (fried pastry dough with meat inside), coxinhas (fried dough in the shape of a drumstick with chicken inside), potato chips, cookies, and a cold Coke. Not exactly a well balanced lunch, but a happy one. We were on the road again which soon turned to one big pothole after another. Dalton managed to take a little nap at my feet with his head on a rolled up towel. Greyson slept a little in my arms. William sang and hopped from one bench to the other. Every once and a while I yanked on his shirt to pull him in a little closer to the middle where I had taken up residence.  I didn't want to be too close to the edges for fear of one of the boys falling right out!

We made good time in spite of the holes and our late start. Around 5:30 pm we hit the rock and dirt road going into the interior. The truck began to let off its many passengers one by one turning off the engine each time while the driver chatted with those at each house where we stopped. I was out of patience by this time but contained by the fact that we were getting closer. Then a tire blew out. The road is mostly made of large rather sharp rocks, one of which apparently embedded in a rear inner tire. And now it was dark. Living on the equator means the sun goes down promptly at 6:00 pm each day. One of the church ladies was holding Greyson who thankfully had drifted off the sleep again. William and Dalton sat one on each side of me. They were tired but did not complain. I was so thankful for boys that like to travel even when its hard. Dalton was almost getting to the point of breakdown when the truck stopped in front of a very dark house. Some people got off. William said he thought that this was the right place. I, with throbbing head, said, No it's just another stop. Then I realized that our friends had all gotten off.  I figured they must know the people and had gotten off to get a drink. Finally someone said for us to get off, too. I said, No I won't get off until we get there. The person said, This is it, and it was!  We had finally arrived.  It was around 7:30 pm. I could hardly move and my head began to hurt terribly. I just started crying uncontrollably. Tears just rolled down my face. I was so relieved to just be there!  William helped me get our stuff.

It was hard to see as the house has no electricity. There were three tin oil lampsitcks to light the whole place. Everyone helped me out. One lady gave the boys a good bath. Then they suggested I take one too and lay down. I found my extra strength Tylenol in the candle light and downed several. After the bath I began to feel much better. The bath consisted of a big cement tank of water in the bathroom from which you dip a pitcher in to get water and then pour it over yourself.  It felt great.  The cold water actually helped clear my aching head. The woman of the house gave the boys something to eat and I managed to eat a little, too. After settling our sleeping arrangements, I put the big boys in hammocks and laid down beside Greyson in a full size bed with a big dip in the middle. But it was a bed, and I promptly went to sleep listening to the drone of conversation of the others and watching the flame flicker on the candlestick.

The boys woke up at THE crack of dawn quite literally with the roosters. The rooster seemed to be crowing right outside our window it was so loud. He was! William and Dalton took off through the door shouting, "Let's chase the chickens, Yippee!" Greyson slept a little longer. I informed the early birds to chase the chickens more quietly and that I would be up in a minute or two. The boys enjoyed every day to the most. Each day we went swimming in a little lake near Sr. Frutuoso and Dona Eliza's clay brick house. The boys chased chickens and goats, rode horses and mules, hunted with slingshots, and walked in the scrubby woods. There were lots of other children with whom to play as many of the couple's grandchildren were in for the school holidays. I didn't make anyone nap each afternoon except Greyson. So each night they all went down quietly and very tired around 8:00 pm.

We were so well treated. Sr. Frutuoso took us by motorcycle to church for services several times during the week and also to various people's homes where we were invited to have lunch. Yes, all three boys and myself, and the grandfather on a high dirt track motorcycle. Dalton helped steer sitting on the tank, Greyson next to be sandwiched in well, then myself, and William on the back rack. Yes, we all held on well over the rocky, bumpy road. Their house is not right in the little villa near the church, so we were glad for the ride. It was great to see many that we know and to see that many are faithfully going to church. Each service had a full house with every bench full. I was asked to bring a devotional for the youth meeting one night. I spoke about God's will and how God can take you from where you are and use you in His service. I told how God had helped me each step of the way from rural Virginia to Northeast Brazil..

I was invited to shoot a shot gun one day after commenting about what type of guns they had. I guess my questions sounded knowledgeable enough, so ... I was lucky and hit the target of a two-liter pop bottle filled with water on the third try. I quickly thanked them and gave the gun back as to not waste ammo and as to not have to try again! I had been several years since I had done any shooting maybe as much as ten. I was given liberty to ride the only horse. He must not speak my language as he would stop at every gate and every house as we went down the little road. But it was great to ride again as I don't get much opportunity living in the big city of Fortaleza.

The real joy of my trip was to see a woman whom I have helped through our time in Brazil. She lives a meager life, and I have always sent in used clothes and other things when times have been bad. I helped her with a much needed operation last year, and was glad to see that she was doing well. Lately she qualified for some government assistance and began receiving a monthly stipend to help with food and school supplies for her five small children. Her husband is a drunk. He was a church member and seemed like a good man when she as a non-Christian girl married him about ten years ago. At some point he began drinking and although he is not violent, he wastes the little money they have on drink. She was saved after they were married and is a good testimony to all around her. She lives rather from far the church, but faithfully takes all five of her small children to each service where they sit quiet and obedient. Many times she has to stay in the villa as one or two fall asleep during the evening services. Other times she is seen waking up the sleeping ones and dragging them all down the road to go back home. In her humble home with no energy and no running water, I was served a delicious lunch that had been all prepared on a wood fire stove. None of the family ate with us, as we were considered the honored guests and all food was prepared for us. Their smallest one of a year and a half is named Michele. How unworthy I felt! My only hope is that some of all I have said and done will prove true and acceptable to God. That one of these little ones will serve the Lord faithfully as their dear mother. That the father will see his need and be the man that God would have to lead his little group in the right path. What an awesome task we have!

With tears in our eyes we left around 4:00 am the next Friday. Dalton who had become so attached to Mr. Frutuoso, begged to not go. William said he had a great time, but missed his Papa and the new tree house at school. We loaded up the three boys, Greyson still asleep, and the two goats, and off we went for Fortaleza. Yes, we bought two beautiful goats. Byron wanted them to eat the weeds at the school complex. William and Dalton claimed them as their own, but have allowed Papa their use! The trip back was uneventful. Mr. Frutuoso hoped we could ride up front in the cab of the truck, but it turned out the place was already taken by an elderly couple. We were fine in the back. After the sun came out and warmed us up, the boys wanted to sit closer to the goats in the back. We moved as the truck was not very full and they sang songs all the way home. William likes to make songs up about what is going on at that moment. So he sang about the goats and the truck and the interior and the tree house at school waiting for his return.

God is so good. I thank Him for good boys and for good Christian friends. These people literally killed the fatted calf for us except that it was a sheep! They served us their finest food and I never washed a single dish. I tried to help, but was always shooed away. So far from real family, God gives us people to take care of our deepest needs. Pray for these fine folk that God will continue to send good rain, and that He will work in the young hearts of those in the Madeira Cortada church to raise up new workers for His service.

A missionary friends of mine spent a few days in Madeira Cortada on their way to visit with us where we now live in Bahia.  I was presented with cheeses made one of the ladies there and some wild honey and homemade butter.  I would love to visit again, but do not know how and when.  I still pray for the people of the churches in Ceará where we were privileged to work for eight years.

1 comment:

  1. That's a good picture.I still pray for all of the wonderful people you've had the privilege to know.I'm thankful that we have been able to meet some of them when visiting Fortaleza.Daddy and I have many fond memories.


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