May was a special month in the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil. It was family month. We began the month by having daily meetings in different homes. Each night was led by a different person, so each had its own “flavor.” It was fun to have a different Bible study each night with a variety of presentation styles. We began with an opening prayer and praise songs and then had the study. Naturally, we had refreshments to finish the meetings. It is fun to spend time with others when we can relax and share what is happening in our lives. Hospitality in Pains is an IMPORTANT word.
Each evening we were served a different type of soup since it’s cooler here. We had pinto bean, casava, cheese, chicken and cassava and corn soup. The soups also had bacon, and small pieces of other meats. We enjoyed Brazilian cheese bread, corn cake, biscuits, and more. Naturally, we had fruit juices or soft drinks. We’ve learned to make cheese and corn bread; now we want to learn how to make their style of soup.
As we drive to our rural church, Sumidouro, we are surrounded by beautiful nature; plants, trees, streams, flowers and fields with horses and cows in them. Before worship we make a number of visits, often picking fruits for friends. Our pastor has land with fruit trees and has invited us to stop along the way to pick some fruit for our visits. On our last visit we picked tangerines. Some of the trees had dry limbs with no leaves or fruit, while others bore beautiful fruit. We thought of when Jesus said in John 15:1, 8: “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
We hold services in the rural churches every other week, so remaining in the Word is a challenge, as the cows need to be milked before dawn while the fields need to be worked throughout the day. Remaining in the Word is a challenge for all of us as the world calls us in various directions, but it is an important challenge to conquer.
The second Sunday in May was Mother’s Day. The young people added a very touching part to the service to honor the mothers in the church. Instead of praise songs, they sang songs about mothers; a Power Point was created about the mothers, showing the women by themselves, dressed beautifully, and then a picture when they were with their children. The young people wrote a poem about how the women served the Lord and their families. Each woman came to the front of the church. The poems were read and a long-stem rose was given to each of them. The girls who read poems they’d written about their mothers cried as the words left their mouths, adding to the love for their mothers.
On Nov 1 we will be coming to the United States for six months. We would be delighted to share stories about our work with churches, groups or in conferences. We will be living at Mission Haven in Decatur, Ga. Mission Haven is PC(USA) missionary housing. Missionaries from around the world live there when they are on Interpretation Assignment (IA). We have lived there many times and the children consider it their U.S. home. The fellowship with the other missionaries is wonderful, very refreshing to each of us.
May is also a month full of family and friends’ birthdays. In our region of Brazil, birthdays are celebrated in a somewhat different style. The honoree makes a cake and many refreshments for the people who drop by to wish them a Happy Birthday. Neither of us knew that before Gordon’s birthday. On Gordon’s birthday this year we hosted the Prayer Meeting and served birthday cake and refreshments. In 1993 a young man in the church painted a large cloth sign that says Happy Birthday in English. On a family member’s birthday we always hang it. We also have the letters for Happy Birthday in Portuguese, which we use in a variety of places. During the Prayer Meeting we had the Portuguese sign up, but when we were serving the cake, some church members remembered the large English sign. They asked why it wasn’t up. We got it out and displayed it in its usual place.
Please continue to pray for our ministry, especially the children’s work. If you have a prayer concern, feel free to send it to us and we will be glad to add it to our Prayer List.
Your prayers and gifts make our ministry possible.
We hope to be seeing you within the next year.
Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell