Tuesday, September 20, 2016

House Repairs

All through August, the sound of men’s voices talking, laughing and even sometimes disagreeing filled the house.  The deep rumble of the cement mixer, the jackhammer’s pounding and the puffing of the painters’ compressor frequently drowned out the voices, but somehow the cement mason’s radio managed to blare out advertisements and popular songs above all the other noises. This cacophony began promptly at 8:30am and ended abruptly at 5pm every workday. Although our ears ached by the end of each day, the noise was proof that repairs were being done on the house – and we are immensely thankful for the way that the Lord has blessed and directed in this big step!

Our house before repairs.

Our house, number 63 on Rua Hygino Langhi, was built in 1998.  Ten years and several coats of green paint later, we moved in. Over time the green paint faded and someone added spray paint to the décor, but these were least of the problems that we set out to fix last month.

Zaccheaus and helpers mixing cement.
Sr. Renato our realtor and civil engineer introduced us to the necessary workers.  Zaccheaus, the cement mason, was the first to start work on July 29th.  He immediately rented a jackhammer and began breaking up cement in three different places.  The sidewalk was the largest and hardest area that he had to work on. The original sidewalk was a thick layer of concrete covered by granite tiles, but by the time we moved in the granite tiles had been covered with another, thinner layer of concrete.

New sidewalk being laid. 

Time and use cracked all three layers of the sidewalk in a variety of places and it was beginning to crumble. Zaccheaus spent two and a half days removing the worst part of the sidewalk and then mixing cement and laying a new one. He then gave us the responsibility of "watering" the sidewalk several times a day to prevent the top layer of cement from drying out quicker than the bottom layer.

Work on the ramp.

Zaccheaus also broke up a narrow swath of cement on the back veranda, as well as almost half of the ramp which goes from the garage to the downstairs. Our house has two floors and there was a long crack along one side of the veranda and various cracks in the ramp that were allowing water into David’s bedroom and the catch-all room, which we call the shed.  

Laying the asphalt.

Once Zaccheaus had these areas broken up and leveled, Sr. Renato sent Valdecir out to lay a “blanket” of asphalt which permanently sealed the cracks. Zaccheaus then went back over these areas spreading a layer of cement and laying new granite tiles on the ramp and ceramic tile on the veranda.

The "shed".
Speaking of ceramic tile, the tile throughout the house is eighteen years old and it is impossible to find the same or even similar tile in our modern world.  Breaking the veranda tile gave us two options: 1. Spend extra to replace all the tile or 2. Put in mismatched tile. We opted for the mismatched look until I discovered stacks of tile in the back corner of the shed. Most of these stored tiles didn’t belong to this house, but there were 43 tiles that matched the veranda tile! Zaccheaus eventually used 42 of these tiles to patch the veranda.

Reinforcing the outside wall.

As he was working on the ramp, Zaccheaus also spent time reinforcing the outside wall. This wall reaches well over eight feet high in some places and separates our property from the empty lot next door. The wall’s foundation has gradually settled and caused cracks in the wall. To keep these cracks from becoming worse, Zaccheaus chipped off the cement around them, embedded rebar into the wall and then covered it all with new cement.

Chipping off cement in Mom's bedroom.

Once he was done outside of the house, Zaccheaus moved inside to work. He spent several days working on a wall in Mom's bedroom that had a serious humidity problem. He manually stripped off the  wall’s outer layer of cement until the bricks were showing, applied a special sealer and then covered it all with a new coat of cement. While this wall was exposed, we called in our electrician and had him redo the wiring on that side of the room. It is a blessing that this bedroom now has four dry walls, as well as electrical sockets and switches that work.

The bathtub.

Zaccheaus’ last job was to remove the bathtub from the main bathroom. This poor bathtub had a sorry existence which began with being installed incorrectly and ended years later with cracking and leaking water into the downstairs area. The bathtub was already unusable when we moved into the house, but we could stand in the tub and take a shower so it met our needs for a number of years.  Eventually, though, the sand under the bathtub shifted causing the bottom of the tub to crack and making even showering impossible.

Leveling the floor.

Considering that bathtubs are uncommon in Brazilian homes, Sr. Renato suggested that we remove it, lay ceramic tile and make a simple shower box, instead of installing a new tub. Zaccheaus brought some helpers with him and did just that! As the shower floor neared completion, we again faced the dilemma of matching old ceramic tile and this time the stacks of tile in the shed failed us. Thankfully, I met a helpful saleslady at the construction store. She helped me find a new tile which complements the existing tile in the bathroom. Now that the new tile and shower box have been installed, the bathroom has a modern air about it – just as the saleslady predicted it would. :)

The new shower box.

Zaccheaus and a plumber he knows removed the bathtub and its pipes on a Friday afternoon. The next morning the water reservoir in the attic began overflowing. Since our plumber couldn’t come out until Monday, we went the weekend with the water shut off at the street. Monday morning early the plumber arrived and replaced the buoy which controls the incoming water. Later that afternoon, he changed the buoy again because the reservoir continued to overflow and run off the roof. This second buoy still did not solve the problem, so we called the plumber who had removed the bathtub to see what he could do. He wasn’t sure what was causing the overflow, but a colleague of his eventually found a pipe in the bathroom that had been left open and was allowing water to run through the pipes and back up to the reservoir. Moments after the pipe was closed, we sighed with relief as the street water was turned on and the reservoir DID NOT run over. A few hours later, though, the reservoir was still doing just fine but we discovered that the hot water system was dry. Guess who we had to call again? The plumber came out one last time, removed air from the hot water pipes and since then there has been water in the pipes where it should be and no water running off the roof where it shouldn’t be! 

Painting begins!
Four days after Zaccheaus began his work here at the house, Silvano and his team of three painters arrived to begin their work. It was interesting - and frequently stressful - to notice how Zaccheaus and his helpers were the polar opposite of Silvano and his group. Zaccheaus is a good worker, but exceptionally slow in everything he does. His helpers were just like him. Silvano, on the other hand, is an energetic little man who keeps his team hopping from morning to evening. The painters came to the point several times of working right on the cement masons’ heels. Mom and I could tell that this frustrated Silvano, but thankfully he was consistently patient.

All the metalwork.
It had been about eight years since the house had been painted last, so Silvano and his crew had a lot of work to bring things up to par. They started off painting everything that was metal. This included windows, the guardrail along the side of the upper story and the heavy gates at both ends of the garage. The front garage gate had several places that were rusting out at its base, but the painters expertly filled these places with a plastic paste, sanded it down and then painted over it. We chose to keep all the metalwork white. That first day it was so nice to see dirty, rusty paint, sanded off and then covered by coat after coat of fresh white paint. That afternoon, though, I was shocked to see the new paint speckled with tiny black insects. I asked one of the painters about it, and he matter-of-factly responded, “Oh, they like the smell of paint. After the paint dries and they die, you can wash them off with a sponge.” 
He then added “There are also some larger bugs with long wings that are attracted to wet paint too.” I am happy to report that the larger insects never arrived and the smaller ones did wash off easily!

Truck full of books.
Let me rewind just a little and say that before the painting started, Joy and João Carlos came over and picked up the last of the books that we had stored here. These were books that Dad had printed and now Joy and João are selling on their online store. I thought moving the books would be pretty simple, but it took the better part of a day (and a lot of sweat!) to move all the boxes out of the downstairs storage rooms, up the ramp, load them into a truck and then unloaded them at their new storage place.

Empty storage room.

Having the books gone made it much easier to paint and later clean up the downstairs area, and it gives us less to move when the time comes for that.

The foam and I.

Right about the time that the books were being moved, I spent two days removing the acoustic foam from the sound room’s ceiling and walls. A good part of the foam pulled off the walls in complete panels or at least large chunks, but there were several places where I had to scrape it off inch by inch.

Removing glue in the sound room.

When the painters moved in to paint the sound room, they spent almost two full days scraping and applying chemicals to remove the remaining glue from the walls. Their efforts paid off and the sound room looks very nice now.

Applying water repellent paint.

There were three other walls in the downstairs area of the house that also required extra attention from the painters. One of these was the back wall of David’s bedroom. This wall runs right along our property line and since there is no house built behind us, it is completely exposed to the weather. During the dry season, the paint on this wall tends to peal and the rainy season makes the pealing even worse. Silvano, the head painter, did two things to mitigate this problem. First, he applied water repellent paint to the outside of the wall, and then he had his men texture the inside of the wall before they painted it. The texture adds a nice accent wall to the room, but most importantly it helps the paint adhere better. Hopefully it will be able to withstand the sun and rain of this coming year!

Wall with ongoing humidity.
The other two problematic walls downstairs have long-standing infiltration problems. Our road runs along the side of a hill. The lots across the street from us are all higher than the road, while the lots on our side of the road are below street level. The man who built our house went ahead and built the downstairs below street level and the upstairs even with the road. Whoever built our next-door neighbor’s house filled in the lot to bring it up to the street level before they built, and as a result we have two downstairs walls that are against dirt and constantly damp. There is no easy way to solve this problem. Sr. Renato said the best way to deal with it is to regularly repaint these walls. The painters invested extra time and effort to scrape all the bubbly paint off, then apply texture and several coats of fresh paint to these particular walls.

Repairs are finished!
Just as Zaccheaus and Silvano were finishing up our house repairs, we had a weekend of rain. It laid the dust and calmed our allergies, but it also leaked in on one dining room wall. Silvano very kindly went up on the roof to see what the problem might be and found that the gutter was cracked and holding water. Since then, we have had Claudinei, the gutter man, out multiple times to repair the old guttering and add on some new where necessary.

Mom and I

These house repairs have been physically and emotionally draining on Mom and I, but words fail us to express how wonderful it is to have them done! We sincerely appreciate all who pray for us and also give to meet our needs!!  Our house is now officially for sale. Sr. Renato has taken pictures and will be putting an advertisement in the local paper as well online. We look forward to seeing how the Lord will direct and provide in this next step, just as He has up until now.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Joy and Sorrow: A Wedding and A Funeral

Just recently, I was listening to some preaching, and the pastor made the statement that our lives are a mix of joy and sadness. When I look back over the last six months, this is so true. Joy and João Carlos were married in December. It was a time of happiness and family being all together. Then a few months later Dad is gone and we are left exhausted and sorrowful. Looking back at these events, from one point of view the hardships outweigh the happiness, but the pastor didn't stop when he said our lives are a mix of joy and sadness, he went on to say that God in His infinite wisdom and abundant graciousness to us is the one that mixes just the right portion of joy and sadness in our lives for His glory and for our ultimate good. This has been a comforting thought to us again and again!

I am going to do my best in this post to tell you a little about this mix of events in the order that they happened. My hope is that in the end this post will be a comfort and not a source of pain. 

Joy with her cow dishtowels!
I don't remember the exact month, but in the first part of last year João Carlos asked Joy to be his wife. She happily agreed and they set the date for Dec. 6th. The months that came between Joy’s engagement and wedding were few and very busy. Joy quickly set to work choosing a simple wedding dress and finding a seamstress to make it, ordering a cake, and making the invitations by hand. She did all that along with acquiring and organizing all the little things that are necessary for making a house a home.  As part of this organizing of basic things for the kitchen, bedroom, etc…, Joy opened and sorted through her hope chest. Joy collected cows during her teens and twenties, and we developed the habit during those years of giving her cow refrigerator magnets every birthday and often other days throughout the year too! :) This collection of magnets came to light again when Joy opened her hope chest. It was good to see all different little cows again. Even the refrigerator magnet of a piece of beef stuck on a skewer was still there, and once again I affirmed to Joy that it DEFINITELY DOES count as a cow magnet and once again, she strongly said IT DOES NOT!!! :) In her hope chest, Joy also found some Tupperware decorated with cows, and about twenty-five dishtowels, each with a different cow pattern!

Painting the "books"
During these weeks immediately following Joy and João Carlos’ engagement, I began working on the cake topper. Joy and João both like to read and in fact some of their first contact with each other was through the online bookstore that Joy runs, so I had the creative idea of making a stack of miniature books with a bride and groom on top for the cake topper.  A stretch of trials and many errors quickly taught me that having a creative idea is much, much easier then figuring out how to make the idea a reality!!! :) In the end, I was able to take three small squares of styrofoam and cover them with cold porcelain, which is a soft white dough made from cornstarch and glue. Once the porcelain was dry, I painted each of the squares to look like a book that Joy and João had read together. 

Finished cake topper

Last of all, I varnished the books, glued them in a stack and then glued a bride and groom that I bought off the internet on the very top. The finished cake topper worked out to be a little too heavy to sit on top of the cake, so I ended up decorating the top of the cake with some flowers and then setting the cake topper surrounded by greenery and more flowers next to the cake. It looked nice, and now Joy has the cake topper sitting on an end table in her living room.

On October 11th, Stephanie hosted a bridal shower for Joy. Stephanie did a very good job
Charity and Joy 
making a delicious variety of finger foods and preparing some games for the guests. We played probably four or five games, including having a bubble gum chewing contest with the younger participants, but I think the favorite game was the question game. Stephanie thought up a list of very hard questions for Joy to answer about João, and for every answer that Joy got wrong, she and one of her guests had to dress up in funny hats, scarves, glasses, etc.. and have their picture taken. Thankfully Joy missed enough questions to have a funny picture taken with each of the guests. :) 

Bridal Shower Guests
 A month and a bit before the wedding, Joy and João found a house to rent. Well, they actually found two houses. The first house was two blocks away from where João works as a computer programmer. The house had a nice sized yard, was on a quiet street, and although it’s layout was a little unusual, it seemed to be just what they needed. However, shortly after João did the paperwork to have the water turned on, they found that the house’s plumbing was terrible. Water seeped into several rooms of the house and the owner’s attempts to tell them that it was a very minor problem and nothing to worry about were not convincing, so Joy and João went back to house hunting. A week or two later, they found the blue house where they are currently living. This house is also within walking distance of João’s job. It’s yard is smaller then the first house, but since all Joy and João have is a cat this is no problem. This house has three bedrooms and meets Joy and João’s and the book store’s needs very well. One curious thing about this blue house is that it is on a very old street. According to Joy’s neighbor, back when Presidente Prudente was very young, people put up rows of houses in this neighborhood and then some time later roads were put in between the houses. This caused several of the roads in the neighborhood, including Joy and João’s road, to be very narrow, so narrow in fact that if you are going to park along the street while you visit Joy, you have to pull up your car on the sidewalk so that other cars can very carefully creep past on the street.

Joy and João's Wedding

From the very start, Joy and João wanted an outdoor wedding, and since their wedding date was in December, which is one of the driest months of the year, no one thought there was any need to worry about rain. Joy and João found a very nice “chacara” to rent for the big day. This chacara had a nice big yard, a variety of trees, a swimming pool, and a small building with bathrooms, a small kitchen and a place to barbecue. The plan was to set up chairs on the grass between two rows of trees and do the wedding right outside. Around the middle of November though, it started to rain and it rained practically every day until the day right before the wedding.

Civil Wedding
December 5th, the day before the wedding, Joy and João had their “casamento civil”, this is where the bride and groom and four witnesses, in this case David and I, João’s sister Jackie and his Uncle João,  went to the government office downtown and signed the official paperwork and marriage license. Joy and João were actually supposed to have this “civil wedding” at three that afternoon, but the couples before them were running late and Joy and João had to wait until about 4 p.m. to have their turn. This delay worked out very well in the end, because João had secretly ordered a big bouquet of red roses to be delivered to Joy at the government office and the delay gave the roses time to be delivered. The florist’s delivery boy, who was rather harried from running late, rushed into the waiting room at the government office holding the large bouquet of red roses, and took a minute or two to look around. I am sure in that small space of time several of the other brides in the room wondered if the roses were for them, but they weren’t. The delivery boy said “Joy? Where’s Joy?” and as soon as he found her, he gave her the roses to her pleasant surprise. Following the civil wedding, we had João and his family over to our house for dinner, and of course cake and icecream.

The Extended Gardner Family
Joy and João’s wedding day dawned sunny and dry, even the grass dried, and João with some help from Daniel, David, and Ben set the chairs and pulpit up between the trees. A few hours later Mom, Dad and I arrived to put out the flowers and to organize the snacks and cake for after the ceremony. It was right about this time, which was only an hour before the wedding was to begin, that I learned a lesson which will stick with me for the rest of my life, and that is: always make sure the kitchen is clean before the wedding! 

Joy and João with His Parents
The man Joy and João rented the chacara from guaranteed them that the chacara would be clean when they received the keys. Sounds good right? Well, when I arrived at the chacara with the responsibility to organize and serve the food after the wedding, I opened the kitchen door and found the kitchen in a mess.  Everything was dusty, a soft drink had spilled onto the tables and dried there, and there were flies galore. I just about panicked at that moment and told myself that the next time I go to a wedding I must check the state of the kitchen well beforehand! So, if any of you ever invite me to your wedding and before the ceremony you find me poking around in the kitchen with a cleaning cloth, please bear with me. :) Thankfully, Mom came to my rescue and together we managed to clean things up and by the time the guests were driving up, everything was ready.

The Vows

Joy and João wanted and planned out a very simple but tasteful ceremony. To begin the ceremony, Stephanie played the piano, and we sang hymns that Joy and João had chosen. Following the hymns, Benjamin preached about the fear of the Lord and how it is the responsibility of every individual, married or not, and also how it is essential in a marriage. Benjamin then had Joy and João come to the front and exchange vows. And just like that my little sister was married! Following the ceremony, we had a good time snacking on the munchies and cake and also taking pictures! Jackie, João’s sister, and also Daniel and Sabrina are amateur photographers, so they pulled out their cameras and started clicking away. 

Mr. and Mrs. João Carlos Fachini

Due to the weeks of rain before Joy and João’s wedding, their honeymoon was quite as adventure. :)  Joy and João had us over one evening  for a time of singing around the piano and pudding cake. It was quite enjoyable! While we were eating, Joy and João started telling us about their honeymoon and they both kept bursting into laughter. They were married on a Saturday evening, but didn't leave for the farm (this is a farm that João's Dad manages) where they would be honeymooning until the following Monday. The three hour trip out to the farm went fine until they turned off onto the dirt roads leading through the fields up to the farmhouse. There had been a lot of rain in those parts recently, and the roads were muddy. João was able to avoid getting stuck in the mud until they were about a mile from the house, then they got stuck really, really well. But as João said he wasn't too worried about it because there was a tractor working in the next field. Sure enough the tractor driver was happy to help, but he didn't have any chain or rope to pull the car out. No problem, João thought, there is rope at the farmhouse, so the tractor driver agreed to drive him to the farmhouse and off they went with Joy staying in the car and João hanging onto the side of the tractor. Once they were at the farmhouse, João found the grounds keeper and asked him for rope. We don't have any, he said gruffly and went back to his own business. João said the grounds keeper didn't even offer to help them find something that would work! João was undaunted, though, and remembered that there was another house about a mile away on the farm where they might have rope, the only problem was that due to an impassible cattle guard the tractor couldn't take him there. So, João alternately ran and walked to the other house, found rope and then ran the mile back to the tractor. He then once again hung on the side of the tractor all the way back to the car. He was covered in mud by then, but the car was soon free and they made up to the farmhouse without further problems. 

Joy and João after the Civil Wedding
Once at the farmhouse, Joy and João went to the room that the grounds keeper's wife had fixed up for them. When they opened the door, they found that it was all wet. Apparently the roof had sprung a leak during the rain and no one had noticed. Joy and João where able to find another room down the hall that would meet their needs, and they set about getting ready to shower, after all they were both really tired and João was muddy. They soon found out that the heating element in the shower of their bathroom had burnt out, and they spent a few minutes checking the other guestroom bathrooms to see if those showers were heating and they weren't. João then remembered that his Dad had a bathroom in the manager's quarters and he figured the shower in there would be working. So they headed over there, only to find that the door was locked. To make a long story short, they spent a long time looking for the key, but eventually found it and were able to take a warm shower. That was the first day. The second day Joy and João decided to take a relaxing walk down to the pond, and as they walked some type of insect bit Joy thirty plus times. Joy itched quite a bit they next day or two, but she said things went much more smoothly after that. Joy and João laughed soooo much as they told us all of this, and I am glad they can laugh. They will probably laugh every time they tell the story of their honeymoon from here on out. :)

Zoo Puzzle
During the whole year of 2014, Dad didn’t do very well. Again and again problems would arise, often related to his ability to swallow or his digestive tract, and we were constantly doing exams or seeing different doctors to try and understand what was going on and learn how to deal with it. Well, after Joy’s wedding, we noticed Dad began to gradually grow weaker. During the rest of the month of December he had serious problems swallowing, even creamy soups and other soft foods were enough to make him choke at almost every bite. On a side note, during the week of Christmas and New Years, Mom, Dad and I put together an 1,000 piece puzzle. Most of the puzzles we have done over the years have been animals or landscapes, with an occasional painting thrown in. Well, this puzzle was VERY different. It was a colorful, humorous drawing of a zoo made by a Dutch cartoonist! Since the puzzle had a lot of little details which made it easier to tell where the pieces went, it took us only a little over a week to put it all together, and Dad especially seemed to enjoy working on it. :)

Daniel, Dad and Arthur
In January of this year, Dad’s swallowing difficulties subsided a little, but his complaints about digestive problems increased. Most of the time he didn’t have an appetite, and constantly mentioned heart burn, nausea and an uncomfortable feeling of fullness. Our general doctor introduced us to a very good gastroenterologist, and he was able to help Dad find some relief from the heart burn, and although, he couldn’t resolve the sensation of fullness, he did prescribe a nutritional supplement for Dad to drink on days that he didn’t feel like eating, and this ended up being a big help to Dad. During this time, Dad continued to enjoy giving seminary classes in his office and also playing games. :) Just about every Monday, Mom, Dad and I battled it out over the Scrabble board and during the week at Dad’s request, we would play dominoes, Skip-bo, and on the list could go…..and just in case you are wondering, yes, Dad did win most of the time! :)

Dad’s digestive problems gradually worsened and he grew weaker as February slipped by and March arrived. Along with the now common digestive complaints, Dad began to look noticeably yellow and soon developed all the usual symptoms of jaundice. We visited Dad’s primary caregiver, an oncologist by the name of Dra. Paula, several times and explained to her Dad’s increasing weakness and jaundice, but for a reason we still do not understand, she didn’t take steps to look into the situation. She would say oh he’s fine or here in three or four weeks we will do such and such exam. This was quite frustrating, but the Lord graciously provided Dad’s needs through another channel. David gives private English classes and one of his students is an excellent oncologist by the name of Dr. Luiz Bugalho. David mentioned Dad’s situation to Dr. Luiz and he immediately took an interest in Dad and offered to do all he could to help. Dr. Luiz quickly took over Dad’s case, and in the last week of March he had us running all over town helping Dad do different exams.

Daniel holding Arthur, David, and Ben
The results of the exams were sobering. The Multiple Myeloma was back and busy in Dad’s ribs and sternum, and the jaundice was caused by a large tumor wrapped around Dad’s pancreas and blocking the liver ducts. Dr. Luiz was thankfully very honest. He counseled David to call the family together, and also suggested that he do exploratory surgery to see if he could relieve the pressure on the liver ducts and allow them to drain the bile as they should. This would alleviate some of Dad’s symptoms and hopefully make his last three or four weeks more comfortable.

Sabrina and Charity with Arthur
The Lord abundantly blessed with Benjamin and Daniel and Sabrina being able to come to Presidente Prudente before Dad had surgery on April 7th.  For a few days before the surgery and also a few days after the surgery, Dad was in a government paid room at the hospital, and there were several other men that shared the same room. In the bed across from Dad, there was a retired policeman named Alex. He had congestive heart failure and was waiting for a heart transplant. Of all the men, I think Dad enjoyed talking to Alex the most, and later even after Dad was moved to a private room, Alex would come by to see how Dad was get along.

Mom with Arthur 
Dad had surgery early on April 7th and he came through the surgery better then we expected, but Dr. Luiz discovered that not only was it impossible to relieve the pressure on Dad’s liver and the bile ducts, but the tumor on the pancreas had already metastasized and there were hundreds of tiny tumors all over the inside of Dad’s abdomen. Due to his weakness and the medicines that he needed to take via IV, Dad was not able to come home after the surgery, but Ben, Daniel and David worked up a schedule so that Dad was never alone at the hospital and this also allowed each family member to spend time with him. The boys always spent nights with him. I think they were selfish and didn’t want to share the uncomfortable sofa with us girls. :) In the morning between 6:30 and 7, Mom would go up to the hospital and be there until almost 11 a.m., when I would change with her and stay until visiting hours began at 3 p.m. One of the boys would then come up and be with Dad during visiting hours, and later in the evening, that boy would be replaced by whichever boy was going to spend the night. João Carlos and Joy had different schedules due to João’s job and their responsibilities caring for the church, so instead of helping out every single day, they would just pop in at the hospital whenever they could to talk with Dad and give whoever was staying with him the opportunity to step outside and gets some fresh air. Sabrina, Daniel’s wife, and little Arthur their son, were also with us during this time. Sabrina was a big help putting meals on the table and keeping the house in decent order. Arthur did an outstanding job of making us smile day in and day out with his antics. :)

Visiting Hours

The first week after the surgery, Dad was very alert. We watched movies with him, read out loud, and talked a lot. One time while I was there, Dad held my hand and said that he was ready to go and be with the Lord. He said he saw that he needed to submit to the Lord in death. This is always going to be a treasured memory for me! The following week, Dad stopped talking as much, began sleeping more and his mind was not as clear. 

Ben Preaching
On April 23rd, soon after I began my turn staying with him, Dad started randomly talking. He would say a word or two in English and then a completely unrelated phrase in Portuguese. This delirium was constant from that point onward, there were a few brief moments when Dad opened his eyes and recognized whoever was with him, but for the most part, he didn’t respond to us and when he wasn’t sleeping, he was speaking deliriously. On April 24th, Ben had the afternoon and early evening shift, and shortly after 6p.m. Dad simply stopped breathing. His pain, discomfort and limitations were over, and he was with the Lord.

Here in Brazil, the funeral must take place within 24 hours of the death. Ben, Daniel, and David had already prepared beforehand as much as they could for the visiting hours and funeral service, so as soon as Dad passed away, they went to work finalizing everything. We were all exhausted after Dad’s lengthy hospital stay, so the boys scheduled the funeral to take place between noon and 4 p.m on April 25th. The visiting hours began at noon, the service took place at 3 p.m. and the burial was immediately afterwards.

A Moment for the Family
One little detail, I really appreciate regarding Dad’s funeral was that Dad was wearing a dark blue shirt and the boys went the extra mile to have green, yellow and white flowers covering the body, as is customary to do here in Brazil, and also in the arrangements. Dad loved Brazil and Brazilians. He told us several times that he wanted to be buried in Brazil, and the dark blue, white, yellow and green are Brazil’s national colors. Often when I looked at Dad during the funeral, I would remember how he enjoyed teaching people about Brazil’s colors and their meaning. We kids heard Dad tell people about Brazil’s colors so much that we often beat him to it. We would secretly tell people what the green, yellow, blue and white of Brazil’s flag represented, so that when Dad would pull out the flag and say “Would anyone like to guess what the green on this flag means?”, everybody already knew the answer. :) Laughter always followed as Dad realized that we had beat him to it once again! I am very thankful for good memories!


Many friends, pastors that Dad knew and brethren from churches that Dad worked in over the years came to the funeral. Ben, Daniel and David conducted the service together. Ben preached a very good message about how for the Christian to live and also to die is Christ. Our lives and our deaths shouldn’t be about personal accomplishments or an undying legacy, but their focus should be serving and exalting Christ. Daniel and David each prayed during the service.

Closing the Grave

The funeral home where we had the visitation and service was right in front of the cemetery so as soon as the service was over, Ben, Daniel, David, João Carlos and two Brazilian pastors carried the coffin to the hearse and we walked behind it to the grave site. At the graveside a Psalm was read and we sang a hymn, and that was it.

The Cemetery
Presidente Prudente has two cemeteries. One is very old and the graves are often above ground. The family buys a plot and then builds a cement cover over the plot. Some of these cement covers are very simple with a small wall and a cement slab for a lid that can be removed when necessary, and other families actually build a small room with a door and windows over the plot with a trap door in the floor of the room that can be opened. As loved ones are buried in these plots, metal plaques of all different kinds with the name and dates are fixed to the cement covers. This old cemetery actually looks like a miniature city from a distance. The other cemetery in town was opened in the last few years and all the graves are below ground. The cemetery’s administration maintains a nice lawn over the graves and there are a few trees scattered around the property. In one corner there is a long aviary with red macaws climbing around and squawking. In this cemetery each grave is marked with a metal plaque that is level with the ground. This newer cemetery is where Dad was buried, and by the end of this month there will be a simple metal plaque installed marking his grave.

Charity, Mom, and Joy
Well,  I think I better start tying this off, but before I do, I will make a stab at answering the question that a lot of people have asked Mom and I recently and that is “Now what are you going to do?”. To be very honest, we aren’t sure what to do.  After thirty plus years in Brazil, we have plenty of reasons to just stay in Brazil, but at the same time we have loved ones in the States too and at times the idea of making a home in the States and being able to speak English :) is quite attractive. So, in short we are undecided, and thankfully we have a year to think things over and come to a decision, because it is going to be at least year before the paperwork for Dad’s estate will be finished and Mom can put the house up for sale.

Right now Mom and I are busy every day cleaning up the house and finishing up a few projects that Dad left partially done. After these projects are done, I am thinking about maybe doing a course of some kind and perhaps even getting a part time job. We will see how the Lord directs each moment and each day.

During the weeks surrounding Joy's wedding, there were many that rejoiced and celebrated with us.  Thank you! During Dad's final months, the week of his death and funeral, and in the weeks since then, there have been many that have sympathized with us and done all they could to support us. Thank you very much! You all have been a comfort and blessing, and we thank the Lord for you!

Friday, October 24, 2014

A bridal shower, a calf, an ordination service and other news

It is a little hard for me to believe, but my last blog post was in May! Time goes by so quickly and even though the Lord blessed us to be able to do a lot in the weeks since I last wrote, it seems like there is still a whole lot waiting for us to accomplish. Thankfully all this busyness means I have lots to write about. There is so much to say that I am actually a little confused about where to begin. I think I will try to begin with the oldest news and move forward. :)

Hélio and Dad
In May we had a guest in the house. Years ago when Dad was just setting up his website, he met Hélio de Menenzes through the internet. Hélio teaches math at a university, lives way up north on the coast of Brazil, and also has a good fundamental Baptist website. Over the years Dad has maintained frequent contact with him. He and his wife, Valdenira, have reviewed the Portuguese grammar in a number of Dad's studies along the way, and Dad has helped Hélio with a variety of questions as he has worked in several Baptist churches there in his home town. Hélio just recently retired from his job at the university. Although he continues to tutor about 250 math students via the internet, Hélio does have more time now and as he said, he wanted to come meet a long time friend face to face. Hélio was supposed to arrive on a Saturday evening, but after his flight into Londrina, it took the workers extra long to take the luggage off the plane, and by the time Hélio had his luggage in hand, he had missed his bus to Prudente. He finally arrived here in town on Sunday, had dinner with us and then spent the afternoon talking with João Carlos and Benjamin. On Monday, Dad had Hélio to himself. As you can imagine they talked about churches, books, different versions of the Bible (this is a subject that Hélio has studied in depth), and their websites. Hélio left early Tuesday morning to begin his long trip home. If Hélio's flight had gone directly to his home town, he would have been home in 4 hours, which would have been Tuesday noon. However, his flight zigzagged across Brazil stopping in various major cities, so he only arrived home at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. We all felt a little tired from the work of having a guest in the house, but I am sure that Hélio was much more tired then we were! I was unable to get any good pictures of Hélio while he was here, but just so you can know what he looks like, I will go ahead and post one of the not so good  pictures that I took.

Special service in Bauru
João Carlos really enjoyed the time to talk with Hélio. João enjoys studying, so as questions arise, he studies out the question for himself and as he has opportunity, he "picks the brains" of pastors and other church workers regarding those questions. Hélio was one such opportunity. He was actually the second opportunity that João has had lately. Around the end of April the church in Bauru had a special ordination service for a deacon. They invited Dad and few other pastors that we know to the service. Bauru is a little over three hours away from us, so Dad couldn't make the trip but Joy, João Carlos and his mother, Marlene, went. They had to leave very early in the morning to arrive in time for the special service and ordination, which went until noon. The church then served a lunch, and afterward Joy set up a book table and João Carlos spent time talking with the pastors that were present.


June was quite a memorable month for me. It all started when someone tied up a young calf (approximately a month old) in one of the empty lots near our house. They tied the calf way at the back of the lot behind a hill of grass, and it was out of sight from the road and surrounding houses.  Just like everyone else, I probably never would have seen it except I let Bitsy out of our gate to run around a little and she sniffed the calf out. Well, since I have a soft spot for little animals that look lost, I couldn’t just forget about the calf and I started watching it. I quickly learned that there was a young man that brought it cornmeal mush and a bucket of water on Saturdays and Sundays, but Monday through Friday the calf went without water or mush and soon ate all the grass its rope would allow it to reach. I couldn’t just stand by and watch the calf go hungry, so I started cutting a good sized pile of grass for it every day and keeping its bucket full of water. I also went to the police to see what I should do in a case of animal neglect like this. The two policemen I talked to were not very helpful; they kept repeating that there was nothing they could because the lot the calf was on didn’t belong to me.  The more serious policeman eventually said “What do you want us to do? Shoot it?” I tried to keep a straight face but failed and replied “At least the calf won’t be hungry then!” At that both policemen laughed and became more helpful. They suggested I call the Centro de Zoonoses and see what they could do. The Centro de Zoonoses is a branch of the government that works to prevent epidemics of animal diseases. I didn’t have a whole lot of hope that they would help, but the following day I called them and within hours they sent a truck out to pick up the calf. They said that the calf would be held at their headquarters for 30 days during which time the owner could pay the fine and have it back. When the 30 days were up if the calf had not been claimed, it would go up for adoption. The truck with the calf soon left, and it was a relief to me to no longer have to worry about its well being. Exactly one week later, at five-thirty in the morning someone left a small black puppy in a box at our gate. Its lonely cries greeted me as I opened the gate to walk Bitsy, and once again I was wondering anxiously “what am I going to do with this abandoned animal?”.  I spent most of that morning driving around town asking pet stores and several veterinarian offices if they would be willing to put the puppy up for adoption.  I heard repeated no’s, and my ears actually grew tired of hearing the word. There was one lady at a pet store that made me chuckle with her answer. She said they couldn’t keep the puppy there because it was the World Soccer Cup. I didn’t understand what soccer games have to do with the adoption of a puppy, but it was a creative way to say “no”.  I was just about to take the puppy home again, when I thought of calling Luciana, a lady in the church. One of her dogs had died recently, but she still had a dog and I wasn’t sure if this would be a good time to offer her a puppy. I called her however and she was simply delighted to take the puppy. The puppy is now named Nazus, and quite often at church I hear from Luciana or her daughter Izabela about how the puppy is growing, and sooo energetic, and chewing on this or that. J Thankfully no more animals have been abandoned near our house since then, but we did joke around about how it may become necessary to put a sign on our gate to discourage people from dropping their animals there. We tossed around several ideas about what the sign should say, and my favorite idea was: “ A big THANK YOU to all who left your puppies, kitties and calves here! I am now a certified taxidermist and I depend on you all to continue gaining experience in my field!” :)

In my last post, I told you about how Daniel and Sabrina had jokingly said that they were going to let their baby choose his own name. Well, also in the memorable month of June, two ladies from Daniel's work gave Sabrina a very nice baby shower. At this time, Daniel and Sabrina had already decided that their little boy was going to be called Arthur, so his name was made public at the shower. You will notice in the pictures of the shower that I am including that the name Arthur shows up in the very creative decorations. The theme of the shower was "There's going to be a Little Bird in the Gardner Nest", and the ladies decorated everything, from the doors in the room, to the tables and even the food, with little birds and nests. 

The first part of the baby shower was for ladies only, but after that part was done they invited Daniel, Sabrina's father and brother, and a few other men to participate. In this last part, they had some games that both Daniel and Sabrina had to take part in. One of the challenges Daniel and Sabrina faced was to taste various unmarked pots of baby food and try to guess what flavor it was. Daniel made some wonderful grimaces as he tasted the food! Thankfully someone caught his grimaces with a camera, so I am able to share them with you all. 


Another game Daniel and Sabrina played was a race to dress "Arthur". One of the ladies brought a teddy bear which was about the size of a baby and Sabrina, followed by Daniel, had to put a diaper and real baby clothes on it. Sabrina dressed the bear in one minute and fifty-seven seconds, but Daniel beat her soundly by putting the bear in a diaper and pajamas in only one minute and twenty-five seconds. However, after Daniel was done dressing the bear one of the ladies who was watching him said she was sure glad that wasn't the real Arthur! :)

Arthur Sukerth Gardner

 Arthur was scheduled to be born on July 3, but like many other babies he arrived early. By  9 p.m. on July 2, Arthur was already in the hospital's nursery making many of the other babies look very small. He was a big boy weighing a little over seven pounds and 20 inches long. On the second of this month Arthur turned three months old. Sabrina and Daniel send us pictures often and tell us all the different ways that he is developing.  He seems to be an easy baby to care for. He sleeps and eats and sleeps and smiles. Yes, since before he left the hospital, Arthur smiles and smiles and smiles.

Lydia Jane
Lydia, my niece, is also developing sooo quickly! At the end of this month, she will be eleven months old and already she is walking well. It seems like just a few weeks ago she learned to crawl, then she discovered how to
push chairs around and now she is walking! She is also learning to play with toys better and loves to read books. The other day Ben was sitting on the floor, and Lydia picked up one of her books, crawled over to Ben, threw the book into his lap and then sat down to listen to him read it. I think she is a bookworm in the making! :)

Benjamin preaching at a park
Benjamin has been traveling to Bataguassu every other Sunday evening. He has been a big help and encouragement to the church there. Irmão Marco and the other men in the church in Bataguassu are very shy, so Ben has been trying to help them in this particular area. Several Sundays recently Ben has organized a service at a park there in Bataguassu. They sing some hymns, Ben preaches a basic Gospel message and David and the other men pass out tracks to the people at the park and on nearby streets. 

David passing out tracts

Ben said it is going very well, and he shared with us two pictures that I am including. This last Saturday, Ben, David and some folks from the church here in Prudente held a service at the downtown plaza. There was a political rally also going on downtown and the loud sound systems from the rally forced Ben and then David to speak up as they preached, but despite that several people stopped to listen and a good number of tracts were passed out to people walking by.

Special service in Três Lagõas
Several years ago, as you will probably remember, Dad was making the three hour trip to and from Três Lagõas once a month to work with a family that was interested in starting a church. That work eventually closed. The family in Três Lagõas had some problems and Dad came to the point where his back pain kept him from being able to make the trip. Well, a little over two years ago Irmão Marcelo and his family from the church here in Prudente moved to Três Lagõas because of his job. They eventually joined the church in Pereira Barreto, a city about 40 minutes away, and through that church began a preaching point in Três Lagõas. The Lord blessed and on August 16th there was a special service during which the group in Três Lagõas was organized into a church and Irmão Marcelo was ordained to be their pastor. 

Pr. Eduardo Cadete and Pr. Marcelo
The church in Pereira Barreto and Irmão Marcelo took care of planning and preparing for the service, but they asked Dad questions along the way and even asked him to make a letter of invitation to send out to a number of churches. In the end there were about six churches represented and an approximate total of 150 people at the special service. Included in this group was Ben and his family, Dad, and David with a car full of people from Prudente. Dad really, really enjoyed being able to go to the service. He enjoyed being able to participate in the ordination and the time before and after the service to talk to people he hasn't seen in over a year. Following the service, the women served pizza, but David and Ben quickly rounded up the group from Prudente and began the three hour trip home. It was 10 pm after all! :) Dad was extra tired and shaky the ten days following the trip, but considering everything the Lord really blessed and he is doing well.

Dad and Lydia
Since the beginning of the year, Dad had been having problems once in a while with choking as he ate. After the trip to Três Lagõas, Dad's choking episodes became much more frequent and several times he came to the point of losing his breath and turning pale. We visited two different doctors about the problem and eventually ended up in Dra. Wania's office. She is a speech therapist, who has worked for a number of years with Parkinson's patients, and her counsel and care have been a big blessing to us. She explained right away that choking is a normal part of Parkinson's disease. The muscles of the throat and mouth become rigid and out of sync which not only makes it difficult to chew and swallow but also makes it much easier to aspirate food, etc.. into the lungs. Dra. Wania went on to encourage us by saying there are a variety of techniques that Dad can learn to help him swallow better and decrease the risk of choking. This last month and a half Dad has been going to see Dra. Wania every week and she has taught him a variety of exercises to strengthen his mouth and throat muscles. She has also showed him how to put his chin to his chest when he swallows and told him repeatedly of the importance of eating in a calm, quiet environment where he can focus on his chewing and swallowing. Dad is having fewer choking episodes now, and we continue to work as a family to incorporate these new habits and exercises into our daily routines.

João Carlos and Joy
Now let me finish this post with some nice current news. :) As you have probably already heard, João Carlos asked Joy to marry him several weeks ago and she happily said yes. They chose December 6th as their special day and since then Joy and João especially, but our whole family to some extent, have been busy with preparations for the wedding. Joy and João were able to secure a chacara to have the wedding at. A chacara here in Brazil is built to be rented out by the day. It is a piece of land that usually has a nice lawn, perhaps a pool, always a soccer field and barbecue pit, and a simple building to provide cover from rain, and bathrooms. They have also found a house to rent near where João works, and are currently working on deep cleaning it as their schedules allow.

Food table at the bridal shower

This month Stephanie hosted a bridal shower for Joy.  Food-wise the shower was quite American with quesadillas, miniature runzas, and bacon tortilla roll-ups with cookies and fruit kabobs for dessert and strawberry lemonade to drink. The Brazilian ladies bravely tried and enjoyed these new things. 

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The rest of the shower was a little bit more Brazilian. We played some games that they are used to and even gave a little “lembrançinha” to each guest. It is a Brazilian custom to give these “lembrançinhas” to each guest at wedding and baby showers and also birthday parties. A “lembrançinha” is a small object (sometimes a refrigerator magnet, scented soap, box of candy, small knick-knack, etc..)  that usually has a small card with it that says "In remembrance of so-and-so's wedding shower" or "Thank you for your participation in ________ ". Our “lembrançinhas” are small lilac colored teapots with an aluminum spiral to hold notes.  As Stephanie needed it I helped her to plan the shower and Brazilianize it. One job she had me do was to find some funny hats, glasses, scarves, etc… to take pictures in at the shower. I had lots of fun walking all over downtown and also sifting through piles of stuff at a large thrift store run by the cancer hospital to find a nice selection of funny things. Once I arrived home I had even more fun trying the things on, and then at the shower, we shared lots of laughs as we dressed ourselves and each other up in the funny stuff and posed for pictures. :)

Now let me finish up with two little bits of random news. Number one is that Joy discovered PicMonkey, a website where you can edit photos online. Using this amazing website you can make “masterpieces” by taking a picture of Joy’s cat and putting Dracula fangs and blood splashes on her. :) However it is also possible to do profitable things on PicMonkey. Joy and I are learning how to put Bible verses on a variety of pictures, and then Joy enjoys using them for the bookstore’s Facebook. These pictures with verses are also handy to develop, slip into a simple frame and give as gifts.

Number two is that Sr. Armando made a caricature of Dad. Sr. Armando, like Dad, loves books and enjoys translating Spurgeon and other old authors into Portuguese. Well, last month Armando drew this caricature of Dad and put it on Facebook. Everyone loved it, and now Dad has a copy of it hanging on the pin-board in his office. :)

Bitsy and I

I wish I could say that it won't take me as long to put the next post up, but the truth is that it will probably take me months. :)  We stay busy keeping the household running, working on the translation of John Gill, caring for the seminary course online and to prisoners, and helping out with church activities. On top of those things, we have a number of wedding preparations yet to do, and in my personal life my dog, Bitsy, isn't doing very well. Caring for her takes up a good part of my free time and energy. Bitsy has had a hyperactive immune system for years and has gradually become allergic to every animal protein available. The vet and I thought we had found an efficient solution to her allergies when we started her on soy protein earlier this month, but unfortunately she became allergic to soy in just a little over two weeks. Dr. Tony and I are now looking for other ways to help Bitsy. It is going to be interesting to see what the Lord has in store for her.

Thank you for reading!