Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday Pictures

Our holidays where looking like they were going to be rather ordinary days. Sometimes we do that - simply work through holidays, since we don't have any family gatherings to attend and since our work is always backed up. I was tentatively planning to clean the refrigerator and do some laundry today... until Daniel surprised us by traveling nine hours to drop in for a visit! 
Mexican Train Dominoes

Since Daniel was in the house, we declared the day a holiday and and pulled out a variety of table games.  Dad as usual won most of them. :) 

Head Cook and Head Dishwasher

Joy, with a little help from the rest of us, fixed a special meal.

Head Turkey Carver

Even David helped out in the kitchen!

Let the meal begin!

We all enjoyed Joy's cooking and a good long time to talk (and of course being Gardners we had to share a few lame jokes!).

Finishing up Dishes

Following the meal, we all helped with the dishes and cleanup. Well, most of us helped...Daniel randomly gave hugs and succeeded in getting in the way. :)

Bitsy and a Bone

Even Bitsy helped clean up some leftovers. :)

Mom and her notebook

Our gifts this year were notebooks and pens, each one carefully chosen to fit the receiver's personality and needs. 

Dad's notebook has Snoopy on it, because he often gets a chuckle out of the Peanuts comic strip.

Along with a doggie themed notebook, I received  a special card from my only "niece", who is Joy's cat, Sundae. The card reads as follows: "Mewy Christmus fwum sooper sekret admywer.    - santas littel helpurr"

Joy's notebook was kitty themed and considering that quite a few of her birthday cards this year were decorated with cats, I wonder if kitties are pushing cows out of her life and mind???  :)

Instead of a notebook, Daniel was given an agenda. He immediately started planning his nap times for next year...

David's notebook was definitely the uniquest one of all. On it's cover it says "I Learn by Osmosis". In between the words, you will notice there is a Garfield that has books tied to his head, arms, feet, etc...

No holiday is complete without special desserts. Our day has been full of a very special Stollen, which is similar to a fruit cake. Sabrina (Daniel's bride-to-be) made the Stollen and Daniel brought it with him. We also had to suffer through some brown sugar spice cake which we made.

This evening we gathered around the piano and sang a few hymns, before Daniel hurried off to catch a bus back to São José dos Campos and the rest of us prepared to crawl into bed.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Special Service and A Saint

Friday, October 12th, was for us one of those days where you throw yourself out of bed early, hit the floor running and don’t stop until late that night. There were even several times scattered throughout the day that we had to push ourselves to greater speeds to keep up with all the work that needed doing. All this busyness began earlier in the year, when Dad and David noticed that September, October and November each held an extended holiday weekend. It was then that the idea to have a special service and invite the ten or twelve churches in our area to it began. The men decided that September 7th, Independence Day weekend for Brazilians, would be the special day, and preparations began!

Living room where the Prudente
church meets
One of the first steps necessary to putting this plan into action was to find a building to rent for the day. The Prudente church rents a house and holds services in the living room. Holding a special service there with several visiting churches is simply unworkable, so David began looking for alternatives. Thankfully Presidente Prudente offers a nice variety of what they call “Salão de Festas”, these are buildings which are built for the sole purpose of being rented out for birthday parties, wedding receptions, etc… A salão de festa usually has one large rectangular room, at least two bathrooms, and a kitchen. Unfortunately, September 7th is such a big holiday that the vast majority of these places were already rented. After quite a bit of in depth searching, David did find a salão which would suit the purpose, and he quickly reserved it for the special service. Dad was traveling quite a bit at the time, so he began inviting churches verbally and Mom, Joy and I began getting together with the three ladies at church to plan a time of fellowship for after the service.

September 7th service
Our plans and preparations came to an abrupt halt in the last half of August, when David called the owner of the salão to confirm our reservation. She simply informed David that she had decided to rent the salão to someone else on September 7th. Now what? A few more phone calls confirmed that there were no more salãos available for Independence Day, and Dad had already invited the churches in Bataguassu, Jaciporã, Ourinhos, and Bauru! The men eventually came to the decision to go ahead and hold the special service on September 7th in our garage with the churches that had already been invited, and Lord willing on October 12th we would have another special service with all the churches on the original list. A little over thirty people from five different churches were present for the September 7th service, and the Lord blessed in many ways.

Immediately following the September 7th service, planning was resumed for the special service on October 12th. The men of the church found a very nice salão to rent, invited Pr. Waldir Ferro from São Paulo to preach and also put in a reservation for one hundred and fifteen chairs. The women finalized the plans for the refreshments following the service.

The Salão
The days leading up to October 12th were extra hot. A few folks worried that the four wall fans at the salão wouldn’t be enough to keep a large group of people cool, but the big day began with a good hard rain which cooled things off. Unfortunately the rain turned the section of dirt road in front of the salão into a soft sticky red mud, which soon caked multiple sets of shoes and car tires as our family and a few of the church folks gathered to clean up the salão and wipe off all the chairs.

Maria Aparecida
While the cleaning and setting up of the salão was going on, I had to make a run to the grocery store. Thankfully it was not quite 9 a.m. and the holiday shoppers still hadn’t turned out to clog all the aisles and make long lines at the checkouts. I was able to purchase what I needed and hopped in the car for the short trip back to the salão. A few blocks from the grocery store I became stuck in a very long line of traffic. The line stretched as far as I could see in both directions and contained cars of all sizes and even a few trucks. Each vehicle had a bunch of blue and white balloons taped to it’s roof, and the majority of the drivers were leaning on their horns as they moved up the road. As I crawled along in the middle of the line, I tried to think what the celebration was all about. An important birthday? The newspaper hadn’t mentioned anything about it. A political rally? No, elections are over for this year. Then I noticed the car in front of me had a bumper sticker in honor of Maria Aparecida, Brazil’s patron saint, and I remembered that this was a holiday dedicated to her.

Cathedral in Aparecida do Norte
Maria Aparecida translated means “Mary that Appeared”. The widely accepted story about Aparecida says that many years ago during a time of severe drought, some poor fishermen pulled up their nets one night and the statue of a lady rolled into the bottom of their boat. One of the fishermen took the lady to his humble home. He and his family soon discovered that if they prayed to the lady, she would answer and would even do miracles. The idol’s fame grew and she went from the fisherman’s home to a small chapel in the city. She supposedly continued to answer prayers and heal a number of diseases. A few years later she was made Brazil’s patron saint, and now the original idol is said to reside in the cathedral built for her in the city of Aparecida do Norte.

A special mass in the cathedral
Twenty some years ago our family traveled a few hours to visit this cathedral. The city of Aparecida do Norte is very poor and dirty, and tourists must be especially careful with their belongings due to the abundant pickpockets. The cathedral is very big with lots of arches and high ceilings, but the memories that are most vivid in my mind are of two large rooms.

The Candle Room

One room is empty except for wide cement shelves running all around it and down the middle. On these shelves Catholics burn candles, and it is said that as long as their candle is burning there are prayers going up for them and their needs.

Ceiling covered with pictures

The second room is called the Miracle Room. This room is full of pictures and objects that have been left as a way of expressing thankfulness for a request granted or a miracle of some sort. Many of the pictures that have collected over the years have been glued to the ceiling of the room.

Wax Replicas

A variety of braces and wax replicas of body parts are also left in the Miracle Room to represent cures that have taken place.  A selection of these braces and replicas have been hung on the walls or strung on wires near the ceiling.

Ramp leading up to the cathedral
Every year, especially around October 12th, people make pilgrimages to Aparecida do Norte and the cathedral. Some simply drive or ride the bus there, but a few have made a promise to walk there in order to obtain special grace or an answer to their prayers. Just a few days before Daniel traveled in for the special service here in Prudente, he was walking to work along a road that he doesn’t usually take and he noticed that there were a good number of other people walking the same route. A few minutes later he noticed that a bus would pull up beside these people at regular intervals and offer them water or a piece of fruit. Daniel ended up falling into step with a man, and he asked him where he was going. The man replied that he was walking to Aparecida’s cathedral.

The salão beginning to fill up
Now let’s get back to the special service that took place in Prudente. The setting up of the salão was all finished around 10:30 a.m., and we all headed home for lunch and a shower before returning to the salão at 2:30 p.m. The service was actually scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., but a couple of the churches had informed us that they would be arriving early. They did arrive early! It was about 1:30 that the first phone call came saying, “We are in town, where is the salão?”, and many more similar calls followed. The salão was situated on a main road, but for some reason everyone’s GPS systems took them across town. Daniel and David stayed busy giving people verbal directions.

Seventy-two people from eleven different churches came in the end, and the Lord blessed in each aspect of the service. Many Brazilians enjoy singing out and some of them love to sing parts so one of the special joys of getting multiple churches together is the singing of hymns. This time was no exception. It was a real joy to sing one hymn after another with the seventy-two different voices, and when the song leader called out number sixty, “Coroai”, I decided to try and capture the first verse on my camera. The quality of the resulting video isn’t very good, but I’ll go ahead and post it here anyway.

The October 12th service officially begins!
Pr. Waldir Ferro stepped up to the pulpit, after the song service, and began to preach a very edifying message about faithfulness. The first part of the message dealt with man’s inbred unfaithfulness and God’s unwavering faithfulness to Himself, His attributes and His Word. This first part took almost an hour to preach, and after a short break with a hymn, Pr. Waldir preached for another hour and a bit about how we can grow in our faithfulness to the Lord.

"Preaching too much = No Brownies"

Pr. Waldir pastored the church in Sud Menucci for a good number of years and now he is pastoring Bethel Baptist Church in São Paulo. Both churches really appreciate his ministry but they do lovingly tease him about his very thorough and long messages. Earlier this year, Pr. Waldir and his family were visiting in Sud Menucci at the same time that Dad and Joy were there. Pr. Waldir loves brownies and he kept hinting that it would sure be nice to have some before he left. Well, several of the young ladies got together and promised to make brownies, but if he wanted some of them he couldn’t preach too long. That evening as usual he preached over an hour. The young ladies eventually gave him as many brownies as he could eat, but first they snapped a picture of him holding a poster which says, “Preaching too much = No Brownies”. :)

Esfihas are triangles of dough that are stuffed
and then baked
The special service here in Prudente was drawing to a close around 7:30 or 8:00 p.m., and we three Gardner ladies with the three ladies from the Prudente church hurried to serve the snack before the visiting churches began their trips back home. For all of you who are wondering, we served simple ham and cheese sandwiches, esfihas filled with chicken and beef, and for dessert there were homemade cakes. Sisters Jocelene and Isabel made orange cakes, our family provide coconut cakes, and Sis. Lucilene made corn cake. 

Daniel and David - Two very tired, but happy boys

Most of the brethren were heading to the highway and home by 9:30 p.m. The folks from Prudente stayed a little later to clean up the salão so that the keys could be returned to the owner yet that night.

Note: During our visit to Aparecida’s cathedral, we did take pictures. However, I can’t find them anywhere, so the pictures in this post related to Maria Aparecida and the cathedral were taken by others. Here are the sources for anyone who is interested:

The cathedral picture –
Inside the cathedral -
The picture of the idol –
The candle room picture –
Picture of the miracle room –
Pictures glued to the ceiling -

The picture of the esfihas is from:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pereira Barreto and Voting Day

The highway was often lined with trees destined
for the paper factory.

October 28th found Dad packing up for another trip. This time Joy was his traveling buddy. Their main destination was Pereira Barreto, a city three and a half hours away.

Crossing the state line.

However, since Três Lagoas is just a few kilometers from Pereira, Dad left a day early in order to be able cross over into the state of Mato Grosso do Sul and  spend a few hours with Bro. Marcelo and his family.
Welcome to Pereira Barreto!

The city of Pereira Barreto, like many in this region, has its name written in large cement letters at the entrance to the city. 
One of the main roads in Pereira

Pereira  is a small city with strong oriental influences. At one time, the city thrived on agriculture, but the building of a hydroelectric dam in the early 1990's flooded many of the farms surrounding the city.

A clock with four faces built to remember
the Japanese who first settled the region.

Today many of the people of Pereira earn their livelihood by working at the hydroelectric dam, a nearby sugarcane processing plant, or one of the fisheries, which raise tilapia for meat.

Bro. Marcio and Dad having a good talk.

 As usual, Bro. Marcio and his family were happy to have Dad and Joy stay in their home during their time in Pereira.

Sis. Suzzette and Mariana

Bro. Marcio spends his mornings working at a local bank and the afternoons he dedicates to doing engineering work for the city. His wife is Sis. Suzette, and they have two children. Pedro, the oldest son, lives on his own and is currently preparing for college. Mariana, the daughter, is sixteen. She is an excellent student, and one day would like to enter the field of dentistry. 
The church building.

The First Free Baptist Church in Pereira has been around for many years. In recent years, the church has been without a pastor, but the Lord has given Bro. Marcio and several other men in the church grace to lead and do the preaching.

The book table.

Dad and Joy had the pleasure of participating in the Saturday evening service and the two Sunday services, while they were in Pereira.

 Bro. Daniel running the counter at the
Sweet Summer icecream store.

Before leaving Pereira, Dad had to make his customary stop by the icecream shop belonging to a family in the church. It provided a tasty treat... 

Bro. Davi who also works at the icecream shop.

....and a good time of fellowship.

Vote me into the city council!

During the trip to and also from Pereira, Joy had fun looking at the political propaganda in each city. Candidates for mayor's office and the city council print their names and numbers on bumper stickers, posters,flags,....

Elect me for mayor!

... and even on big plastic balls, which are carried around on the main roads.

This candidate says "Put me in office and I'll protect animals!"

Of all the political propaganda that she saw, Joy decided that she liked this one on the left the best. I believe her reasoning is that anyone who loves dachshunds would be a good politician. :)

Papers, papers everywhere!

Speaking of politicians, today was voting day here in Brazil. David and I, like all other Brazilians between eighteen and sixty-five years of age, are required to vote. The citizen who does not vote is fined approximately $1.55.  The night before the elections take place, even though it is prohibited, political fliers from all candidates are generously scattered around buildings where voting is going to take place.

Public school open for voting.

All the voters in a city are assigned a place to vote, usually it is a public school usually near where they live. On election day, voters have between 7 am and 4 pm to show up at their school and vote in their assigned classroom. David and I have developed the habit of always voting in the morning. There is usually a line of people waiting to vote leading up to our classroom door and the line generally grows longer as the day progresses.

Waiting in line to vote.
There is a good deal of corruption here in Brazil. One of the first times that I voted, thousands of the ballots disappeared and when they were found, they were all in favor of one candidate. That candidate won the election, and nothing more was done about the disappearance of the ballots. Since that election there have been elections that seem to be less corrupt, but still there is that nagging question in my mind and I am sure in other people’s minds as well “Does my vote really make a difference or is the election rigged?”.

Despite all this, voting day usually holds a smile for me. Four or five voters are generally allowed into each classroom at a time. They each hand their voter’s registration card to the two or three election officials behind the table, and then wait to be called up to vote. The first time I voted here in Presidente Prudente the head official called up the people ahead of me by name. “João, you can vote now…. Sueli, you can vote now…Sergio, your turn…” Then he came to my card, my name has a “ch” in it and Brazilians have no idea how to pronounce it. The official looked at my card for an extra long time, then he passed it to the man beside him. The second man carefully looked at the card, then shook his head and passed it back to the first official. The first man looked up at me and said “You can vote now”. Almost every election since then that same head official has been in my classroom. He doesn’t even look very long at my card anymore. He simply looks at me and says “You can vote now”, and I smile.  :D

Saturday, September 8, 2012

People and Pictures from the Sept. 7th Service

Song Service

On September 7th, we had a special service in our garage. Here are some pictures taken during that special time, and also a few other pictures which show people who were present for the service.

Pr. Antonio

Pr. Antonio Carlos Dias from Bauru was the guest speaker.

Bro. Marco with his wife Lindalva
and daughter, Julia

Bro. Marco Paes brought his family and three others from the church in Bataguassu.

Bro. Djalma

Bro. Djalma came from the church in


Bro. Djalma's wife, Eva, his daughters, Diane
and Michelle, and son, Alexandre

... and brought his family. 

Pr. Israel and David

Pr. Israel from Ourinhos came....

Sis. Izalina and Mom

... and brought his wife, Izalina,...

Zé Carlos enjoying the books

.... and Zé Carlos, a member of the church.

Most of the brethren from Igreja Batista Bereana here in Prudente were also present:

Edson and Isabel

Bro. Edson and Sis. Isabel. He is the song leader.



     Moisés, a faithful visitor.

Bro. Antonio

Bro. Antonio, who is always ready to help in any way he can. Very interestingly, he never applied himself to learning how to read until he was saved later in his life. He then saw the need to be able read his Bible, so he began teaching himself to read. Now Bro. Antonio even helps out by reading portions of Scripture  out loud in services.


Sis. Jucilene, who is Antonio's daughter. As usual, she helped make the refreshments for after the service.

Pr. Israel,  David and Luis Carlos

Luis Carlos, the Hamburger Man. He helped us a lot on the preparing for and cleaning up after the service.

Last of all, here is a picture of four young ladies who were present for the service:

Sara holding Julia - They are from Bataguassu.
Isabela behind Yasmin - They are from Prudente.