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!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Random News

Ever since last December when Dad was diagnosed with cancer and ended up spending eighteen days in the hospital with pneumonia, our lives have really changed, and one of those changes is that, it is very hard for me to find time to develop posts for my blog. I miss it, but there are a whole lot of more important things in the balance right now. In an attempt to keep my blog from dying completely, I hope to post some random news every now and then. We will see how things go. :) 

  Thee first Sunday of December 2013 the church here in Prudente asked Ben to baptize three candidates for them.  

The woman on crutches is Luciana. She is the daughter of Edson and Isabel, who are members of the church. For a number of years she didn't want anything to do with the church, but then she started coming occasionally when her mom invited her. After a few months of coming off and on, she began coming faithfully and shortly after that she was in a motorcycle accident. Her leg was broken in several places and she underwent major surgery to have pins put in. She was unable to walk for almost three months, but as soon as she could get around in a wheelchair and walk a bit, she started coming to church again. Not long after that she professed salvation and asked to be baptized. Luciana gradually improved and was even able to start working at a bakery that supplies bread for many of the public schools in town. However, about two months ago the pins in her leg broke and she had to go through surgery all over again. The Lord has really blessed through it all. The doctor who did the second surgery used a larger plate and pins this time and her leg is even better now then it was after the first surgery. Luciana is currently doing intensive physical therapy and she hopes in another month or two to be able to go back to work.

Yasmin and Isabela
The young girl in the pictures is Isabela. She is 10 years old and is Luciana's daughter. Since she attends school close to them, Isabela has always spent a lot of time at her grandparent's home. Edson and Isabel bring her to church with them whenever she is at their house, so we have know Isabela since she was about 2. I often tease Isabela about how when we first met her she did not like us at all. She would sit in her Grandpa’s lap and watch us. If any of us tried to play with her, she would cry. Things have drastically changed now. The last couple of years, Joy and I have been teaching Isabela in Sunday School and when she goes on break from school, we have her over to the house to play ping-pong and board games. She loves it and I might add, that she beats us most of the time! Just recently on a holiday, Isabela and I and Yasmin, a cousin of Isabela's, spent the morning together making cupcakes.

The young man that was baptized is João Carlos. Several years ago, David met him while he was giving English classes at Wizard. David invited João to church at the time and he came several times. João even made a profession of faith and Dad started doing a Bible study with him, but he eventually came to the place of having to choose between continuing at church or keeping his long time girlfriend. He stopped coming to church and even told Dad he was sure that he wasn't saved. Several years passed where we had no contact with him, but the middle of last year, João got in touch with David. He said the Lord had saved him and asked if he could come to church. He started coming faithfully, eventually joined as a member, and just two weeks ago he preached for the first time. 

 At the beginning of this year, João graduated and is now an official computer programmer. Shortly after his graduation, he was hired by a German man here in town to do maintenance work for a humongous online clothing store here in Brazil. Just for you to have an idea of how big this store is, on a Wednesday evening just recently the "Purchase" button on the website quit working and in the few hours that it took for the maintenance men to fix the problem, the store lost approximately $130,000.00 worth of sales. It is hard for me to imagine an online store that big!  Due to the way the store's website was built the online store has constant problems and they have at least three teams of computer programmers, one of which includes João Carlos, which spend eight hours a day, five days a week fixing problems as they come up. The job tends to be quite stressful  for João Carlos and the other programmers since the problems that show up are usually complex and the store, of course, puts pressure on the maintenance men to fix things quickly, but João said he is learning a lot in his field and for that reason he enjoys the job, even though later on João said he might like to look for another job opening that would allow him to do his own programming instead of spending his days fixing computer programs that were built by others. We’ll see what happens.

 Dad and Mom's first granddaughter (and my first niece) was born last November.  It is a real joy to have her around, and our joy was doubled soon after when Daniel and Sabrina told us that they are expecting a little one to be born in July. 

 On March 10th Sabrina had an ultrasound done to check on the progress of the baby. The baby is growing just fine and they found out that it is a little boy. Afterward, Daniel and Sabrina made this picture to tell family and friends that it is a little boy. :) Now Sabrina said they are working on a name. They would like a name with a German root, because after all both sides of the family are of German descent. They want a name that isn't too common, but yet it can’t be sooo uncommon that it doesn’t have a nice meaning. Lastly they would like a name that is spelled the same in English and Portuguese so that the little fellow doesn't have too hard of a time getting around in either side of his extended family. Considering all of that, Sabrina said they are just going to call him "Baby" and when he is old enough, he can choose his own name. :D

Well, I better sign off for this time. Joy went out to do the grocery shopping this morning and pretty soon she will be coming home and it will be Bitsy and I’s job to help carry things in from the car. Yes, it is hard to believe, but of her own accord Bitsy carries small objects in her mouth from the car to the kitchen rug. Of course, Bitsy doesn’t work for free. I have to pay for every item she brings in with a bite of cookie and if I don’t have a piece of cookie in my hand, she won’t put the item down. :)