Sunday, January 25, 2009

Divine Expression

I have been reading through the book "Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing."
It has been an incredible journey so far, with many views into the divine heart.
The following quote is a thought that challenged and inspired me recently:

“There are many to whom life is a painful struggle; they feel their deficiencies and are miserable and unbelieving; they think that they have nothing for which to be grateful. Kind words, looks of sympathy, expressions of appreciation, would be to many a struggling and lonely one as the cup of cold water to a thirsty soul. A word of sympathy, and act of kindness, would lift burdens that rest heavily upon weary shoulders. And every word or deed of unselfish kindness is an expression of the love of Christ for lost humanity.”

Mount of Blessing p. 31

Endless Source

“Happiness drawn from earthly sources is as changeable as varying as circumstances can make it; but the peace of Christ is a constant and abiding peace. It does not depend upon any circumstances in life, on the amount of worldly goods, or the number of earthly friends. Christ is the fountain of living water, and happiness drawn from Him can never fail.”

Mount of Blessing p. 24

Of Work and Play

This is the soon to be garden spot on the western border of our property. A group of young people from one of the churches volunteered to come and help us. It was such a blessing to have their help here.

The pathfinders from the group practicing their marching skills, as the afternoon rains rumble towards them. The poem below describes the soccer game that sprung up with the rain just a few minutes after this picture was taken.

Dash! Splash! Crash!

Thunder crumbles,

Wind snaps sharp

Rain soaks down and through.

Sprinting! Sliding! Diving!

Taste of rain,

Barefoot thwacks,

Bodies hit the ground!

“Vai! Vai! Vai!”

Dancing feet,

Hammering head,

Bouncing knees, thumping chest!

“Ladrão! Ladrão!”

Laughter crescendos

Shouts of endorphins,

Zinging ball, stinging toes!

Slam! Spin! Goal!

(Vai = go, Ladrão = theif)

Saturday, January 17, 2009



January 15, 2009

“You’ll be able to see the river just ahead,” Brad motioned towards the right as the combi surged forward out of another pothole. We had escaped the sprawling capital behind us, and now there were simple sitios (farms), jungle on either side of the road, and massive clouds sagging with rain in front. A moment later the view opened expansively and I could see the Amazon itself, collecting the colors of the sky to float down through its jungle.

“We’re coming into Puricaquara, this is still in the district of Manaus, but it is one of the poorest barrios.” We bounced our way through the winding streets of the simple town, “Tomorrow we are going to go to the little Adventist church here.” The combi charged up a dirt road leading out of town and past more sitios.

“That is our land there.” Brad pointed towards a white fence bordering land that leaned gracefully down to the waters edge. The charcoal clouds on the horizon held their prisms towards the setting sun and struck such a stunning chord of colors that they echoed into a double rainbow.

The air was pungent with the scent of rain, the sun electrifying the colors, and my thirsty heart soaking it up like watercolor paper. Then two pairs of scarlet macaws flew overhead, chattering out their own blessings to the earth below.

Species of Amazonian Birds Identified

14th of January

(These were identified with the help of my dear Grandma (an expert birder), a 5 lb. book of Birds of Venezuela, which includes 1381 species – 800 some are in Brazil. There is not a good bird identification guide for the Brazilian Amazon area – there are simply to many species.)

These are the most recent editions to my life list:
(The Purple Honey Creeper is my favorite so far)

Red-capped Cardinal – Paroaria gularis
Blue Grey Tanager – Thraupis e. mediana (Amazonas)
Southern House wren – Troglodytes aedon albicans
Great Kiskidee – Pitangus sulphuratus
White Throated Toucan – Ramphastos tucanus
Bico de brasa – Monasa atra
Neotropical Palm Swift – Tachornis squamata
Silver Beaked Tanager (also known as Crimson Tanager) – Pamphocelus carbo venezuelensis
Purple Honey Creeper – Cyanerpes caeruleus microrhynchus
Swallow-winged Puffbird – Chelidoptera Notharchus

Plus an assortment of squawking Parakeets, Parrots, and Parrolets that are flying to high to be identified. They’re mainly green. Many swallows, little brown things with two wings, and other flying objects yet to be identified!


“Now I’m a flower and I’m going to sing!” She stood still for the first time in the whole five days since I arrived, her head tipped slightly down.

I sat in a white chair near the edge of the Chapeu (A round structure open on the sides) and cocked my camera for documentation of this theatrical performance.

She stood near the center dressed in a simple white dress, headband, tights, and shoes. Looking kin to the white Jasmim that grows here, she began to sing and dance with eight-year-old grace of innocence.

The song can not be translated as poetically as she phrased it, but it described the life of a flower swaying gently in the wind, spreading it’s fragrance, and living through seasons – rain, sun, and spring.

Lesson in Massage

January 13, 2009

“This is Caitlin, the grand-daughter of the Pastor. Her father is one of the greatest physical therapists in the United States, and she would like to come learn some from you.” With that, Doctora Graça shuts the door behind me. With an embarrassed gulp, I slip in alongside the massage table across from the chiropractor / masseuse.

His head doesn’t even come to my shoulders and he grins up at me with bright eyes as his knarly hands work steadily along the spine of the man on the table. The middle fingers on each of his hand are permanently torqued inward, proudly he holds one out for me to see, a mark of the profession, I guess. The muscled energy of his body is encased old leathered skin the color of dark walnut heartwood, and creased more than an old glove.

His deft fingers read the muscles of a body like the fingers of the blind read Braille. Amused by his facial expressions and intrigued with his hands, my eyes try to observe both at the same time. The body on the table grunts a little as his fingers dig deeper into a spot near the shoulder, “Doi! Doi!” (pain) He mouths to me with delighted eyes as he points to the spot. With instinctive skill he loosens the spot to allow for better range of motion.

“Is it better?” The pain left, the patient replies, and he grins victoriously.

Natural Wisdom

“Cravo de funto,” Doctora Graça snaps a leaflet from the brightly flowering plant at the entrance to the Terapia - the building where the hydrotherapy and clay treatments are given. “It is good for dengue fever.”

“Do you make a tea with it?”
“Yes,” She hands me the leaflet. “Boil water, then add these leaves, cover and let it sit until cool. One liter of water – all tea is made with 1 liter of water.”
“How many leaves?”
“10 per 1 liter.”

I follow her around the corner of the building and into the empty lot of land nearby, it will belong to them eventually because in this area of Brazil brazilians can acquire (and lose) land by squatters rights. Here in the shad of jumbo, mango, and palm trees many common medicinal plants are growing.

Saratodo is for inflammation, Pião Branco is good for ulcers in the mouth and also for getting rid of Canida albican.s Mastruz gets rid of intestinal bugs of all kinds. Mamão leaves are good for malaria but they must be very yellow. I scribble notes as coherently as I can and try to mark the way they look in my mind – I need to come back and take pictures of each one.

“It is good for you to learn these plants and how to use them.” Her silvery hair makes a striking contrast against the deep greens of these jungle plants. “For when you go far out to other clinics and on the launches you will not always have what you need.”

The Faith of Grace

January 11, 2009

She took his wrinkled hand firmly in hers and closed her eyes with the trust of a child.
“Lord, here is Carlos. He knows you and I know that you know him, everything about his family, where he lives, and all of his smallest thoughts. I pray that you will bless him, and this treatment, and us as we help. In the name of Jesus, Amen.”

No one could possibly question the conviction of faith expressed in Doctora Graça’s practice, or the sincere love that she has for each of her patients. Her viola-toned voice is full wisdom, propelled by optimism, and leaves no room for foolishness.

The title of Doctor does not reference her medical experience, but the loving respect that those who come to this clinic have for her. This clinic is the passion of her soul, and armed with faith, and an arsenal of natural remedies, she is routing all sorts of diseases including cancers – and restoring a richer quality of life.

No, not everyone who comes receives the physical miracle that they are seeking – but everyone encounters a love that heals their hearts.

“Many times I am brought the left over pieces of a life, after they have tried everything else.” My heart marvels over something in her eyes - all of the suffering she has seen reflected into a pool of stubborn hope. “But every human needs to know that someone cares about me, someone is not afraid to touch me, someone still loves me.”

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Clean Crocks?

Brazilians are very clean about everything. 
Always mopping floors, and cleaning everything thoroughly. 

I took my beloved and well worn crocks out of my suit case, and left them on the floor beside it. 

Later I returned and found Tia Sueli scrubbing them with an old toothbrush! 
"What are you doing?" I asked
"I was mopping the floor, don't worry."

They look new!
A bit embarassed - but what can I say?

Bits n pieces

It is the rainy season. . .  

I’m staying with the Contes for a few days. . .

Brad and Linna arrive today. . .

Lemon grass tea is superb. . .

A flash drive is a “pen drive” here. . .

I learned that the first airplane was built by a Brazilian in France.

I’m trying to improve my vocabulary and grammar as quickly as possible. .

Steven Conte, the son of Salvador and Sueli Conte, is extremely talented with technology and is the proud owner of one of the only MACs in Manaus. He is also tinkering with my lap top to enable it to use internet again – on the occasions when I find service.

I asked Tia Sueli what she was making for lunch, and she replied bife de jacaré (alligator meat), but the twinkle gives her away. . . and the contents of the bowl – clearly oatmeal patties!


Manaus is the capital of Amazonas, the largest state in Brazil, and is home for 2 million people. However there are only 3 million people in the entire state, 2/3s live in this one city. Yet as large and sprawling as this city seems it is a village when it’s population is compared to some of the larger southern metropolises – São Paulo has 17 million. 


My nose nearly touches the glass as I peer out. Grey clouds, grey cement, gray terminals, framed by an airplane window. My heart reflects the widening space of brightness in the sky above. My toes scrunch inside my moss green tennis shoes as if somehow I can squish the excitement jiggling in my heart to a more manageable level.

The ground begins to roll underneath the grey wing of the plane, the air vents modulate a note higher as they pressurize the cabin. The scruffy winter grass is partitioned off by grey strips of runways, and the skyline of Birmingham is smudged in the distance.

Bounce, surge, lift, banking at a sharp angle to merge into the highway of clouds. Swallowed by an opaque grey… lurch, my stomach always comes down last. Brighter, brighter, slicing upward through the cloudscape as the sunlight bleaches the cotton white again.

While my heart is tumbling ahead of the plane across the cotton clouds, my mind remembers the grey dyed world below. It is always hardest to be left behind. Looking out the grey window of the terminal, a school room window, salt-stained glasses… wondering, with two feet on the ground.  The frame from which one looks makes the difference.

It is important to recognize the frame of reference that I am viewing the world from, and to acknowledge the degree of difference between my reality and the reality of others.  I wonder what windows the people I will meet will be looking through. I must remember to try to see and understand, for this realization is the catalyst for sympathy and tenderness for humanity.

Last Minute Advice

Last Minute Advice

Mommy: “I love you so much! Hug Papa and Grandma when you see them. . . and if you help clear jungle or do heavy work please don’t try to out-do the guys.”

“Mommy! I don’t do that anymore!”

“Well, you used to.”

“Not as much anyways”

“And don’t fall in love while you’re down there!”


“Email me when you get there.”

Christy: “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. . . or maybe I should say don’t do anything you wouldn’t do – cause that encompasses more!” (I love you my dear crazy Christy!)


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ends of the Earth

"You need not go to the ends of the earth for wisdom, for God is near. It is not the capabilities you now possess, or ever will have, that will give you success. It is that which the Lord can do for you. We need to have far less confidence in what man can do, and far more confidence in what god can do for every believing soul.
He longs to have you reach after Him in faith.
He longs to give you understanding in the temporal as well as in spiritual matters.
He can sharpen the intellect He can give tact and skill. Put your talents into the work, ask God for wisdom, and it will be given to you." - Christ's Object Lessons p. 146

As I munched on breakfast this morning God showed me this beautiful assurance.
.... I need to leave home in an hour.

Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Destination: Manaus, Brazil

Here is a satelite view of where I'm headed! Manaus is the capital of the state Amazonas and is just north of the point where the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes meet to form the Amazon. You can see these two main tribuitaries joining below. Even from outer space the color difference is quite distinct!

Here is the capital city:

Sunset out on the river.