We returned from our trip to Salvador on Monday. The bus ride home took 54 hr of rough riding, stopping only for meals (except for a three hour delay behind an overturned truck on a slick, muddy downhill, in the middle of the night). The last 18 hr was on dirt roads and very wet, slick and rough and before that we drove on very poorly paved “highways”. Home looked pretty good when we arrived, even though it was 2:00am.
We all felt as though the month-long excursion was well worth the time and the effort. We actually could have used about two more months of instruction to really make a positive step forward. The language is complicated, much more so than English. But we learned much and learned also what to focus on as we continue to study. Learning a new language to the point of being able to speak is one thing; learning so that one speaks well and without significant language barriers is quite another. It’s been said that the first four years of missionary service is preparation to work and the real work then begins. Though this is certainly variable and one can still be used in that first season, we are learning the truth of this statement, proven true over many centuries of missionary work.
The month was good for us for language learning. It was a lot of fun for the kids to experience the ocean and life in a big city (Salvador has a population of 2.5 mil). We had some really nice times together as a family. The three families (and Emily, visiting for six mos from the States) living together went very well and was actually a pleasure. Even though the living conditions were less than ideal (cramped quarters, no hot water, many evenings without water, no personal means of transportation – we walked a lot, took buses some, and took taxi’s a little), we enjoyed getting to know Emily, the Pflederers, the Dolans and (all!) their kids.
I was so blessed by how our kids handled themselves. They were helpful, they did their school work faithfully, and they found ways (besides the beach) to have fun. They were just a pleasure to be around. It was one of those special times as a dad to observe your kids and sense that they are growing up well, preparing well for what lies ahead.
Salvador is a large, clean, busy city with an excellent bus system and many beaches. We enjoyed visiting some of the very old church buildings and shopping and eating at the mall. We went to a charismatic Catholic service which was very nice and worshipful. We visited a Baptist church where the preacher ranted and raved and yelled and wheezed, and I walked out. He was as Jesus-like as the Carnival celebrations that took place prior to our arrival. It was so sad to see this, in Jesus’ name. We saw the remnants of a Macumba (an African religion of superstition resembling witchcraft) sacrifice on a hill near our house (candles, a dead chicken, some beautiful sea shells, some dead ocean animals and some bowls of food). We saw many Capoeira dancers on the streets and at the beach. This is a dance form that combines elements of the martial arts and incredible athleticism (resembling gymnastics). This form of dance is often associated with Condomble, an African religion with many gods, still very much practiced in Brasil, usually mixed in some way with Catholicism.
Bahia, the state where Salvador is located, appeared to have a culture very different than where we live. We were told that there are predominant cultural influences dividing Brasil into three very distinct regions – the northeast, African; the south, European; and the north (where we live), the indigenous peoples. Brasil is truly a fascinating country. Now, if I can master the Portuguese language (which they all speak), perhaps I’ll be able to more fully understand some of these various idiosyncrasies!
We left Salvador, which is located in the arid northeast of Brasil where it rained three times in the month and seemed to have almost no bugs. We returned to Amazonia and the rainy season where it rains profusely virtually every day and insects rule. We’re home!
Thanks for speaking with our Father on our behalf during our month away. He was so faithful to meet us at every turn, as I think we all grew closer to Him during the month. He is so good, so merciful, and such a delight to love.