The Man With the Yellow Hammock

He sold me a large, fringed hammock, the color of goldenrod in a pasture under a September sky.  When I mentioned that it needed to be a sleeping-sized hammock  because I was going to live in a native village, the vendor, who appeared to be native himself, asked hesitantly if I was an anthropologist.

“No, I’m a missionary.”  A grin quickly spread over the face of the man with the yellow hammock as he grabbed my hand, shaking it vigorously and exclaiming his delight.


He kindly offered advice about winning the friendship of a tribal group.  “Eat what they offer you.  Eat it like we do, sitting on the ground, eating with your hands, everyone taking food out of the same pot.”  He mentioned outsiders who acted like their customs are unacceptable, or slyly threw away pieces of food given to them.  This was duly noted, and he warned me that such behavior guarantees that no one will listen to such a missionary.

He told me he belongs to the A ethnic group, numbering about 850.  He is a smart man.  He speaks Portuguese and Spanish, and a little French and English.  His first language is the A language, spoken in their remote villages even today, although children learn Portuguese or Spanish in school.  I asked if there were any missionaries among his people, or if they had the Bible.  His answer was no, but he has already read parts of the Bible in Portuguese.  And he seemed okay with that.  But I’m not.  I know what he’s missing out on.

You see, I too have read the Bible in my second language.  Personal experiments and experience have proven that there really is a difference.  I speak Portuguese fluently, and use it regularly to engage in deep, heart-to-heart conversations with friends.  I love attending church services in Portuguese, and God teaches me as I read the Bible in Portuguese.  Yet this was not the language of the lullabies of my babyhood.  It was not the language that my parents used as they nurtured and taught me.  It will never be the language that most quickly and effectively reaches my heart. And I am so thankful that my first exposure to the One True God and His living Word was in English, my heart language, my mother tongue.


So it pricks my heart and brings tears to my eyes to know that hundreds of ethnic groups do not have that privilege.  A small percentage of these groups may have access to the Bible in a national language which they understand, to a point.  But as I can attest, when reading in a second language, the brain is forced to work harder.  Mentally, this is a good thing, yet it causes delay in understanding and feeling and experiencing the message of what is being read.  And in that delay alone, even if the message is correctly understood, communication loses something.  Does God still use His Word to reach hearts and transform lives, even if it is in a second language?  Of course.  However, it is not the ideal.

Jesus died and rose again for everyone in the whole world, so that anyone who believes can be part of God’s family, no matter what their nationality, language, heritage, or background.  And He wants all people to have the chance to hear this Good News.  Everyone should have access God’s Word, alive and powerful, in their own language, so that communication is as clear as possible.  Communication involves not only the words that are used; it involves the comprehension of the hearer (or reader).  God speaks to man through the Bible, so accuracy and clarity are of the utmost importance.

Accounts have been reported of people groups who thought that God was “the white man’s god” or “the god of the Spanish-speaking people” or “the foreigners’ god.”  But when these groups finally heard the Bible read and taught in their own language, many of them immediately believed in Him and accepted Him as their God.  I think it was either the Cakquichel or Quechua people of Guatemala Ecuador who were delighted to discover that “God speaks our language.”  It is true.  He is the God and Creator of the human race, including every ethnic group, not just privileged or literate societies.  But without hearing God speaks to them in their language, many groups will remain marginalized, outsiders to the grace of God, feeling that He does not care about them.  And they urgently need to know of His great salvation.

That is why I am here.  That is why we are going to the Neno* village today. That is why our goal is becoming part of their community and living their language.  That is why no sacrifice is too great.  That is why I would not trade this life for anything.

Have you read the Bible today?  If not, please pull it out and open it and be thankful that you have a copy in English.  Then read, and ask God to speak to your heart, and make His Word come alive to you.

And please, if you would, pray for the man with the yellow hammock, and for the A people, to desire and someday receive the Bible in their heart language.  Pray that God would send workers to clearly communicate His Word, so that they would understand that they too are invited to be His children.

*name changed for privacy reasons

Creative Air Conditioning Ideas

The actual temperature doesn’t reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) very often, at least not yet.  The locals say that summer.  But since the humidity is typically between 70 and 97%, the heat index (what the temperature feels like to the human body) is often over 100.

I am looking forward to living in the village.  There, thanks to the river and the jungle trees, my coworkers said it cools off a bit more at night.  Here in the city it is hard to sleep.  Yesterday I woke up in the middle of the night, sticky and dehydrated, and took a cool shower (that’s the only shower temperature here.  Only a crazy person would want a hot shower, so there is no hot water setting.  No hot water in normal sinks anywhere in Brazil).

As a survival mechanism, I have learned or invented a few ideas to beat the heat, particularly at bedtime.  Any further suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  1.  Regular table fan.  Hang a wet towel in front of it.
  2. 20-minute cool shower, to lower body temperature a bit.
  3. Soak t-shirt in water and wear it to bed.  This is also a good idea before doing chores.
  4. Open refrigerator door.  Place mattress on the floor, head positioned next to fridge.
  5. Cold water IV.
  6. Remove pillow from pillowcase.  Stuff with ice cubes.

And, here is a fitting quote from Jane Austen.

In today’s vernacular, instead of “a continual state of inelegance,” I believe Austen would have written, “always dripping sweat.”  Which is dreadful indeed, but even worse is the continual state of physical and mental sluggishness, sleep deprivation, and diminished productivity.  I remain an optimist, however.  There is still a chance, however small, of “getting used to tropical weather.”  If that fails, at least I will never get frostbite or have have to scrape ice off a windshield.

Out of the Mouth of a Three-Year-Old Friend

Those who know me know that children are some of my very favorite people.  And while I enjoy children of all ages, if asked to pick a specific favorite age, my choice would be three-year-olds.

So could it be a coincidence that my coworkers have two beautiful little girls, Lorena and Isadora, one of whom just turned three?  Not even.  This proves that God knows me inside and out.  He often gives me things and people and friendships just to show His love and bring joy to my heart.  It reminds me that I am not only God’s servant, I am His beloved daughter.


Anyway, three-year-old Isadora has an impressive vocabulary, which, combined with her outgoing personality and developing reasoning skills, are put to good use each day, entertaining the adults in her life.  Not even her parents can predict what will come out of her mouth at any given moment.

The following conversations took place in Portuguese, but I will translate them as accurately as possible, trying not to lose the Cuteness Factor.


Sunday night, on the way home from church, Isadora rested her head in my lap and grabbed my hand.  Noticing the rough dry skin on a couple of my fingertips, she started rubbing it and suddenly exclaimed,  “There’s a DISEASE here!”

Me: *pretending to be shocked*  A disease?  How did I get this disease?

Isadora:  It’s because when you fell off a tractor trailer truck.

Me: *trying not to laugh* Oh, ok.  And what’s the name of this disease?

Isadora:  You can call it fall…en.

Me:  Fallen, right.  And how can I get rid of the disease?

Isadora:  “e-perar”  (due to her slight lisp, I wasn’t quite sure what she said, so guessed at the most similar Portuguese word that came to mind)

Me:  Operate?!?  *thinking, oh no!  A three-year-old wants to cut off my fingers.*

Isadora: “No!  E-perar” (she still didn’t put the s in the word, but I got it this time)

Me:  Oh, you said WAIT.  If I wait, the disease will go away?

Isadora:  It will.

Me:  Well, that’s pretty much what I’m doing.  I’m waiting for it to go away, and I’m also asking God to take it away.

Doctor Isadora seemed satisfied with that, and rested on my lap again.


We were in the car again, with the air conditioner on.  Isadora suddenly sniffed and said, “I smell cold.”

Her mom commented that cold does seem to have its own smell.

Isadora:  Do you know how I smell cold?

Me:  No, how?

Isadora: I take it in with my mouth, and it leaves out my nose, and then I smell it.

Me:  *laughing*  Wow, you did a really good job explaining it.  How did you figure that out?

Isadora:  I was just sitting here in my carseat, not going anywhere.  So I made it up.


Lorena and Isadora showed up at my door.  Isadora was holding her teddy bear.

Me:  Hi, girls!  Come on in!

(Lorena opened the door and entered, Isadora stayed outside).

Me: What’s the matter, Isadora?  You can come in.

Isadora: I can’t, because my son is shy around you.  (her son, is, of course, the teddy bear)

Me: *bending down to the teddy bear’s level*  Oh, that’s too bad.  Hi Isadora’s son!  You can come in too.  Why is he shy around me?

Isadora:  Well.  He’s shy, because he’s my son, and you don’t have any sons.

So apparently, I should have brought a teddy bear along to Brazil.



Ahhh! Going to the Village Today!?!

This will have to be posted without much editing, due to time constraints because of some last-minute changes.  Our latest plan, as of Tuesday, was to head to the village as soon as possible after Wellington’s next two doctor’s appointments, scheduled for April 4th and 8th, next Monday and Friday.

But yesterday evening, Juliana came to my apartment saying that there was a change in the plans, and that a Neno man who lives here in the city is heading to the village with his big truck, providing a ride for about 10 Neno people who have been stranded here in Ji-Pa.  As she spoke, my mind started to race.  “Are we going to the village tomorrow instead?  I still haven’t washed my sheets, or bought a mattress and index cards and a hammock.  And what about saying good-bye, via technology, to my family and friends?  Not gonna sleep tonight!”  But that was mixed with a happy adrenaline rush and an internal exclamation of, “Finally!  Am I really heading to my new home?  Yay!”

Thankfully, the change was nothing so drastic as I imagined.  Juliana asked what I thought about the idea of grocery shopping, in order to send as many of our supplies to the village in the truck, since there would definitely be plenty of space.  We don’t know for sure who will end up giving us a ride, but it will be a smaller vehicle than that, for sure.

Their idea, while it was last-minute, sounded smart and doable.  I love that kind of plan!

(Wait, do I hear some sighs or grumbling from far, far away?  Oh, you thought WE were going to the village today when you saw the title?  So sorry to have confused you.  No, not us, only our supplies.  Actually, the title was a purely intentional writer’s trick to get your attention.  I also wanted you to have the chance to feel a small adrenaline rush and disappointment similar to mine, so that you can be included in this adventure, as much as possible.   If that’s not a good enough reason, consider it an April Fool’s Day prank).

Anyway, last night we spent 2 hours in a delightfully air-conditioned store, grocery shopping, while talking a little…although, in Wellington’s words, “If that was a little talking, I don’t want to be around when it’s a lot!”  On our way back, we stopped at the weekly farmer’s market to buy honey, bananas, and delicious, crispy, deep-fried pastels, stuffed with ground beef, cheese, and seasonings.

Back in my apartment, I called my mom to talk for a bit, then stayed up until 1 AM organizing and packing all the personal belongings that could be sent ahead.

The truck owner was planning to leave after lunch, so this was Our Official Plan (OOP) for this morning:

  1. Load up the car.
  2. Wellington and Juliana take the load to the truck, on the other side of the city.
  3. Paulette stay with Lorena and Isadora, who were just waking up.
  4. Wellington and Juliana take Paulette to buy a bed and mattress.
  5. Deliver bed and mattress to the truck.
  6. Say good-bye to Neno friends.
  7. Return back to our base city “home.”

Good OOP, right?  Well, it started off fine.  Step 1 was easy.  Wellington and Juliana left to complete Step 2, while I stayed to complete step 3.  Great teamwork, right?  Side note: pretty sure Step 3 was more fun, cuddling a sleepy 3-year-old, giving the girls breakfast, and playing with them.  Isadora was just starting to draw a picture to show me what some of her friends look like, when the car pulled up.

The first thing I noticed was that it was still full of our groceries, my stuff, and their big barrels.  When Wellington and Juliana arrived at the Neno house, shortly after 9 AM, it was empty!  Unless they ate a very early lunch, the group must have changed their plans for some reason, probably wanting to hit the road early, in case it rains in the afternoon.  Their changed schedule resulted in OOPS – Our Official Plan Spoiled.

So, at the beginning of the post, you were supposed to think WE might be headed to the village.  But at the end of the day, not even our supplies made it there.  Hopefully our Neno friends have made it back home, at least, since they got such an early start.  And just in case you wonder, we’re truly not frustrated with them.  They had no obligation to transport our supplies in the first place, so if it worked better for them to leave earlier, no need to wait around on our account.

Also, since I’m sure that April Fool’s Day is not part of Neno culture, it ended up being a funny coincidence for what could be considered an unintended  “prank” on us.  I chuckled at the irony.  In the long run, our rushing around wasn’t a waste of time anyway.  Well, maybe loading the car and unloading it again, but that part only took 10 minutes.  Now we have boxes of groceries and other things all piled and ready to go at a moment’s notice.  Less things to do later is always a plus.

Today was also a perfect opportunity to practice teamwork, patience, and flexibility.  All of those abilities are helpful in anyone’s life, but practically nonnegotiable for missionaries.  If you have read this post to the end, thank you for sticking with me through this long-but-true April 1st tale, despite the “tricky title” and some twists and turns along the way.  Thanks for being a flexible friend.