Thursday, June 30, 2011

Talent Show ~ Jungle Style

We've got talent!

Written by my oldest daughter, Jackie of Keepin' Sane with Littles

Missionary familes have a lot of talent. If you've ever been at a missions conference before you know what I'm talking about. Mr. Missionary stands up and introduces his large family. They are imaculatly dressed and perfectly behaved. Mr. Missionary calls Mrs. Missionary and all the Little Missionaries up to the platform where they sing a song. Oh, but they dont just sing a song because every single one of their children (all eleven of them) can play a different instrument, and play it well. They sing with harmony, and then, after the song, because it wasn't cute enough, the Youngest Missionary (about six months old or so) recites Psalm 23. Most missionary families are like that, great voices, and amazing music abilities.

Then there was the Vernoy family. We all have decent voices....sometimes. Depends on what mood we're in I guess. As for playing instruments? Dream on. We were too busy reading books to learn an instrument, plus we lived in the Amazon and there's a shortage of piano teachers out there. Not to mention pianos.

So, in many missions conferences we sat and watched yet another amazingly talented Super Missionary family sing lovely songs in multiple languages. Then it was our turn to do something. But what?

It's not that we didn't have talent! Oh, we have talent. We even held talent shows in the jungle...the Indians loved them! They were usually held on weekends, when our house was especially full. They would start crowding in, thumbing through our old National Geographic magazines, and then some brave soul would ask my sister, Jewel, if she could do a one handed cartwheel. Always eager to please, Jewel begin to tumble about the living room which would bring on a chorus of "ooh's" and "aahs." Not to be outdone, Jayde would impersonate Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, or do the split on the cement floor. The split was always a great big hit. Indians are strong, and muscular, but not flexible AT ALL. Flexibilty is something everyone in my family is blessed with, and the Indians were always impressed. I would sit with my legs crossed "indian style" and then walk on my knees, or put lay flat on the floor, face down, with my legs behind my head. This made quite an impression. The talent show was only getting started! When my mom's turn came she would raise one eyebrow, or while standing with one foot pointed forward, twist the other foot completly back. I share that talent as well, but would let her preform it since I already had so many others. :-) Joshua always added a colorful piece to the show with his accurate impersanation of the village witch doctor, which always brought lots of laughs. My Dad was the biggest hit when he would stand in a doorway, his back towards the barefoot audience, and hug himself with his arms. They thought that was hilarous!

We would continue with our antics, my hog calls, Jewel shimming up the center pole of the house, Jayde throwing her legs over her arms and walking on her hands (it's really hard to explain,you have to see it) Yes, our talent shows were very cool. The coolest thing going on in that village anway.

As "cool" as we thought we were, we just didn't think churches would appreciate our kind of talent during their conferences. I can picture it now. The pastor gets behind the pulpit, "Why, thank you Super Missionary Family for that lovely rendition of Amazing Grace in five langues,with twelve different instruments. Truly a blessing. And now, our next family, the Vernoys, will be doing their hog calls, and their youngest will finish off by swinging from the rafters while singing 'Crazy' in her Patsy Cline voice."

Hmm...doens't seem very likely. What usually happened was my dad would stand up, introduce and say, "We just dont' sing...but we have some stories we could tell you!" Or, as one missionary friend put it, "I would sing a special for you, but it would probably be more special if I didn't!"

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 the demons danced upon our roof.

Many times in the jungle one is confronted with the reality of the spirit world. I know that in our modern society many do not believe in witches, demons, angels or even God, but this is not the case with the indian cultures. They know good and evil spirits exist and even interact with us mere humans.

The Ye'kwana culture is replete with myths and lores of the spirit world. Some are based on historical events and what their ancestors observed.

There are spirit beings as lowly as wee folk who play annoying pranks hiding things from you or troubling the hunting dogs, all the way up to "Canaima" who is the embodiment of our "Boogey Man". There is the often seen "wiyu". This is a spirit which comes after someone has died and tries to trick another person into accompanying the dead one. They even have a mermaid! And don't forget the terrible" macuchis"! My children even sang a song about the macuchis to tease each other.

macuchis gonna get you if you start to pout!
The macuchis gonna get you if you don't watch out!

Whatever the case may be, I have seen and experienced things that I often do not share as I fear people will think I have lost my mind. I have seen people who were visited by Canaima appear to be in a trance and die a few days later with mysterious bruises and bleeding. I have been touched by a demon possessed person, only to wake up hours later with the print of their hand burned into my flesh. I have awakened at times with a smothering feeling of heaviness only to find my husband awake and experiencing the same. Talk about a cold chill, to wake up at night and feel as if an elephant is sitting on your chest and the night is so black you can not see your own hand, but you know there is a presence there. At times like these, the only relief comes from calling out to God.

After building our house and finally getting a small generator to replace our Coleman lanterns, we learned of an interesting event that had taken place. We learned of it in a most unusual way.

One night, we were both awoken simultaneously by a strange rustling sound which seemed to surround our house. We arose from our hammocks to investigate and found our house to be totally encircled by indians. More importantly, christian indians!

My husband went out side and asked what was going on. Shyly, they explained that they were watching out for us as they had observed "spirits" dancing upon our palm roof. Then they proceeded to tell us of a story that had unfolded several years before our arrival.

The old witch doctor of the village, Manweda, had snorted the hallucinogenic drug which the witch doctors use to enhance their visions, and after several hours of being in a trance, he awakened to tell the village a prophecy.

In his vision, he said he had seen a strange, strong light glowing out of a building upon the small hill which arose at the edge of the village. No one lived there and it was not even cleared yet, but he said he heard a loud noise which came from the house as well as the light.

As is often the case, the villagers discussed what this could mean and had not a clue. Until we showed up and asked if we might build our house upon that very hill. However, we only used Coleman lanterns and had no generator or loud noises coming form our house for several months.

Until that night!

The whole village, unbeknownst to us, had met to discuss if this was the fulfillment of Manweda's vision. As they ventured out to see, the unbelievers were frightened by what they saw around our house.

Spirits dancing on the roof!

The Christians feared for us and bravely decided to confront the spirits on our behalf, knowing we were not knowledgeable or aware of the great danger we were in, due to the nature of the evil demons and the fact that we were so reckless as to have built our house with HUGE windows in every room. Surely, Canaima would come for us one night!

But this night, the christians surrounded our house and joined in prayer to God for our protection. They were amazed that we could all sleep through the night with the demons dancing above our heads. We finally awoke from hearing their muffled prayers on our behalf.

As we spoke to them, we were told of the prophecy the witch doctor had made of our arrival with the lights and loud noise coming from a non-existent house on this exact spot.

Could God use a witch doctor to foretell of our coming? I don't know, but he has used stranger things...such as Balaam's donkey!

Whatever the reason, the people of ChajudaƱa had welcomed us unanimously and the new christians were greatly encouraged that we were not bothered by the spirits. Soon they were opening up their houses with larger windows to allow for better light and air flow, no longer so afraid of the spirits!

No longer were they bound in the darkness and superstition that had enslaved them and caused them to live in unhealthy smoke filled, dark houses cowering in fear.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Influencing Culture

If you are interested in the history of missions and its influence on other cultures, you will find this blog to be very  informative, especially his series of post on Influencing Cultures.

Here is an excerpt on his entry of William Carey:

‘William Carey, was a Christian missionary who established the first newspaper ever printed in any oriental language because Carey believed that ‘Above all forms of truth and faith, Christianity seeks free discussion.’

‘His English language journal, Friend of India, was the force that gave birth to the Social Reform Movement in India in the first half of the nineteenth century.’
 But there is so much more to read! Check it out!
Church History Blog

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Things I See...

Anna, the Siamese, knows strategy and understands the need to take the high ground when the opponent's forces, our Great Dane pup, are larger than your own.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dry Well

 We have had water problems here in our family for over a month now and could really use some rain as our well is dry. I am almost to the point of sending my kids out to try their hand at making a little rain for us.

 A re-post ~

I am not as qualified on this as my children are. My children were making rain long before I was even aware that it was possible to make rain. Silly me, I thought rain was only caused by the climate and certain events out of the control of mere humans. Later, I would find out that even young children can cause a storm!! Yes,and can also stop a storm!

My four children grew up on the banks of the Chajura River in the southern most part of the state of Bolivar in Venezuela. Right in the middle of the Amazon jungle. We say they grew up 'on the banks' of the river, but really, they 'grew up IN the river'.

We used the river for our water supply, it was our bath tub, our laundry, our kitchen sink! Each child would carry buckets of water up to the house several times a day. Even the youngest was given her own small bucket as soon as she was walking. It was a small plastic bucket which originally had chocolate milk powder in it. A Taco bucket. She was very proud of her own bucket!

All of my children swam like fish. Under water, against the current, climbing up slippery muddy banks. Slithering over wet mossy rocks. Climbing trees in search of vines to use to swing out over the river and jump from. This was all fine by me, but, in truth, I never learned to do much more than a glorified doggy paddle. My children felt so sorry for me! Luckily, their father was just as adept in the water as they were. This worked out well for me as I spent many an afternoon in peace as the children entertained themselves in the river.

After a few years living in the jungle, an old lady came up to the house very irate!  We  had a severe storm the night before and had seen the river rise overnight to the highest level anyone alive had ever witnessed. So high, in fact, that a few of the houses closest to the river had actually flooded. This 'nosamo', old grandmother, had awoken in the night to find the water up to the level of her hammock!!! And it was my children's fault!

She came to warn me of the dire events which my children were causing! My sweet innocent, fun loving children were changing the weather patterns. They were causing it to rain! I had mistakenly assumed the Rain Forest was so named due to the inevitable fact that it rained several months out of the year. But it seems, my children were causing it to rain more often and much harder than normal.

I needed to make them stop! I was taken aback, how could I stop my children from making rain????

The old grand mother, having given me the warning, turned and left me standing in awe of thepower and talent of my children! My children could make rain! I did not know how they managed to do this,  but, did they?

A few hours later, four wet, tired children made their way up from the river path, each with a bucket of water, which they emptied into the water barrel beside the house. I asked them,

"Do you know that you made it rain and flood last night?"

They looked sheepishly from one another, and I knew that they DID know how to make rain! And they had done it on purpose!

"So... you know that you are making rain?"

Four small heads nodded in agreement. How could I admit to them that they were so much more advanced than I. They not only knew they had made rain, they knew I did not know beans about it!

I warned them!

"Nosamo came by and said I have to make you all stop causing the rain! She was flooded out of her house last night!"

Four faces looked at me in complete belief.

"Well, what do you have to say for yourselves? You have to stop this rain making business, it bothers the people!"

Four innocent pairs of eyes, looking up at me... aw, shucks! Forget my pride!

" exactly do you make rain?"

Four mouths opened excitedly to share the details! It seems all you have to do to cause rain is to horseplay on the river too much at the wrong places! If you play around  too much, the river goddess gets angry! She will talk to the other spirits and will cause  a lot of rain!

My children knew this from talking  with the other children. But, the favorite rock to climb upon, the best place to play King of the Mountain, was in the wrong place in the river. My children had decided to play anyway. They wanted the indians to know that they were not afraid of any old river goddess!

They had been warned, but had chosen to continue...thus causing rain. Then they had decided that making rain was fun! It was exhilarating to make rain and have everyone know YOU had caused it!

"Besides," they said, "We can always make the rain stop!"

Once again feeling the fool, I had to ask,

"How do you stop the rain?"

Four smug smirks!

"By cutting  the rain with a machete, of course!"

My son grabbed up the ever handy machete and began to slice through the air in a sideways motion. It seems that is how one makes the rain to stop. I had observed the Ye'kwanas doing this so often and had never realized what they were doing! I just thought it was a habit or something to do when bored. Swing a machete to pass the time while riding in a canoe, or working in the garden. I never knew it was to stop the rain.

But my children knew!

To this day, if it is raining hard, I find myself tempted to 'cut the rain'.

This is what happens when you spend too much time in another culture.

A Ye'kwana man cutting the rain to make it stop
in order to continue the soccer match!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Holler

 No words  ever evoke such memories of childhood for me as do these two words. My parents are both from West Virginia and the same holler.  My Dad moved the family out to California before I was born and later the family would relocate in South Carolina and Florida, but the one place where I always felt at home and had an amazing sense of belonging , was in that holler. Every summer we would go back and the country roads would still be there. The grand parents and Aunts and Uncles with the many cousins would all be there, seemingly as if time had stood still in my absence and now the art of real living would begin for me anew after my a long delay.

 Those were the days! Long, hot days full of adventures and games in which a child could delight.   The day would begin with the slow opening of my eyes and the quick dawning of the realization that I was in the holler with my family. I would bolt up into action as no time should be wasted in sleep while in this paradise!

Breakfast would be waiting and it would be eaten under the watchful eyes of one of the aunts. A large plate filled with the fluffiest biscuits, smothered in butter and homemade jam, and lots of milk gravy.  My dad taught us to cut this all up and mix it together into something he called a 'rock pile'. This dish may not have scored high points for presentation, but the flavor was there!

 As soon as humanly possible, we children would scramble, barefooted , out the door.  And now the real day could begin. Cousins were conveniently located close by, all within  walking distance, and all of whom were more than willing to come out to play. Our little gang would grow as we went tramping from house to house until we would gather 10 - 15 cousins. A nice number to play just about any game.

Usually we would run around and climb trees  or do anything which would get us covered in dirt and sweat requiring a trip to the slow moving creek. This creek was a second home to us youngsters. We would start collecting rocks in order to build a dam to trap the water enough to form a swimming hole. We knew if we worked hard enough, one of the uncles would see our efforts and join in to help get the job done. These swimming holes would last us all summer!

Lunch was usually eaten on the run. Someone would run into a house and ask the aunt for a bologna sandwich. Then we would all ask for one and there seemed to be a loaf of white bread and a package of thick, sliced bologna in every kitchen. I do not recall ever being denied this request.

Once our stomachs were contented and we had drunk our fill of the slightly sulfur smelling water, we would be back out the door and off to play. The long afternoons would often be dedicated to our favorite games. Red Rover, Red Rover, Statues and one game which involved calling out 'rotten egg' or 'salt' and 'pepper'. I can't remember the rules of this game which would be supervised by one of the unmarried aunts.

As the sun would slip down behind the ridge of the mountains,  we would slow our play and sit around talking and sharing our childish dreams with one another. Slowly, the air would cool and the sun would disappear into its nightly bed.

 Eventually, we would see, coming slowly down the dirt road, the forms of the uncles. They would be returning from a long day of work in the coal mines. I would be mesmerized by their dark forms. Strong men covered head to toe in the black, coal dust. Their helmets on their heads and their miners lights pushed atop.  Each uncle would have a large metal lunch box swinging on his arm.

As they approached us, we would see that the only part of their faces not blackened by the coal, was around their eyes, creating a mask looking like a negative copy of a giant raccoon.  As tired as they were from working in the dark bowels of the earth, they would play the game we all expected. They would come lumbering towards us  with a wild, bear like growl  and chase us around the yards. This game gave me such a delicious  fear. The  hair on the back of my neck would stand out and a scream of delight would escape my mouth as I ran to hide under the porch.

Once the full darkness had settled upon us, we would run back inside to bring out our collection of old jars. We each had a jar of our own in which we kept a variety of insects. Every night we would collect these critters and fully expected them to live but they almost always died. Oh well, we would catch more. The best thing to catch were the lightning bugs which twinkled around us in the evening. Once we had a jar full, we would begin to be terribly cruel to them, I am afraid to say. We would pinch off the lighted parts and smear the yellow, glowing goop on our arms, wrists and necks to make  jewelry which would shine brightly for awhile. Of course the boy cousins were not interested in jewelry, but they would make grotesque mask of glowing war paint upon their faces. Sometimes we would catch chunky june bugs and, begging a spool of thread, we would tie this onto a leg of the bug allowing it to fly around in circles above our heads without escape.

Eventually, some adult, usually one of the aunts, would call us in for bed. We would all claim that we were not in the least bit sleepy and we had so much more to do. We could usually postpone the inevitable bed time until we were caught yawning and then, we had to go inside. And beside, we would be ravenously hungry by now. Good food was always to be found at the kitchen table of one of the aunts.

Since we were visiting, we had no permanent beds and would end up sleeping on the floor on a cozy pallet made of old quilts. I was always sure I would not sleep at all and would be surprised to find my eyes opening in the morning to the light of day! Where had the night  darkness gone? I had only closed my eyes for a moment!

In those long gone days, many of the houses had no indoor plumbing. This was convenient during the day as we could easily run into any of the out houses without worrying if we were tracking in mud or dirt, something the aunts did not like for us to do, but at night, it was not so convenient.

 Every house had a small, white, enameled pot which was politely referred to as the 'chamber pot' but which we children dubbed the' pee can'. This perhaps explains why I have never been fond of pecan pies as I assumed the ingredients came from the chamber pot. Evey morning one of us would be told to take care of the contents. This involved carrying the nearly full vessel slowly, so as not to have it slosh upon our feet, to the out house where it would be dumped. Then we would take it to the creek for a quick scouring and leave it in a sunny spot as we were told the sun would sterilize it. I loathed this chore.

And then, a new day would begin which would follow the expected routine of the previous day. Lest you think we found this boring, I must tell you that each day was full of its own fun and we could never get our fill of the glorious days of summer in the holler.

As things must be, we all grew up and began our own families and lives.  Although most of my cousins still live in the vicinity of the holler, I would be transplanted to South America where I have lived for the last 27 years. I do not get to go back to the holler as often as I would like and I have  feeling of regret that my own children did not get to spend their summers in this wonderland. They did enjoy some visits and did many of the things I had done as a child and now I wish to take my grand kids to the holler to experience the wonderful thrill of a summer's day in my mountain home.

Even to this day, I know, without a doubt that I could walk up the path to any of the homes of my aunts and uncles or of my cousins who are now adults, and knock on  the door and be accepted. I would be invited in to 'rest a spell' and visit. After the rounds of hugs from young and old alike, the inevitable question would be asked, " Have you eat yet?"

 My answer would be unnecessary for whether I was starving or had just left another table, food would be placed before me. I could almost  be guaranteed  to find a plate of pinto beans and corn bread for starters. And as I ate this I would hear one of my cousins in the kitchen  cooking away. Eventually, newly made food would make its way to the table. Probably  fresh biscuits, fried potatoes, sliced garden fresh tomatoes, and if I was lucky, a side of greens. Then there would be a fried pork chop or two, and maybe a cobbler for desert. If at Aunt Carol Jane's I knew a slice of moist home made yellow cake would be available. She always made them and wrapped each piece in plastic wrap which kept them  deliciously fresh and on hand for days. Little Debbie's  Snack Cakes have nothing on my Aunt Carol Jane!

 And I would be home. The warmth of love and belonging would  be such a sentiment that it  would be almost physical; Just as the comfort  one feels when slipping into a warm tub after a cold outing, the warmth of belonging would creep into my soul and light a fire of love that neither time nor distance could ever quench.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Such a father as this...

An excerpt from the autobiography of Missioanry John Paton.

My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene. For the last half mile or so we walked on together in almost unbroken silence - my father, as was often his custom, carrying hat in hand, while his long flowing yellow hair (then yellow, but in later years white as snow) streamed like a girl’s down his shoulders. His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me; and his tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain! We halted on reaching the appointed parting place; he grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said: “God bless you, my son! Your father’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!”
Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted. I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him - gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I rounded the corner and out of sight in instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for time. Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dike to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dike and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he gazed eagerly in my direction for a while he got down, set his face toward home, and began to return - his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me. I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as he had given me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Real Life Conversation

 Me: I just moved and the Internet Server promised my cable would be installed within 48 hrs.

Server: Yes, we install all the lines within 48 hrs.

Me: But it has been a week already!

Server: We will be sending the technician by to do that today!

Me: Really? Today?

Server: Yes, today!

Me: And what is my name?  I have not told you my name. How do you know they will be here today if you do not know who I am?

Server: I just checked and they said they would definitely be by your house today.

Me: But you do not know who I am! What is my name?

Server: What is your name?

Me: I am the one to whom you are promising to come and install the internet today.

Server: But I need your name!

Me: Exactly! How can you promise to come to my house when you do not know which client I am?

Server: Well, tell my your name, please?

 Repeat the conversation every day for two weeks!
( I find myself humming the tune of  'A little less conversation , a little more action')

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Things I See...

At 3 am I discovered that my kitchen had become a lake.

After two weeks of no water, we suddenly found ourselves with too much water due to a busted pipe!

 Mud pies for dinner?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Checking in...

Stopping by to check in via Jackie's internet.

We have electricity, sorta. 

We have water,sorta.

I can't use my drier or the power goes out. We have water in the sinks and toilets (the toilets all leak) but not the showers. So we are taking bucket showers with very cold water and I discovered today that my coveted heater wont work either. 
The good news is that Clint's flight to Asuncion was canceled due to the volcanic ash from the eruption in Chile, so he is here to share this with me. ( Check the link for some amazing pictures.)

Oh well... it can only get better , right?????