Monday, December 27, 2010

Taming A Water Buffalo?

Do you know how to tame a water buffalo? Next time we see each other, ask me and I will tell you... Yesterday was Sunday and we took it as a day of rest. We slept in a little, hung out at the pool/beach, and then Angela and Lucio, owners of Vivenda Oriente, asked us to come visit their fazenda (farm/ranch). We have been invited before, but we always felt that we had too many people on our Teams, we felt guilty about taking the time off, and, quite honestly, I thought it would be boring. BIG MISTAKE!! We had the best time EVER!!!

Forgive me for going through so much detail, but I hate to leave anything out. OK, the fazenda has been in Lucio's family for 3 generations and he, as well as his 8 brothers and sisters, were all born in the main house. I think it is 3,000 acres (or hectares - could not get this figured out clearly) and it's main production is sugar cane. There are lots of families who live on/work at the farm, so they have their own school (named after Lucio's father) and all their water comes from a natural spring up in the mountains. It is so good and clean you can drink it straight from the tap! They even bottle it and bring it to the hotel for drinking water for the guests.

When we drove up, there was an ostrich at the gate and a large pond covered with small green algae. Lucio pointed out that a bunch of his water buffalo were lounging in the pond and, for the first time, I saw the big black heads and eyes just above the water line. They were like black hippos and as my eyes focused in, there were hundreds of eyes looking back at me. lucio explained there are only 3 places in all of Brazil with large herds of water buffalo - Bahia, the island of Marajo, and his fazenda. He estimates they have over 180 buffalo, which they raise for their milk - buffalo mozzarella anyone? - and the meat. Initially, many Brazilians in the Northeast did not want to eat it, but now it is highly sought after by all the nicer restaurants and grocers. We parked outside the main gate to the ranch house/estancia, where they had 2 huge water buffalo bulls saddled up for all of to ride! They do not move real fast, but I felt like I was sitting on top of a nuclear bomb and praying that it did not detonate. Next, they had a donkey pulled carriage ready to take us around the farm area to see all the pigs, chickens, ducks, alligators - yes, they have alligators in the water buffalo pond!

Finally, we entered the gates to the main home, where Lucio's family has lived over 100 years. It was a beautiful, open-air ranch-style home with big wrap-around porches, wooden shutters, and lots of fruit trees, flowers, and landscaping. I would be excited about planting stuff in Brazil because you can eat most of it. Ginger, mangos, star fruit, caju, oranges, limes/lemons, bread fruit, maracaju, jaca fruit, coconuts, cararnbola, pineapple, bananas, ... You get the idea and that's just the things I know how to spell/what they are. Half the stuff, I have never heard of, but it is all good. We were directed over to a patio, where they had set-up a sugar cane crushing machine that looked like something that had been outlawed in the U.S. by OSHA years ago. They gave us fresh sugar cane to feed into loud electric powered masher, which reduced the stalks to pulp, while extracting all the sugar water from it. After we all had our thrills of feeding sugar cane into this nasty crushing/mashing thing, they took the juice, poured it over ice, added fresh squeezed limes, and we enjoyed homeade lemonade! What a treat! Lucio and Angela were such gracious and proud hosts.

Next, they saddled up 10 horses and took us on an hour horseback ride to the highest point on the property, deep in the jungle, and showed us the "mother tree," which was the biggest tree in the forest. It looked kinda like that funky tree in Avatar that everything was connected to... Upon our return, they had all the children at the fazenda over for a Christmas Party, complete with Papa Noel, presents, candy, and cake! They were all very well mannered, shook our hands, and enjoyed the celebration. After a quick tour of the the house where they make the buffalo cheese, complete with samples, we got in the truck and drove to see their Italian Bees, the spring source of the natural mineral water - high up in the mountainous jungle, and the massive sugar cane factory that was once owned by Lucio's Uncle. When we got back, they had a large table set-up outside with plates of some kind of sugar cane chocolate fudge, bottles of their own honey, and beautiful Danish china cups with fresh coffee. We bragged on their honey so much that they went and got a bottle for each of us. It is rerally good because the bees get all the pollen from the sugar cane, so the honey has a sugar cane/molasses taste, Very nice and all the better because we saw the hives, where it is collected.They also brought out more buffalo mozzarella and showed us how to grill it, cover it in honey, and then wash it down with spring water. Honestly, we felt like visiting dignitaries, being treated to the best of the best. They waited on us hand and foot, but they were so happy to have us their enjoying their home that we could not say "No." We also got to talk about the work in the Fishing Village, our missionaries, and we prayed over Lucio and Angela. We found out that Lucio has been battling cancer for 3 years and he had surgery, but it has come back in both lungs. He takes chemo pills every day and goes to the clinic for IV chemo every 21 days. He seems very healthy, but the chemo has robbed him of feeling in his fingers and feet (common side effect). We were privileged to have them share such intimate details of their lives. This morning when we ate breakfast together for the last time (this year!), we all had tears in our eyes and Lucio promised to call Wilson to start taking english lessons, so we could talk next time without translators. I told him I would work on my Portuguese as well.

What a great day! What a great way to end a hard week! God is so good to allow us to be surrounded with so many beautiful people. Thank you letting us serve on your behalf! This morning I noticed they had dug out all of our past Team pics, Christmas cards, and photos we have given them over the years and it reminded us again of what a privileged group we have served with in Abreu do Una. Tchau and Boi Noite!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Day!!!

Finally, it's here! Yeah for Baby Jesus and yeah for all of us! Can you imagine the hopelessness we would all be living with, if this was as good as it gets? We had no opportunity at eternal life due to our sin nature? There was no grace, no forgiveness, no sin sacrifice, no ressurection, no ascension, and no hope? Thank you Father for loving us so much that you sacrificed Your Only Son, so that we did not have to pay the eternal price for our sins - seperation from You forever! We have all received the free gift of eternal life, if only we would choose to receive it. Have you? On this day, of all days, we pray that you would all come to know and accept our Savior Jesus Christ!
We got up early and got to the FV in time to drag out all the toys, gifts, dolls, coloring books, crayon pkgs, markers, purses, monster trucks, Legos, soccer balls, footballs, basketballs, jewelry, stuffed animals, Barbies, Happy Meal toys, Silly Bandz, Play Doh, jump ropes, flip flops, clothes, and so much more! Cindy and Tallia arranged them so each child could get 3 things and then we had a bag with the Brazilian translation of the Candy Cane story in it, so they could read about Jesus Christ and His story of sacrifice for our sins. Pastor Josue and Kyria had a great program for the kids in the morning with lots of singing, dancing, and prayer. Boyd and Sonya read the Candy Cane story to all of them, while Kyria translated, and Colin snapped photos of the celebration.
The big program was that night and we had more than 100 villagers attend. I believe there were more men at Church than I have ever seen before, which I think was due to our efforts during the week of getting out to meet everyone as we passed out the Church invites. All the men stayed near the back, but we encouraged to sit with their families, which I think is culturally different for them, but they were nice and did it for us. The children had a big musical, which told the entire Christmas story, complete with angels, wise men (Boyd, Douglas, and Emerson), a manger, Joseph, Mary, and a REAL baby Jesus! One thing about the Fishing Village, there is always a new baby around for a manger scene! On a personal note, this baby was born on Dec. 1st, which just happens to be my birthday, which they all knew somehow... I guess Facebook is good for something!
After Church, we treated the congregation to cupcakes, Rice Krispy treats, and Chocolate Puppy Chow (I know it sounds weird, but it is really good!) that Cindy and Sonya made with the village kids on Friday and Saturday. We stood around under the starry night sky, visiting in our broken english/portuguese, and being thankful for our time of fellowship. Afterwards, we had a private time to exchange gifts with the Church staff and our helpers - Breno, Wilson, Emanuell, Valeria, Elias, Eduarda, Orlando, Bruno, Williana, Aurora, Jose, Ismail, Pollyanna, Junior, Geise, Vania, Emanuelle, Danello, and Gigi. So much fun, just sitting around, talking about the night, and celebrating all that God is doing in Abreu do Una. We will all sleep well tonight! Tchau and Boi Noite!