Camp ended on Friday afternoon, and we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon and evening with the other staff. Sabbath morning we would need to leave at 8:30 for 11:30 services in Maloca de Moscou. We were able to use the bus from Eco Park which was air-conditioned with padded seats, although were it full, it would be much less space per person than I was used to. I enjoyed gazing out the window at the distant mountains and rather empty savanna landscape. Others were limited by the screen printed promotional images of smiling swimming children plastered on the back windows.
We traveled back through the city of Boa Vista and then out over three wooden plank bridges. The last leg of the trip was on a dirt road. The width was surprising but understandable given the wide berth necessary to avoid giant puddles. It seemed we weren’t the first bus to go off road. The wavy photo is a combination of low shutter speed on an inferior camera and a jarring bounce.
I quickly noticed the plants that graced the entrances of the church buildings. I recognized a few common U.S. houseplants among them; here they can survive outside year-round. Some had been bought as Feast of Tabernacles decorations and later planted and tended by the brethren.
The church hall was filled to the brim. The windows have shutters covering a decorative iron grate pattern, but no glass or screens. A few of the benches have backs, but the young people all sat on backless benches. The small children were given no toys in church but simply expected to keep quiet. I may have broken the rules by offering stickers and paper to the child next to me, but she was appreciative and made cute drawings.
Hearing a sermon in translation somehow makes each phrase weigh more. Listeners have double the time to reflect as they wait for the translator to finish speaking. I also found myself considering how the concept applies to these listeners and what may be their reaction, and determining what similar cognates do our languages share. I have only been in a situation where services were conducted in a different language once before, and then (and this time) I felt tremendous unity because of the shared hymn tunes despite the way the words sound.
After services, I was surprised by the intentional greetings of all the members with one another with a handshake and “Happy Sabbath” or “Feliz Sábado.” It’s not acceptable to just slip away immediately after services. The higher than usual church attendance crowded the room, but did not hamper their joy at seeing all of the visitors.
The meal was bountiful, including fresh tropical fruit, cabbage salad, rolls, rice, black beans, farofa flakes, beef and peppers, and seasoned chicken thighs. There was plenty for all, even if there were more people than space at the tables. In the shade of the dining area, we were not too warm and flies weren’t nearly as bad as during the picnics at camp.
It was pleasant to learn some of the older church members spoke English. One lady shared with me the Wapishani words for morning and evening. She came as a teenager from Guiana. Another man explained how he did not speak Portuguese when he came to Brazil at 19 and was given an oxcart and sent into the woods to work at the palm trees. When he came back with a cart full of the lower dry leaves from the palm trees, his employers laughed. He was supposed to chop firewood. He also said there is a current need for English teachers in Brazil (probably hoping to entice me to stay).
At home I protest against our 50 minute drive to church in a comfortable car over good roads. We are disappointed when the heat/air-conditioning doesn’t work well in our meeting hall. My local congregation may be small in numbers, but there are other church areas within an attainable distance. It doesn’t compare to the isolation in Maloca de Moscou, or our subscribers and members in the rest of Brazil. Sharing a Sabbath with these brethren makes me appreciative and aware of the worldwide reach of God’s truth and the blessings we have as members in the United States.