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A letter from Josh and Kim Vis in Brazil

August 2011

Praça dos Meninos, one of the two parks close to our apartment where Mahalia meets “new friends” every time we go.

Praça dos Meninos, one of the two parks close to our apartment where Mahalia meets “new friends” every time we go.

We have been in Brazil now for two months. We have enjoyed the adjustment period thus far and are particularly grateful for the friends we have met here. We live in Rudge Ramos, a neighborhood located between São Paulo and São Bernardo do Campo. Very few people speak or understand English in Rudge Ramos. Even so, we are able to navigate daily life through the use of pocket dictionaries and our limited, but growing, Portuguese vocabulary. Mahalia is adapting wonderfully. We are so proud of her ability to adjust and thrive in an environment that she does not yet understand. She is loved everywhere we go: the parks, the store, the market, church, her school, the street. Inevitably, someone along our daily path says kind words to Mahalia, gives her a treat or greets her with hugs and kisses. We have come to appreciate the kindness of people here, especially in their interactions with Mahalia. We are learning that, more than anything else, kindness transcends language—an important lesson for us to learn and to teach Mahalia.

Below are some first impressions of our time thus far in Brazil.

June 13, 2011 (written by Josh)

I wasn’t there for the initial meet, so I can’t say how it went down. It must have been instigated by some unspoken connection because no common words were shared by these two. I suppose it is always an unspoken connection that is the impetus for these kinds of encounters. The eyes meet or the hands touch. For some reason, these two gravitated to each other and they kept at it even through the awkward moments. Jasmine is 6 and Mahalia is 3. Jasmine speaks Portuguese and Mahalia speaks English. Still, they held hands and climbed ladders. They rode a wooden dog and then a wooden horse. Every once and a while they would stop and look sheepishly at one another, unsure how to proceed. Fiddling with their hands and shuffling their feet, eventually one would take the lead and they would be off. Even without exchanging words, they knew that they could not communicate in that way. It was very sweet to watch, but also a little heartbreaking. They wanted to be friends, to share a little of themselves with each other, but for now, they would only share a few moments of play.

Josh & Mahalia on the walk to school (about ½ mile)

Josh & Mahalia on the walk to school (about ½ mile)

June 17, 2011 (written by Josh)

We are in the Mercado Municipal, looking for a power strip, scissors and a night-light. We don’t know how to say any of these things in Portuguese, but we have our dictionaries and some gumption. We find a power strip, but it has a ground component and our outlets do not. Through stilted Portuguese, we understand that we can find an adapter, so we buy it (and a pair of scissors) and move on. At another shop, quite literally a mom and pop shop with a very kind-looking (especially pop) mom and pop, we find a power strip without the ground component and thus Kim goes back and returns the other strip. This mom and pop love Mahalia, as any mom and pop would. They speak no English, but because of Mahalia we’ve come to understand the phrase, “Que linda (How cute)!” They ask her name and after saying it a few times, they have it. Two nights later we return to the Mercado Municipal and to the mom and pop shop. When they see Mahalia, they light up and they remember. “Mahalia,” they both say. “Como voce vai? (How are you?)” They remember her name and it touches our hearts.

June 20 (written by Josh)

We have just arrived at the airport. We have collected our nine bags without incident and have gone through Customs without incident. We are greeted with a small sign that says Joshua Vis, and it is held by a very kind-looking (anyone with a smile and a willingness to help you looks kind when you are a foreigner) student. He is Carlos and we are glad to see him. Before you leave the States, you have only the promise of a guide from the airport to your new home, which you have never seen. It was reassuring to see the promise met. Carlos’ English is great, even as he apologizes for it many times. We are in the bus now, and we are rather exhausted. We watch out the window at what is clearly an overcrowded city with some very serious poverty. We get nervous about our new home. Even in spite of ourselves, we are hoping we will not be living in conditions like these. As it turns out, we are not. We are dropped off, with Carlos (our savior), at a small, nice-looking apartment in a very quaint-looking neighborhood. Carlos takes us inside and we are relieved. The apartment is small, but clean and furnished nicely. We will be happy here for the first few months.

Kim & Mahalia, downtown São Paulo.

Kim & Mahalia, downtown São Paulo.

Fast forward two months, and we are indeed happy and constantly tired. Carlos, and his wife, Maryuri, have become dear friends to us. It feels like we could never repay them for the kindness they have shown us. Carlos was in the midst of finishing his master’s thesis when we arrived and yet he was always made time for us. He never let us down. I cannot explain the debt of gratitude you feel toward someone like Carlos when you are trying to navigate your new little world. God bless you, Carlos.

Since these initial writings we have established a blog where we have shared our thoughts and experiences here in Brazil, along with some pictures to help capture our new life here. Get more frequent updates about our experiences in Brazil. Thank you for your support, prayers and well wishes. We feel very blessed to have made this transition as smoothly as possible and are looking forward to becoming part of the community here in Rudge Ramos.


Josh, Kim & Mahalia Vis

The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, Brazil, pages 304 and 306

Write to Josh Vis
Write to Kim Vis


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