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Friendships are Forever

A Letter from Dorothy and Gordon Gartrell, serving in Brazil

June 2020

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Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, For God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:8

Dear Friends,

Our Brazilian congregation has begun showing worship on Facebook. We sent them a short message for it, too. The people in our city, Governador Mangabeira, are quarantined. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. has restricted international travel until January 2021.

We were scheduled to return to Brazil on March 31. The Coronavirus changed everything. PC(USA) personnel were asked to return to the United States to wait out the pandemic. We thought it would be for just a few months. But now, travel restrictions are in place until January.

We are learning new ways of ministering to our church members in Brazil. Pastoral concerns continue. While we have been away from the field, a long-time member of the church has died. The church has suffered other losses as well. The family of one of our members has lost three loved ones: a brother in Salvador, a brother-in-law in Brazil, and a son. This young man was a healthy, outdoors person, yet less than a week after he contracted the virus, he died. That is quite an emotional overload on the family and friends.

The first case of the Coronavirus in our town was one of our church members who had traveled to São Paulo. She was diagnosed with the virus upon her return. She rigorously quarantined with her husband in their small house. She stayed in her room and only left when she went to the bathroom and wore a mask. She has been completely restored. Thanks be to God! Her husband did not get the virus, even though he was quarantined with her.

As we think about missions, we think about the many special people we know from Brazil. Gordon was born there, so he remembers many childhood friends. When we went as a family, he saw many friends again. One day he was in a large grocery store at a check-out register. A young fellow came to speak to him from a couple of lanes over. Gordon thought that he just wanted to practice his English. He had looked at Gordon and saw Gartrell characteristics. It turned out they knew each other’s families from the 1960s.

Gordon went as a Volunteer in Missions to the TransAmazon Highway from 1978-79. Gordon and Dorothy were in Campinas, in São Paulo State, studying Portuguese in 1990 when we first went to Brazil as a family. Gordon was driving a Toyota pickup truck, which we needed for our assignment. On the car’s door, he had painted the “Praying Hands” and the words IGREJA PRESBITERIANA (Presbyterian Church). He was near the seminary, buying soft drinks. A man entered the store and looked him up and down. Gordon was beginning to feel uncomfortable. He started talking to Gordon, calling him by name “Pastor David.” He was one of the church members from Altamira, Paráguay.; 1,700 miles away from where they were meeting. Gordon had not seen him in nearly 12 years, yet he recognized Gordon.

Recently while we were in the U.S.A, a Brazilian pastor friend wanted Gordon to meet a Brazilian pastor who is also working in the States. When the pastor’s friend said he was from Goianesia, Goias Brazil, Gordon remembered that his parents had pastored a church in Goianesia. This pastor had been a member of the church’s youth group. The man gave Gordon a big Brazilian abraço(hug). Gordon had not known him but remembered his uncle very well who had a small store in town and was an elder in the church.

When speaking in Western Kentucky in early 2020, we visited Central City, KY, where we had lived from 1986-1990. John, an elder in the church, still owns a lumber company and auto parts store. The photo on his bulletin board is of our son John, who was then three years old, sitting on the elder’s large motorcycle. Just as the picture has been there for 30 years, friendships continue indefinitely.

We have served in seven different cities in Brazil and still have good friends from five of those cities and communicate often with them. It’s amazing how our friendships have grown and continued, as has our relationship with the Lord. We’ve been blessed to see how peoples’ relationships with the Lord have continued, and many of them continue growing by leaps and bounds in their faith.

Thank you for your prayers about us and our ministry. Our memories and ability to pray for others have helped us endure this difficult time.t We also thank you for your prayers and gifts that support our work. It’s uplifting to see how your gifts have enabled us to enrich many lives.

In Christ,

Dorothy and Gordon

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