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Nurturing A Community

A Letter from Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell, serving in Brazil

January 2020

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Dear friends and family,

We’re back in the United States for a three months’ Interpretation Assignment (IA). When we left Brazil in mid-December it was 95 degrees; when we arrived here it was 34 degrees. We’re staying at Mission Haven in Decatur, GA until March 31.

When we look around, we think about our lives in Brazil. Here in Decatur, there are many leafless trees, but in the spring oodles of beautiful leaves appear so that we can barely see the street. In our Brazilian town, we do not have many trees and the leaves fall at a different time of the year. Our house is five yards from the sidewalk, so we can hear the morning walkers at 4 AM and throughout the day.

We try to be sensitive to each person we see. In the neighborhood on the edge of town, drugs are easily bought. People don’t leave their homes after dark because of danger from the drug dealers. Gordon started having Holy Communion in the morning after Sunday school and during evening worship, so people who live in that neighborhood, who cannot attend worship in the evening, are still able to participate in Holy Communion.

Dorothy walks in that neighborhood at 5:30 AM and sees friends. An 80-year-old church member, Dona Maria Galio, is updated about the latest news about church members and community folks. Dona Maria likes to pray for others! Four of her grandchildren come to church regularly.

We like to say thank you to people cleaning the streets, the garbage collectors who pick up the trash six days a week, and to others doing things for us. When Gordon sees a need in the town, he speaks to the mayor or city officials to see what he can do for them. Dorothy says “hi” to almost everyone, and now they greet her or begin the greeting.  

The church is well known because there was a school on the church property for 31 years before the mayor closed it. When we were on our last IA, the members of the church overcame their feelings of being unable to help the community. A  new school was opened in the church. The school’s classes were being taught in a rural area but now it can reach out to more students since it is in town. Instructors teach computer classes and help students pass a new college entrance exam. It is free, as are the books and supplies. The church also provides offices for the city school’s counselor and speech pathologist. They have an office so they can see students. The counselor sees an adult and a child or teen first, and then sees the child or teen privately while the adult waits outside.

Gordon serving Holy Communion after Sunday school.

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Dorothy teaches English as a volunteer. There are lessons in the next town, but they are expensive, and it’s expensive to get there. The students vary in ages and learning levels. There is a class for 5-11-year-olds, college students, and a 79-year-old church member.  She also teaches at a special needs learning center to students ranging from 9 59 years old. The center enables their students to live successfully in their communities. People at the center think speaking English is cool. The students feel happy that they can speak and understand a little English. They enjoy greeting Dorothy in English with “Hi, teacher.” They are proud they learned English.

The church members have developed more leadership skills. A new member has become the Superintendent of the Sunday school, leading the opening with prayers, Bible readings and songs. New teachers are teaching the young people and children. An older member of the church teaches the adolescents.

The SUPRE (PW and Men’s group together) also has new leadership and has organized lots of activities. Each month people donate food items or money to the church, so that the church can give food baskets to one or two different families. We celebrate church members ’ birthdays quarterly with a gathering after worship. The congregation celebrates various types of gatherings after church. Sometimes we have snacks, cake or soup, and coffee. Children’s Day is a MAJOR holiday in Brazil!! The adults choose a child’s name, pray for that child for a month and buy the child a present. The children and adolescents enjoy food, activities, and their presents. For Christmas the church draws names, prays for each other, and buys gifts. This Christmas we celebrated with a delicious potluck luncheon and the giving of gifts. It was a special day!

We are in the United States until March 31. Who knows what will happen in our church while we are away? We have challenged them to remain strong in the Lord. The Lord is with us, but the Lord remains with them as well. May the Lord bless each of you throughout 2020.

Dorothy and Gordon Gartrell


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