A letter from Dorothy Gartrell serving in Brazil
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Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Philippians 4:4
I want to share with you some of the things we are rejoicing about in our work.
Mother’s Day is a special holiday in Brazil. It is celebrated in churches, schools, the community and in homes. It transcends all social classes, from the poor to the wealthy. It is a day to recognize the values of being a mother. Some mothers receive elaborate gifts, while others receive hugs and kisses from their children in appreciation for all their mothers do for them.
A group of disadvantaged children come weekly to Sunday School from a neighborhood on the edge of town. Their mothers are happy to send their children, for they are thankful that in church the children are being taught to be kind, to obey their parents and teachers and to know the Lord as their Savior. However, because these mothers think that our church is only for the children, ordinarily they do not attend. In honor of Mother’s Day, they received a special written invitation to come to a Sunday morning program with their children—we wanted them to know that they are welcome at our church. We were pleased that some of them accepted the invitation. There were also several adult children in attendance who were in town visiting their parents, so it truly was a festive Sunday morning.
Children recited poems for their mothers and sang some songs. Their mothers were also presented with a gift made by the Adult Ministry Group, a clothespin-holder apron that they can use to hang clothes on the clothesline. This is a useful gift, since folks in our part of Brazil do not have electric clothes dryers. As no program is complete without refreshments, cake and pastries were provided by the church’s Adult Ministry Group.
Another thing we are rejoicing about is the rain that our area has had in April and May. Our region has been very dry, causing the failure of the orange crop. The trees were beginning to die, as well. As a result of the recent rain, the trees are producing another harvest of oranges. Corn and peanuts are growing, too, which will be used in festivities in May and June.
In late March, the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil held a wonderful weekend retreat in the state of Sao Paulo on the topic of depression and self-care for pastors led by a program in Brazil for pastoral care. We were fortunate to attend. It helped us deepen our walk with the Lord and see what we can and must do to strengthen our religious knowledge and take care of our physical and emotional needs so that we can feel good about ourselves and work better. Unfortunately, this came too late for one pastor who took his own life because of depression. We discussed how we can share what we learned here with pastors who were not able to attend. Other courses are offered by the same group that led our retreat; they encouraged us to participate in these courses. The Presbyterian Church (USA)—and your gifts—provided the necessary funds to make this retreat possible.
In less positive news, in January, I had a grand mal seizure that lasted about twenty minutes and left me totally incapacitated. This was unlike my usual petit mal seizures that last less than a minute. Gordon had to rush me to the local emergency room, which is poorly equipped to deal with such emergencies. I was given two injections to stop the seizures and slept for the next 2 ½ days. My regular neurologist was not happy with the treatment I received here in town, and he said that if I had another one like that here it would be fatal. Upon his recommendation, after the pastor’s retreat in Sao Paulo we checked out the possibility of having brain surgery to stop the seizures completely. We went to an excellent teaching hospital in Ribeirao Preto, three hours north of where we had the retreat. After a series of exams, it was determined that I was indeed a good candidate for the surgery, and health insurance agreed to pay for it. The surgeon, who has over thirty years of experience, said it would be an easy operation for him, and in a surgery that lasted over five hours, he removed the spot on the brain that has been causing these epileptic seizures since I was nine years old. Because I have been taking medication for seizure control for 45 years, I must continue for another year or so to avoid withdrawal symptoms. I am rejoicing that the seizures are gone.
I want to thank you for your support of our work. One of the benefits we have is good medical insurance that takes care of my epilepsy medicine and Gordon’s diabetes medicine. It is wonderful to be able to receive great medical care in Salvador, a city a couple of hours away.
We will be in the United States December 2017-May 2018 on our interpretation assignment. We are excited about the opportunity to share our work in Brazil and want to connect with you. Please contact us through email to set a date for us to come speak at your church or to a group from your church. You may find our e-mail address in the gray box at the end of the letter.
Thank you for your prayers in support of our work. They have made a big difference. Please think about giving a financial gift, either as a one-time gift, or on a monthly basis. If you know people who are looking to invest in the Lord’s work, please tell them about us. Anyone interested in supporting our work financially can contact us or visit our PC(USA) website and press the green box that asks if you are interested in supporting our ministry. Thank you again for your prayers and support.
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