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Maria’s Long Walk With the Lord

A letter from Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell serving in Brazil

August 2016

Write to Gordon Gartrell
Write to Dorothy Gartrell

Individuals: Give online to E200489 for Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D506355 for Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).

Dear churches, friends and family,

We want you to meet one of our church friends, Maria Galio. She is a joyful senior citizen, always having a smile on her face and laughing a lot. She is often waiting in front of the church when we arrive for Sunday School, although she lives further away than others. She can no longer walk to church, but one of her sons is a taxi driver and brings her, knowing someone will take her home. She usually has a grandchild or two with her, although her oldest grandson rides his bike.

Maria has had a long and interesting walk with the Lord. As a child she lived with her grandparents; she never knew her father and her mom couldn’t raise her. She often did not know where her next meal would come from. She helped her grandparents in the field, but when she was 11 years old they sent her to live with a Presbyterian family. She worked in their house and was exposed to the Christian life. They had devotions at the lunch meal table and worshiped with some hymn singing and Bible reading in the evening. They walked to Sunday School Sunday mornings and worship in the evening and often had services in others’ homes Sunday afternoon. Walking long distances with other families, joining them along the way, was customary. They gathered in homes on Tuesday evenings for a worship service and attended a service at the church on Thursday evenings. She memorized Bible verses and heard Bible stories, and accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior as a teenager. When she was 18 she began studying at night, learning to read and do some simple math.

When Maria got married, she was given a couple of chickens and a pig. She sold eggs and raised and sold pigs. With that money she was able to buy construction supplies, and in time she built a house near her grandparents’ house on the edge of the Presbyterian family’s farm. Her husband worked for them while Maria gardened and raised their eight children, three girls and five boys. They ate lots of plants from the field and fruit that was in season. Later she helped her husband bake mud bricks in the sunshine, selling them to buy food and clothing. After that she worked in a factory.

One of Maria’s daughters told us about walking to Sunday School without having breakfast. They would stop at a church friend’s house along the way and have coffee and bread. Then she and her siblings would play with their children before walking together to church. She and her brothers and sisters walked over a mile and a half to school, but were blessed to be able to study. Her parents, with the help of others, provided the children with a few basic clothes and school supplies. They had a happy life, never realizing “what they were missing.”

Through the difficult financial years Maria Galio’s faith strengthened her, enabling her to live contently and joyfully. Today she slowly reads the Bible and the hymnbook. She feels the Lord has blessed her, enabling her to live out Nehemiah 8:10b: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Today Maria has ten grandchildren, one of them attending Sunday School regularly and four others participating often. Unfortunately, her children drifted away from the church in their early adult years.

Maria Galio talked about, in the last few years, walking to church with a friend who lived nearby. She walked until her health declined and her neighborhood become too dangerous. Four of her grandchildren are studying English with Dorothy.

This semester Dorothy is teaching four English classes to a variety of students. One is a beginning class for early-elementary-age children; another class is level II for older elementary students who have previously taken the beginning course. She teaches a level II adult class to a 75-year-old elder and her daughter-in-law. The fourth class is a new class for teenagers. Two girls came to one her classes for elementary-age children. Dorothy told them that the class was for smaller children, but if they could find five or six more teens who wanted to study, she would give them a class on their level. Surprisingly, two days later they returned with a number of friends, so Dorothy is teaching them. The teens are fun students. They are anxious to learn correct English and willing to practice orally.

In mid-May through mid-June, Gordon and Dorothy went to the United States for their son, Daniel’s, graduation from the Naval Academy. Friends and family joined them for a week of fun activities, helping them learn about the things Daniel had been doing over the last four years and meeting his new friends. While there they were able to see many friends and family, some of them they hadn’t seen in years. They spent more time with Daniel than they had in the last four years and celebrated Gordon’s birthday and Father’s Day while there.

Before we left Brazil Gordon reminded the church folks that the church was not his, but God’s, and things could continue while we were gone. Joyfully, pastors and church leaders from other towns led the Sunday services most Sundays. The people from the congregation lead services other Sundays, the Bible studies, and prayer meetings.

On October 2 Brazil will have local elections for mayors, vice mayors and city councils. For the first time in many years the time for campaigning has been shortened to 45 days. The son of one of our members is running for vice mayor. Pastors in some of the small churches actually tell the members for whom they should vote. In good Presbyterian style, Gordon tells the church members to pray and vote their conscience, choose the city council members who will have at heart the best for the whole community. There are 11 seats on the city council. Each person can vote for only one candidate, even though there are close to 70 people vying for those 11 seats. As always, it is an interesting election.

Thank you for your interest in and support of our work. We are grateful for your interest, prayers and financial support. Churches and individuals, please pray about giving a gift, beginning to regularly support us, or increasing your support.

In Christ,

Gordon and Dorothy Gartrell

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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