Sometimes Cali says she doesn’t want to live in Brazil because she thinks it’s dangerous. That’s when we remind her of the time we drove past a tornado on the Montana freeway and the time we slept with poisonous spiders in Kansas. Who kept us safe then? God. Who keeps us safe now? God. We try to be smart of course, because God gives us responsibility, but the reality is that most of life is beyond our personal control and safety is from God. And it really doesn’t matter whether we (or you) are here or there; danger changes form from one place to another but the same God has us in His sight in each place.
Crazy bus driver:
Let’s just say that traffic in Manaus is different. Different than it is in the States. Different that it is in the rest of Brazil.
Also using public transportation with 3 kids is different than driving in our own mini-van with 3 carseats and seatbelts for all. But sometimes it’s AFTER you meet your fear that you start to feel safer…
One time we were riding home on the bus with Isaiah on Jevon’s back and both girls with me. Jevon saw our stop coming up and pulled the string for a stop. He wasn’t the only one; a crowd of people started pushing toward the back of the bus. Alot of people were standing because all of the seats were full. I was at the back of the line getting off because Cali and Kiki are a little slow at pushing through crowds. I saw Jevon get off with Isaiah. Just as I reached the top of the stairs, something stopped me. I had already noticed that the bus driver seemed kind of tense and was being really pushy to other traffic, and something in my heart said not to trust him. This was the moment of decision. I had one girl in one hand, the other girl in the other hand, and no free hand to grab onto anything if the bus lurched forward. If I stepped over that yellow line onto the steps toward the open door, and we fell, we would fall onto the street, NOT back into the bus. All this went through my mind in one second. In that one second, I had paused and did not cross that yellow line. In that one second, the bus driver, without looking in his mirror, without thinking about passengers, without closing the door, stepped on the gas.
I stumbled backwards (still on the bus) with the two girls and the whole back of the bus erupted in a yell, “Ei!” glaring indignantly at the back of the driver’s head. He braked. I caught my balance, picked up Kiki and fast as I could got my two daughters of the bus. As our feet hit the pavement Jevon reached for our hands, wide eyed and shaking his head.
But I tell you the truth: I walked away from that bus stop feeling safer than ever. Why? Maybe partly because I had seen the other passengers on the bus speak up on behalf of our safety. That was cool. Up till then I didn’t know how people in this city feel about other people’s safety – caring or indifferent. But mostly because I knew God was with us. God can give us that feeling that says “wait a second; something’s not right here.” God can do whatever He wants. And he kept us and all three kids safe.
Motorcycles in the Wrong Lane:
Another day, I was walking by myself home from language session. I had to cross a certain intersection at a time of day when it is almost always nearly impossible. There is no crosswalk there (which is too bad, because Alfredo says if a motorist hits you in the crosswalk it hurts less than if you weren’t in the crosswalk). And traffic doesn’t wait for each other all nice and polite like. They just keep pushing through and blaring their horns at each other. I had learned to wait and watch while the crossing traffic slowly pushed their noses into the intersection, bumper to bumper, until the oncoming traffic was forced to stop due to the blockade of cars crossing in front of them. At that point I always used their blockade as my moment of opportunity and walked across the street.
It was the same on this day. I crossed the first lane looking left, as one should, toward the coming traffic. The blockade was bumper to bumper and no vehicle was passing through. When I reached the middle line I looked right, as one should, toward the traffic going the other way in that lane. That lane was emptier and of course they would be stopping anyways because of the blockade. Suddenly I heard the roar of motors on my left (where i wasn’t looking) and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I spun my head that way and there 4 or 5 motorcyclists had pushed through the blockade of traffic and were roaring towards me IN THE WRONG lane! To my right a car in the correct lane was coming and to my left 4 or 5 motorcyclists coming in the wrong lane and I was in the middle. Just then the one motorcyclist, who would have hit me first, saw me. All in that same second I leaped backwards onto the middle line, and when I landed on the middle line that first motorcyclist was screeching to a stop in the exact place where I had been standing. I was close enough to his ear that he surely heard my “whooooooaaa” even above the roar of his motor. The bumper to bumper blockade had moved past the intersection so traffic was flowing both directions in both lanes now as well as the 3 or 4 other motorcyclists in the wrong lane buzzing around other cars like they do, and all I could think was “get out of the road, get out of the road, get out of the road”. I stepped quickly around the stopped motorcyclist who was regaining his cool, hopped and dodged and thanked the Lord when my feet landed on the sidewalk-ish-sort-of-thing on the other side.
Safety is from God. When I cross the crazier streets in Manaus I always pray first “God give me wisdom; help me know when is the right moment to cross.” And I’ve already seen that even when people are breaking the rules that we depend on for safety, even when I guess the wrong moment to cross, even when I think I know what I’m doing but it turns out I can’t predict what other people will do…God is in control.
When I first got here to Manaus my stress level usually spiked to an 8 or 9 every time I crossed a street, especially if the kids were with me. After those two incidents, my stress level pretty much stayed level for crossing streets. Let’s be real: people do die in traffic, even the States where everything is usually pretty nice and orderly. Even missionaries who are trying to serve the Lord in another country. But until God decides its time, we are right here and never outside of His sight. Never for a second does He guess wrong or miss something that was going to happen. And I don’t think it’s our time to go yet…somehow I doubt we are getting off the hook that easy. 🙂
Traffic isn’t the only situation where we’ve seen God’s protection in the last few months. Wiring isn’t always super secure here, and neither is anything grounded, so we’ve felt a little nervous about our toddler running around the house finding trouble. But it wasn’t Isaiah actually, it was Jevon, who rubbed his arm up against a bundle of bare wires. He had unplugged something in a hurry and then reached down behind some furniture to grab something, and didn’t notice that when he unplugged it the whole outlet had gently pulled out of the wall and dangled there with all the wires exposed. Coming up from behind the furniture, he rubbed his arm right across it. Nothing happened. Nothing at all.
We said “Thank you, God,” and went on with life.
At Encontro we heard alot of stories from other people of how God had been good to them. By far the most dramatic was that of Vanginho (that’s his nickname but we don’t know his real name because everyone calls him that) and Paloma, who live and work at PQQ right now. They get back and forth from PQQ and the city by speedboat. One night Vanginho was coming home from Manaus with two of his three little boys – Jonatas and Davi. It was already dark and was pouring down rain, and the boat was overloaded. Thank God the kids had lifejackets on; not everyone always uses lifejackets here where river travel is such a part of life. But this time the kids had lifejackets on.
Well the overloaded boat flipped. Vanginho grabbed his two boys in the water but they were panicked – climbing up on his shoulders and pushing him under along with them. The river was very cold and so was the rain. At this moment Vanginho thought of his wife and said “she won’t lose all three of us in one night.” what could he do? He couldn’t swim to shore with both boys clambering on him. So he decided to save at least one of them. He threw his chubbier one a little ways away (in his lifevest), but he right away went underwater right in front of Vanginho’s eyes, and Davi started screaming “Daddy where’s Jonatas?” His mind was completely at war because he couldn’t save both sons but he couldn’t watch his one son sink either. So he thought “I don’t want Paloma to lose us all three at once but I am going to get my son.” He dove underwater and pulled up Jonatas. And told God, “I’m ready to die here with my two sons if it is time to die.”
“Is it time God?”
“no, it isn’t time yet.”
“Is it time now, God?”
“no, not yet.”
Suddenly he saw a closed suitcase floating in the current. He put the boys on top of the suitcase and was able to get them to shore. One of the boy’s lungs had alot of water in them, but in the end they were both okay. And when Vanginho knelt on the ground crying and thaking God, Jonatas was saying “it’s okay, Daddy, it’s all okay.”
They thanked God for that suitcase in the water. By the way this whole story is translated and some details might be missing because I miss parts of stories in Portuguese still. But I understood perfectly well at Encontro when Vanginho told us all “no matter where you are, out there alone in the jungle way interior, or wherever, you are never out of God’s sight. Never out of his sight.”
Safety is from God.
I don’t tell these stories for the sake of drama but because people have often asked us about the safety issues. And I want to give glory to the God who has all of us in His sight and Who is the Blessed Controller of all things.