Fruit-Market-in-Rocinha-FavelaSTREET MARKET: “ I DID NOT BARGAIN FOR THIS!”
Belo Horizonte, MG Brazil    October 1967

The people in the street market set up their booths early in the morning as the sun is coming over the horizon.  This market is about two blocks long; the booths set up on both sides of a main street near the airport. I walk from our house carrying three large sacolas (bags) down a hill on a dirt trail about two blocks long, then half a block on a brick-paved street where women are outside of their walled houses, sweeping the side walk.

I have my list in my hands, the translated names for the fruit and vegetables are on the paper so if the people working in the booths don’t understand my accent, I can show them the names of what I want.
I’ve carefully calculated  that ½ kilo = 1.1 lb.,  1 kilo = 2.2 lb., 250 gramas = ½ lb. and I’m ready to watch the balance scales closely as someone rapidly throws the proper balance weight into one side of the scale and then piles the fruits or vegetables on the other side to balance it out.

My written list of words comes in handy for I’m not yet succeeding in saying well words like pera (pear), goiabada (guava), mamão (papaya),  cenoura (carrot),  alface  (lettuce) … and oh! So many more!

One of the street urchins who earns money by carrying people’s sacolas comes up to see if I want his help.  Three bags = 3 boys.  The haggling of who are the 3 is completed: I give a sacola to each one, and turn back to my shopping.

About five minutes later, I hear kids behind me, laughing.  I turn to see what they are laughing at and, to my dismay, I discover they are laughing at me!   I return to my shopping, trying to ignore the laughter.
But it becomes too much to ignore, so I turn to look again.  Now, it isn’t just the three boys, but there are about 8 boys following me; every time I say something to someone in a booth they start laughing, some of them even falling down and rolling on the ground – laughing at the way I am talking.

I am chagrined!  I don’t dare let them know how much they are upsetting me, so I turn, finish my bargaining and put the rest of the fruits and vegetables in the bags, and head for home.  As I walk, I pray that this whole gang will not follow me all the way home.  Thank God, they didn’t!  The lure of making some money carrying sacolas for others walking in the market was stronger than being able to laugh at this strange lady and her barbaric murder of the Portuguese language.

As I walk back up the hill to our house in the mid-morning heat, those sacolas are heavy for those kids carrying them, but I feel no mercy.  I’m still steaming!

We arrive at my home, I pay them for their help; they thank me and turn, giggling and run back down the dirt path.

I carry the bags, heavy with those strange named fruits and vegetables, into the house; then I slam the door – HARD!

My family looks up, startled.  “Mom, what’s the matter?”

My voice almost cracks as I answer heatedly, between tears and laughter: “It’s one thing to have adults smile huge smiles when they hear me speak, but I DID NOT BARGAIN FOR THIS – TO HAVE THESE LITTLE STREET KIDS ROLL ON THE GROUND LAUGHING, EVERY TIME I OPEN MY MOUTH TO SAY SOMETHING!”

I want to go into the bedroom and have a good cry!  Instead, I head up the stairs to the kitchen – to get cold water, cool off, and tackle the extra prep cleaning necessary to use what I’d brought home.

As I work, I have a very detailed conversation with God about the whole situation! I gradually calm down.  Yes, my pride was hurt – but I also had to smile a littleThose kids definitely had had a good time . . . and I don’t think they have many opportunities for fun – even if it was at my expense.  But, oh! Dear Lord, is it going to happen again at the next street market?  HELP!”

 -Children-of-Belo-Horizonte,-Brazil.-12617 (1)


I wonder:  how many times have you gotten things you didn’t bargain for?
That aren’t supposed to be part of your life?
Have you been laughed at?  Made to feel foolish?
The thing I have to keep asking myself:
“Is my self-esteem based upon what others think of me? Or upon the fact that God calls me His child and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, calls me His friend?”  And the ever present reality that I am loved by Him!    Thank You, Father and Lord!

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me.
He delivered me from all my fears.”
Psalms 34:4 NIV


– Voni

The Day the Water Ran the Wrong Way

Argentina Maru freighter-passengerAugust 1967   We are on the Argentina Maru, a Japanese freighter/ passenger ship,  moving from the USA to Brazil. The forward deck is full of celbrants as we near the line of the equator.

It is a beautiful day, blue sky, blue sea; our ship is somewhere out in the Atlantic Ocean… I have no idea where and thankful the captain and crew know.
The words blare out over the loudspeaker:  “We have just crossed the equator” and the passengers go wild. I rush to our cabin. I don’t want to miss what is happening on deck, but I HAVE TO KNOW.
I run into our cabin, to the sink and turn on the water, watching it gurgle down the drain.  IT’S REALLY TRUE!  We have crossed the invisible line of the equator, and the water is now going counter-to the way it was going earlier!
I look at it in wonder.
Curiosity satisfied, I turn off the water, and hurry to the upper deck where the party is going on. Lots of good food, sunshine, a breeze from the ship’s movement – and the crew knows how  to prepare and serve shrimp in different and delicious manners.  Crossing the equator is an EVENT to be celebratedglobe n & s america
It was a full day.
Only that evening, the two youngest children, my husband and I, all in our bunks: in the quiet as I lie looking at the dark am I able to spend time thinking of the water going down the drain.
I talk to Him about it.
Father, thank You for this day I will never forget.  I, a farmer’s daughter, am on a ship that crossed the equator!
At times this all seems as a dream, even though I am awake.  
I wonder what the future holds.  
Please, Lord, keep us in the hollow of Your hands, protect us, guide us.
May I hang onto Your hand at all times.”
As I drift off to sleep, I feel the vibration of the ship going through the waves, can make out the shadow of the curtains swaying over the port hole,hear my family breathing, the faint tinkling of items vibrating, and am musing . .
There is no doubt that we have  northern and southern hemispheres.  How did God draw a line around the center of the whirling earth ?  and why?
How can the ship’s crew know when we cross that line?  It isn’t obvious without navigational instruments. Yet, even though hurricanes do not have navigational  tools they do not cross that line!
What power and intelligence to put this universe together!  The mathematical genius of creation!!? Incredible!
And the Creator of ALL of this, calls me His child and loves me?  and loves each one, in the same way!
I am in awe!
– Voni  


November 1967 Is this Home ?

Voni’s ViewBH years ago I think

The morning sun is shining in a brilliant blue sky. I stand at the window, gazing at the skyline of mountains  that surround and cradle Belo Horizonte, Brazil: our new city of about 2 million.  These mountains thrust up against the skyline: no snow, more rounded than jagged.
I muse:  “Back home, these mountains would be called high hills, but here they are called mountains.  What if there were mountains high enough to have snow on them, like back home?  Now that would be something!.”  It’s obvious that I’m missing “home.”
Behind me is a good sized bedroom where my three girls sleep: ages 14, 12 and 5.  The two boys (15 and 3) have a bedroom down the hall.  Mosquito netting covers the two bunk beds and a smaller bed.  That netting was a challenge to put up properly so it would protect without falling down!  Live and learn . . . and a lot of learning is going on!
We are here!, I keep telling myself.  Five years of hard work and preparation, about a month on the Japanese passenger/freighter ship, time in São Paulo for some classes – that was interesting, the trip to Belo Horizonte, time in a hotel while looking for a place to live, then moving in, receiving the items we’d shipped, getting simple furniture for the house – like beds to sleep in (always nice!), a simple stove to cook on and a small refrigerator, etc.
moving boxes w globe
For the first time in almost two months, our group of around 40 is not together, as each family scatters out to their own homes.  Everyone else settled more in the center of the city.  We are in the suburbs about 20 minutes out by car.  Because we don’t yet have a car, the bus is our mode of transportation.  . . which is another adventure.
All the people around us speak Portuguese and stare at us as we speak English. I must remember to enter the door in the back of the bus, exiting out of the front.  No phone – that will cost US $1000 to get.  For now, we walk down a dirt street to a neighbor’s house to use their phone. Their kitchen is the gathering point for the neighborhood, for they own the only phone in close proximity.  Whenever I go there, I carry some change to pay for the call, and plan on spending at least 30 minutes to drink a cup of cafezinho (little coffee) and practice my halting Portuguese.  This is the gossip center for the neighborhood:  I’m sure they always have comments to say about this americana after I leave.
 One great service they provide:  if one of us is in town and can’t get home as planned, that person can phone our neighbor (might have to wait for the line to not be busy), and they will send one of their children to tell me.  (One time this happened that stands out in my mind: our oldest son was downtown to teach an English class,  On the 10th floor that overlooked the main avenue of the city he had a wonderful grandstand view from which to watch the ebb and flow of police using tear gas to break up a large demonstration against the government.   Obviously, our son got home late that night, and this mom was praying!)
Our kitchen has only cold water to wash the dishes (sponge with detergent, rinse in cold water.)  I wonder about the germs – and pray.  We put the water which comes from our well into a tall baked clay water filter. A couple of months later I discover that our well water is contaminated, and have to start boiling for 20 minutes all water we drink.
I look down from the second floor window where I stand, and see a concrete back yard, a pump house to get the water from our well, and a lovely pool, totally empty of water.  Not enough water to fill it.
I take another glance again at the hills, remembering the verses: I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalms 121:1
“Well, Lord, they aren’t mountains, but they are hills.. and I can look at them and talk to You.  THANK YOU!?”
One of my children calls for me with an urgency in his voice.  I turn away from the window, my time of quiet introspection ended.
I pray as I walk rapidly to the excited voices I’m hearing.  “OK God, we’re here because You brought us here.  Pleease help me and all of us. And I’m thankful for these “mountains” to remind me of You!
 It’s interesting to me that this day almost 50 years ago still remains sharp in my mind – 
I have a treasure chest full of special memories of times and places where talking with Him, helped me through the day – or days.
He is the closest relationship that I have.
Tell me, do you talk to God as you walk through your day?  
Do you have treasure troves in your heart: places where – when you think of them – you remember some of your conversations with God?  These places and times can enrich our lives ever after.


Belo Horizonte has grown since we moved there in 1967. It is now a city of about 5 million in the greater metropolitan area.  I lived there for 20 years, and it still feels like home.  The city has now grown over and outside the mountains that encircle it.



barn bTen years old: she stands on a humongous pile of freshly cut hay piled high in the hayloft, at one end of the barn.

The small girl looks across a space to see another humongous pile of hay at the other end of the barn.  In her hand she is tightly grasping a rope that is linked to a pulley high above her head.  The pulley is on a metal track that runs the whole length of the barn, from one end of it to the other.  She and two or three other children confer on the best way to hold the rope (It’s a little difficult to see them, for the barn’s light filters in through some of the few windows plus an area high at one end of the barn.)  But the voices ring clearly, through the streaks of sunshine filled with dust motes that fall in a varied pattern on the hay.

“Be careful.”  “Hang onto the rope tight!” “Keep your eyes open so you’ll know when to let go before you hit the wall at the other end.” “Don’t jump too soon. You want to be sure and land in the hay over there.”  “Swing hard as you take off so the pulley will go clear to the other end.  You don’t want to let go where there is only a little hay below you!”

The excitement is building as the girl hesitates – then she takes a deep breath, clasps the rope tightly, tries to move through the loosely piled hay, then jumps!

Swinging on the rope that is stretched tight from her weight and that follows the pulley high above her, she whizzes through the air (what a strange and delightful feeling!) sees the other pile of hay coming into her line of vision below, and lets go of the rope to fall, tumbling into the fresh sweet-smelling hay below her; well before she hits that other wall.

She scrambles to the top of the pile of hay, smiling and proud, as the other children erupt in yells of victory.  She did it!!!!  What fun!  Then awaits her turn to repeat the journey of swinging                  back to the other pile of hay.  She learned she can trust that rope and pulley – and is ready for more.

I was that small girl, along with my brother and some children from the neighboring farms.  This was a game we played every year after the hay was brought in from the fields, and put into the barn. (Which is why that rope and pulley were there in the first place.) We would play it occasionally on Saturdays until it got too cold or until the level of the hay lowered too much from feeding the cattle, and the jump became too dangerous and our parents said: “No more!”  We were almost relieved that they put up the barriers to our playing “the game”, for we’d begun to feel the hard thumps of falling into less hay.

Were we foolish for playing that game in the hay?

We’d watched that rope and pulley being used to lift heavy burdens of hay out of the horse drawn wagons – and later years tractor pulled wagons – then observed it pulled up into the barn and dropped into the haylofts.  We understood (without understanding fully) the mechanics of the rope and pulley and the metal track it rolled on.  We could trust it.  And if we followed the rules, we were okay.  Disobey those rules, and we’d be hurt.

open Bible s

Is this somewhat like our walk with Christ our Lord?  We’ve read His promises in the the Bible..  We watch others walking and trusting Him, and how God uses them.  We decid we’ll take the risk of trusting Him, and discover that it is a strange and delightful feeling to step out into the unknown with Him.

To obey Him takes TRUST.
He tells us to forgive (when we don’t want to) and we have to trust Him enough to obey.
We discover the freedom of stepping out from under the bondage of unforgiveness. This startles us as it liberates us, and we gain more courage to trust Him.  We learn more about love . . .
He also places limits, giving us boundaries to not cross: to protect us from hurting  ourselves or others.  We learn through experience that His boundaries are valid.

We’ve all learned that even those we love fail us.  But WE CAN ALWAYS TRUST HIM

Sometimes we misjudge and  hit a barn wall and get bruised, or jump and land in shallow hay.
Or we are surprised and hurt by attacks against us; betrayal, lies.
But we have a Hand to hold that is stronger than a rope, and God tells us:                                   


                                If the Lord delights in a man’s way,
                                He makes his steps firm;
                               though he stumble, he will not fall
                              Psalms 37:23   NIV
                                                  for the Lord upholds him with His hand.

 Jesus walking with small child

It is incredible to me how we are loved in this “hayloft” that we call life!

The mystery of the Trinity: God (our Father),  Jesus Christ (our Lord), and His Holy Spirit (our Counselor and Teacher), is Who picks us up each time, dusts us off, puts us on our feet again, then holds our right hands,

swinging us across empty spaces,
watching over us as He walks with us,
rejoicing with us over our victories,

holding us when we weep.                              

9 I took you from the ends of the earth,
From its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isa 41:9-10      NIV

  I have found Someone in whom I can trust – always.
     I want you to know Him also!

                                                                                                                     – Voni

Who or what is the rope you hang onto in your life?
 Do you know?