From: Senhor Ben Gala
To: The friends and family of Pastora Voni Pottle.
First, let me get the less important things out of the way,
My name is Senhor Ben Gala.. a name I am proud of that has been in the Portuguese dictionary for years. The translation into the American language dictionary is “cane,” but I much prefer my Brazilian name! I believe it carries much more dignity with it than that tiny word “cane” which is inconsistent with my position of responsibility of helping Pra. Voni (for those of you who don’t speak Portuguese, this means Pastora Voni – which is the feminine word for Pastor.)
Forgive me, I got side-tracked!
What do I do that is so important? I assist an 87 year old woman to walk without falling. I DO NOT not consider her a normal 87-year-old. She speaks fluently in English and Portuguese, and also writes in both languages. (Portuguese is considered as one of the more difficult languages: it makes Spanish look like child’s play grammatically.)
At times, she complains about her accent.
But, as a language teacher told her many years ago, “An accent proves that you speak more than one language!” I totally agree with him!
She has some difficulty walking (which is why I AM SO IMPORTANT IN HER LIFE!)
She also has a dual citizenship, American and Brazilian. She and I will ALWAYS remember the days she received her citizenship card and then her Brazilian passport. They are both well-guarded, along with her American documents.
I was there … and proud to be at her side! She used me a lot that day, as we walked through the Federal Justice building (that is an impressive edifice!) From there, we received the info of what we had to do, took the car to an older section of the city, then we walked over broken sidewalks (THAT was a challenge for me) to enter an ancient building (ITEP – don’t ask me what those initials mean.)
When we entered that building, a long old stairway faced us.
The clerks offered to bring the fingerprint equipment and the seals for the documents downstairs to where we were. BUT (did I already tell you that this lady can be very determined (I call it stubborn), she refused to have everything brought downstairs. She insisted that she could get up those stairs and then back down again. (I, along with some friends and one of her daughters who was also with us, ALL tried to convince her to not use those stairs, even though they had a hand rail (which she uses quite well).
She would NOT listen!
We went up those stairs slowly, one at a time, and were ALL relieved when we got to the top.
We went into the office and were seated. The ladies in the office brought us coffee and cold water and congratulated us on getting up those stairs! Everyone (except me) enjoyed the water and coffee. I had to just look on as I was propped up against a wall ☹
I had to chuckle (although they couldn’t hear me) when they took her fingerprints. What a mess!
When she was done, her friends took a picture of her hands as she held them up for the camera: each finger BLACK. I would have been embarrassed, but not her! She was so thrilled to be getting her documents that she just laughed. (She smiles and laughs a lot. and is always talking about how good God is to her!))
We finished all the documents, thanked the ladies in that department, then headed towards those stairs again! (Did you know it is more difficult to go down the stairs than up them?)
We worked down those stairs, one at a time. When we got to the bottom, we turned and thanked the clerks again. We headed out to the car (walking over more broken sidewalk, ) drove back to the Federal Justice Building, carried in the file of paperwork, the clerk took it and went through everything. She then printed out the Brazilian citizenship ID card and handed it to Pra. Voni.
You cannot imagine the smiles and hugs. I think everyone was just as happy and thrilled as Pra. Voni.
I know I was!
We finished the afternoon by going to a great restaurant overlooking the ocean. This was a treat from Pra. Voni to everyone for all their help and patience.
Once again, I was leaned against a pillar, but this time I could see the ocean. No one offers me food nor drink because I am too thin. No one thinks I can digest anything – and they are probably correct. ☹
This is only ONE of the many experiences I’ve had as I’ve helped Pra. Voni.
I’ll be back and share more of them with you, when I’m allowed to once again write for this blog.
It’s a life full of contrasts… excitement … tears … and fulfillment.
I think she is right about God being so good to her – and to me, as well.
Sr. Ben Gala