Monday, August 24, 2009


In February 1974 Pat and I and our smiley, two-year-old daughter, Reesha, boarded a plane in Minneapolis, USA in the dead of winter and landed in Brazil in the middle of summer. It was magical. We left our bulky winter coats behind at the airport with family and just a few hours later walked off the plane in Brazil as light as sheered sheep.

We gradually settled down into a very different lifestyle in the polluted industrial region of Coronel Fabriciano, MG. One fine day in May, working in the Bethany seminary kitchen helping with the noon meal, director Larry Darby stopped by for a few minutes to chit chat. All of a sudden he looked at me and said, “Your eyes look yellow.” Taken aback, I looked in the mirror for myself and sure enough, the whites of my eyes were as yellow as cat eyes in the dark. I was sure the doctor's diagnosis would be hepatitis. It was.

Language study stopped, a gate was put in the doorway to our bedroom so our little Reesha couldn't come in, poor thing, and my sister, Cathie, also a missionary in Brazil, came to see me and set up a sterilization system to wash my dishes so others wouldn't get what I had. I spent my days lying on my back looking at the blue walls of our bedroom, memorizing every defect in the plaster, wishing someone would remember to turn off the compressor that shook the ground (and my brain) below my window as it pumped well water into the cistern several times a day. And I thought.

I had lots to think about, mainly about our financial security which appeared quite fragile. We were a faith mission that believed we should work with our hands and trust God for the rest. That was the sticky part, the trusting. We lived rent-free and ate together in a common dining room with students and staff, and in those days adult staff received a small monthly stipend of US$25 each with a stunning addition of US$5 per child. I guess I wasn't a very good Christian because I worried about the money, or more precisely, the lack of it. The day I discovered my yellow eyes, Pat went to the director for money to pay for a doctor’s appointment and was told there was none. The till was empty. That´s definitely unsettling when you're new to the company. It's not that I was afraid of living simply. I came from a simple family and well remember the day we had only potatoes to eat for lunch. But now I was in a foreign country, I'd only known the director for three months, I didn't understand how this place was run, I couldn't speak Portuguese very well and understood even less. I was scared.

For two months I was bedridden and that's a long time to think. One day a small parcel arrived from the USA. It was an audio cassette tape from the junior class at Bethany Bible School in Minneapolis. They felt God directed them to record songs from the Scriptures and I immediately fell in love with the simple words and melodies. My favorite was Psalm 19 because the chorus of the song was about money, even though the principal theme of the psalm was the Word of God. I sang along with the tape over and over:

More to be desired are they [God’s words] than gold
Yeah, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey
And the honeycomb.

And as I sang the Holy Spirit whispered to my soul, “My Word is trustworthy; you can trust me…but will you? When there's no money in the till at the seminary, you can trust me; now will you?”

At the end of two months the doctor gave his okay for me to get out of bed. My body was whole, but more importantly, my soul had been healed. I wasn't worried about the money question anymore. Singing the Word over and over again had worked its wonder in my soul, slowly eroding my doubts like water wearing down the hardest rock. Like the psalmist, I had tasted the Word and found it was indeed sweeter than honey, but more importantly, I now knew, deep down in my heart, that trusting in His Word brought more security than a pocketful of 24-karat gold.


Pastor Ric said...

Joy and I enjoyed the memories -- trusting God when the till was empty -- and sometimes being creative. Our daughter Anna was born when there was no money in that same till -- and most everyone was away at a conference. I went out and sold a calculator so that I could have some money to go down to the telephone company and put in a call to my in-laws and to my parents to announce the glad tidings!

Hard to believe that is now thirty two years ago, and Anna now has two little girls of her own. Those were days to learn simple trust -- and I still sometimes panic when looking to the future! But God has taken care of us.

I also remember (we were living in Belo Horizonte at the time) when I came down with about as bad a case of hepatitis as you were describing. Lots of time in bed looking up at the ceiling -- and it was some worship tapes that brought me out of the low feelings that go along with hepatitis!!
Love, Ric and Joy Jacobsen

prairierose said...

Ric, so sorry I haven't checked my blog for literallly months! Appreciated your comments and I didn't remember about the empty till when Anna was born! But God is faithful and that's the crux of the story. What a truckload of memories we both have!!!