“I can’t wait to get back to Brazil!”
We had been in Paraguay for a whole month trying to deal with some visa complications. I reached over to squeeze Mark’s hand and glanced into the back seat. We had shared a cake for Jonathan’s third birthday with the hotel staff! The late afternoon sun made a halo on four-year-old Esther’s head. We had also just found out that were expecting our third child. I sighed contentedly as I settled into my seat and looked around. Soon we would be “home”, and this saga would finally be over.
Just as we were trying to pass a slow vehicle on the highway, I heard Mark say, “I’m not getting any power here.” He stomped down on the accelerator a little harder but the engine just screamed. I did not know much about engines, but what happened next did not sound good. All I knew was that we were pulling over to the side of the road. I had complete confidence in my husband’s ability to fix most vehicle problems.
When Mark finally came back to my window, I knew we had trouble. “It’s the water pump.” We looked around to see the sun preparing for its quick South American ‘adios’. One house stood across the highway, and a tiny town was just down the road. “I’ll be back. I have to go find someone to help.” He looked at me reassuringly. “Lock the doors. I won’t be long.”
I turned around to the kids with a brave smile on my face. “OK, guys. We need to pray for Daddy, that he’ll be able to find help.” My little cherubs closed their eyes and folded their little hands to pray.
Each minute seemed like an hour as I entertained the children and looked anxiously for any sign of my husband. When I finally did see him coming, he was walking to the truck with a crowd of probably ten men. As I rolled down the window, he said, “Get into the driver’s seat. We’re going to push the truck to the other side of the road under that street lamp where we’ll be safe. That man will drive me back into town tomorrow morning to get the water pump. For tonight, we’ll have to sleep in the truck.”
That night, the four of us spooned into each other to sleep. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I rubbed my tummy and thanked God for his protection so far.
By the time the sun woke us up at 6 a.m., Mark was already well on his way back to Asuncion. The children ran off to chase a puppy while I tried to rub the kinks out of my back. Our hosts were very gracious to us, but we could not communicate very well. I was definitely out of my comfort zone!
The hours dragged by as the children chased the chickens and dogs. Everyone stared at them and laughed, but they were oblivious to it all. For me it was a different story. I smiled feebly every time I made eye contact with someone. As they talked among themselves in Guarani and laughed, they unnerved me. Culture shock had this missionary pinned.
About mid-morning, the man who had given Mark a ride into the city returned. “Aonde está o Marcos?” I asked him, hoping he would understand my Portuguese. I learned that Mark had a bit of trouble getting the part, but that he would come back by taxi as soon as he was ready. The man joined the circle and the conversation with the women. He looked at me and asked, “Does your husband beat you?”
“No! My husband does not beat me!” I could not believe my ears.
“If your husband does not beat you, he must not love you.” If I was nervous before, there was no measuring how I was feeling at that moment. “A husband wants the best for his wife. If she is not doing something right, he needs to correct her. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t love her.” I cannot tell you how anxious I was for MY husband to come back.
Finally, after mid-day Mark arrived with the new water pump in hand. An hour later, with the part installed, we said good-bye to our new ‘friends’.
“Next time you drive by, please make sure you stop in to say hello,” they said.
I smiled and hoped fiercely that there would NEVER be another time.
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