It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Hannibal Books (June 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson, PR Specialist, Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***
Far too often reading a missionary’s story is more about the horrors of living in far-away jungles. The heat, the bugs, the head-hunters become the focus of the tale. So much so the reader can begin to think that to serve in an overseas mission is about hardship and martyrdom rather than sharing the Gospel with the people they were sent to serve. Instead of inviting the reader to join the effort, many of these books repel people from the mission field.
Paula Edwards’ new book Misadventures in Travel: A Missionary’s Experience in Brazil changes that trend. This story of the Paula and her husband Van’s journeys through Brazil invites the reader to join them for an enjoyable adventure on the mission field.
The Edwards began their mission adventure later than most people, after their children were grown. At a time in life when most people start thinking about settling into retirement, Paula and Van pack up and head to South America. They signed on with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention to map the need for churches in northeast Brazil.
Ms. Edwards tells of their experiences with the roads, or lack of roads, a car, or cars, that fail suddenly, and interesting people along the way. It is not a story; it is an adventure that the reader is invited to join.
To be sure, the Edwards have their share of trials and tribulations, not to mention lost in the jungle stories. But, Ms. Edwards does not portray their many trips along the east coast of Brazil as horrifying. If anything, I want to follow their trail.
I did find some of the escapades repetitive. Each chapter was about a different route. But, the themes of bad roads, shaky ferry boats, and vehicle break-downs were repeated. I would like to have read more about other aspects of their trips, such as misunderstandings due to language barriers. I also missed not being told more about the people and culture they encountered.
Humor is a pleasant change in this missionary’s story. Ms. Edwards’ wit and saucy attitude toward rough roads, no roads, and high water make for easy reading. Also, unlike many missionary books, Ms. Edwards in not afraid to share her emotions, even the “bad” ones. Because the Edwards are real and everyday people, the reader comes to believe that missionary work is not so bad after all.
I recommend this book to families. Children need to know that going to unreached populations doesn’t have to be harrowing or without some fun along the way. Parents, too, will benefit as they read and talk about these missionaries’ experience. Maybe more people will consider short-term or even long-term mission trips after reading these misadventures.
Paula Edwards, a native of the piney hills of north Louisiana, received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Louisiana Tech University. Besides having served God on the mission field, Paula also has been a schoolteacher and enjoys riding and training horses. She and her husband, Van, are parents of two grown daughters. The Edwardses live in North Louisiana, in which Van serves as pastor.
List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (June 1, 2010)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Chapter 1 — The Beginning
Everything started innocently enough. One evening we were sitting in our living room doing the usual things. The TV was on, I had a magazine of some type; my husband, Van, was browsing on his laptop. I had no idea what he was studying on his computer, although I was reasonably certain it was something harmless. Wrong assumption.
All of a sudden Van called out, “Found us a job.”
That was interesting to me, because I didn’t know we were looking for one. Anyway, what he said got my attention. To learn more I leaned toward his chair. Turns out he was browsing the site of the International Mission Board of the Southern
Baptist Convention; he was surveying opportunities to serve overseas.
At the time Van was the pastor of a small Baptist church in North Central Arkansas. We had been at this church for about three years. In some ways our time there had been good, but we also had experienced many challenges. Recently we had talked about believing that our usefulness at this church had reached an end and that God seemed to be calling us elsewhere. The way God speaks to His children is amazing. We both heard Him; we both heard the same thing—which brings me back to Van’s announcement.
“What?” I asked
“I said I found us a job.”
“Oh, yeah? Where?”
“Brazil? Doing what?”
“Mapping? What does that mean?”
Van can be maddeningly persistent in making me drag everything out of him without offering any unnecessary information that I don’t specifically ask for.
“For Pete’s sake, tell me!”
“It says ‘mapping team needed to explore fishing villages in northeastern Brazil’.”
My heart went thump-thump. I figured he could hear it, but I wasn’t ready to reveal the excitement those simple words caused in me.
“Hmm. That could be interesting.”
We spent a few minutes discussing the possibility; then I picked up my magazine and pretended to become absorbed in an article while at the same time I watched Law and Order. Actually my mind was spinning. I can be maddeningly persistent in hiding my true feelings . . . for a while anyway.
The next day while I was at my job as a band director/ music teacher, I had the opportunity to check out the job for myself. I had a study hall that had only one student in it. Our relationship was more one of friendship than teacher-student. I read the job description and then turned and looked at her.
“I’m going to Brazil,” I stated bluntly.
She gave me a confused look, so I told her about what had happened the night before and read the job description from the computer in front of me. A slow smile spread across her face. She said, “You’re going to Brazil.”
I really believed this was going to happen, but at the same time I couldn’t imagine going back overseas. I have two grown daughters whom I love fiercely; at the time I had two small grandchildren. How could I leave them for two years? How could I miss out on everything that would be going on? On the other hand, I knew God was speaking to me. If you have ever been in that position, then you understand that when He calls you to a job, you never will be happy doing anything else. If you never have been in that position, you won’t understand the way I was feeling at that moment. Believe me, the call is unmistakable.
For two weeks I wrestled with the idea, even though I knew what the final decision would be. I knew I would go to Brazil, but convincing myself actually to admit it out loud in words was difficult. Finally one Sunday after church Van and I went out to eat. Van had mentioned the job in Brazil a couple of times, but he hadn’t pressed the issue. He was absolutely ready to go. Now. This minute. But, you see, when a couple accepts a call to missions, it has to be a joint acceptance. If both parties aren’t completely on board with the idea, then some sort of compromise has to be reached. This decision is best not forced on anyone. So Van hadn’t pressed, but I knew exactly where he stood. The time had arrived for me to let him in on the fact that I was right there beside him. For a long time we sat in the restaurant and talked. I cried. I was so torn. I knew what God wanted me to do. And I wanted to do it, too, but I still had that nagging desire to stay near my family. After spending the biggest part of a year serving in Guatemala in a previous short-term missions assignment, I knew how difficult the separation would be. Ultimately, though, I knew I couldn’t put my family and my desires ahead of God’s will for my life. So we left the restaurant knowing we would pursue employment with the International Mission Board.
To be accepted for service with the IMB requires an exacting process, but we were hoping the fact that we had served before would hasten the schedule. It must have, because we went home that Sunday night and emailed the IMB, which meant that on Monday the agency received our communication. On Tuesday we had a response. We could begin the procedure to fill the mapping-team position. We were ecstatic. Having finally crossed that line to submit to God, I now was eager to get things on the road. All of this happened in February, but we had lots of things to do before we actually could go to Brazil.
The first item on our list was to resign from our present jobs. I was teaching, so I finished the school year. At the end of May Van resigned his post. In June we sold our house and most of our possessions and moved across the state to Fort Smith to be closer to our daughters while we made preparations to go to Brazil.
Another thing we had to do was to go to Richmond, VA, for training. While there we talked to our advisor. We learned that we could go to Brazil either for two years or three years. We chose to extend our term to three years. In the back of our minds we were thinking we eventually would spend even more time than that in Brazil. We also learned about the requirements to get a visa to Brazil. This sounded as though it was a very straightforward procedure, but from conversations with missionary colleagues in Brazil we knew that getting a visa for that country would be tougher than for Guatemala. The process turned out to be much tougher. Van, the planner and detail person in our unit, began gathering all the things we would need such as his diploma from seminary, his ordination certificate, and birth certificates and our marriage license. Once he was satisfied everything was ready, he sent it to the mission office in Richmond. The mission office promptly wrote back and said the birth certificates and marriage license we had submitted would not be acceptable at the Brazilian consulate. We needed certified copies of our birth certificates and our marriage license. Both of these things had burned in a house fire. So, even though we had the certified copies we had gotten for Guatemala, we would have to get new ones for Brazil from the agencies in the states in which they had been issued: Louisiana and New Mexico. When we checked online about having them sent to us, we discovered that just going to get them would be about as inexpensive and much quicker, but that required a road trip to those two states. We combined business with pleasure by visiting with family in Louisiana and then made the long trek to New Mexico to get my birth certificate. At last we believed we had everything we needed. All that remained was to go to the consulate in Houston and present everything to Brazilian officials there. Two days were necessary to get in to see the consul. When we finally sat down with him, he sat on one side of the glass and we sat on the other as he flipped through the huge pile of documents in front of him. He arrived at my birth certificate—the one we had traveled all the way to New Mexico to get.
“Who’s this?” he asked.
“Me,” I replied.
“I don’t need this,” he sneered as he tossed it back to us through the slot at the bottom of the window.
We were flabbergasted. They had specifically asked for originals of our birth certificates.
“But, you asked for it!” Van exclaimed. “We went to New Mexico to get it!”
“No, we never ask for that. It is not in our policy,” he asserted.
“But . . .,” Van began; then, thinking better of the matter, he let it drop.
After checking through the rest of the papers, the consul told us we could return the next day to get the visas. We were so relieved! The process had been long and tedious; at last it was over.
We were so excited as we arrived early for our appointment the next day. In just a matter of minutes we would have the visas in our hands and we would be on our way.
The consul entered. We sat together on a love seat; he took a chair near us. Although his attitude seemed a little lighter than it had the day before, he still was a pretty sour person. He began to speak, but we were surprised that he didn’t talk about us; he talked about his job and what a thankless position he held. He complained about his co-workers and his work environment. He was a miserable little man. I felt sorry for him. Then he shifted the subject to our visas. That was more like it. I was squirming in my seat.
“Your visas have been approved. You may return to this office next Friday and pick them up.”
My sympathy evaporated. Sometimes I am too impulsive; I opened my mouth to argue with him, but Van beat me to the punch.
“Next Friday will be fine. Do we both need to be here, or can I pick them up?”
My jaw dropped as I gaped at my husband. Then I realized the wisdom of his words. Even though this would require another trip from Arkansas to Houston, the process would be over. If we argued, who knew what additional hoops they could find for us to jump through?
The miserable man did his best attempt at a smile.
“You may come alone. We will see you next week.”
The next week we did get the visas. We were only a month behind our expected departure date. That was not bad.
On January 21, 2007, we boarded the plane for Brazil. It was a trip into the unknown—the first of many adventures . . . although the word misadventures ultimately would describe much of what lay before us.