Missionary Reunion 2012: Uncle Don turns 90!

There were about 20 or 30 American Lutheran missionary families in Brazil at any given time between 1962 and 1980.  The mission set up a hostel a few blocks away from the Escola Americana de Campinas, EAC, where most missionaries sent their kids to get an American education.  Don and Lil Aarsvold served as house parents for a couple of decades, raising these children in an environment that felt safe and nurturing to most of the children who lived under their care.  Many of these kids formed life-long bonds that continue to this day, decades later.

The Aarsvold family, courtesy David Grant

Uncle Don and Aunt Lil, as we knew them, seemed to have endless cheer, good-will, and were tireless in making us feel at home.  I went to EAC for high school, 1977-1980, and by the time I got there, most of the missionary kids had either gone on to college or now studied in the Brazilian school system, staying at home with their families, so there were only a few of us occupying this huge building.  1977 was also Uncle Don's and Aunt Lil's last year of service.  

They were replaced by a Brazilian couple, Ronaldo and Odete, who remained until the facility was closed down a few years later.  I believe that it is now a Senior Citizen's home.  Thomas Grant, one of the missionary kids, visited a few years ago and shared a current photo of the entrance:

Entrance to the Lutheran Hostel in Campinas, Brazil

Uncle Don celebrates his 90th birthday today and many of the missionary families are converging on their daughter's farm in Minnesota to honor him and Lil.  My parents and brother will be there.  I had hoped to go, too, but the 12 hour drive just didn't work out.  I celebrated my 50th year in January and most of the "kids" are now grandparents themselves.  Life goes on, but those early years have always stayed with us!

Lutheran Missionary Kids in Brazil, 1968, Courtesy David Grant

We were asked to contribute a page for a book that will be given to Uncle Don and Aunt Lil.  I made the photo collage at the top of this page and my Dad printed it out. I think it came out quite well!  You can click on any of these images to see larger views.

My parents will send me some photos and I'll post them here for "posterity".

Don and Lil Aarsvold dedicated much of their life to children and young adults.  Don wrote about his calling in 1992:

‘My God is Real”

There have been some things that have been laid upon my heart lately that I would like to write about. As I’ve been reading recently regarding various missions, missionaries and their work, I am reminded once again of our (my wife and I) ministry with the American Lutheran Church Mission in Brazil from 1967-1978. The following six years we spent in Anaheim, CA as Resident Counselors at the Lutheran Bible Institute. Throughout these years of ministry, many students would ask the question, “How come you left the farm to enter mission work, after twenty years of farming?” Well, it’s a long story, and this is how it all came about...

In my late teenage years I became convicted of my uncommitted life to Christ. My pastor helped me through this time, as I yielded my life fully to the Lord with a desire to live for Him and to serve Him wherever that might be.

I grew up on a farm and helped my Dad as a kid and then later worked on two other farms as a hired farm hand. During these years I had a very fine Christian girlfriend with whom I could share my thoughts and feelings. We talked and prayed a lot together! After one of these evenings upon my return home, I had a time of Scripture reading and prayer, went to bed and to sleep. Later, I was awakened by a vision in my room. It appeared on the ceiling - first like clouds in the sky and then gradually it became a map of the world. It sort of frightened me at first and then I remember saying -“What’s going on, Lord?” As I watched, one country after another disappeared except one - and that one remained, namely South America, and finally that disappeared too. I then remember saying, “Lord, are you trying to tell me something? If so, I want to be open to your will.” Needless to say, I shared this experience with my girlfriend and we prayed a lot regarding God’s will in our lives.

In 1946 we were married. By the way, she was Lillian Peterson of Kasson and a school teacher in the area. I continued farming and she teaching in the country schools. We purchased my home place south of Kasson and in the years that followed we were blessed with four children, Dennis, Cheryl, Mark and Donna. We were enriched in our church life and outreach to missions in various ways.

Then...in 1967, we were faced with a call to missions in Brazil, S.A. One of our first thoughts was regarding my vision in 1943 of So. America! Well, after much prayer and seeking God’s guidance, we made ourselves available to ALC Missions in April - with a specific call to minister as Houseparents to missionary children. In June, after our interview with the National Board we were extended an official call and would enter that field of service in late Dec. of 1967.

I just think it is so great to know that the Lord is concerned for His children and to realize how “right” his timing is! Just as surely as we knew He was calling us to Brazi], we also knew when our time there was finished. Our last year there once again became a time of searching as to God’s plan for us upon our return to the U.S. which would be in the Spring of 1978. Through a newsletter we received from the Lutheran Bible Ins titute in California we read that LW would be moving from their residence (a Lutheran church building) in Los Angeles to a new campus in Anaheim. Their plan was to be moved and begin classes there in January of 1979.

Again, I felt led to write to the Director of the School to inform him of our resignation from the Mission in Brazil and that we would be returning to the U.S. in 1978. I also shared with him our desire to continue in Christian service work and asked if there would be an area of service at LBI that we could fit into. It wasn’t long before we received a response from the Director (Pastor Frank Wilcox) who wrote they would indeed be needing a lay couple to be Resident Counselors at the new campus. He asked if we would visit with him in May (‘78) upon our return which we arranged. We felt good about our interview with him, but he at that time could not promise us a position there because of finances, etc. The Board of LBI was very interested in our application and certainly hoped and prayed that it would work out. That summer we continued with AbC Missions in Deputation work, etc. We continued in prayer regarding the LBIC possibility. Then...early in October we received a letter of call from LBIC to serve on their staff, beginning the first of Jan. 1979. We accepted this call with grateful hearts, being assured again of God’s faithfulness to us. He is “great and greatly to be praised!” Psalm 96:4a. We had six wonderful years of blessing in serving there with staff and students.

In one’s lifetime there are things that happen that I feel are important to “Family.” I often wish our children could have known my Dad (their Grandpa Aarsvold). He just loved children! I am thankful they knew and loved Grandma Aarsvold, as she was a wonderful person too.

I had a home life that was so meaningful. Dad and Mom loved the Lord and they lived their Christianity, which I never had reason to question. To be sure - we were not rich in worldly goods, though we always had sufficient food, clothing, a nice home and loving care. Our physical and spiritual needs were met, both in our home and at church.

I often wish my Dad would have left some writings of special “happenings” in his life for me, my children and grandchildren. I feel strongly regarding the faith stories of our lives and as a Christian parent, I trust and pray the spiritual part of life will never be taken for granted, but that it will be nourished and grow in faith, hope and love. There is real joy in living for the Lord and serving Him wherever we are!

“My God is Real” is what He has laid on my heart to share with you; and though you, my children, know all about what I am writing, I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren to know as well, so therefore [I] would like to pass [it]on for posterity. Thank you!


A Child's Christmas

Every Christmas brings back fond memories of how we celebrated in Brazil.  For years, the ritual was the same.  We would practice daily for weeks for the Christmas program that always took place at the Church at around 3PM on the Saturday afternoon before Christmas.  Mom would buy boxes of candy from a distributor and we would have an assembly line set up, filling up the bags that Santa would hand out at the program.

After the program, we would head out for a walk to the ice cream parlor.  (Remember, it was summer down there...) We would get to the gate and Dad would say, "Oh, wait!  I forgot something.  Be right back!"  He would dash in and take the presents out from their hiding places (which we had already found) and put them under the tree.  As we got older, we would wait impatiently at the gate, rolling our eyes, knowing what he was doing, but thinking it was funny that he still had to play the game.  When we got back, it would be, "Oh, look!  Santa must have dropped by while we were out!"  We had already felt the packages, shook them around and had some guesses about what we were getting.  But, sometimes he succeeded in being especially sneaky and took us completely by surprise.  Like, when Charles and I got new 3-speed bikes!  That was something!  And, I'll never forget when I got my OWN cassette player.  I could listen to my own tapes and to whatever radio stations I wanted to in my own room.  That was unforgettable.

Presents were opened on Christmas Eve at night.  We always had guests over who had nowhere else to go.  We would sit in the living room and read the Christmas story from the Bible and sing some hymns.  Christmas was definitely about Jesus first, with presents as the icing on the cake.  We took time in opening the presents, each one opening one so that everybody could see and then it would be someone else's turn.  Not like the frenzy I've witnessed in many places as an adult.  We always got something that we really wanted (the bike, the player, etc.) and then clothes.  One year, I got a pair of jeans, brand new indigo blue jeans.  Too tight.  I had a growth spurt and my Mom wanted me to take them back.  I begged to let me wear them for the night. I was serving one of the guests coffee (very hot coffee) and tripped.  Coffee all over the new pants.  My mother was absolutely disgusted with me because now she would not be able to return them.  Money was tight for them and now I can look back and understand why she was so mad.  

Our festivities would wind down at around 11PM and soon a knock would come at the front door.  "Pastor, can Rachel come over to my house now?"  That was Adelia, my friend since I was six years old.  For years, my parents let me go down the block and spend Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve with her family.

Me with the Ogama family, 1982

Even though they were Japanese, they celebrated the Brazilian way: a feast of finger food, every kind of goody you can imagine, tapas style.  Several weeks before, they would have built a huge manger scene, taking up a large coffee table.  They made hills out of paper bags, ponds out of mirrors, trees and bushes out of sticks and little potted plants.  The manger scene would be at the top of the hill and the clay shepherds and magi were out towards the opposite ends of the table.  Every day we would move them a little closer to the baby Jesus.  On Christmas Eve, they would arrive.  We opened more presents, mostly things we had made for each other.

Those days were days of waiting.  They were centered on the gravity of God becoming human, of the babe promising love and redemption.  

Now my Christmases are a huge contradiction.  I have been involved in some form of retail sales for the last 25 years.  When I had my brick and mortar shops, I was exhausted by the time Christmas Eve came around.  Now that it is all online, I am still exhausted.  We depend on these sales to build our businesses, but it takes away the ability to wait, the expectancy.  And, then the commercialization of it all now...  it's just disgusting.  A big part of the problem for me is that I have no children, so I can't replicate the traditions that my parents instilled in us.  The joy that children experience is still real.  They are the ones that make the celebration fun and exciting.  But, then, we all have that child within and that is the challenge: to make each year be a Child's Christmas, where innocence and abundance meet the Child made Man.

Feliz Natal!!!!

May 2012 be a wonderful one for us all!


Letter to Grandpa and Grandma Biel, September 25, 1975

 Mato Grosso Farm Scene, Brazil, 1973

My Aunt Marian kept many of the letters my family wrote to her.  Apparently, she also had some that were written to my Grandparents.  She returned them in 2010.  Most are recorded here.  They were not entered in chronological order, so the best way to view them is by year, found in the index on the sidebar.

Dear folks:

Thank you for your letter of the 15th!  It had quite a bit of news that I hadn't heard yet, for example, that Roger had suffered a heart attack.  One thing you didn't make clear in your letter was whether you bought that Buick for us or for yourselves.  It really sounded like a good buy!  When I told the kids they said, "Buick?  What's a Buick?"  Anyway, MANY THANKS!  And, you can draw the US$100 out of our account to pay for it.  Please do, and put it in your name.

By the way, I didn't renew my Minnesota Driver's License.  I'll just use the Brazilian one again.

News here is a little hard to come by.  I've heard it mentioned that there's been a round-up of Communists lately, and I believe it's time for there was an oblique announcement in the paper (local) the other day saying that the people should not get excited, because certain measures were being taken to guarantee their tranquility.

In a week and a half, I'll be doing a swing through Southern Mato Grosso to try and find out what's going on there.  Apparently, the pastor got out of town- fast and went to a far corner of the parish where he's well-liked and abandoned the rest of the parish.

 Heidi Lampe, Miss Apucarana, 1975

Rachel is studying piano again, this time without being driven to it.  We've got a University girl from another town living with us- a former beauty queen- (you'd like her, Dad:  blond, long hair, blue-eyed, tallish, and very precious), also a piano player and she and Rachel are hitting it off famously.  Tonight they went to a piano concert together-  True to form, Rachel has picked up another friend older than herself.

We've got some English neighbors- or have I told you that?  They're experts in plant seed development.  Their company plans to work for 20 years in Brazil before it gets a break-even return on its investments!  They're Anglican and one studied to be a priest before he became interested in zoo-technology. 

For the last couple of months, I've been reading up on ethics and trying to work up a paper on "Pastoral Ethics".  This was to be presented for debate at the "Conselho de Pastores de Maringa".  (Local pastor's council)  It was sort of a time bomb, because there's been quite a bit of sheep-stealing going on.  They asked me to do the paper because I was the least involved of any of them.  It went over very well.  I'm happy to say, and the discussion following the six page manuscript was very productive.

Now that we know where the car is coming from it's pretty certain that we'll fly in to Minneapolis or Rochester.  Please don't go spending money unnecessarily, it's precious!  I've got boots and that car-coat that I had before, which will serve just fine.  They're here.  Not sure what the others need.  Hope we get a snowy winter!

It finally rained, Hallelujah!  It's been a couple of months since our heavy frost.  What the frost didn't kill the drought attacked, and what didn't dry up the plant lice by the billions sucked dry.  Now it's planting time again (beans, rice, coffee, and later, soybeans).



Letter to Marian and Frank, January 6, 1973

My Aunt Marian kept many of the letters my mother, Donna Biel, wrote to her.  She returned them in 2010.  Most are recorded here.  They were not entered in chronological order, so the best way to view them is by year, found in the index on the sidebar.

Dear Marian and Frank, Lisa and Eric,

Since I didn't write anything on the Christmas letter, I now will make an effort to tell you the news.

Before Christmas, I helped an agronomist missionary family as they got their things ready to move to another city.  The seven of them slept here a night.  A neurotic lady from our church came a week before Christmas and stayed for four days.  Cliff had programs for three days in various places so he didn't have time right away to talk to her family.  She has had mental problems for over twenty years and has stayed here before.  She calls many times or stops by to talk, then I listen for an hour to two hours.  About the only way I can help her is to listen to her problems.  Her husband says he has a cross to bear, but the family could try to be more understanding.  Another family that has problems is a Church of Christ missionary family.  When she is overtired or under pressure, she has emotional outbursts.  They have been in Brazil for one and a half years and now are packing up to go back to the United States for the other couple that works with them wrote to the U.S. recommending that they be ordered back.  I feel sorry for them for they have many things to sell, then have to rebuy them when they get back.  They were a risk to be sent here for they spent two years in Africa and she had emotional problems there. 

The Church of Christ has different ideas.  They don't use instruments in the church for the Bible says "to make melody in your hearts" which they interpret to be without the help of instruments.  Also, they don't celebrate Christmas for they say we don't really know the date of Christ's birth, which misses the whole point.  Some date has to be chosen so that we can observe it.

Helen is happy to have a second hand bicycle.  It's been about two years since she decided that she was too big for her tricycle.  Charles's old bike was traded in for a new one.  Rachel got science sets which have a microscope.  For a science project in school, Cliff helped her build a telegraph, which she got a good grade on.  Another father helped his child build one.  Cliff said it was going to be a battle to see which father got the best grade.  The kids are enjoying the kitten born in the first part of November.  Another one was given away on Christmas day.  We think our kitten has a hernia.  Cliff says that some day it may bump its head too hard against a post.

Next week we have Vacation Bible School.  The children have vacation now until February 12th.  Then Helen will start first grade Brazilian School.  Right now she is half way through the first grade English course that I give in the mornings.  Charles doesn't have too much homework, but Rachel does, so I have to supervise that during the school term.  The teacher makes them work hard.  Every two weeks they have to give a book report.  Even though Charles doesn't have any competition, as he is the only one in his class, the teacher says he is doing very well.  At times, Rachel lets things pile up and doesn't get good grades on a test, but her final grades are alright.  Rachel, almost eleven, is 5 feet 2 inches tall.  Charles is almost nine and is getting too heavy.  We decided we should eat more fruit as all of us could lose some weight.

Some more urine tests done show that Helen doesn't have an infection, but she continues to wet.  The urologist in Minneapolis wrote indicating that a medication which was given last July at higher dosages, so now she is taking it for two months at a lower dosage.  Our field representative of the mission office said that we can take her to the Mayo Clinic when on furlough.  I hope that the problem is solved soon.  Before Christmas I spent many hours sewing plastic pants bigger for the night wetting, but the biggest bother is daytime wetting.

Our church was used in December for Baccalaureate services for college graduation for those who are Protestants.  This week a junior high school (included ages 14-25) held services here after first going to the Catholic church.  cliff had the service for the junior high school.  A week before Christmas, Cliff attended graduation of the first class in our Bible Institute in Londrina.  There were six that completed the three year Bible course.

We had an enjoyable New Year's with the Louie Becker family who live one hour from here.  We played games with the children, went for a walk to the park and finished the day by singing Christmas songs and eating my birthday cake.  Just before Christmas, we got a tape Cliff's family sent.  We enjoyed hearing it even thought most only said a few words.  It seems like they had a hard time thinking of something to say with everyone sitting around and watching them when they were trying to talk.  Seems like Frank found it the easiest to talk.  I haven't had Lutafisk or however you spell the fish dish.

We haven't gotten a letter from you in a long time.  Hope you will write us right away when the baby is born.  LaVonne wrote that Lisa is quite the artist, that she sent Mike a picture when he was in the hospital.  I hope to get Helen to write to Lisa before I mail this.  It's almost 100 degrees today and we are at the swimming pool.


Donna and Joey

Easter Letter, 1974

My Aunt Marian kept many of the letters my mother, Donna Biel, wrote to her.  She returned them in 2010.  Most are recorded here.  They were not entered in chronological order, so the best way to view them is by year, found in the index on the sidebar.

Dear friends in Christ:

Greetings to you all!  Did you have a good Easter?  And, you mothers, was your Mother's Day a happy one, and bright?  A salute to you mothers!  A child's such a messy little thing, so slow to grow and learn.  It's born with a will full-blown, a gale wind that fills its sails yet has no captain to chart its course.  Slow, so slowly, by fits and starts through long slow years of creeping growth, the child, weaned, blends into his destiny.  Some call their mother blessed, whose years of youth and strength in the slow years, a mother's strength molded to the child's weakness.  And, then it's mind, a darkness into which, probing, pushing, come filtering the first weak tentative rays:  words the child hears, repeated, first empty sounds, that pattern themselves into its life, and then spill out in childish jargon groping for the sense of what's about.  And when the mother's there it's her wisdom that first lights its mind, putting the tiny hand to the wheel that steers life's course.

To all who have a mother's heart, this toast!  God grant the grace to have joy and peace in fitting His children to their destiny.

We've been having a busy time of it.  Some of the highlights:

At the Maringa church there was a record number of communicants on Good Friday:  96.

We dedicated a church in Ivaipora.  They have just a small congregation:  18 families.  However, they managed to build a very nice little church without any aid from outside the parish.

Until now we'd met in the home of a member.  I am temporarily taking care of the church and have been for the past two years.  We have services twice monthly, when possible.  Until then, the maximum they'd had was services six times a year.

At Borazopolis, which is on the same road, we had the special joy of seeing a family reunited which had been split by business dealings mixed with avarice and wine.  They all communed together on Holy Saturday.  The wounds heal slowly, they only get together under the sign of reconciliation: worship, in the name of Jesus.

Sunday school seems to have been rejuvenated in Maringa by moving the hour to the same as worship and calling on mature members as teachers.  About 35 are enrolled.  On Mother's Day they did a very nice program in the afternoon.

A new man has come into town: a Swiss who speaks English, French, German, Spanish, Swahili, and a little Portuguese.  He's an engineer and worked for many years in Africa, then came to South America and is "trying out" Maringa.  His driving interest seems to be making money and loneliness brings him to church.  He's an outspoken, rabid racist and and anti-Jewish.  He has been strongly influenced by a so-called "Jewish Manifesto".  Now this is where I want some help from some of you.  Who can tell me anything about a "Jewish Manifesto"?  I'd be much obliged.  The copy he's got was published in Spanish, in Argentina.

Right now I'm a little laid up with a cracked ankle-bone.  I'll have a cast on until the end of May.  coming soon after a bum knee makes me think I'll have to give up playing futebol de salao (court soccer) with the young adults.

We had very good participation in a Bible camp in February.  About 30 youth from the parish went.  Now we are looking forward to the retreat in July which we will be in charge of as it will be on a farm near here.  The farm belongs to a doctor and it is used mainly for retreats.  With the bunk beds, there is room for 75 people.  The theme will worship.

Helen's bladder problem was finally diagnosed and operated: a cyst near a urethra.  She was operated on in Sao Paulo by a surgeon considered to be one of the best urologists in the world, and is recovering well.  She is still taking medicine and has monthly urine check-ups in the nearby city of Londrina.  She has no more wetting in the daytime, but still needs diapers at night.

Rachel is doing much better in school lately, is as tall as her mother, has begun confirmation study, works on her stamp collection and is teaching English to a class of neighborhood children she got together.

Charles goes every day after school to a nearby park to visit the animals there.  His allergy to dust has been bothering him.  He is taking a vaccine by drops for six months which we hope will relieve the stuffed nose and sneezing.

Power to you all, in what's right.

Clifford Biel and family

P.S.  Farmers are hurting: soybeans are only $4 a bushel (30 kilos)

+++++++++++++ On the backside of the above, typed letter, a handwritten one to the Beiwel's:

Dear Frank and Marian:

Well, the last ones on my list!  I've been writing letters all yesterday and all day today, to my family and Donna's.  Today I was to have gone to a meeting in Joinville, traveling all night by bus each way.  But my foot swells to much yet when it's down, so I didn't go.  Instead, I've been sitting on the bed, listening to the record player and writing letters.

We gave Rachel a record for Christmas and enjoy it more than she does!  Andy Williams, "Alone Again".

You really shouldn't spend money sending candy every Christmas- We eat it all up and then - wait.  For the next Christamas!  We hope to be home for furlough for Christmas, '75.  We're talking about that.  It fits the kid's school vacation and they want to see SNOW!  and feel COLD!  Yek!  And, maybe everybody won't be so busy like they are in the summer.

Sounds like everybody is really skimping there in the States.  We're also pinched, but I think we'll break even this year.  The cost of living here has jumped 25% in three months while income has held steady.

Saturday we're going to Marilia (about four hours drive from here) for the silver wedding anniversary of our colleague there.  I'll be preaching, but what can you say to somebody who's been hitched that long?

There was a hilarious cartoon in TIME.  Gold Meir and Willy Brandt were sitting on a park bench.  He says to her, "If this were a week earlier, they'd call our meeting a summit conference."

A girl just stopped by and gave us an invitation to her wedding in the Catholic church.  Five years and she's never come to church here.  Her brother is Antonio Roberto, who is studying to be pastor (Lutheran).  Her mother is a spiritist.  She's marrying a Japanese.

Well, carry on.  Let us hear from you.


Joey and family

Letter to Beiwel's, March 26, 1977

 Surgery on Velvet's ear with Doutor Luiz

My Aunt Marian kept many of the letters we wrote to her.  She returned them in 2010.  Most are recorded here.  They were not entered in chronological order, so the best way to view them is by year, found in the index on the sidebar.  This is one that I wrote when I was 15 years old.

Dear Beiwels,

Hi, there, how are you all?  I trust that you're fine.  We're O.K.

Please forgive the double "L" on Helen's letter.  She didn't know better.

Velvet died yesterday night.  She was 13 years old and had tumors, was blind, deaf, but we still liked her.  (That is, Mom, Helen and I).  (Oh, by the way, she was our Puli dog, sort of like a sheep dog or an overgrown poodle.)

 Velvet in 1977

Dad was traveling to Sao Paulo and came home this morning.

Guess what!  I'm thinking of studying 12th grade in the States.  I'll only be finishing 9th in June, so it's a long ways off.  It's an idea though.

Thanks a lot for your presents.  We weren't expecting them.  We were already so happy for the books and candy.  You shouldn't torture us that way with candy, it's SO fattening!  (But delicious!)  I really enjoy reading books.  These will last for a long, long time.  I've got lots of friends who read, too.  (We're really bookworms.)

That embroidery sure is beautiful.  Thanks a million to whoever chose it!  I'm putting my drawings in that subjects thing.  It's really handy.

Well, I guess that's all.  Please write back.  We enjoy knowing what's happening to you all even more than getting presents.  (I guess that's cuz we luv you)



Letter to Marian and Frank, April 19, 1974

 Biel Family, mid-1970's, Brazil

My Aunt Marian kept many of the letters my mother, Donna Biel, wrote to her.  She returned them in 2010.  Most are recorded here.  They were not entered in chronological order, so the best way to view them is by year, found in the index on the sidebar. 

Dear Marian, Frank, Lisa, Eric and Julianna,

We received your package the day before Easter.  Joey brought it when I was trying to decide what to make for dessert on Easter- we made the cake.  Delicious!  We will have the other one on Joey's birthday.  Needless to say, we enjoyed the candy, too.  Thank you for the "sweet" gift.

We heard that you were going to Julia's for Easter.  I imagine you saw several changes in her house for Harvey wrote that he had been puttering around there and Julia said Martha went to help one day.

We remembered Julianna's birthday even though we didn't send a card.  It is easy to remember since Marian's is the next day and my sister Marian is on the 14th, too.

I suppose you are starting to enjoy spring weather.  We still have summer although the mornings and evenings are cooler.  It was chilly when we went to a mission meeting at the end of last month.  It was held at a city in the mountains of our southernmost state.  We traveled 24 hours by bus to get there, stayed two days, then spent another 24 hours traveling back.  That shows you are far away we are from some fellow American pastors.

Cliff Biel doing the Hamburger Skit

You would have enjoyed seeing Joey in a skit at the mission conference.  He did it at the fun night at Bible Camp and the youth really thought it was good.  A man who owned a hamburger industry liked to try hamburgers out at different places to see if anyone served better hamburgers.  At the place where Joey was a cook, he thought the hamburger had a different flavor so he asked for the recipe.  When he found out the same ingredients were used, he asked to see the cook making them.  Out came Joey, shirtless, oil on his skin and then water poured over to look like a lot of sweat, cigarette hanging from his mouth and a tattoo on his heart saying "meat".  He demonstrated and at the end, to flatten the meatball, he put it under his armpit.  That was where the different flavor came from. 

The next day, when Joey came late for breakfast, I told the people at our table that he was helping to make more hamburgers.  We had hamburgers that noon but round ones.  Several people told us that if and when they came through our city, they hoped we won't serve them hamburgers.  We have been having the mission meeting with wives every two years.  The men get together once a year for a business meeting.

Helen is doing fine.  I called the doctor yesterday after receiving the urine results done last week in Londrina.  He says to keep on giving medicine to keep the urine free of germs and do another urine test in a month.  Apparently, this will go on for some time.  It take three hours to get to Londrina by bus, about 15 minutes to do the urine exam, have lunch with Gaylord Grant's and then come back.  Thus, it takes all day.  We leave at 8:30 and get back at 5 p.m.  We have a laboratory here but the medical care is better in Londrina so the doctor thinks they are more careful in doing lab tests.

Helen saw an unpleasant sight when I took her swimming  two weeks ago.  While we were there, a 16 year old boy was pulled out of the deep end of the pool.  They don't have lifeguards at pools here.  No one did anything-  I went and turned him over and barely started giving chest-arm respiration when a doctor who was playing tennis started mouth-to-mouth respiration and his wife, an anesthetist, gave heart massage.  I couldn't find any pulse.  When they got their instruments, the doctor couldn't hear any heartbeat and said that just by looking at the boy's eyes, he said that he was dead.  He used an instrument to look in his lungs and said that there wasn't any water in the lungs.  Apparently, the boy had eaten off and on during the afternoon, had stomach cramps, and disappeared without any signs of distress.  He had been under water for at least half an hour, the doctor thought.  After seeing this, Helen said we can sell our membership at the club as she doesn't want to go back. 

For some time, Rachel and Charles haven't wanted to go- they have friends playing here all the time.  It is too bad that they don't have public pools and we could pay whenever we could go.  The club fees have gone up to $10 per month and now gasoline is so expensive so we might as well sell our membership.

Since the children didn't have school on the day after Easter, we went to a city one hour from here to visit with the pastor's family there.  We will go as a family to get together with all of the pastor's families in our area, about nine of them, on May 1st which is a holiday.

You may have heard from Cynthia's letter that Joey was in bed for a week due to a swollen knee.  After a week, he hobbled around.  He thought he would need a cane, but an ace bandage helped.  Now he has been fine.  I told him that he should play mostly chess since he hurt his knee in a soccer game.

One of Rachel's English students gave her an egg (chocolate) that cost about $6.  I told her that maybe I should start teaching if I could get valuable gifts.  I spend time every day helping Helen with reading in English as she is weak due to not paying attention to phonetic sounds.  She is improving but is having a harder time than Rachel or Charles for they went all day to school in English until last August and had Portuguese on the side.  Now it is the opposite for Helen-  having little time of school in English.  Her main problem has been spelling but by studying, she is doing much better.  In Portuguese you spell as you pronounce a word.  Charles is too busy playing to do hardly any extra reading in English, but Rachel reads many books.  One of the books that I read I found interesting, "Ana and the King of Siam" for which the movie "The King and I" was made.  A television series about this is being shown.

We went to see the movie "The Day of the Jackal" about the plot to attempt to assassinate Charles De Gaulle.  It was interesting and full of suspense.

We have a shampoo that you might like, Marian.  It has vitamins in it and brings back the natural color.  Several of our pastor's wives have started using it. One who was much grayer than Joey has no more grey hair.  Joey refuses to try it as you would have to wash your hair two or three times a week and he goes for three weeks without washing as he feels that washing it makes it soft and it doesn't stay in place.  With all the talk about streaking, they said at our mission meeting that now with this shampoo, no pastor has to have streaks of grey hair.

Donna and Joey


Letter to Marian and Frank, February 4, 1974

 Helen on a ladder, a bit younger than in this letter.

Dear Marian, Frank, Lisa, Erik and Julianna,

Greetings from the huge city of Sao Paulo (largest in Brazil).  Wouldn't ever want to live here- the traffic is terrible and some days there is a lot of smoke due to factories but the medical care is the best in Brazil.

We were here for five days- January 14th through the 18th for X-rays, blood and urine tests.  I was with Helen the 2.5 to 3 hours it took to do the x-rays for they let me hold her hand.  I was impressed how thorough the 19 x-rays were done on the kidney and bladder.  While the dye was in the bladder, the x-rays from the right side and lying flat on the back showed everything normal, but on her left side of the bladder a cyst was found.  She had to urinate and several x-rays showing the bladder full and half full and empty showed that the cyst was larger when the bladder was empty and in the cyst a residual of the urine stayed.  This apparently was (the wetting) better when she took sulfa or antibiotics but only surgery was the solution.  The medical term is diverticulum.  I wish I had a Merck Manual to understand it better, although the doctor did a diagram for me.  He said that this is from birth, so apparently the x-rays at Fairview Southdale taken 2.5 years ago weren't thorough enough.  I'm glad we finally found out what was wrong.  the doctor says that there could be a complication from the surgery, in that the urine could try to go up the ureter to the kidney- he called this reflux and said that he tried to prevent this from happening by doing certain things in the operation.  This doctor was recommended to me by our dentist in Maringa.  He is a urologist for children.  Since I came here, I found out that he is consdiered to be one of the best in Brazil and is well known. 

After the exams, Helen and I went by night bus to Curitiba where we me Joey, Rachel and Charles and then drove for seven hours to a city where a pastor from our district was to be ordained at his home church.  This pastor is our age but did a short course offered due to the shortage of pastors.  He had correspondence lessons to do and Joey was his tutor the last year.  Before he became a pastor he worked with his family at a tile and brick factory in the country by his father's farm.  Here shingles aren't used on roofs, but tiles.  It was interesting to see the process of how the tiles were made.  We also visited an old folk's home for 75 residents where this pastor that was ordained had worked for four years before going to our own district.  The sermon was given in German since most in that area prefer that language-  we had a copy of the sermon in Portuguese.

On our way back home we were by the ocean so we spent two days at the home of a Dutch couple who live one block from a nice beach .  This couple had lived for 15 years in the U.S., five years in Canada and went back  to Brazil to be by their only son who had married a Brazilian when the parents left Holland 25 year ago and stayed here for 5 years.  Now they are about 68 years old and haven't tried to learn Portuguese which all their grandchildren can speak.  They lived in Maringa for a few months and we helped translate for them but they decided it was too hot there for them.  Joey wouldn't go in the water but we had fun jumping in the waves.  The sun was very hot one morning.  I made Helen and Charles wear shirts but Rachel took hers off and consequently got a burn so her back peeled.  We didn't get lotion under Charles nose, thus large water blisters formed which made him look funny.  While on the beach we saw a beautiful film made in Austria, "Sissi", spoken in French with Portuguese subtitles- only Helen couldn't read fast enough so I explained as it went along.  The movie was about a girl who was chosen to be the queen of Austria- Elizabeth was her real name. 

Rachel and Charles had their birthdays while Helen and I were here for exams.  Rachel made a cake and invited a few neighbors.  Rachel is now my height.  According to the Reader's digest, one can double the height for girls at 18 months and add an inch for good nutrition.  She and Helen should be 5' 9".
Today is the 8th day in the hospital and Helen will get out.  We will spend two days at a pastor's home here before we go back on a 12 hour ride by night bus.  She has had a catheter in for seven days.  When she got up a plastic bag was taped on to her leg so she could walk around.  For two days she has had a lot of gas.  They didn't give her an enema before surgery.  She didn't have a B.M. for five days and then it was very hard, finally they gave an enema but still she has gas pains quite often.  The doctor didn't leave any order for gas so they gave her medicine for pain in order to go to sleep for two nights.  Just about everywhere you go, there are couches in each room for a relative to sleep by the patient.  Nursing care is better here than in Maringa yet relatives are the ones who feed a patient when he needs help, gets them out of bed, helps them walk.  Nurses come in just when it is time to give the bath, take the temperature, or give medicine, unless we call them.  There is no T.V. in the hospital unless one has a portable one to bring.  We brought a tape recorder, coloring books, dolls, and many books.  Most days I read to her and when I read all of the books, I bought comic books.  Now that she is better she will play with her dolls, so I can write letters.  Helen had 11 stitches from the surgery.  American school starts on the 11th, so I will probably carry her up the steps so that she can go.  Brazilian school starts on March 1st.  That gives her plenty of time to recuperate.

We didn't hear from you , Cynthia, Louie of Stan's for Christmas.  Laurie sent Rachel a letter. Just think, Juliana is almost a year old!  Will she be walking soon?  Wish you could send us a picture of her when she has her first birthday.  How about printing us a letter, Lisa, or drawing us a picture?  Hugs and kisses to all,

Love, Donna and Joey

Thought Eric would be interested to hear that while we were in the hospital we saw helicopters going on top of a 22 story building about 8 to 10 blocks from here to save people from a fire.  It was tragic in that 200 people died.  Many jumped and there wasn't any netting so they had an instant death.  They had fire equipment such as hoses and extinguishers inside, but the 1000 people that worked there panicked and didn't remember to use them.  The whole city stopped working to see this tragedy and many of the duty nurses went back to work and hundreds of people went to give blood that was needed.  We heard ambulance sirens all day long.  Fire started when an air conditioner exploded due to over heating of the electrical wiring.  The fire department complained of what little equipment they had and what few firemen for this size of a city, and said many more could have been saved if building codes had been enforced- such as helicopter landing on top of the building- the only helicopter that could go up there had to land on skis.  One man held a wet curtain over his nose and mouth.  He waited calmly for three hours to be rescued while others became desperate and jumped.  He said he would have waited all day and encouraged others not to jump.

Thurs. am.  We got back home.  Everyone is fine.  Helen has to take antibiotics by mouth for a month and then have a urine exam before the doctor says everything is O.k.

Love, Donna and Joey
Rachel, Charles and Helen

Letter to Marian and Frank, October 18, 1973

 Mom and Charles with Duchess, the cat.

My Aunt Marian kept many of the letters my mother, Donna Biel, wrote to her.  She returned them in 2010.  Most are recorded here.  They were not entered in chronological order, so the best way to view them is by year, found in the index on the sidebar.

Dear Marian and Frank,

It seems like ever since we got back it has been raining a lot.  We got some big leaks fixed but have more to do.  The hard rains were starting to damage the wheat crop which was being harvested.  we were fortunate to have a beautiful day last Sunday when we had our annual fund raising dinner, bazaar and cake selling.  Everything sold well.

I was gone for four days to Londrina for orientation for leaders for Ladies Aid.  The next week cliff and I were gone for two days to a district pastor's meetings with the wives.  Cliff has gone to several meetings.  One was for a regional meeting of our church and now he is gone for three days where a study will be given on "Our faith, Our Life", a pamphlet which was put out by the church and many studies are being done by the lay people in which they seem to be well accepted.

A week from tomorrow, Helen will be a flower girl in a wedding at our church.  She is quite happy about it and has a light blue long dress that is being made for her.  The children are happy that Duchess has three kittens- two are almost all white like she is.  Rachel painted some boards and with some bricks made a bookshelf for her room.  Charles has his 3-speed on his bike, but hasn't been using it much.  He has been roller skating some, but Rachel has let her friend use Charles's skates and she has done a lot of skating.

 Helen in uniform, 1972

The children are in a Catholic school about four blocks from our home.  They are there from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Saturday and have English at the American school from 1 to 2:30 P.M.  they like the school and it seems quite neat and orderly compared to many public schools that I have seen.  One thing that I find a nuisance is that the Brazilian school doesn't furnish books, so we run to several book stores to get what we want.   the children have to wear uniforms- navy blue skirt or slacks, sweater, white knee socks for the girls, black shoes, white blouse or shirt. 

 Rachel in a Regina Mundi Parade, 1974

Helen doesn't get any science in the Brazilian school and Charles doesn't get much so I'm buying the American textbooks from the school here and giving it during the three month vacation in December to February.  Charles needs help on math for the Brazilian school gives more things sooner than the American system-  we have been working on the multiplication and division tables.  Charles and Rachel have English at the Brazilian school but don't have a textbook as it is very simple- names of animals, parts of the body and they know more than the teacher.  This next Monday students from the small American school in Londrina will come to have a sports day in the afternoon.

This next week I plan to go on a bus at night with one of our church members who has to go to the Swiss Embassy in Curitiba.  She has huge sores due to varicose veins on her legs and needs to show them so that she can get help from the Swiss government to help pay for medical bills and for a helper to do the housework.  Her husband is from Switzerland.  Last year, I helped her get a document stating that she is an invalid and can't do her work.  She suffers from high blood pressure and has liver problems, so she can't travel alone.

Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have many Jews living there.  We have many Arabs in our area- mainly from Lebanon.  I don't know what percentage of petroleum Brazil gets from the Arab countries, but they will be getting more from Venezuela, however, this may not be enough and if the war continues for some time, gas may have to be rationed here. 

When our large suitcase ripped across the top on the way back, I thought a sheet was missing, but now have checked through everything and can't find the material for two pillow dolls that Cynthia gave me, the green and white checked dress Marian gave Helen, and Rachel's music sheet.  Helen feels bad about the dress you gave her and when she mentioned the dress I looked for it and discovered that we don't have it.  Don't buy a suitcase like the one you paid us for, for in the long run it is expensive and can't be used again.  Helen forgot many words so we have to practice reading.  How does Eric like the picture Rachel took of him?  Your family picture turned out well. 

Love, Donna and Joey

Letter to the Beiwel's, December 27, 1974 (Friday)

 Rachel Biel, around 12 years old.

My Aunt Marian kept many of the letters my mother, Donna Biel, wrote to her.  This is one that I wrote to her family when I was 12 years old. She returned the letters in 2010.  Most are recorded here.  They were not entered in chronological order, so the best way to view them is by year, found in the index on the sidebar.

Dear Uncle Frank, Auntie Marian, Lisa, Eric, and Juliana,

Hope you had a Merry Christmas.  We had a pretty nice one though Christmas Eve was more excited.  We opened our presents that night and went out for supper.

Thanks for the stamps, Uncle Frank.  I sure appreciated them.  I didn't have hardly any of them.  I hope you like the "1 cruzeiro" that I enclosed.  Seven of them make 1 DOLLAR.

Sorry to hear you (Lisa) and Eric had chickenpox.  I hat it when I was 4 years old.  I'm also sorry to hear you both will be wearing glasses, but many people look prettier in them.

For Christmas, Helen got an Egipcian game called CARCARA.  We had it the last time we were in the States.  It sure is fun!  Mom and Dad are playing it right now- scoring:  Dad-1, Mom-0.  I got a dart board and nine darts, we sure have fun with it.  I gave Dad a little flashlight which you could adjust 4 types of screwdrivers on to it.  He sure was happy with it.

I'm happy to hear that more books are coming even though you shouldn't have gone to the bother and work of doing it all.  My little library is finally starting to grow.  It has some real nice romance books by Grace Livingston Hill.  Lately, I read an excellent book by Corrie Ten Boom.  It's called the "hiding Place".  She hides Jews in this little place in her house in Holland and than gets caught for it and goes to a concentration camp.  You really should read it.

Lisa, Helen really misses you.  All the time she talks about is "When we get to the States, Lisa, Polly and I will do this, this and this."  She really misses you.

I can hardly believe we're going to the States in one year and at Christmas!  I always wonder if it is fun to ice skate.  We still have our roller skates, but I wonder if it is the same.

Now I have 1350 stamps.  Most of them are from Brasil.  I've 200 Brazilian ones and 151 American ones. 

This last few weeks we went to two special films: Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell.  Have you watched any of them?  I liked Godspell a lot better than Jesus C.S.S.  Mary fell in love with Jesus in J.C.S.S  In Godspell the disciples were dressed as clowns and Jesus had a huge blonde afro.  He also had on a Super Tea-shirt on and overalls.  Some things in it were just a riot.

Well, I guess I'd better end now.  With Great Love,

Rachel Biel

PS.  Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you that I'll start school (Both B. and A.) on March 1st.
PPSS  Dad's planning to take us (Charlie and I) on a bike hike.  We each get to choose a few friends to go along.  We'll stay out about 3 or 4 days.  My bones are aching to go (and so am I). 


See you, I mean.
Write you later, alligators.

Easter Letter, 1972

Rural Preaching Point in Parana, Brazil, 1970's

Maringa, Parana
 April 11, 1972

Dear friends and brothers in Christ:
Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost greetings to you all!  I'd meant to get off a Christmas letter, but it just woudn't "jell".  So this letter will have a little "hash" flavor to it, a mixture of different things.

First, the gist of what was to be the Christmas letter:

Theme thought:  "They grew him old too soon, and when they turned again to look on him they beheld...  a babe still lying in a manger; God's mystery still intact."

They look on him, these people with their "hip-pocket god".
They have all the answers, they know all the truth, and so 

There's a crisis on, you know.

There's a nation to be built, a world to be saved.  My house isn't paid for, and men are enslaved.

So they grab the baby and grow him up fast,
Flesh out his muscles with their Positive Thought,
Stand him on boxes so He towers over all.
And fill out his education with a transplant to His head:  
The latest in tape-recorders with the best that's been said.

NOW, DO YOUR THING, GOD--- we're waiting.

Well, wait.

Wait til the Babe grows up in his own good time,
Wait til He bends his finger-- and shatters our universe.
Wait til He grows tall-- so tall we see Him from our knees.
Wait til He speaks, and our words are stopped midcourse in wretched shame.
Wait, -- and look again at a God no man can hurry, no man can shape.

NOW, DO YOUR THING MAN---  God is waiting.


News of the parish and of the church:

We had a rather intensive schedule during the Lenten season, but it was rewarding, too.  It began witha youth retreat in Cianorte during the weekend of Carnaval that ends Ash Wednesday.  Even though it rained cloudbursts every day, we had a blessed retreat.  A total of 75 young people participated.

Special services were held every night in different points of the parish.  Our theme may sound rather blatant to some ears, "Enemies that War Against our Soul (life with God)".  The enemies considered were Insubordination, Sensuality, Avarice, Vices, Satan, False Religion.  Did somebody groan?

Of the approximately 600 people who make up our parish, 225 communed on or about Good Friday.  On or about, because we have eight meeting places in the parish, the most distant being a 3-hour drive away.

 A rural German Lutheran family in Parana, Brazil, 1970's

I think where I felt the greatest joy was at a small rural community where the men had a long tradition of never communing.  Not too long ago we had a long talk about that and they became obedient to the Word of Christ.  However, we separated the communion from the worship service and have the communion just before the coffee and cake that always comes about the middle of the afternoon.  (Church is at 12:00 in the home of a member).  All who are confirmed gather around the table.  We have the service and then pass first the plate and then the chalice form person to person at the appropriate moment.

An old German lives there, sharp of mind, fingers gnarled and stiff like old iron hooks; he has been many things, including a communist.  Twice he's given me essays he wrote, one on what's wrong with Einstein's concept of space and the other on what's wrong with Einstein's concept of time.  Before, when we've had Communion, he's stayed home;  this time he came.  However, when we were ready to begin the Supper, he disappeared.

"Whup!  Wait a minute!  Where's Uncle August?" asks one of his nephews (who is already a grandfather).

"I think I saw him down under the orange trees."

"Well, we better get him, too."

Afterward, they are talking very freely during coffee about it (there are no whispered conversations in Keller.)

"Yes,"  allows Uncle August, "it's the first time I've taken Communion."  So, he hadn't finished confirmation in Germany.  Then he chuckles and says about the Supper, "but, I guess it didn't do any harm."  And, he seems somehow very satisfied with that summation.

Afterward, he slipped me one more essay he'd written:  this time on the "soul" and the "spirit".

Next weekend there will be a District Conference of the Church at which time our district will be subdivided into North and South.  The North, of which we are a part of, will have ten of the smallest and largest parishes of the church: smallest numerically, largest geographically.  All receive some kind of subsidy from the church and are multiple point parishes.

Significant and basic decisions will soon be made about the type of ministry which will be carried out here; whether it will be traditional, "worker-priest", self-serving, missionary or whatever.  Pray for us.

The Bible Institute in Londrinda now has 32 students doing the Bible Course while continuing with their secular studies.  

In Christ,
the Biels  (Clifford)

Family is well.


Letter to Lisa, 1969

Dear Lisa,

Grandma Biel wrote that you are sick.  I'm very sorry to hear that.  I hope you and your family are better now.  I'm on vacation now until the middle of February.  In Brazilian school I passed to third grade.  Do you have a school picture you can send me?  We had a storm which took some tiles off of our roof.  Many trees were blown over.  Two people died because of the storm.  I stayed for four days at friends homes while Mama and Daddy were traveling.

Merry Christmas

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