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


Christmas Letter 1972

Dear friends in Christ:

Greetings once again at this Merrie  Xmas time!  We hope You-Know-who  is running your lives and that as a result you are reveling in the ever more abundant riches of His kindness.  And if he's NOT running your life, well then, we hope your world gets shaken to its sandy foundations to the point where you can take Psalm 119:65-72 for your very own.

A Christmas Meditation:  "No Pill for Mary"

She could have taken a pill--
Well, not that kind exactly sold
by Druggists everywhere (you know:
the Miracle for Today- "Dance the Piper's free)--
her "NO" would do as well,
Though then she'd miss the pleasure.

They hadn't learned yet,
in the Oldene Dayes,
The trick of it,
How to Dance to God's Tune
and not to pay the Piper.

It must have been delightful talking
To God with Him, for once, responding.
Delightful, but for the pain
in what He had to say.

There must be a way to have the pleasure
but not the pain.
Mary didn't know it... (could we say,
She didn't want it?)
Her pleasure included the message's pain.

For there would be pain:
   The pain in Joseph's heart: "An angel
   told me, Joseph dear,
   This child's from God."
   And then, his pain,
   "An angel?  Oh, yes.  Oh, God!"

   The People Pain, "You're gaining weight, Mary."
   "You'll be marrying soon, Mary?"
   "Such a shame you couldn't wait..."
   Talk, borne silently, for what could she say?
   "It's not Joseph's child..."?
   "This angel said to me..."?

   The mother's pain, for a child
   she bore but could never claim.
   "A sword shall pierce your heart."

PAIN.  She must have sensed the pain.
And with the pain, her pleasure:

   "Here am I, I am the Lord's servant;
   As you have spoken, so be it."

Can there be pleasure had
in mere talk, even with God Himself?
If nothing is said, the message doesn't matter?
What joy is had by those who take a Pill,
Then sit in t cozy sterility at God's feet
As all his words point robustly beyond them
to borning Life?

What Light!  What Sound!  God's messenger arrived!
God, give me pleasure!  God, give me pain!
Let my pleasure be the pain
of the Word you have spoken
coming to triumphant life.

No pills, to save me from your action!

Sweep up in the whirling winds
of your might plans
My Life.

"Here am I, I am the Lord's servant;
As you have spoken, so be it."

Highlights of the work here:

The VIII General Convention of the IECLB:  I had the rare privilege of attending as the pastor-delegate from the Northern District of the State of Parana.  What was especially inspiring was a new self-awareness generally evident, that the time is now for the IECLB (The Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confessions in Brazil) to be a living witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ to the Brazilian people.  Motions were passed preparing the way for more aggressive financial and evangelistic planning.  Also, a new "Document for Faith and Life" was adopted, beautifully written in Portuguese.  It showed a slight ambiguity at one point, the Lord's Supper, leaving the door open for those in our church of a more Reformed orientation.

A RETREAT:  WHERE ARE WE GOING?  Organized here in the North of Parana for the purpose of restructuring, if necessary, the work here.  Two members of the Executive Committee of the IECLB were present, and about thirty laymen and pastors from the North of Parana.  It was held here in Maringa.  The women of the congregation did a marvelous job of organizing, everybody cooperated beautifully.  The results:  some parishes were restructured into team ministries.  It was decided to work for a Visitation Pastor in the District whose task would be to make systematic visits with special program to all of the principal congregations each year, in our District.  Special attention will be given to Stewardship and Evangelization.  A questionnaire had been distributed by the District Council to all the members of our church in the North Parana District.  Among other things, it showed average family size to be about 3 children, average admitted gross income to be about $2,000 dollars a year.  A relatively sever language problem still exists, and the people are relatively conservative ecclesiastically.  And, they want more Bible studies and the overwhelming majority thinks that there should be more Brazilians in our churches.  It was decided that our district should think of itself as a "living shoot" and not a dead branch of the church.  Where are we going?  Where the Lord leads us!


The biggest family news is that we are on the "22-2" plan, and will be home for furlough for two months in July and August.  We plan on deplaning in Miami, buying a car and driving up through North Carolina (newton), Columbus, Ohio, and on through Iowa and up to Minnesota.  Exact dates have not been fixed as yet.

Brazil is now the world's no. 2 exporter of soybeans.

I guess that's not really family news.  We're all in relatively good health.  Donna is letting her hair grow longer.  Rachel is starting to exhibit some disturbingly ladylike symptoms at intervals.  Charles is highly imaginative.  I wish he would settle down and be as serious at least as Jerry Lewis.  And, Helen is still very much the cuddly baby of the family, though she shows signs of outgrowing that.  She's reading quite well.

Merry Christamas, and a Happy New Year!


Cliff, Donna, Rachel, Charles and Helen

Letter to Marian and Frank, December, 1971

Dear Marian, Frank, Lisa and Eric,

I see that I won't get many letters written if I don't make copies.

Joey seems to enjoy being back here.  It was nice to come back to the same house and only unpack clothing.  Within a couple of days, we were back to normal.  The girl who worked for me called the day we arrived and was here to help me the next day.  Helen was bashful about speaking Portuguese again, but within a week she had no trouble.

Joey has taken on two more preaching points twice a month.  One is about 45 minutes from here and the other is on half hour from there.  Another pastor was serving them, but he has a bad case of hepatitis so they will probably become a permanent part of our parish.  They are happy that Joey plays the violin as they haven't had anyone to accompany them.

I was gone for five days to a regional retreat for women.  Two from here went with me.  It was a long 11 hour trip to the ocean front.  We enjoyed the retreat but it ended with the sad news of a fatal car accident of the pastor and his wife, of the church where the retreat was held.  The pastor had given a talk 36 hours before the accident.  They hadn't taken their children along on the trip.  They had been her for 12 years from Germany.  Relatives from Germany were called to come and get the three small children.

Two afternoons I have taken women to visit a shut-in.  Since these women are in their 60's or 70's, they prefer German.  Joey studied for on month, twice a week, to learn some German.  The school year is over and he hopes to continue in March when classes start again.

Joey teaches the women's choir soprano and alto parts by playing the violin.  We will sing three hymns and one will sing a solo.  The children's program is on the 19th.  We have a confirmation service on January second where four will be confirmed.

We had a Thanksgiving pot luck at our church- about 45 Americans counting the children,.  At the dinner a missionary was telling of his recent trip with six children, wife and trailer driving for two months from Minnesota down to the Panama Canal then through the west side of South America coming up through Argentina and Uruguay into Brazil.  This pastor used to be with our mission but works now with the the Lutheran Free church.  They stayed with several missionaries in other countries and he said we should be thankful we have more religious freedom and friendly people.

 Charles Biel, 1971

Rachel and Charles are doing well at the small mission school in Maringa.  Charles is the only second grader.  He hasn't been having school in the afternoon so he went to a private Brazilian school where he finished first grade- doing just the Portuguese.  Next semester he will stay three afternoons a week at the American school and will have a Portuguese teacher go to his school.  Rachel has one classmate in the 4th grade.  The teacher says they are working harder this year.  There was some talk of reducing the hours at the American school and doing Brazilian school, but the math system is different and would be confusing and they are assigned a lot of homework in the Brazilian school since they only go for three hours.  A new couple will come in July for the American school so we hope that they will continue at that school.  It looks like in August I will have to start teaching Helen first grade as the mission that runs this school only accepts first graders if there is one from their mission and they don't have any.

 Rachel Biel, 1971

I have taken Rachel to see ballet put on by students of this city.  It was well done.  This week we went to hear a piano recital of the students studying in their ninth year.  One girl was from our church, who is the organist, and graduated from the course, in all, eleven years as there are two years of introduction.  Rachel is continuing lessons after we got back and is in the introduction.

Helen has been going to a nursery school every morning.  She still wets up to four or five times a day, so I think she will have to have another dilation of the urinary canal.  It will be six months in February since the last time, and the doctor said that it is usually done every six months until it is no longer necessary.  I'm planning to have her taken to an urologist in January and think she can have it done in our city.

I've been doing painting in our guest bedroom, Cliff and my bedroom and the dining room.  A sixteen year old boy did a good job in the living room.  I hoped that he could do more of the painting, but he helped while he had a cast on his left arm and when the cast came off, he went back to work on his regular job working as a bellboy at a hotel.  He had helped paint the hotel for seven months.  Some of those days that I painted were 100 degrees and when I put the paint on, it dried instantly.  I certainly got tired of painting but am glad that it was done. 

I have joined the English club which meets once a month.  It is mainly for Brazilian women to practice their English.  There are about 10 American women in this city.  One lady who speaks English that moved here in August is Dutch.  She came here 25 years ago and stayed in a German speaking community for four years, then went to Canada for five years and then to the U.S. for 15 years.  When they were here for the first time, their only child decided to stay here to marry.  This Dutch couple came to retire and be by their only grandchildren, but can't enjoy them much as they don't speak Portuguese.  They say there is no place like Santa Barbara, California, and may go back there.  He went with Joey to a rural area one Saturday for church services and visited with the members in German.

We have a kitten that drinks out of a doll's bottle.  The mother cat was run over by a car.  The kitten eats bread wet with milk.  We still have our big cat, Blackie, and our dog, Velvet.  Rachel bought gold fish with her money but didn't have a fish bowl for them, so they were in a regular bowl.  One day when we were gone in the afternoon, we forgot to put the cat out so she had a delicious meal of fish.  Charles wants a canary or a rabbit but I doubt that we will get them as it ends up being mother taking care of animals.

Happy to hear your folks got down to see you, Marian.  Hope you can do that more often.

Helen misses Lisa and Polly- especially when her neighborhood friends went to school in the afternoon and she was home alone.  I tried to read to her every day.  Now they have vacation for 2.5 months so she is busy playing.

Rachel made a list of the Yearling Books like "The Good Master" that her school bought.  Now I can't find the list.  We are going to borrow some "Jack and Jill" from one of the families to see if she likes it better than "Children's Digest" which she gets now.

Hear you went as a family on one of Frank's trips-  hope you had an enjoyable time. 

Who lost the most weight by Thanksgiving?  Joey and I lost 10 lbs. the first month back.  We didn't diet- guess it was getting back to a normal routine.

A blessed Christmas!


Donna and Joey

Letter to Marian and Frank, January 20th, 1971

Dear Marian and Frank,

I can't get my pen to work, so will peck away.  You will be happy to know that we got your books on Charles's birthday on the 15th.  Everyone was delighted and Charles found his two cats in the lovely cat book.  We saw the movie, "Doctor DoLittle" a long time ago.  It is an interesting book.  I started the book by Catherine Marshall and am enjoying it.  We have read only one of the condensed Reader's Digest- about the Maya family.  I have been busy reading books but also make Rachel read some to Helen.  A special thank you from all of us.

Mary wrote that Louie and Rosie have a boy born on my birthday.  Happy to hear the news and must write to congratulate them.

Thanks for the pictures.  It is the first time that we have seen Erik.  He has curly hair like Lisa had.  Marian and Lisa look very nice in the pictures.

You asked what we did on Christmas Day.  We went to a home where four families that are related got together.  It was a pot-luck dinner and very good.  It turned out to be a hot day.  We were pleased with the plays for the program that was held on Christmas Eve.   At 10:30 a visitor arrived at our home and stayed overnight.  She missed a bus to go to Cianorte.  We didn't know her before and found her to be very pleasant.  She was here this week on her way back to her home in Porto Alegre. 

Off and on, a lady who is 69 years old comes to our house, has slept here two nights and has had several meals.  She isn't quite right in her mind and none of her relatives in our country church want her for when they have tried to help she got the police to believe that they took money of hers and then the relatives had to pay.  she has been at an old folks' home in the capital of this state, but managed to get away.  She didn't have but one dress so I gave her one of mine in order to wash her dress.  The relatives know that she is staying at a home for transient people and that she comes here often but no one has done anything about it.  The lady never married and has only nieces and nephews close by.  Very sad but she talks a lot and I only understand half as he sometimes puts German in with her Portuguese. 

Mary wrote that they might get a humidifier instead of a drier.  No one has said how much we should send or did someone pay for us?

While we were in Londrina for our spiritual retreat we took the children to see the "Love Bug" about a car called Herbie.  It was cute- showing how he could win races but when his owner didn't pay attention to him, he would have temper tantrums.  "Ben, the Bear" is here this week.  We saw it in the States almost four years ago and they don't remember it. 

I heard Minnesota got a lot of snow this month.  We have had a lot of rain causing flood over the main highway to our capital, so barges have had to take people and small cars across.  Today was one of our hottest days- about 100- right now the children are swimming in the rain, or rather, downpour.

We have a seminary student coming for part of the time when we will be gone.  Now Joey is busy with Vacation Bible School in two churches.  Two girls from the Bible Institute are helping.  Also, Joey has to go to Cianorte (1 hour drive) often as he is on   commission for our mission public school.  Next month is a five day Bible camp right before Lent starts.  Starting next month I will visit women that seldom or never come to Women's Bible meetings which start again in March when summer vacation is over.  Rachel and Charles have off from school until February 9th.  I try to take them swimming several times a week.  Rachel knows how to swim, Charles will dive from the shallow side and can swim a short distance and Helen likes the water, but won't put her head under.

I have asked my Dad to get three second hand sleeping bags or air mattresses.  We won't be staying at any mission home as those are for one year furloughs.  They would give us money to rent a furnished apartment but we hope that won't be necessary as we hope to stay with our brothers, sisters, and parents.  I think the only deputation will be visiting churches in Brooklyn and Columbus, Ohio on the way to Minnesota and then later we will go to Havre, Montana, perhaps by train as the latter pays for half of our support.

We just heard that we will be having physicals at the Mayo Clinic when we are on furlough.  Apparently, the clinic was happy to have the opportunity to study those that live in tropical or semi-tropical climates.  There are many types of worms here that they have never heard of in Minnesota.  Charles just had a blood test, an X-ray and gets hysterical whenever anything is done.  He had a sore muscle in his leg and the doctor ordered tests, but everything was normal.  I don't know how it started, but he is the worst when it comes to shots.  Three people have to hold him down.

Joey is teaching Charles how to play chess.  The cards you sent we played once showing how they had to follow suit and the highest card takes the trick.  But, we didn't explain about hearts yet.  While in Londrina we got a memory game consisting of pairs.  Most are animals, fruits, and different designs.  Usually, we play with about 40 pairs at once- all are turned over and mixed up.  So far, Charles has been the winner.  I remember in what area one was turned up that I want, but I don't do well.  Even Helen does as well as I do much of the time and she doesn't even pay attention to the cards that are turned up.  They are calling me to play a game now.


Donna and Joey

Sorry but this typewriter jumps and we haven't been able to get it fixed.

Letter to Grandpa and Grandma Biel, February 14th, 1977

 Our house in Maringa, late 1970's.

Dear Mary and Harvey,

The candy and books arrived a few days ago!  We didn't pay anything on the books and just $2.50 for the candy.  Thanks for your part in the gift.  Marian wrote that she sent another package later that has 30 pillow designs that I had asked for.  I don't know if Cynthia or Marian paid for them and I asked them to get a check from Harvey from our bank account to pay for them.  I cleaned off a shelf to put these books on and stamped our name in them as we lend them out and borrow from others during the year.

I just got your birthday card as even though it had the correct address, it was put in the post box of another pastor who was traveling until last week.  Thus, I just wrote a thank you letter to Mrs. Gordon Nagel.

We are thankful that you weren't hurt worse than you were when you fell, Mary.  We've been fine except for diarrhea due to heat, I suppose.  For several days it's been 88 degrees in the house.

Our house was broken in to for the first time in nine years that we have been here. We went out of the city at 3:30 P.M. to a wedding.  We were going to be back by 7:30 to turn yard lights on as Joey had a preaching point to go to, but it rained a lot so we didn't get back until 9:30 since with heavy rain he couldn't go to the other place.  An empty barrel was used to step on top of our bathroom roof which slants up to the second floor to the guest room.  The rooms upstairs weren't locked but the window was shut.  The metal bar for locking the windows had been missing for years.  They tried to break into Helen's bedroom which is the easiest window to get in.  they took the radio from the kitchen but left it upstairs by the window they entered and took the new tape recorder of Charles and Rachel's, five tapes of Charles, new slacks of Rachel's, Rachel's blue jeans, and her necklace from Stan and LaVonne saying "I am a Lutheran" on the back.  We figured it must have been someone alone or else he would have taken more things.  We knew some windows in our house were easy to get into and now we are going to ask to have them changed.  We were upset, but thankful that more things weren't gone.  We hope the police will get the tape recorder back as it is being sold in the city for it has a radio, monitor, and would be easy to identify.  The only clothes gone through were Rachel's.  I bought her new blue jeans as Bible camp starts on Friday.  I plan to give Charles money for some tapes as it was his birthday and Christmas presents that he lost.  This is the 4th  tape recorder in nine years stolen from us.  The first was on the airplane just before we moved to Maringa.  It was replaced by the Airlines after six months.  Joey bought another one since we didn't know if it would be replaced.  That was stolen from our car three years ago, and a year ago, Joey lent one to an English couple and it was stolen from their house.  They didn't replace it as they hadn't asked to borrow it but we asked if they didn't want to use it.  We still have Joey's tape recorder which I had locked up, plus check blanks, calculator, money, and camera when we were gone on the bicycle hike.  On those nights, my maid and her brother slept here.

 Bike trip to Fazenda Kelina, 1979

Ten children, ages 13-16, bicycled the 18 miles with Joey.  Helen and I took bedding, clothes and food by car.  Most of the children that went with us weren't active in the youth group, but some are going to Bible camp and we hope they will become more active in church.  Three from one family haven't been to church in 10 years although Joey has visited them many times.  While on the bike hike, we spent a lot of time in the swimming pool at the doctor's farm, Fazenda Kelina.  Helen and I didn't go in as much as we didn't want to get sunburned as Charles, Rachel and Joey, who peeled afterward.  The flies were so bad one night that we could hardly sleep, so we sprayed the house twice the next day.  One family of church members that live about 4 miles away, gave us a sack of corn on the cob for our meals.

This last week we were gone for two days and one night to Ponta Grossa, a five hour drive to see the family that recently moved there after language school.  Pastor Charles Eidum is the one that saved Rachel at the beach.  They have children the age of our own children so they enjoyed the visit.  They are having a difficult time with the language.  It is amazing to see how little they can communicate after one year of study, but then we remember how we were in that situation.  We hope they will come and see us in July when there is a month break in school.

Helen and Charles enjoyed the children's Bible Camp.  Helen said that she would have liked to stay longer.  I took 16 children by train.  Seven were from our city and the rest from a neighboring parish, for the train service starts in our city and other cities further in the interior don't have it.  I stayed overnight and took a bus back the next day.  This Friday for Bible Camp for ages 14 and up they will go by train for four and a half days.  The train costs 2.5 times less than the bus.

I bought paint remover and took off paint around the floor back in the living room and dining room plus a door.  The paint was peaking through and showing two different colors.  I wore rubber gloves but it was the hardest and messiest work I've ever done.  Painting is a picnic compared to paint removal.

We had seen pictures on T.V, plus from "Time" magazine and have read about the terrific cold weather.  As one friend wrote to us this winter is only for polar bears.  While you are suffering from the cold we have had one of the worst floods of all times.  It is about three to four hours distance from us.  It will affect beef prices because about a sixth to a fourth total of the beef cattle drowned or starved to death.

I'm sending a letter t the International Institute as we haven't heard anything about the books we sent back for Rachel's 8th grade.  We figured that they should have gotten them in September.  If there is a refund, we asked them to send it to you to be deposited in our account.

It is nice that you can have a T.V. in two places.  I wish we had gotten a portable one for we have meetings in our living room and then have to push the T.V. into our bedroom for the children to watch it.  It always scratches the floor.

Before I got this mailed we got your letter wit the Valentine's Card.  It came right on the date.

All  of those snowmobiles in the family...  Sounds like the winter has plenty of snow for them.  Hope they are careful.

Thanks for the stamps you sent in Rachel's birthday card.  While in Ponta Grossa Rachel and Charles Eidam traded 224 stamps and she put some US stamps and Brazilian ones that she didn't have.  She spends all of her money on stamps.

I found another use for ace bandages-  for elastic bands on Joey's underwear!  He had five underwear that were good except for the elastic.  I got three fixed with one ace bandage.  I tried to buy an ace bandage here, but they don't make ones that stretch.  One of my American friends in this city thinks she has an ace bandage that she can give me as she is soon going back to the States.  If she can't find it, I'll let you know.  Send one cut up in three pieces- one piece at a time for I used slightly less than a third for each underwear.

You mentioned a special type of orange.  We have it here for about three months.  It is delicious.  It is a cross between an orange and a tangerine.  They are so easy to peel.

All for now,


Donna and Joey

PS  Joey just wrote to Cynthia and Nels- mainly because of the accident of Cynthia's.  Hope she has completely recovered now.

Letter to Marian and Frank, December, 1969

 Rachel and Charles Biel
Iguazu Falls, Brazil, 1969

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,

I had this letter written before Thanksgiving but never got any further.  We are busy with Christmas poems for Sunday School, two plays which include youth and adults.  This time of the year it is difficult to start practice early as the school year ends in December and many are taking final exams, but for those who did well all year, they don't have to take final exams or at least, not in the subjects where they did well.

This year we had Thanksgiving at our church with 90 people present.  Almost all who came have children that go to the mission school here.  Last year it was held at the mission school with 60 and it was crowded.  The school children gave an enjoyable program.  Of those present, one other couple are Lutheran, some Baptist and most are from the United Missionary Society.

The first week in December we were gone for four days to the beach where we had two days of business meetings with our mission representative from our Board.  Rachel and Charles stayed with members of our church.  We were not to take our children along, but took Helen and there was one little girl for her to play with.  We enjoyed seeing the other missionaries but had to travel one day to get there and another to get back.  On the way back, Helen had a fever and was vomiting. 

Helen will have her tonsils out on the 30th of this month.  We have a doctor who is a specialist in child anesthesia.  She will be at a Catholic hospital run by Germans.  Helen recently got over a light case of the chicken pox.  Last month she had the mumps.  Charles recently had German measles with a high fever for one day.  When he had the mumps, he was in bed for almost three weeks due to re-swelling and fever.  Rachel has been very healthy and hasn't missed a day of school.

The children continue to be much larger than those of their age.  In the small mission school, Rachel has to sit with the 4th graders who are her size and her classmates, the 2nd graders, sit in smaller desks in front of her.  Grades 2-5 are taught by one teacher in a large room.  There are fifteen-  five of these are second graders.  Rachel's teacher says that she is reading very well. 

A few days before Christmas Charles graduates from the nursery-kindergarten school.  Hopefully in August he will start first grade at the mission school.

In January we will go to a family camp called "word of Life" which all but two of the mission families from our church will attend.  Some of the families I hadn't seen for three years as we went on furlough, then they did when we got back and we live too far away to make a visit unless we take a vacation.

Cliff continues to travel often.  Recently, a week at the Bible Institute in Cianorte, three days to a pastor's meeting in another state.  This last month was one of confirmation of nine in the country church, 11 in the city church and almost the same number in a neighboring city plus a class to be done this month at a chapel where he goes twice a month.  For five weeks we had a girl from our country church doing confirmation as family is moving soon.  When Cliff was traveling, I had three lessons a day with her.  It seemed like there wasn't much time left after preparing for women's Bible studies, taking and getting the children from school, going to sewing class for two hours every day.

At the end of September, I went to a four day retreat for women held in Londrina,  a two hour drive from here.  Two women from the country church and three from here went.  It was the first retreat held in this area- we had 65 women.  It went well except for problems of language as some older women understood only German and others understood only Portuguese.  We feel that German was used too much and hope they will gradually will use it less as the youth prefer Portuguese and soon these will be a part of our women's group.  In the morning our Bible studies were divided into groups of Portuguese and German and the rest of the program was given in either language.

In the end of October, we had our yearly festival in the church with dinner of barbecued steak and potato salad, cakes sold in the afternoon plus a bazaar of clothes.  This year everything was sold.  Now with this money plus money that the members have pledged we plan to finish the church tower and put in bells.  I helped with the bazaar held for Charles's school.  They are working on the construction of the Japanese Methodist church where services are held in the same building.

We have applied for a three month furlough from June to August in 1971.  Then we plan to come back to Maringa.  Time seems to be going very fast and before we know it, we will be visiting with you.  Soon two of our neighboring missionaries will be gone on furlough and the only American of our mission nearby will be Gaylord Grant in Londrina.  We have become good friends with the German missionaries in Campo Mourao, an hour drive from here.  The only other American missionary in this state where we have our church is a nine hour drive from here and the rest are 12-30 hours drive in other states.  This state was where our mission work started but now that we are a part of the Lutheran Church of Brazil and many of our mission churches don't exist or only remain only as preaching points, we can go to wherever we receive a call.

Cliff has become a good photographer.  He takes photos for weddings and confirmations and makes the copies that they want, thus he didn't have time to get our pictures done yet from the vacation in July. 

 Wedding at Querencia do Norte

We went to see the waterfalls of Iguacu which are higher and greater in volume than the Niagara Falls.  They are in our state, a seven hour drive, mostly on dirt roads.

Sete Quedas with Kathy Fedde

By the time you get this, Christmas will be over.  We hope you will have had a joyous one.

We haven't gotten your new address.  How do you like your new home?  I suppose that by now, Erik is a busy little toddler, getting into things.  Does he walk yet?  Here there is never a dull moment. 

If things don't go right, Rachel says that I don't love her.  She's very emotional.  At times she tries my patience.

It seems like a long time since we have heard from you, but I realize you could say the same to us.  Hope you are fine and will write soon.


Donna and Joey

Letter to Marian and Frank, June 1, 1969

 Leadership classes in Londrina, Parana, Brazil, 1960's.

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,

we have had some cold weather.  We had a few days down to 5 centrigrade in the house, then it got quite warm with 5 days of rain in a week.  I appreciate the clothes dryer that I have.  I don't know of any Brazilians that own clothes dryers but most of my neighbors could afford them if they wanted them.

Rachel has finished the first grade Calvert school with me.  She has learned to write very well at the Brazilian school which she goes to every morning for five days and will go until the end of June.  In August she starts second grade at the small mission school here of the United Missionary Church.  It is a five minute drive from here.  A Baptist missionary family who lives near us will take turns with us to take their boy and Rachel to the school.  There are a about 30 students- the high school is a correspondence course.  Charles goes in the morning to the school he and Rachel went to last year.  It is a school  directed by a Japanese missionary of the Methodist church.  He is busy practicing writing numbers up to 10 and playing with the boy next door.  Next March, he will start first grade in a Brazilian school and if the Mission school here doesn't have first grade, I will teach him (as of now that mission doesn't have any children his age so they won't have first grade unless a new family comes with someone in his grade.)

Helen has three friends that she plays with, then they go to nursery school in the afternoon.  Of course, she thinks she can go to school, too.  She seldom takes a nap for then we can't get her to sleep until 10 p.pm.  She insists on dressing herself and screams if I help her but yet, though she tries to be grown-up, she still isn't completely toilet trained.  We have many cars that zoom by our house.  It seems like I spend a lot of time watching the children and yet Charles ran across without looking and a car barely missed him.

Cliff is busy planning for activities in July when there is a month off in the school year.  For the first 11 days, he will be in Londrina, two hours from here for Bible camp and for a course for teachers in Sunday School. 

 Mauro and Edilma at Leadership school in Londrina

Cliff is the representative for youth work in the Northern part of this state.  He went to a meeting in another state to plan various types of Bible camps.  One is on music, another on Evangelism and another on the Church's social responsibility.  Some camps are too far away for our youth.  After that meeting four pastors from around here and the director of the hostel in Londrina were at our house for dinner and an afternoon meeting for planning the Bible camps. 

 Square Dancing at the Leadership School
Londrina, Parana, Brazil

Last week Cliff was gone for three days to a meeting in the Southern part of the state.  It was a nine hour drive one way.  Each church was to take two representatives.  One of our representatives was waiting in a nearby town for Cliff.  While he was crossing a street he was hit by a car.  Cliff spent the afternoon with him in the hospital.  He was taken to the hospital unconscious, but fortunately, the head wounds were not critical and he is recovering with a couple of broken bones.

This Thursday we will have women from neighboring cities and I'm sure there will be a good turnout of our group to hear the wife of the pastor who lived for 27 years in a nearby city of Rolandia and formed most of the churches in this area.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to understand it for even though the pastor's wife has been in Brazil for 30 years, she speaks only German.  This weekend Cliff has exchanged parishes with a German pastor.  They do it once every two months in order have German services in our parish.  The pastor and his wife frequently stop here when traveling.  Their oldest daughter, almost six, came along this time to play with Rachel.

For one month, Manuel from our church in Londrina, lived with us.  He is a 25 year old man who was waiting for a work permit in Germany.  He is not of German background.  He has spent one year in the State's on scholarship.  While here, he helped his sister teach English at the Fisk school.  We enjoyed having him with us.  His mother is helping care for the missionary children at the the hostel in Campinas.

A few days ago, Cliff was 33 years old.  We bought him a shirt a month ago.  He acted as if the present were a surprise but later said that Helen had showed him where I had hid it the day it was bought.  In spite of getting older and Cliff is much grayer now, we are continuing to be blessed with good health.

When do we get some pictures of your children?  These pictures we are sending we made four for each brother and sister, Aunt Martha, two sponsoring churches, for our parents and scrapbooks of ours- it came to over 100 pictures.  It certainly comes out much cheaper doing it ourselves and we can blow up the best part of the picture.

Today it was 42 degrees at 7 a.m. and 50 degrees in the house.  We heated the kitchen and Joey heats his office.  A cold spell usually lasts three to four days.  This kitchen has a door on it, leading to a hallway which goes to other rooms.  Our other house in Loanda didn't have a door going to the hallway, so we used a bedspread to keep heat in the kitchen.

While making this letter and developing pictures, we caught six mice in the oven- all small.  As soon as we got one, we threw it out and used the same bait.  Since then, I caught two more and had gotten three big ones on a previous day- total of eleven.  They seem to like the oven in the cold weather-  the nest must be underneath the grill but we can't find anything.

All for now,


Donna and Joey

Letter to Marian and Frank, February 5, 1969

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,

We have read in the TIME magazine that the peak of the Hong Kong flu was in January.  We hope that those of you who had it have recovered.  There have been a few cases here but since it is summer, it has been no more than a cold.  So the newspaper says.

We had a nice rest at Bible Camp for our missionaries.  Bible students who are on vacation and work there during the summer take care of the children in the morning while we had Bible studies or listened to lectures.  In the afternoon there was swimming.  There were volley and basketball courts.  Cliff and men played against youth at a youth Bible Camp 15 miles from our camp.  The food was excellent but we had to wait up to 45 minutes to be served after we sat down and it was late by then- 1:30 for lunch and 7:30 for supper.  A couple of times Helen fell asleep before the food came.  There wasn't room for all of the families on the main grounds so four families had to be 1 and a half mile away.  We were the only ones with very small children and it was inconvenient as we only returned there just before supper.  One day, Rachel was sick with a fever and the next day she had diarrhea.  The camp is located in the mountains by Sao Paulo and was cool in the evening and excellent for sleeping.

On our way home we had car trouble and spent a total of 7 hours at a gas station in the country while Cliff went to a city to get different radiator.  It had a clean bathroom and eating place.  We got home at two in the morning.  We had a 20 year old youth with us that was going from the Missouri Lutheran school in Sao Paulo to near our city.  We met this youth when we went to visit missionaries of the Missouri church that are studying Portuguese in Sao Paulo.  One family is from Brownton, Minnesota and have met my sister, Olive, who lives there.  They spent part of one day with us at Bible Camp.

The church in New York where Cliff interned wrote and asked him to find a work of art to be presented at the end of April for churches in the Eastern States that have been promoting missions and that have mission interest.  It was hard to find something but Cliff got a primitive art of Jesus and disciples around a triangular table with flowers in the middle.  Above them is a curtain with gaudy ribbons to pull the curtain back.  The colors are vivid and the painting is simple but we found several things that are meaningful such as a table shape that could signify the Trinity, flowers for the ressurection, and the curtain could represent the sin which separates us from God and the red curtain could signify Jesus's blood which took away our sin, etc.  They wanted to spend $50-$80, but it cost $130.  Now we are going to wrap it for air mail and hope we can send it or else find an American going there soon.

While at Bible camp, we had a birthday party for 4 children that had birthdays that week.  I went to the nearest city and bought things to go with the cake that was made at the camp.  One girl was 2, another 5, Charles 5 and Rachel 7 and besides them, two adults and one teenager had birthdays. 

Since we got back two weeks ago, we have had someone for dinner almost every day.  The first few days other missionaries came through on their way to their homes, then a Brazilian boy from our former parish came here for three days and traveled two days with Cliff when he had services, and other Brazilians, mostly youth, have come on the other days.  We had Vacation Bible School here last week with about 26 children.  Next week it is in our country church.  This week Cliff is gone to another state for meetings on Evangelism.  He is near a beach and we could have gone along but I didn't think it would be much fun if the children couldn't be with cliff, as he has meetings all day and in the evening.  In two weeks he will be gone for 5 days for Bible camp in Londrina which is the time that many Brazilians celebrate Carnival before Lent starts.

The last two weeks we have been going to a dentist who is our neighbor.  Cliff had most work done- one tooth had an abscess and had been hurting but most dentists were on vacation.  Rachel and Charles had their teeth coated with fluoride.  I had some work done and Charles had two large and two small cavities.  In the States, Charles was given medicine to make him sleepy so here he almost didn't let the dentist work but with medicine on the gums he didn't feel the shots but it was hard to convince him of this.

Rachel starts Brazilian school in two weeks and we will continue with Calvert for English.  For her school she needs a white duster to wear over her clothes so that all the children will be dressed alike- some schools use uniforms. In August, we were told the American School plans to have second grade so we can send her then.  During vacation we have gotten some library books from the American School.

It is still very hot- 90 to 95 every day, but I have started to think of winter clothes as May last year was our coldest month.  I have taken apart some of my skirts that haven't been used for years and am having them made for slacks for the girls.  The many dresses we brought along for the girls are out of style for they don't use dresses with full skirts that tie in the back and for this hot weather, straight dresses are cooler but with material from full skirts, dresses can be made.

I read in the newspaper from my hometown that a girl who I at times babysat for when I was in high school, was elected as one of the representatives of the Lutheran Church of America for a meeting to be held in Brazil in 1970 of the Lutheran World Federation.  We hope that she will be able to visit us in our home.

We have given three male puppies away but have Luci, a white female and the mother.  Last week, a friend of Rachel's gave us a kitten but it doesn't like the dogs and has had to be rescued from a tree, the roof, and inside the attic of a bedroom.

We got pictures of Ricky and Shannon.  When do we get one of Eric and Lisa?  We have to try to get some pictures taken soon.


Donna and Joey


Letter to Lisa, Late 1970's

Helen with Bobby, late 1970's

Dear Lisa,

Hi!  How are you?  Rachel is visiting us.  You knew that she is studying in Campinas, didn't you?  Well, she did anyhow.  She brought a friend from Campinas with her, so we are showing her the city!

I'm sorry I didn't write sooner.  (hope you forgive me)

Tomorrow is Independence Day, so I don't have school 'til tomorrow.

My birthday was last month.

I have just finished "The Hiding Place".  They were in World War II in Holland, where they hid some Jews and went to prison.

Now I am going to school on Rachel's bike.  I sold mine to the neighbor who still hasn't payed.

Every Tuesday, I go the the German Folk Dance.  I don't have a partner, but I dance with a girl.  It's just to learn anyhow.  

Rachel has three friends sleeping here. It seems like the room is crowded.  Charles had a friend over, too, so we are quite crowded.  Rachel is going away today so I already planning a party.

My Mom gave shots to a lady.  She's really fat.  Goodbye!

Your cousin,


P.S.  Write soon!

Letter to Marian, December 6, 1963

 Christmas Card 1963, Loanda, Brazil

Dear Marian,

Greetings from the hot interior of Brazil.  We have been having a terrific hot spell.  Rachel has a lot of heat rash.  We bought a fan which we appreciate very much even though the electricity goes off at 11 p.m.

My ankles have been swollen which sometimes makes it hard to walk.  I had an x-ray which ruled out twins.  The baby hasn't been as active as Rachel was so Cliff says we will probably have a boy.  If our baby is born here and not in Londrina during the conference, we will have to take our buggy to the hospital for they don't have a nursery.  We also have to supply sheets, diapers, blankets, etc.  for the baby which is probably just as well for we will know the things will be clean.

We were very shocked when we heard of Jack Kennedy's death.  When our neighbors told us I asked if he died of a heart attack.  We heard the details from Voice of America.  One of our neighbors said that 99% of the people want Brazil's president out of office and they wouldn't be surprised if he were assassinated.

We are going to spend Thanksgiving with the Olsen's in Cianorte, a four hour drive on poor roads, but since it rained for six days before, the roads were unfit for driving.  This last week we visited Jack Aamot in Paranavai, a two hour drive from here.  When we were there we bought toys for Christmas for Rachel.  I gave her some of them now.  She especially enjoys the buggy for her doll.

 Rachel with Doll, Loanda, Parana, Brazil.  1963

A Baptist couple from England will be moving here in March.  they were our back door neighbors for three months in Campinas but we didn't get to know them very well.  The lady is very quiet and was sick with morning sickness, thus I hardly got to know her.  As of now, we are the only foreigners here.  We have visited with a German couple in a neighboring town, Santa Isabel.  The wife speaks English quite well but her husband doesn't know any English and since we don't know German, we converse with him in Portuguese.  This German couple is strongly Catholic.

We had to buy water for a few days.  I was happy to see it was for only a few days for I figured that it would cost $12 a month for our small family.  Some of the people in this town have been buying water for months.

Rachel is starting to say words that include two words such as horseshoe, sun suit, watermelon, butterfly, etc.  She has learned some new Portuguese words but most are English for she seldom plays with other children.  Rachel gave me a scare one day when she fell from the top of the sofa-chair and hit her head hard.  When I picked her up, she couldn't breath.  I gave her mouth to mouth respiration and she was running around within 5 minutes.  I thought she was dying but she probably was unconscious for a few seconds.

 "Bye, Bobby..."  Rachel in the car.

Andy Olsen's from Cianorte visited us one weekend in November.  It was good to see them for we got to know them well when we were in language school together.  When they were here, our dog, Bobby, jumped the gate and followed the car about half ways to the neighboring town.  We didn't stop for we had just enough time to get to  church and I thought he would find his way home but we haven't seen him for three weeks.  Rachel still talks about him.  We are going to get another dog after conference in January.

Rachel Biel with dog, Bobby, in Loanda, Parana, Brazil

My small women's group in church will be making sacks of goodies for the Christmas program.  Many poor children will come.  My group of women think Cliff and I should go around and ask stores to give donations and other people such as some Germans who supposedly are Lutherans.  We don't agree with their idea and are going to keep it as work done by the church.

I went to the doctor to get my left ear irrigated for i couldn't hear in that ear due to excess ear wax.  We have been feeling fine and hope the same is true with you.

Donna ends here, Joey starts here.

I suppose that you'd like to hear a word about our work, too.  Right now it doesn't amount to much more than study (language and sermons and preparing Bible studies).  Naturally, I have plans for the future which include a lot of visitation and open-air meetings.  Right now I feel that preparation is of great importance.  This isn't to say that I've done nothing "evangelistic".  However, my contacts outside of the already organized work have been limited.

The coming conference in Londrina should be a highly decisive one. The main topic of conversation will probably be about our relationship with the German Lutheran Church of Brasil.  They have a critical shortage of pastors and are hampered by the usual diseases of the State Church and of the tensions of a transplanted culture.  In this case, they have little regard for reaching the Brazilians, and they try to maintain the German language and customs.  The young people, however are rebelling.  Doesn't all of this sound just a little familiar, to us in the United States?  Watch for developments.

Guess that's it for now.  I feel a little like the hypothetical man who was always promising to write more later, and on his dying day called for paper and pencil and scratched, "Sorry I didn't write much before, but MERRY CHRISTMAS!"

Another note from Donna:

We sent slides to our sponsoring church and put Saetersdal on the list so maybe you can see them.  We are sending a tape to you folks and hope it gets there for Christmas.  One side is mostly of Rachel.

We wrote and asked your parents if they would like to invite a Brazilian girl to their home for a weekend.  She is living with missionaries on furlough in Northfield.  We know the girl and thought some weekend you could pick her up on your way home.  This girl speaks English well and is going to high school in Northfield.

Did you contact the Peterson's at the Seminary?  The Landvik's in Northfield said they will bring anything for us when they come in July.


Donna, Joey, and Rachel


In Memoriam: Otto Tollefson

Clifford Biel, Otto Tollefson, and Bob Roiko

It was with great sadness that I received the news of Otto Tollefson's passing.  Barbara, his wife, sent out the following email:

Dear family and friends –

I am Barbara, the wife of Otto Tollefson.  I am using Otto’s e-mail address and list of contacts to communicate the passing of Otto on Friday, December 24th, at 4:55 p.m., at Franciscan Hospice in Tacoma, Washington.

Otto died from colon cancer, just three weeks shy of his 80th birthday. All the children were with their father before his death.  He died peacefully, with family surrounding him until his final breath.

You are invited to participate in our celebration of Otto’s life and faithful service to our Lord.  There will be a memorial service on Sunday, January 2nd, at 2 p.m., at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows, 6730 North 17th Street; Tacoma, WA 98406.

Address: 11111 Aurora Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98133.

Here is a recent photo of the Tollefson family (minus Dean):

 Scott, Helen, Barbara, Otto, Adel and Joel Tollefson

For many years, Otto has been instrumental in keeping the Brazil families connected via email updates.  We all knew that if we had something to share, we could send our news to Otto and he would get it out to the rest.  Now, many of us have reconnected on facebook, which has been a great tool to have more regular tidbits, photos, and updates.

 Otto also edited a book in 1998 about our time in Brazil, "Seed Falling on Good Soil".  He requested contributions from the mission families, which together, give a wonderful snapshot of their ministry and of the people whose lives were transformed while they were in Brazil.  The text Otto chose for the tone of the book comes from Matthew 13:3,8,23:

"Once there was a man who went out to sow grain...  But some seeds fell in good soil, and the plants bore grain: some had one hundred grains, others sixty, and others thirty... 

And the seeds sown in the good soil stand for those who hear the message and understand it: they bear fruit, some as much as one hundred, others sixty, and others thirty."

The book is still available on Amazon.  Click on the photo for more info.

Otto had recently been working for St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Washington.  He described his service in his bio:

"The greatest gift I received on my 70th birthday was to officially begin as interim pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. But like “the man who came to dinner” I stayed on! What was expected to be a six month relationship has continued for almost three years. My part-time responsibilities now focus on visitation and teaching adult forums. 

The journey from my childhood home in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, began on D-day, June 6, 1944, when our family moved to Seattle. My education included the Seattle Lutheran Bible Institute (now Trinity College), Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, and Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. 

Upon ordination, my wife, Barbara, and I were privileged to be among the first group of missionary families that went to Brazil under the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1958. Our ministry was first in church planting and school administration in a new wild west frontier area, and later in stewardship, evangelism and lay training in a large Lutheran parish in Joinville, Santa Catarina. 

On return to the US eighteen years later I served First Lutheran Church, Poulsbo, WA, and then as mission developer of Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Lacey, WA. Barbara continued with her nursing, piano and church music careers. One of our greatest joys has been our joint ministry as clergy presenting couple with International Lutheran Marriage Encounter. 

We treasure our ties with people in Norway through our heritage, with Brazil through our ministry, and Scandinavian and Eastern European counties through LME and seminars we’ve given. We have five adult children and ten granddaughters. My ‘occupational therapy’ time is given to flower and vegetable gardening, reading John Grisham’s novels and Ann Rule’s true crime stories, and cheering on the Mariners."
My father was one of the tallest of the missionaries and Otto was one of the shortest, as seen in the first photo, taken in the early 1960's.  Of course, this was always a joke at missionary reunions.  But, the Tollefson family made its impression on my young mind for a much more important reason:  Barbara saved my life!

We were at a mission retreat in Camboriu, Santa Catarina, at the ocean front.  Most of the pastor's and wives were meeting in sessions up a hill, removed from the beach.  A couple of the wives were watching us kids as we played in the water and sand.  The day before we had been able to wade quite a distance out into the ocean, but there had been a storm during the night and the undercurrent was powerful and great rifts had been made in the sand, under the waves.  I was around 12 or 13 at the time (1974?) If I remember correctly, I was standing in the water with Kathy Fedde and Ruth Foehringer.  I felt a huge undercurrent start pulling us out, so I pushed Kathy to Ruthie, who pulled her out while I was sucked away.

Someone ran up to the meeting and everybody came rushing out.  My father doesn't swim (and hates the ocean) and he started throwing logs that were on the beach out into the water, hoping that I could grab on to one of them.  Pastor Charles Eidum swam out to me and grabbed me.  I had been pushed down repeatedly, with violence, by big waves that were crashing down on me.  I remember feeling a calm certainty that I would soon die.  Chuck Eidam pulled me in about half way, but then he started to succumb to the waves as well.  Barbara Tollefson had life saving experience and she charged in, storming through the waves and pulled both of us out.  There can be a lot of power wrapped up in those small packages!  (She is short, too...)

I sat on the beach, recovering my breath, everybody relieved that all of us were still alive.  My brother, Charles, sat down next to me, looked at how white I was from fear and said, "Boy, you sure have a lot of freckles!"  

The old guard is passing on and we are sorry to see them go.  Otto certainly planted his seeds on fertile soil.  His work and dedication will be remembered by many and will continue to produce fruit.  Those of us who have had the honor of knowing him and his family certainly will continue to carry a piece of him on with us in our journeys.

My heartfelt sympathies go to the Tollefson family.  
Que Deus esteja contigo!

Note:  Please feel free to leave comments about Otto or his family here.  Click on "Comments/Comentarios" below and a box will open up where you can write...


Letter to Marian and Frank, September 22, 1968

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 chronologically.  The best way to sort through them is to use the index on the sidebar and view them by year.

Dear Marian and Frank,

We just got a letter from Mary informing us on the birth of your son.  Our heartiest congratulations!  We haven't heard the weight but she said that you might call him Eric Tomas.  He must have been born the day after you sent your last letter.  What does Lisa think of him?  Two little ones should keep you quite busy.  Now we are anxiously awaiting for Julia's news.

It certainly was something about Mike's sudden case of pneumonia.  Helen had several colds when we were home but all of us have been well since we came back.

We recently got a letter that Rosie sent in July.  It must have come by regular mail.  The snapshot she sent of Rachel is very good.  Rachel was very happy to get it.

It seems like time flies now that I'm teaching Rachel first grade by correspondence course.  It takes 1.5 to 2 hours every day and this is done when Helen naps.  There are 160 lessons to do and four covered readers with lovely books on the four seasons, arithmetic, writing, stories to read and a teacher's manual for me.  The last lesson was on two different sounds in "th" such as in "this" and "thank" and several words like this.  I pleaded with Joey to do this part of the lesson as I never learned to read by the phonetic system.  Rachel likes to study but I don't know how it will be now that the hot weather is arriving.

This last week the weather was very variable.  On Monday, it was cool- 58 in the morning and in the house.  By Thursday afternoon it was hot and stuffy, 90 in the house and outside, then it rained and back to 56 again in the morning and 75 in the afternoon.  Actually, I prefer the cooler weather as hot weather makes me tired.  Next month we go on daylight savings time.

We have two boys staying with us for another two or three weeks until houseparents come from the States for the hostel.  They are gone most of the day.  The seven year old enjoys playing with Rachel and Charles and the 11 year old likes to read books.

Rachel and Charles go to nursery school in the morning until the summer vacation comes in December.  Now Charles can speak Portuguese much better and always is playing with someone while I teach Rachel.  Helen plays many mornings with a four year old girl from our church.  Helen has learned a lot of Portuguese, too.  I'm amazed at all of the things that she can say.  When people come for church, Helen shakes hands with them and says, "Good morning" in Portuguese.  As yet, I haven't gotten her toilet trained but now with warmer weather I hope to have it done soon but she loves to play outside all day long.

I certainly have enjoyed the navy blue blouse you gave me for Christmas.  I have one skirt I wear it with and hand another skirt made that also goes with it, from a skirt that you gave me.  I had a blue lace dress made to go to a neighbor's 15th birthday part.  Fifteen here is considered the year for debutante.  The party we went to was more elaborate than any wedding I've been to.  We didn't stay for the dance which started at 1 am and finished at 3:30 am.  I plan to use the lace dress for weddings in the church.

 Donna Biel in her blue lace dress.

Joey was gone from Monday until Thursday of this week for a mission meeting.  Gloria Grant stayed with me as she didn't want to stay alone and her five boys are at the hostel in Campinas.  We seldom see Joey on weekends as he has three services on Saturday and three on Sunday.  He has been trying to visit the members plus spent a week three weeks ago in Cianorte at a Bible School teaching the students.  I have learned to drive the church's jeep and use it for taking Rachel and Charles to and from school and for getting groceries.

To raise money for the church, the women are embroidering aprons, pillow cases, dresser tops, tablecloths, etc.  I'm doing a pillow case.  In November they will sell everything and at the same time serve cakes which one can buy.  Another thing to get ready for is the last Sunday in October.  Our women's group will have women from nearby cities here for a day while we have two guest speakers.  One speaker will speak to the older women in German and the other will speak in Portuguese.  We will have to feed the women that day but the speaker suggested making soup with potatoes, macaroni, meat, vegetables so not much time would be needed for preparation.

Women from our church in Maringa, 1970's

If we decide to apply for a three month furlough after three years, we have to apply by March of 1970.  It would be June to September in 1971 so it wouldn't interfere with the children's education.

Greetings to Rosie and Louie, Cynthia and Nels for I have to write to our parents yet.  It seems like Joey doesn't have much time for writing and it is getting harder for me to do it.  Tell Rosie Rachel has worn her dress from the wedding almost every Sunday.

We hope all is going well for you.  I wrote to Mary to get you a present from us so hope you get something you need.


Donna and Joey

Letter to Marian, December 9, 1968

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 chronologically.  The best way to sort through them is to use the index on the sidebar and view them by year.

Dear Marian and Frank,

Thanksgiving has come and gone and soon Christmas will be here.  This year we celebrated Thanksgiving twice.  We were in Cianorte the day before Thanksgiving and seven families were present.  There were few children as most were in the hostel for school.  We had turkey for the first time since we have been in Brazil.  We didn't have a long visit as it had been raining and started again on our way home.  We almost spent the night on the road as it was terribly slippery.  I took us two hours to go 22 miles until we got to the tarred road.  The other dinner was here in Maringa with about 60 present- 2 Baptist families, 2 Methodist, about 7 from the United Missionary Society and us.  After dinner the school children gave a program.  Both dinners were pot luck.  I made 5 pumpkin pies and salad.

Our church held its annual fund raising drive the 24th of November.  Some of the men came here three days before and made wooden benches, tables and put up canvas on top for shade.  The women had a bazaar of embroidered pillowcases, aprons, tablecloths, and little girls' clothes.  Women made potato salad for dinner and steaks were barbecued by the men.  In the afternoon, cakes were sold.  We ended up throwing some potato salad away and cakes were sold very cheap to get rid of them as the attendance was poor.  It was a lot of work plus very hot in the days of preparation and the day of occasion.  It was a lot of work, but the fun and fellowship- and the profit made it all worthwhile.  One of our missionaries told of his church which prepared 170 chickens and 3 steaks and had 65 chickens left and many steaks.

On the day of our bazaar, Rachel woke me up at 1 a.m. to tell me that Velvet, our dog, was having puppies under her bed.  I thought the gestation period was 3 months instead of 55 days so thought we had premature puppies.  There are 3 male and 1 female.  They are mostly white with a little black on them and have a smooth fur- the mother is part poodle and all black.  The children are delighted to have puppies around.  We have an empty bedroom upstairs where they stay but at times Velvet moves them under Rachel's bed.

Rachel and Charles's baner-ha school had a bazaar for which I baked 9 duz. cookies and gave 2 aprons from our bazaar.  Rachel is having graduation on the 19th of this month from kindergarten.  She is over half-way done in first grade Calvert.  Rachel is doing very well in school.  On most tests in this course she has gotten 100.  She loves to read and reads her books to Charles.  We plan to send her to Brazilian first grade in February.  In August we hope the mission school here will have second grade.  Charles didn't get many stars for good behavior at nursery school.  He was the youngest one there and even though he couldn't sit still for long he has learned some songs.  While I teach Rachel Calvert in the afternoon he plays next door with a 4 year old boy and gets along well with him.  Helen is starting the "why" age.  She has several little friends that she plays with and older girls like to take her for a walk.

For Christmas we are expecting the Dahlen family.  They are in our language school.  I helped her shop in early march while our husbands were at a conference.  They have a girl Rachel's age and Charles age- a boy.  She will stay with me while her husband visits other mission homes which can only be reached by dirt roads and she doesn't want to go with due to arrival of a baby in February.

The middle of January we are going to a Bible camp about an 11 hour drive from here.  Other families enjoyed it while we were here on furlough.  All of our missionaries should be there and it will be the only time we get to see several of the families.

Once a month Cliff goes to where we lived before (Loanda) and serves 3 other places, too.  The farthest is a 4 hour drive from here.  When he goes, we won't have church services here.  Due to his traveling or having church services in the morning once a month in our country church, I give Confirmation two or three times out of four in the month.  It is held at the same time as Sunday School.  the youth in our country church and one here are planning to present a play for Christmas.  The Sunday School will have some poems and sing, our adult choir will sing two hymns and the same for the youth.

The end of October we had a one day women's retreat.  Women came from several cities nearby and from our country church.  In all we had 75.  Our women's group made chicken-rice soup for dinner and cakes for coffee in the afternoon.  Dona Ana from Curitiba was our speaker.  We discussed the ecumenical movement and evangelism in our church.  We divided into two groups- one German (led by a pastor's wife who is from Germany) and I led one of the two Portuguese groups.  The points discussed are to be sent to Switzerland in preparation for study of the Lutheran World Federation to be held in Brazil in 1970.  We think the study could have been more profitable had we been able to discuss this in each church before this meeting and leaders would have been better prepared for the discussion groups.

Since there is summer vacation from school now until the middle of February, we are planning to have a week of Vacation Bible School in the city and another in our country church.  VBS was held in July for the first time in these congregations and enjoyed very much by all.

We had some very hot weather- 98 to 100, but now it is cooler at 85 to 88.  We have had very little rain which has been bad for the crops.  Some larger cities have had to ration water but thankfully, we have plenty of water.

Pete and Elna Mathiesen
Karen, Mark, Kristine and Paul
(courtesy Karen Mathiesen)

We continue to have many guests- example this week- the family of the German missionary who lives in a neighboring town, an intern from a seminary in the U.S. who spent 16 months in church in Curitiba, and Mathiason's from Cianorte.  We enjoy the visits for we seldom had them in Loanda.  I have a good helper so the extra company isn't more than we can handle.  The lady who helps me now is married and a sister to the last one I had who left to get married.

We wish you a Blessed Christmas and happiness for the New Year.


Donna and Joey

 The day Rachel printed her letter to you she was mad at her friend Lillian and wouldn't put her name down.  Charles started coloring the picture.  Each stripe on the shirt is a different color and the girl has purple hair.  I will try to send it later.  How does Lisa like Erik?  Is he as good as she is?  Your son arrived on Brasil's day of Independence and Grandma Biel's birthday.

Letter to Marian and Frank, March 30, 1968

 Biels in 1968

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 chronologically.  The best way to sort through them is to use the index on the sidebar and view them by year.

Dear Marian and Frank,

You soon will be getting a form letter from Ohio but I thought I would write you some things that aren't in that letter. 

While Cliff was at the conference in Londrina, the Children and I stayed in Campinas.  I helped two new families- one that came three days before the conference started.  They have a boy Charles's age and a girl Rachel's age, so they enjoyed playing with each other.  I helped enroll the boy in a Brazilian nursery school.  Rachel and Charles went for a week and thought it was fun.  The teacher speaks English as well as Portuguese.  Twice I took Joan Dahlen to an open market to buy fruits and vegetables, to a store to buy food and once downtown by bus to go shopping.  We did a lot of walking and got sunburned. 

Cliff was gone for six days.  When he came back, Helen just looked and looked at him, almost as if she had forgotten him.  The new houseparents, Aarsvolds, from Kassen, Minnesota, were at the conference, too.  We visited with them the evening before we left Campinas.  They are adjusting very well.

We didn't have any difficulty coming through customs.  The day we landed was the biggest day of Carnaval.  None of our suitcases were opened.  We are missing our cartridge tape recorder and Japanese camera that we had in a briefcase on the plane.  We couldn't lock the briefcase and should have taken these things out of it and taken them to our seat.  We wrote to the pastor in Brooklyn, New York, to see if we had left those things at his house and received an answer that we didn't leave them there.

From Campinas we had a two hour bus ride to Sao Paulo where we got a plane to Londrina which was a 3 hr. flight.  In Londrina, Cliff hired a truck to take the things we had stored there.  While in Londrina I visited two missionary families there.  The children and I were in Londrina for two days, then Cliff came back to get us and we went on a two hour bus ride to Maringa where we are living.

We got to our home on the 14th, late in the afternoon.  One day Cliff went to Loanda to get film strips, flannel-graph, and a projector that was there.  It was a three hour trip from here, one way.  We had been here ten days when he took off for Cianorte- two hours from here by jeep to teach for a week at the Bible School.  After the school was over, he went to Campo Mourao, 2 hours from here and will have two services today and two tomorrow before he comes here for an evening service.  He will be serving these other churches once a month for six months while the pastor is in Germany on furlough. 

Last night, I went to a baby shower for a teacher of the United Missioner Society.  There are five families living here from that mission.  A Southern Baptist couple who live four blocks from us and the American wife of a Brazilian doctor were at this party.  I had a nice time getting acquainted with these people.  They have a school for missionary children with about 25 students.  We hope Rachel will go there to first grade in September but we don't know yet if they will have first grade.  There are several first grade age children but they don't live in this city and sometimes parents teach them the first year through Calvert which I may have to do.

Letter ends here.
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