Finding Neighbors

Remember this picture of my mom and her two Terena Indian friends?

This is them the night we arrived in Taunay. It was the first time they’d seen each other in over 40 years!

From left to right it’s Adair, Delair, my mom, and Indiria. They live across the street from each other in Taunay. These three sisters have been taking care of us all week. We eat most of our meals at Adair’s house. Delair has given us warm clothes and presents. Indiria practiced her English with us while serving us afternoon pre-dinner. On Tuesday Delair took us to visit the surrounding villages.

Taunay is a tiny town in the state of Mato Grosso Do Sul featuring a train station that is slowly falling out of use (I’m told it had a lot more use when the trains had steam engines). It sits right on the boarder of “Indian Land”–the government sanctioned Indian reservation. The Brazilian government will not let any non-Indians on the land unless they are escorted by an Indian. There are many Indians on the reservation that knew my mom and her family, but we would not be allowed to visit them without someone like Delair to go with us.

We spent a large chunk of Tuesday driving through the villages and talking with the people… or rather, listening to Mom talk to the people in Portuguese. Most of the villages close by are of the Terena tribe. There’s something close to 35,000 people in the tribe. But further away are other tribes like the Xavante.

I love these people. I’m running out of ways to explain how sweet they are. Whenever my mom told them that I was going to be staying in Anapolis for a while, they’d shake their head and say, “Why doesn’t she stay here and learn our language?” One of the local pastors told me, “As long as you are in Anapolis, you are our neighbor. So come visit us and learn our language.”

When we stopped to see the very first church for the Terena tribe (est. 1926), Delair read a bible verse to me in her language. It went like this:

“Ina Koe Jesus: Una Xene yono pou xoko Ituko oviti. Xuanum 14:6” (John 14:6).

She helped me practice saying it. Now I can say something in their language (sort of).

Sitting down to talk with the pastor who called me his neighbor.

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