The Opening of the Terena Centennial Celebration

When I was in high school, I struggled with the emotional unrest that comes with being a displaced missionary kid—identity crisis, sense of loss, denial, grief, depression…

More than anything, I wanted people to ask me about Papua New Guinea. I wanted to tell them my stories. To get their attention, I wore jewelry from PNG. I carried around trinkets from PNG—anything that would remind me of home and prompt others to ask me about home. It didn’t work much. Nobody was all that interested. They might ask me one or two questions, but they didn’t want to hear stories that they couldn’t relate to. I was too shy to tell most of them anyway.

One of the things I started doing at school was humming the Papua New Guinean national anthem. It gave me a quiet sense of identity in my head and I never wanted to forget the song.

One afternoon, I came home from school feeling especially homesick and ignored. I sat down near the kitchen to talk to Mom while she prepared dinner, when it suddenly hit me that she was a missionary kid as well—except all grown up. All of this homesickness and pain was something she had gone through. And she had survived!

I knew about her growing up in Brazil. She had told us stories about having a pet anteater and the snakes that lived in her attic and ate mice. She used to tell us about riding horses around the area because the weren’t roads solid enough for cars. And how she found a baby that became her informally adopted sister, Marilda.

But Mom never told me about missing her home. I never heard her talk about the kind of longing and displacement that I felt. That must mean that it goes away eventually. I wondered how long it would take before I didn’t feel homesick for PNG anymore.

With all this going through my head, I asked her, “Mom, do you still remember the Brazilian national anthem?”

She gave me a surprised look. Then said, “Sure!” She cleared her throat and began singing in Portuguese.

I had no idea what she was singing, but it was beautiful to hear. And she was so proud to be singing it. She smiled at me through her strange words and bobbed her head to keep tempo.

But somewhere in the middle she choked off. She thought for a bit and tried to continue singing, but she had forgotten the words. Tears welled up in her eyes as she tried desperately to remember the song. She backed up, started again and stopped in roughly the same place. Finally, she gave up. Disappointed in herself and crying, she said, “I don’t remember the rest.”

I got up from my chair and gave her a hug. “Do you still get dreams about Brazil?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Last Friday, after a week of seeing her childhood home, friends, and caretakers, my mom stood up with several hundred Terena indians, Brazilian nationals, and Foreign visitors to sing the Brazilian national anthem at the opening of the Terena Centennial Celebration. She still couldn’t remember all the words, but that was ok. The audience sang loudly. Lined up down the isle were Terena boys dressed in traditional ceremonial garb made of emu feathers.

Terena boys walking down the isle. The night temperature was too cold for such little covering.

Holding the flag were Terena girls, dressed in hand-woven skirts that the Terena students made themselves and adorned with colorful feathers.

Terena girls getting ready to hold the flag up for the Brazilian national anthem.

It was a beautiful display of my mother’s heart land. And it was just the beginning of a 3 day celebration to honor the missionaries that have worked with the Terena indians over the last 100 years.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jane Macey
    Jul 18, 2012 @ 14:48:02

    You have your dad’s gift for relating events. I’m really enjoying reading your e-journal. Knowing your parents, your Uncle Larry and Aunt Fay and having known your grandparents, Win and Frances Buckman I’m celebrating with you though I’m in Lakeland FL.Thank you, Jacki, for your first hand account.


  2. katarzyna00
    Jul 18, 2012 @ 17:16:46

    This made me cry Jacki, you are a beautiful story teller. I never really thought about it but Jane is right, you must get that ability from your dad. That is gift and I’m thankful you are sharing it with us.:)


  3. SimplySage
    Jul 20, 2012 @ 15:00:55

    Excellent and very poignant post. I’m going to share this on our JAARS Facebook page this weekend. I think many will appreciate your perspective and be moved at the price our missionaries pay, the perspective of their children.
    With your permission I’d like to include this link in one of our e-newsletters.
    As an adult I’d been homesick ever since we moved up until about the past year. Took me eight years. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a child!


  4. Trackback: Finding My Icon | Bringing Out the God-Colors in the World

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