A Brazilian pastor, leaving the Island, says, "See you soon"
On Saturday, Oct. 24, Ozias and Tereza Costa, pastors to members of the Island's Brazilian community, will leave the Vineyard after almost seven years. At The Times' request, Sonia Cardoso Barbosa of Vineyard Haven spoke with Mr. Costa, her pastor at the World Revival Church in Oak Bluffs. Excerpts of Mr. Costa's remarks follow.
"I'm 56 years old," Mr. Costa began, "and my wife Tereza is 54. When we came to the Island, we left our children back in Brazil. We have two daughters and one son. All are married and have given us four wonderful grandchildren. When we left our children behind, they cried a great deal, but they knew we were coming to help others - and that would mean being away from them for a while."
Mr. Costa remembers being shocked by the climate and the lifestyle. "In São Paulo, where we come from, life goes on 24 hours a day," he said. "There are restaurants that are open all night. When we arrived it was December, and we saw almost nobody in the streets. The only time we saw any people was when we went to the supermarket, the mail, church, and so forth. My wife cried a lot, missing the kids, so thank God for the telephone.
"Since we arrived, we've helped families that have trials and tribulations like all humans: homesickness, illnesses either here or among relatives back in Brazil. We've visited hospitals, homes, and I've even accompanied somebody to court."
Mr. Costa and Tereza, also a pastor, were most impressed by the way the Island's working people, immigrants and Americans alike, strive similarly to succeed. "In our community we have painters, house cleaners, drivers, nannies, pastors, secretaries, real estate agents, police officers and more, and I know they're all loved by the Americans," he said. "Our Brazilian people are hard workers. In the summer, when we wish we could spend more time in the sun, it's the season to earn a living. Few people can afford to enjoy themselves."
Sensitive to the language difficulty that is common between recently arrived Brazilians and long-time English speakers, Mr. Costa said, "Americans are very kind toward us. Naturally, those of us who are older have some problems learning English. But it's nothing that can't be overcome through a gesture, a little good will and some patience on the part of Americans. Sunday mornings we have Sunday school, and we hold a class for teenagers in English. Brazilian children born or raised here need to retain their Portuguese. That way, in the future, they'll be masters of at least two languages."
Bridging differences between Brazilians and Americans has been important in his work, and Mr. Costa says that many Brazilians try to create some festive occasion on American holidays, so as not to feel left out. "Every Brazilian has a dream, to stay on the right side of the law and to make this Island a place where we can live in harmony," he said. "I've noticed that the Brazilians who are documented have become so comfortable that they're hard to distinguish from Americans. That's a good thing.
"We always ask God to bless the American people and their government, to open the laws and help immigrants to stay on the right side of the law - and the right side of themselves. That way, everybody comes out ahead. Taxes get paid, cars have proper documents, and people can walk with their heads held high. We know that among any people there are those who conduct themselves well and those who don't. That's not a matter of culture, it's a matter of human nature."
Before the Costas came to the Vineyard there were few Brazilian churches. But the community here has grown to include 10 churches. "Here on the Island there simply isn't enough space for everybody to participate at the same time in religious services," Mr. Costa said. "We have churches with 200 people, others with 50, 30, and so forth. God in his wisdom wouldn't want anybody to be without a place to adore him, don't you agree?
"Tereza and I will be saying goodbye on October 24, at our church. We want to thank everyone we love and everyone who loves us, and to say to the pastors who remain, love the people you work with. If one day you need to leave them, let them say 'See you soon' instead of 'Thank God he left.' And don't forget that love overcomes all."
Translated into English by Daniel Waters.