Language: Portuguese English Manual of Life
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Voni's testimony

Voni

June 2011 ...My body is almost 79 years old - and I can't believe it. I used to think anyone or anything over 60 was old!? I now feel like I've just begun to live! So many more dreams to fulfill...

Raised on a farm in the Pacific NW in a more traditional and conservative church, my parents had a loving and vital relationship with the Lord. As a girl, He became my lifelong Friend and Companion, and His Word a necessary part of my life. In His Word I found - and still do -strength and reality on the roller coaster of life.

In 1950, I married at 17, to a young man who planned to be a businessman. I don't know which of us was most surprised when several years later he decided to go back to school to be a minister of the gospel (and one thing I always knew: I never wanted to be a minister's wife!) God had different plans than I did - and my education was vastly enlarged in the role of pastor's wife!

Voni

The next major change in our lives was that of being thrust into the position of forming and leading a large group of people (total of 68 ) from all over the states to move to Brazil in 1967 & 1968. (Another thing I'd always known was that I never wanted to live outside of the United States, thank you! I certainly knew I never wanted to be a missionary! ) The process of putting together this group and moving all of us from the states took five years - and I learned even more! Once again, God's plans were different from mine.

Belo Horizonte, Brazil in 1967 with husband and five children (16 years to 3). CULTURE SHOCK and bonding into a new culture - a painful process. Not believing in evil spirits and demons and miracles - and placed into a society where spiritism, demons and miracles are only too real and interwoven into daily life. Having to re-evaluate everything I had been taught and believed. Learning the power of Jesus' name to cast out demons. Adopting a Brazilian baby girl. after our two oldest children returned to states to college. Rejected by our denomination (that still didn't believe in demons and miracles.) Without any financial support in Brazil we were determined to stay: I knew I simply did not want to ever live in the states again. Nothing against the USA, but Brazil had become my home. We experienced God's faithfulness, time and time again, in ways that left me amazed (like stretching our food on the table whenever extra people showed up and we didn't have extra food.) I learned to depend upon His faithfulness.

My experiences were rich and widely varied. Besides being a wife, mom and homemaker, I served as a missionary, taught school, helped run an English language school, taught private English classes, and on. . . We were without any financial help from the states for over six years . . . yet our children never went hungry. (Yes, I did greatly simplify the meal menus.)

Voni

My husband and I brought together a small group of instrumentalists and singers: "The New Commandment" singers. We made 3 CD's: the largest group we sang for was 45,000; the smallest group was 10. Even today, I marvel at all that God did and the life-time relationships that were formed. Another invaluable lesson – this time about praise and worship.

I was used to develop a children's theater/music group , working with children from many different backgrounds and social stratas. We translated three Kid's Praise records (Maranatha Music): trained the children (can you feature teaching children to march when some don't know which is their left foot? They learned!) These same kids developed to the point where they performed before thousands, and also helped record three CD's in Portuguese! Ana Paula e Andre Valedão sang on the second CD: no one dreaming of how God was planning to use them in the furure! I have every right to be proud of this group - and of their lives since then! Our family began working with another denomination, and we learned how Foursquare (International Church of the Foursquare Gospel) is like a family! I was ordained a minister/pastor (another major change, for in the church I was raised, women take no public roles in ministry .)

. . then in 1987 my world collapsed around me when my married children discovered their dad's unfaithfulness to me, them, and the Lord. He had other children outside of our marriage and was deeply involved with his "other" family. .(A real tragedy, so many people were hurt!)

The leaders in Foursquare Missions asked me to do the very thing I did not want to do; return to the states to live, in the fall of 1987, to "give myself a chance to put my life together." What they didn't realize was that after 20 years in Belo Horizonte, my life and emotional support structure was in Brazil, not in the states. But I knew we had betrayed their trust in us. They had every reason (and God was involved in their decision) to ask me to return to the states. My husband chose to abandon us - and Christmas 1987, found my youngest daughter (then a teenager) and I living in a small apartment in Portland, Oregon; sleeping on mattresses on the floor with the cold wind whistling outside. But the apartment was warm and, mingled with the tears, was peace. The rest of my children were scattered over two continents. I returned to a country I didn't know, a culture that was totally strange to me, and with no financial support. I was separated from my husband: something I said I would never do. It was the most difficult time yet - but God remained faithful! I discovered that He cares for me in the US just as He did in Brazil. Humbling and amazing! - I still consider that time with awe and with pain, and gratitude to my Father God. I learned much more about Him, about the faithfulness of my Lord, Jesus, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I painfully learned how to live in the USA. Much laughter and many tears. I was amazed when God gave me a job working as secretary for the Alumni Director at Multnomah School of the Bible. Most of my kids and their children came to the states. Different ones lived with me at different times. It was a hard time. Two Brazilian sons-in-law with two and four children. Men highly respected in Brazil – but with an accent in the states, so they were looked down upon. We were really a sorry lot: but God was still watching over us.

Jobs. Caring for children. Juggling finances. My youngest daughter graduated from high school. Brothers and sisters and I there to celebrate with her. I took some mission teams to Brasil from Portland Foursquare Church. God put things and people together. I was offered a job as Educational Director Pastor at Portland Foursquare. I loved it. My youngest daughter was at Life Bible College. I worked hard: since I had "graduated" to my own apartment and no one was with me, I stayed longer at work. . . until I was informed I could no longer remain in the building alone after 7 pm. One night I was there alone, carrying some boxes down the stairs. I missed a step, and went tumbling. THANK GOD no broken bones – only bruises. So I started going earlier in the morning. I met a couple I admired: and I loved the woman! We were becoming friends – my heart broke when she died. A few months later one of the church leaders told me that Joe Pottle was having a really tough time and had mentioned the church had no one to help members with this kind of grief. I agreed – and I certainly knew what this deep lost-feeling of grief was. I was coming out of it, and had great compassion for anyone in it.

That very afternoon I was coming downstairs from my office on the 2nd floor and almost bumped into Joe, who had stopped by the church on impulse as he was going to a job his steel construction company had close by. My first words to him were: "You just saved me a quarter!" (That's what pay phones cost in Portland Oregon 20 years ago. ) He asked me "How did I save you a quarter?" My reply? "I was going to call you." "WHY?" That question was easy to answer! This man was in deep grief. We began talking. The next night he surprised me by taking me out to dinner, and we talked and talked – about his wife and their lives and his boys and . . . I knew the stats: men happily married who lose their wives are inclined to marry soon. As he talked and I listened I was praying for him and for his protection.

Voni

I didn't want a marriage: I wanted to return to Brazil, so he was safe with me. That night we shook hands and agreed it was great to have a new friend, and neither of us wanted any emotional envolvement!!! . . . . Little did either of us know that God had other plans for our lives; nor the sometimes rocky road ahead as his two grown sons with families and my six grown children with families had to work through their own grief and deal with a new member in their family circles. I've often thought of writing a book titled: And They Lived Happily Ever After – ALMOST! The result neither of us dreamed of? in Portland OR in a friend's home on May 17, 1991 we were married………………………………………….

In the following 10 years, we continued teaching trips to Brazil every year as well as living in the states and being active in the church. Then we bought an apartment in construction in Natal. We finished it and have now been living for 10 years in the Northeast of Brazil: Natal, RN. Here we live, teach, sharing our lives in many different ways. We're now a little older, more health problems: however, we can still serve and teach and love, opening our home, depending upon God's faithfulness and His leading. We live in Brasil: My six children, 18 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren and Joe's two sons, 4 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild all live in the states, a different continent. We miss them! My heart is Brazilian, and I'm married to a Yankee. . .the roller coaster ride of life continues - and God is still in charge. .

I've walked through the valley of the shadow of death of all my dreams and lived with the uncertainty of who I am. I still (after all these years) face the daily challenge of finding time with the Lord, that I might identify myself through and in Him. . . . As I look at my life today, I still see holes and gaps, areas where I need to grow. I'm trusting God to fill them in. Perhaps that sounds simplistic? I don't mean it to be so. This process of "walking with the Lord" is not easy, and sometimes the path is not clear. I only know this: we are honestly searching, He's promised to answer.

My prayer is that each of us search for Him and with Him in integrity. And, when we come out on the other side of our "educational experiences" we can look back and say: "I wouldn't want to go through it again - but how glad I am that I've learned what I have!"

May God bless each one of us on our journey!

Voni Pottle

Voni

2011 ©   Andr Souza