Isabel Murphy’s road leads back to Brazil
By Gisele McKnight
It was 1967 when the missionary pilot of a small plane dropped Isabel Murphy, colleague Rose Dobson and their luggage on a dirt airstrip in the rainforest of Brazil. Then he flew off to be home before sunset and they were left to fend for themselves.
“I was so excited, but I had not considered the reality of it,” said Isabel during a presentation to the Christ Church and St. Peter’s ACW on Oct. 22.
She has been home in New Brunswick for a visit but will return to Brazil this week.
On that first day, the two women set up their hammocks and sent a message via a Kayabi family to the nearby Kayabi village. In a couple of days, a dugout canoe arrived to collect them. “I believe part of the reason they came for us was because they knew we had fishing hooks and other trade items,” she told the crowd at Cathedral Memorial Hall, many of whom have supported Isabel but had never met her.
Rose Dobson had already spent two sessions in the village, so Isabel asked about her house. “What house?” said Rose — and the reality of being a linguist translator in the deep jungles of Brazil began to sink in. Rose, Isabel and several Kayabi families totaling 24 lived together in a “long house,” sleeping in hammocks. When you needed to change your clothes, you turned your back to the others, said Isabel.
That was her first tribal experience, and 47 years later, she still cannot resist the urge to return to the indigenous people of Brazil.
Those 47 years have been spent with Wycliffe Bible Translators in an on-going project involving many of the 176 languages spoken by Brazil’s indigenous populations. Since the project began in 1958, Wycliffe members in Brazil have translated 43 New Testaments and six whole Bibles into distinct Brazilian indigenous languages.
“We’ve never known what it’s like to be without a Bible,” Isabel reminded her audience.