March 9, 2016
Have you ever heard of saints Cosmas and Damian? Probably not, but here in Brazil they are very important. The twins were, according to tradition, born in Arabia in the 3rd century, but later lived and worked in Syria. They were doctors. Their most famous miracle was to transplant a leg. Again this is all from Roman Catholic tradition. They were martyred during the Diocletian persecution. Today they are the patron saints of doctors and nurses.
In Brazil, however, the veneration goes well beyond the usual. They have also been absorbed by the main spiritist groups, such as Candomblé, and are the protectors of children–mainly twins. The oldest standing church building in Brazil is dedicated to them, built in 1535.
One more story about them was that they never took money for their services. One day though a lady that had been healed by one of the brothers made 3 cakes for him. The other brother found out about it and was furious. He said he would never be buried with his brother. When they were finally killed, on the same day, cooler heads prevailed and they were buried side by side. The idea was that they were twins, had worked and died together and should not be separated even in the grave.
A few days ago I was visiting some of our works on the upper Juruá River. I spent a week 300 miles upriver, across the border in Peru. Our missionary in Tipisca, Peru is José Maia and family. There are 4 Indian tribes in the region. We are trying to preach the gospel to all 4. So far we have made some good progress among 2 of the tribes – the Ashaninka and the Kaxinauá. One of the first converts among the Kaxinauá is a 20 year-old girl named Damiana.
Here is Damiana’s story. She trusted Christ during one of José Maia’s visits to her village on the Breu River. The Breu is a tributary of the Juruá River and is also the border between Brazil and Peru. She later came to live with our missionaries. Here are a couple of impressive traits of this young woman. Although she is 20 years old, she is still single. Most Indian girls her age are already married and have 10 kids. Then, even more impressive: she speaks Spanish, Portuguese and, of course, Kaxinauá. Damiana is a twin. Her sister’s name is Cosma.
That is no mere coincidence, but has its own backdrop. Why would Kaxinauá twins be named Cosma and Damiana? Their dad was a little white boy who had been taken in by the Indians. He grew up in the tribe, but stayed there and married one of the women. Besides Cosma and Damiana, the couple has a bunch of other kids. Some of the boys even have beards! Beyond the racial mix there is also a cultural and religious mix in the tribe.
One such crossover is a popular myth that sprang from the Saint Cosmas and Damian story. Many people along the rivers here believe that if twins are born they must be named either Cosme e Damião (if they are boys) or Cosma and Damiana (in case of girls). Why? If you don’t name them with the saint names one of the twins will drown and thus the twins will be separated. So now 2 Indian girls are named Cosma and Damiana. The latter is now saved and the other is reading her Bible day and night. We are praying that she will trust Christ soon along with all of her tribe.
Recently José Maia took her back to the tribe for a visit. He asked her if she would have the courage to translate a very aggressive message to the tribe. She said that she could talk directly to the children and women, but wasn’t sure about the men. José Maia wanted to go ahead and tell them that the only God is Jesus Christ and that the jiboia (boa constrictor) is not god. He started preaching and she stepped up and started translating no matter what the cost. Everyone listened carefully and are still listening. Many of them came out to Tipisca while I was there and were present at Damiana’s baptism service. Pray that all will trust Christ. The door is now wide open to this tribe. Hopefully Cosma will receive Jesus next and the twins will be truly inseparable.
Thanks for all of your prayers and support. God bless you as much as He has us.
Mike and Beverly Creiglow
Caixa Postal 24
Cruzeiro do Sul, Acre, Brazil 69980
mdcreig [at] hotmail.com