The Standard September 4, 2019
In mid-August my husband and I spent nine days in northwestern Brazil, participating in the well-organized mission of a church on one of their two medical/dental boats. The church has 36 daughter churches in Manaus, a city of 2 million people in the State of Amazonas, and 102 daughter churches along the Amazon River. The staff of missions pastors is divided so that each one is assigned a geographical area along the Amazon. We visited four villages over four days and each has a church lay leader who is brought to Manaus twice a year for two separate weeks of training, Bible Study and fellowship. My next few columns will describe different aspects of the trip and today’s will be about us getting started.
After a lively Sunday evening worship service in a 2,600-seat sanctuary that had been converted from a car dealership we boarded the J.J. Mesquita. Captain Rai piloted our boat through the wee hours of the morning to arrive in the village of Sao Jose on Monday. We were up for the 7:00 daily breakfast. Three delicious meals per day were home-cooked by several women downstairs. After eating we enjoyed worship and a devotional then the 24 of us from the U.S. worked all morning unloading large suitcases full of donations and sorting the contents into huge piles of hats, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, vitamins, soccer balls, toys, school supplies, etc. We assembled 227 family kits, 153 school kits for students, 305 kids’ kits, 60 fishing kits and 141 hygiene kits. We also had 24 soccer balls to give out along with 230 pairs of novelty sunglasses.
After lunch we each headed to one of five ministries in Sao Jose, a village of approximately 20 families. We served either in women’s ministry, Vacation Bible School, door-to-door visitation, medical/dental or painting. Most of the medical and dental work took place on the boat but there were some home visits by doctors and nurses. The painting crew was given bright green paint to work on the exterior of a pre-selected house. Since the painters had no shade the heat and humidity were particularly challenging. For VBS a woman at the house closest to the boat swept off her porch and graciously allowed us to invite the children to join us. We started by singing some fun worship songs in Portuguese. The VBS team had learned and practiced the words and motions before we came ashore. Lia, the Brazilian children’s minister, told the story of Esther using a big book. She explained about obeying God and about how much Jesus loved each of us, demonstrated by his death on the cross. An elderly man at the home where VBS was going on wanted to have a conversation about God. While the children were receiving Beanie Babies and coloring, Juan and Thiago, two of our five translators, were listening to this man and explaining the gospel of Christ to him. Of course, no English was needed for that, but it was when the one U.S. doctor made house calls, when we went on home visits and when we gathered for worship each night in a village.
VBS ended with a fun game of soccer. One of the sweetest occurrences was when we approached a small elderly woman near the porch. She wanted to see the doctor but had no shoes. Lia immediately took off her shoes and put them on the ground in front of the woman. Another missionary took the woman’s hand that was not holding her walking stick and led her to the boat.
After the singing, sermon and prayer at evening worship family kits and soccer balls were distributed and met with joy. We said our “tchau”s and boarded the boat. For dinner we ate a tasty fish called Tambaqui, which is mostly found in Central Amazon. On the boat they also served other types of fish, chicken, rice, beans, noodles, salad, pineapple, guava, papaya, breads, fruit juices plus dessert.
This was our first evening figuring out how to maneuver 40 of us taking turns showering in eight bathrooms. Also, this night our boat was docked in a lush area where we heard a few monkeys and saw their shadows in nearby trees. It was the beginning of an amazing boat adventure, especially seeing so many Brazilian Christians joining the prophet Isaiah in saying, “Here am I. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)