We took a trip about thirty miles upriver to an area called Boa Espiransa to do some home visits. The visits are done by three young Brazilians who’ve been discipled by the missionaries. It was neat to watch their genuine affection for the people as they shared about God’s loveand His Kingdom. After about a thirty to forty-five minute conversation we would all gather and pray for the family. These visits were very well received and through translation, I was able to hear some of how these folks opened up about their lives to these men. Life on the river seems pretty isolated and the visits seemed welcomed. Home visits in town also seem, for the most part, welcomed in this culture. It is such a relationship-driven culture in contrast to our mostly task-driven culture in the states.
One especially moving encounter involved a young man who’s wife had just left him and their four kids and moved to the city. He was heart-broken and open to instruction and prayer. Its pretty neat that we visited him at this time. We encouraged him that God wished to be a Father to him and that, if he called to Him, He would be his comfort and his guide. I think God brought to my mind a story about Luke to share with him. When Luke was about eight, while at vacation near a lake, Luke asked to walk a familiar path ahead of us. When we arrived at our destination, Luke wasn’t there. After about ten minutes of looking, we found him. He had become lost and, when he saw me, he broke down crying and held me for several minutes. He never expected what happened to him and he experienced the insecurity and vulnerability of feeling lost. He appreciated his father’s care and comfort in a new way, though it was always there. A change of circumstances opened his eyes to what was always true about his need for his father’s wisdom and love, and its availability. Isn’t this so often true with us, regarding our relationship with our Father? This man has been brought to a very trying place and can experience a new relationship with God because of it. I’m more convinced that its God’s grace and affection for us that takes us to difficult places so that we can more clearly see Him as He is. If you’re at such a difficult place, take your cares to Him, He will respond to you with the comfort and affection that has always been yours. This man received the story and seemed open to going to God with his hurts and the challenges before him. We will visit him again soon, this time looking for other ways we can help him and his kids.
Alcohol is pretty cheap here and is a pervasive problem in this culture. We visited several men who were open to their struggles with this addiction. What an incredible transcultural poison. When I think of how many people I saw in the ED in the states with problems in some way related to alcohol…
We stopped at a medical clinic out in the middle of nowhere, on the shores of a river, run by the Spanish Red Cross. It was a beautiful, small facility that is staffed by doctors from several countries at two – four week intervals throughout the year. When the clinic is open, they see about 30 – 100 patients/day. I was able to review their log and gain some appreciation for the most common presenting complaints. Worms, malaria, fevers, dysentery, along with several things we couldn’t translate were pretty common. We are planning to return in three weeks, when the director is there, to build a relationship with him and to seek help with steps that may help in the licensing process for such medical help. I was thrilled at this opportunity to meet with a foreign physician with similar desires re. health care in this region.
We stayed at a ranch of a very warm family that included two men over seventy. The Indians remained in the area until the mid-seventies and they had many stories of their encounters with them. I lost most in translation but when my language is better, I’ll ask some more questions. One man was 86 and to imagine the life he’s led along the river is pretty impressive. He still carried water from the well, bathed in the river, and took care of the animals on the farm. We drank warm, “new” milk and shallow well water. We ate fish and beef and chicken and, of course, rice and beans. We also ate paca, a very large rodent, that is hunted here and that tasted pretty much like beef. Clyde, one of the missionaries we traveled with, caught several large fish (>3 lb). I caught nothing, but I think fishing will become something I’ll enjoy, whether by conventional means or by speargun. I was introduced to pium, a rarely seen flying insect that leaves incredible welts to indicate it’s been there. Our ankles swelled and we itched everywhere. They bite you on the lower legs especially because after applying repellent, you are constantly getting into and out of the boat and walking in the shallow river water. We slept outside among all the far animals and it was quite fun. Repellent did the job with the ever-present evening mosquitoes. We bathed in the river after dark and the sounds coming from the surrounding jungle were so cool. I could identify none of the sounds but I’m told the jungle comes alive at night. I’m looking forward to learning more about the rain forest environment and its critters.