What a trip. I just returned from a four day motor bike trek into the “interior” with Clinildo, a local Brazilian pastor, and Daniel, another local brother. The area is called Assurini, is about the size of Ohio, and is south of Altamira. We traveled for about eight hours the first day and two to four hours farther each morning. The best description for the countryside is that it was like driving through tropical Kentucky or W.V. on dirt roads. The scenery was absolutely spectacular. The first day was rainy and quite muddy. It was challenging just to stay upright on the bikes. We buried our wheels in muck multiple times and had to lift each other out, in spite of the chains we put on at the start of the journey. I went down once and sustained only some scrapes and bruises. We stayed at a different house each night. Each house was incredibly remote, with dirt floors, no running water, no electricity. The people were simply amazing for the setting. They were gracious and hospitable. They smiled easily and enjoyed having us. There was much laughter and sharing. The insects were equally amazing. We were exposed again to the pium, the little, flea-like, day-feeding, no see-um that mercilessly enjoys whitemeat (and they seem to enjoy the taste of DEET!). Between these and the fire ant bites, my legs were (are) so swollen that I can’t see my ankles and I can hardly fit into my shoes. I have a new appreciation for the pleasure of scratching an itch! If only the itching would stop. The constant itching usually lasts for 3-4 days, so not a big deal. I have several dozen bites on each leg. And the local folks said the pium were currently not bad. I can’t imagine. After my introduction to pium, the mosquitoes seem pretty benign (and their numbers in the bush are pretty impressive). We ate chicken, turtle, rice and beans. All the homes had the previously mentioned water filters or a ceramic type filter so we had no water-borne illness.
We had a service each night and spent the afternoons visiting houses and inviting folks to the evening’s service. Each visit was interesting for me and riding the trail to get there was a sloppy challenge. Each house was quite simple in this rural setting. Some sort of work was always interrupted, and there was always an offer to sit and chat. The visits lasted 15 – 45 min. I never cease to be amazed at the difficulty of these people’s lives and the grace they have for visitors. This trip gave me a glimpse into our country’s past. Two hundred years ago, our country lived just like this. The gospel was shared in the same way. People experiencing the joy that comes from a relationship with God and then going out, motivated by love, to share this opportunity with others. I have a new appreciation for each little country church in the states, knowing that similar hearts started them under similar conditions. The services here each night were sweet. They lasted about an hour. There were about 15 – 20 adults at each (and more kids) and they were quite engaged in the worship and the message. They walked from one to five miles to get there, through the jungle, in the dark. Worship of the Creator, in this beautiful, raw setting is touching to witness and to be a part of. Several people gave their hearts to Jesus for the first time and several renewed a broken relationship with Him. Seeing them experience His grace, under the trees, by candlelight, was special. What effort is put forth to take the good news of God’s love to these people who live so remotely. Their missionary heart is simply that these people can experience with God what they have experienced. One beggar leading another beggar to food. I shared my story, in Portugese, for the first time. This beautiful, latin-based language has never been so butchered, I’m sure. But it was fun trying, and, of course, received with grace and a few smiles. The whole experience motivated me more to learn. I so wish to share with them about me, about God.
Some other highlights:
*One 62 year old man had jaguar skins in his house and shared about the ones he’s killed and others he’s seen near his house. He’s also seen many large (up to15 meters) anacondas in his swampy area. I told him I had fear of both and he thought that was quite funny. He said he had fear of bears.
*We had to cross a river in a row-boat with our bikes and almost sunk on one of the trips across.
*All along the way fences crossed the road and we would open a simple gate to proceed. *We saw many flocks of mackaws, and heard the howler monkeys throughout our trip. *Bathing in jungle creeks full of little, nibbling fish.
*Waking up outside in my hammock in the jungle mist with the sounds of monkeys, birds and frogs like nothing I’ve ever heard.
*Each day helping people with their health and receiving their warm gratitude.
*Always so many smiling, playful kids—why am I so amazed that they’re the same everywhere.
*Observing some of the differences between life in the jungle vs. life on the river.
*No rain the whole ride back.