I just returned from another motor bike excursion into the Assurini, an area of virgin forest south of Altamira, about the size of Ohio. We’ve had quite a bit of rain over the past several weeks so the "roads" were extremely muddy and sloppy. The wet clay is often like riding on ice. We drove through water over our tires many times and buried our tires in muck several times and had to lift our bikes out to continue. Getting there was exhausting, incredibly messy, and an absolute blast. I’ve included some road and "view" pictures that never seem to do justice to reality.
We visited many homes and Clenildo was able to share directly God’s love for the people and they ALL received the good news graciously. Whether they take it to heart, and connect with Jesus, time will tell. Its quite a thrill to visit these homes deep in the Amazon jungle and watch the sharing of the Good News the way it has been done for two thousand years. Clenildo does a beautiful job of sharing in love and sharing gently, and yet quite directly. Most of these people know about Jesus but they don’t "know" Jesus. We go and speak to them (at significant effort) so that they can know that God loves them dearly and that He WANTS to converse with them, to know them, and to be known by them. The good news really comes down to that. Life is RELATIONSHIP with our Maker-Father. Life as we know it, apart from this relationship, is nothing by comparison. For the rest of my life, it is this simple, life-changing message that I will share… and share, and share. It’s nice to be able to share more clearly in Portugese, as time goes on. It is this simple truth that led me to Jesus over twenty years ago when He made everything in me new. As believers, sometimes we forget what it was like to live without Jesus and we think our message may be too simple. But there is NO need to make it more complex. Jesus said we were to become like children and that His message could be understood by the same. The power to give life and to satisfy our inner hungers, is in Jesus. It’s not in us, not in words, not in a religion, not in an experience or in positive thinking. As we connect with Him in relationship, we experience this power. Not in any other way. Not by being good, not by will power, not by being successful…
As you’ve been following this blog and our adventures, I wonder if you may be like some of those we meet. You know about Jesus, but you don’t know Him. You may know the bible, go to church, you’re a "good" person. But you don’t have a walking, talking relationship with Jesus, and therefore you haven’t experienced the Life He gives to those who know Him. Perhaps you once walked with Him but the worries and cares of life have captured your attention and left you thirsty. You wonder if what you know is all there is to life. How does one begin (or renew) such a relationship with God? Talk to Him. Get alone, go for a walk, and talk. Share your heart, your desire to know Him, your confusion, your questions, your joys, your gratitude. I can remember being on my knees, crying, in my apartment twenty + yrs ago where I simply said, among other things, "God, if you’re there, I do want to know you. Please show me." My life and my heart began to change from that day forward. Other times since, I’ve allowed other things to take priority and I’ve needed to return to that simple relationship with my Father to renew my joy and my sense of purpose. God loves honesty. He loves questions. He loves imperfect people who struggle to believe the truth. He loves you. Please know this one thing above all others. He loves you. As you are, imperfect, sincere… He loves you.
This trip was like stepping into the old west. Travel was by horseback, work was done by oxen, and the homes were very simple. We visited a very poor family of a single mom and her three adolescent kids. She had rice drying on a tarp on the ground in front of her house. She expressed much interest in Jesus and had a sweet humility about her, as did her kids. The conversation at her place lasted over an hour. I truly can’t imagine the life she lives. She lives in a house literally made of sticks and thatch. One could tell by her demeanor and conversation that she is a very hard worker. Jesus can fill this woman and make all things new for her. He may change the externals, He may not. But the externals matter less and less, the closer we draw to Jesus and the more our deepest needs are met. And she would know her care and her children’s care rests in the loving hands of the One who is in control of ALL things.
At one point, a large tree had fallen in the road and we couldn’t pass on our bikes. We walked about two miles to a house and saw "cat" prints on the path twice. They were the size of a large dog’s paw prints. They were fresh and made the night before. It was exciting and a bit unnerving to realize what lived (likely slept) nearby.
I left Clenildo at midday and journeyed back the final 3-4 hrs alone. This was a new experience for me and I realized, as I drove, that one breakdown (I passed two people during this drive) or wrong turn and I could spend the night alone in an environment so raw and so unfamiliar to me. Experiences like these take my trust in the One who has all power and knowledge, to new levels. Well. I arrived home without incident, and more than a little grateful. The views on a beautiful sunny day were simply delightful. I marveled at God’s creativity the whole way. From the rolling, lush green hills to the sounds of the howling monkeys every time I turned off the engine, to the six inch grasshopper sitting on the road. I am writing the next day and I have been this sore few times in my life. I had no choice but to drink much water at the places we stayed and today I’m wearing a path to the bathroom. The world is quite a dangerous place, and my experience here helps me remember that I’m in control of far less than I previously thought. I NEED to trust God’s care and His knowing guidance.
It was quite a journey, again. It sure is nice to be able to share it with you.