A Morning on the River
We have just said good-bye to a team of twenty from our home church in Sunbury, Ohio. We had a very nice two weeks of fellowship, encouragement, and incredible servant ministry.
We stopped at a village each day and had a service each night. Two stops were at villages previously not visited by missionaries. Our first stop was at a village of about 15 families on the Xingu, about 80 mi north of Altamira, called Villa Mendoza. Two weeks before we arrived, several water filters from our mission were delivered here. We were welcomed warmly (the norm, not the exception), and spent several hours with the people before having an evening service. We gave some treats to the kids and those who could speak Portuguese worked on initiating relationships by asking questions and just talking with the people. A couple of our team went fishing with several of the men. We swam and relaxed, as well.
The service was simple and held on the porch of a little, one room school building. Guitar-led worship, a translated brief message about who Jesus is and a testimony by two of the team on how Jesus had changed them. It’s not possible to describe the sweetness of this hour. When we asked if anyone would like us to pray for them, several folks (out of about twenty adults) came forward. As Dennis (the Vineyard pastor from Sunbury) was praying for a young man, he sensed God would say to him that the team was there in response to his prayer. The man broke down and confessed that he had been praying for some time that Jesus would be known to his friends and family in this village. It was a remarkable moment and this man turned out to be the village leader and he gave us an enthusiastic invitation to return any time. As we were leaving the next morning, a woman from the team sensed that she should seek out one of the women she had met the previous day and ask her directly about her relationship with Jesus. Through a translator, she found out that this woman wanted to begin a relationship with Jesus, but was not sure how to do it. They helped her pray and ask Jesus to be her God, told her how much Jesus delighted in conversing with her, and somewhere angels rejoiced.
The other similar visit was on the last day of the trip. The village size was about thirty families. We found out that about half the kids had chicken pox and that several adults on our boat had not had this illness. I had the opportunity to help advise care and give out Tylenol for fever. They were quite appreciative of my care and our laying on hands and praying for each child. Most folks living on the river have reverence for a Diety, even though they don’t know Him, so there is openness to being prayed for. The service that night was pretty special and attended by about ½ of our team. The other ½ stayed on the boat and prayed for those at the service. Several people confessed to wanting Jesus to be their God and we assisted them in beginning their new life with Him. We handed out balloons to the kids and men and women lingered for some time. I don’t think any of us on the team had been ever hugged as much as we were in those two hours. For the sake of those on the boat who hadn’t had chicken pox, we swam and bathed in the darkness prior to climbing back on the boat.
We also had one very special morning about midweek. We stopped at a village on the Cupari River (about 10-12 hr from Porto de Moz) and were told of a girl who had cut her foot badly the day before with a machete. We set out at about 7:30a in the canoe, hoping to be back for breakfast at 8:00a. We saw the girl and addressed her foot laceration and then the parents asked us to see her brother. He was 23 and had a eight inch scar on his flank where he had had surgery for kidney stone removal. His pain had returned. We prayed for him, gave him some advil, and then we were asked to pray for each person in the family. They then told us that a man nearby had had fever for three days. We traveled about five minutes upriver, interviewed this man, provided some medication and advice, and prayed for him, as well. He said that a girl nearby had “broken her foot” yesterday and may benefit from a visit. We traveled about 15 min to her house and, sure enough, she had broken several metatarsals (the long foot bones between the toes and the ankle). I was able to provide some advil and splint her foot which provided her much comfort. I advised her that the expense and travel (10-12 hrs) to have an x-ray and see a doctor was reasonable. I was asked to see each person in the family (5-6 people) and we were able to lay hands on each and pray for them. While we were there, a woman brought her baby daughter in a dugout canoe, to be seen. This went on all morning in a way that convinced us it was planned. Not by us, but planned nonetheless. God had us there on this particular morning for these particular people. God had done the prep work and allowed us to participate in His demonstrating His love to these folks. At the last stop, we sunk the canoe, along with our little motor. After saying several times throughout the morning that we were bummed that we hadn’t brought our cameras…. The motor didn’t work so we had to row back to the boat. It took over an hour, against a pretty good current. This bunch of “young” men arrived pretty whipped and pretty pleased. It was a real highlight to see God use the simple willingness of five men to touch so many people in one morning. We were able to invite the people at each stop to the service that evening. The service, out on this vast Amazon flood plain, 10-12 hrs from any town, in a little wooden building on stilts, was attended by over 100 people! It was beautiful. To worship Him, who is worthy of all adoration, in such a setting, is an experience I wish each of you reading this gets to experience one day.
Several other highlights in the trip included the impressive hearts of the members of this team toward serving in any way to see people see Jesus and His love. The daily swimming and jumping off the boat was enjoyed by all. We saw a 4 ½ meter anaconda and the dog it had killed. 35 youth made a decision to receive Jesus at a meeting with Steve (Vineyard pastor from Newark) speaking. All four of the Altamira Vineyard churches, with all their variety and enthusiasm, were visited by the team.