We spent a delightful ten days with a very warm, friendly, energetic team from the Columbus Vineyard. They came motivated to see God use them during their trip and God gave them the desires of their hearts. They greatly encouraged the missionaries who were able to join them on the boat. They dove into relationship-building on the rivers and the love in them touched all those they interacted with.
Especially cool was the playing out of a kingdom principle through them and the Sunbury team that immediately preceded them. Jesus spoke of God sowing seeds in men’s hearts. Over time, with watering and care (love, circumstances, etc), the seed germinates and grows. Two villages we visited with both teams were new visits for our mission. Both teams hung out with and loved the villagers. Both played with the kids and spent time interacting with the adults (through many smiles because of the language barrier). The good news of God’s reality and affection was told to the villagers by both teams. Individual testimonies of God’s goodness were spoken by various team members. It was on the second visit, however, that more villagers made decisions to become Jesus’ worshippers. God had planted seeds and prepared these folks for these visits. Who knows how many times God watered these seeds through people, dreams, circumstances, or directly speaking. Water filters had been delivered. The people were loved without strings by both teams. More water for the seeds. Then this Columbus team saw God bring many of these seeds to germination through decisions. It was beautiful to see this play out as I saw God use many people and resources over time to draw these remote people to Himself.
How I need to remember that seeing results (decisions) is not what is important. I must not find my value in certain “successes”, but rather I must focus on being faithful to whatever role God gives me in the process. The roles of those that delivered filters or those that loved these folks previously were no less significant than the roles of those who witnessed the decisions being made. God uses many more people in the preparation and the wooing than He does in the single step of decision. Most often we (and you) will be used as lovers of those who appear unappreciative and far away from God. Let us love anyway. We will be used to water dry, “lifeless” seeds. Let us water anyway. Our efforts will seem futile and may even be resisted. Let us give ourselves wholly anyway. We may be called to work and not see results until we see Jesus face to face. Let us then look forward to that day all the more, and work even harder. God controls results and who will participate in the same. God chooses our roles in His kingdom work without consulting us. They may be great roles. More often they will be humble roles, unnoticed, assigned for the sake of another. Jesus spoke of those who receive earthly rewards losing their eternal rewards. Let us then intentionally work all the more without notice, without earthly reward. To sense His pleasure, and His delight in our faithfulness to Him, is sufficient.
We visited and swam in a village named Carara, where there were thousands upon thousands of piranha. For our entertainment, the villagers dangled pork fat on a string in the river and pulled it up and it was loaded with piranhas chomping on the meat. It was quite a sight! I made sure Bets and the kids were swimming safely before I jumped in!
We visited a village called Cupari that I’ve visited now five times, which is located about 20 mi south of the Amazon River and about 10 hr west of Porto de Moz, the closest city. The previous blog about “a morning on the river”, occurred here. The missionaries first visited this area 2 yrs ago. I was struck by how this village has been transformed in those two years. Each house has a water filter and each family warmly received us like we were good friends. The villagers absolutely love hosting teams and this was obvious in their smiles and laughter as they interacted with the North Americans. Their love of Jesus was obvious, as well, as many of this village of about 300 have become Jesus’ worshippers. The evening service had over 100 worshippers and there was lively music, many smiles, and many received prayer. To have this kind of worship service literally in the middle of Amazon nowhere is pretty special. God’s economy is not our economy. Much has been spent in time, effort, and resources, in Him reaching for these precious few. The one lost sheep parable where the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to search for the one lost…
There were late night domino games (the most-played table game in the region), much swimming and many canoe rides, and Frisbee tag with the kids. The day was another of many pleasant memories, wrapped around Jesus, for these beautiful, remote Amazon folks.