Luke and I just returned from a week on the river with a delightful team from the Cleveland and Toledo Vineyard Churches.
There were several highlights on the trip and I’ll write about a few of them in coming days. We visited five river village Vineyard church plants and at each place we spent time interacting with the local residents and worshipping with them each evening. We traveled up to Gurupa which is about twenty hours north of Altamira, on the Amazon River. We visited the other four villages on the way to and from.
There was some "aventura". We had three very significant storms during the week which are difficult to describe. The waves were at least six feet and with the strong current we were tossed around pretty good. The lightning and the strong straight line winds left us feeling pretty vulnerable to the elements. These tropical storms on the water are both exciting and a bit frightening. Also, our boat got stuck twice during the trip and once a vineyard pastor’s boat just “happened” to come by after we were stuck for less than an hour. He easily pulled us out and we could have been there many hours, otherwise.
About mid-trip, we called home on a satellite phone to find out the score of the OSU-M– game. Bets was at home, listening to the game on the internet and she told us there was two minutes to go and M– was ready to score to make it close. We couldn’t get through again for close to an hour and when we did get through, we got disconnected before we got the score. It was quite strange to be in a place where it was so difficult to receive such vital news! We did finally get through and Bill Herzog, the pastor from Toledo, caught much grief the rest of the trip for his loyalty to M–.
In Gurupa, the local pastor hired transportation for us to go to a creek to swim and bathe. A thirty y/o dump truck showed up and we climbed in the back for our fifteen minute ride only to find out the truck had no breaks! We made it there and back safely. We went there to swim because the Amazon River near Gurupa is so dirty. It’s huge, flowing fast, and still so dirty. A pork butcher, for example, tossed the scraps and the “innards” into the river near our boat. There was always a good deal of trash and who-knows what else floating by our boat. The creek wasn’t much better, but it was wet! The water was the color of tea, quite strange, apparently from the type of leaves falling in the water.
Luke got to play the guitar and help lead worship in several services. He really enjoyed it and he played well. He’s come a long way in a short time with the guitar.
Bill Herzog’s water bottle got “decorated” one day while he slept. I have no idea who may have done this but it was beautiful when finished, almost artistic. Let’s just say that he remembered “the game” each time he drank from it. Somehow he figured I may have had something to do with it so I woke up one day with hot-pink toenails. As I looked down to jump out of my rede, my world didn’t make sense for a moment! My sources inform me that one beautiful, though somewhat misguided teen had a lot of laughs hanging around pastor Bill about the same time of my violation. I have recovered somewhat and I’m currently looking for opportunities to pay my son back for his “artwork”.
I slept on the top of the boat a couple nights and enjoyed immensely God’s heavenly display each time I opened my eyes during the night. Awesome does not describe what is present every night for us to gaze upon. Just thinking of those views as I write fills me again with a sense of wonder.
We hiked with the team to the waterfall near Altamira. It’s about 50’ high and totally hidden from the rest of the world. It’s a 45 min drive and an hour hike up and down a dense, large hill. The jungle trees are incredible. It’s a pretty tough walk. Our kids love this outing, which includes swimming in the pool, jumping into the falls, and exploring caverns filled with thousands of bats. These caverns are about the eeriest places most of us have ever visited, likely because they so violate several comfort zones (bats, large scorpions and spiders, small spaces –sometimes hands and knees, darkness, etc), .
There was a hatching of a large ant, about the size of a large paperclip. They were all over our yard, and we found out that they are commonly eaten by the local people. The hind end is about the size of a pea, and it is this part that is edible. We all had a lot of laughs as we sampled, and watched each other sample, the “ant butts”. It tastes like a partially cooked popcorn kernel, filled with tasteless marshmallow.
God used many people and events to speak to me. The team members were quite encouraging. God used this trip to touch many river people, as well. I’ll share some of these stories soon. It’s so nice to go, to love, and to see the fruit of the same.