We thoroughly enjoyed a recent team visit from our home church, Vineyard Church of Delaware County located in Sunbury, Ohio. Several folks on the team had been here previously and several made the trek for the first time. It was fun to experience the wonder of this region through their eyes. The sights, smells, and sounds of both a developing country and the Amazon basin are unique to most visitors from North America.
Our nephew, Zach, came with this team and became our first family member to make the journey to visit us. It was a unique pleasure to have him here with us and to watch him experience our new home in person, after hearing so much about it.
The first three days focused on the Altamira area. We had services each night at the Altamira Vineyards and each afternoon we walked the neighborhoods inviting people to these meetings. This culture is unique in that a visitor to one’s door is welcomed rather than considered a rude interruption. For the team, these cross-cultural encounters were both fun and fascinating, as well as hot and tiring because of the tropical afternoon sun. Many people from the local neighborhoods came to the evening services and experienced God’s touch for the first time because of these invitations. Only God knows the eternal significance of these encounters but there was such a joy in seeing these local people experience what we were all created to enjoy. Denny Young and Penny Meyer, two pastors from the Delaware Vineyard, did the speaking at these meetings and God not only minimized the natural cross-cultural barriers, but He actually seemed to use the cultural differences between speakers and listeners as an asset in what He wanted to do in the listener’s hearts. It was obvious that our brothers and sisters of the Altamira Vineyards were encouraged by the team’s visit.
We then loaded up a large truck and drove four hours east to a remote area, deep in the rain forest, for an evening service. We sat on wood benches in the bed of the truck and experienced major dust from the dirt “highway”. When we arrived at our destination, the home of Virgilho, the young man written about recently in another blog entry, it then began to rain and didn’t stop until we left the next day. We slept under a thatched roof without walls and stayed “pretty” dry. The team got to experience fire ants first hand as the ants preferred being out of the rain (under the roof) just as we did. Our feet were loaded with burning bites. The mosquitoes weren’t bad and everyone slept “pretty” well. Some on the team took a bucket bath in a nearby creek and this helped them feel better temporarily. Chelsea (a friend of ours spending almost three months with us) and Zack and I went on a two hour jungle walk in search of a river (we never found it!). The walk was hot, wet, long and beautiful. By the time we loaded up the truck to leave, everyone and everything was dirty, wet, and a bit smelly. It was a good opportunity to live for a day with what Virgilho and the other people living remotely experience commonly (Virgilho, his wife and three kids have a house with a thatched roof and no walls). He and his family were thrilled by the team’s visit and verbalized several times that he couldn’t believe the team came all that way to see HIM! It made all the inconvenience and discomfort well worth it to see this brother in Jesus so encouraged.
Another 5 hrs in the truck took us to another village in the middle of nowhere. We got good and stuck at one point on the way and it took two hours to get the truck out of a relatively small (but deep) mud hole. We arrived in time for a nice Brazilian dinner and a simple worship service. The local Vineyard pastor (Ademir, who is planting a church in this village) brought a video projector and showed a movie outside on a house wall about Moses that the people thoroughly loved. The 20-30 adults stayed until past midnight for the show. At this stop we found out that walls in the jungle have a downside, as some large roaches invaded the room where the women slept and caused some insomnia among them. The men slept outside under a roof and didn’t have the same problems. We slept pretty well!
We were back in the truck the next day, stopping in Souzel, located on the Xingu River, where we loaded into the mission boat. A relatively small boat for 26 people looked pretty good to all of us compared to the truck. We visited the pastor’s house (Ademir) for lunch and relaxed until a delightful evening service at the local Vineyard. The church was full (100-150 people) and worship was especially sweet this night. The next morning we left for a day’s ride to Christoval, after a stop in Porto de Moz.
Three of our missionary families (including Kevin and Angie Van Hulle from our same Sunbury church) live in Porto de Moz (PDM), located on the Xingu River, about 150 km north of Altamira. There are no roads into PDM so it takes about 12 hours to get there by boat from Altamira. We had a nice half-day visiting with these families and seeing where and how they lived, day to day. PDM has a population of about 20,000 and this town and its surrounding river villages have been part of the Xingu Mission outreach since its beginning, 12 yrs ago.
The Christoval camp was attended by 80-90 youth and adults from PDM. It is my third Christoval and it is always beautiful to see the energy and enthusiasm these young people bring to their relationship with Jesus. The Kubacki kids and even their mom participated in the wild, worshipful, dancing. They really had fun and I thought of what it may have been like when David and the Israelites danced before the Lord. Some local wildlife in the form of tarantulas and snakes added to the fun. The team tolerated the camp-like conditions (sleeping and eating and doing everything outside) well and it was a nice three days in spite of the cultural and language differences. Denny and Penny spoke several times, as did the local pastors, and many, if not most, appeared drawn to Jesus in a new way over the weekend.
We headed back to Altamira after the camp and rested for a day before the team departed for home. The boat trip included several pretty good storms but nothing dangerous. The team was a delight to host and we all felt encouraged by their presence. Joining in ministry with North Americans remains a pleasurable part of what we do here. It was a special pleasure to hear Denny and Penny teach, both because of what they mean to us and because we could understand their messages with little effort! Several members of the team are long-term supporters of this mission and their enthusiasm rubbed off on us, motivating us to continue pressing on. Denny and Penny had some timely words of instruction and encouragement for the missionary team and receiving from them is special to everyone here because of their many years of support and leadership for this mission group.
One of the funniest lines of the trip centered on the outhouse. Mike Sheedy exited and complained about the seat being wet again. Well, of course, the outhouse has no seat, only a hole the size of a football cut out of a floor of some flat boards which cover the ten foot deep pit. The visual of Mike sitting flat on the floor over the hole was just about too much. In the remote areas of the Amazon, a toilet is thought of as pretty disgusting, as is sitting while "going". Squatting is the "natural" way and the only way for these jungle guys (and gals), and they would much rather be outside than inside ANY building when squatting.
Just writing this and thinking of you all brings a smile and much encouragement….Thank you!