Rick Bergen, Steve Dolan, and I just returned from a road trip to Sao Felix do Xingu to scout out the region as a potential site for a new base for the Xingu Mission. The area is known to be quite remote, surrounded by Amazonian jungle, and has been an area of curiosity for the missionaries here for years. During our three days there we encountered remarkable favor and God’s hand was evident as we gathered information about the people, the “reachedness” of the region, the health care needs, etc. We initiated nothing as we were led from one person to another and they provided more information than we ever thought we could gather in such a short time.
From Altamira, Sao Felix is south, 1000 km by road and 500 km by river. We drove the distance over two days and about ¼ of the roads were paved. We had beautiful, sunny weather the entire trip which is quite unusual for this time in the rainy season, so the dirt roads, though they were bumpy and rough, were not slippery. We passed several cattle drives of more than a thousand cattle, complete with chuck wagons and cowboys, driving their cattle hundreds of miles to the “packers”.
Upon arrival, we found a town about ½ the size of Altamira with river on three sides. It is surrounded by large hills which lend to an array of beautiful views in every direction. We learned that 30,000 people live in the town and 40,000 people live in small villages throughout the countryside within a 300 km radius.
The owner of the little hotel that we just “happened” to choose, immediately favored us and enthusiastically fed us with information, drew us a map of the region and described the area in detail while giving us a tour of the town that he’s lived in for 20+ years. The Secretary of Agriculture just “happened” to stop by to see the hotel owner and he talked with us for more than an hour about his experiences in the “interior”. When the hotel owner found out that I was a doctor, he took us to the home of one of the doctors in town and several other doctors just “happened” to be there relaxing for the evening. They invited us in and we talked for two hours about the health care challenges they face while providing good care to people in a remote region of the Amazon basin. These challenges mainly involve equipment, technology, and human resources.
Also, a woman who works for social assistance programs for the region “happened” to find out we were making inquiries in town and stopped by one evening as we ate at a local restaurant. She enthusiastically shared about the region and her work while sharing that she was a Presbyterian missionary from another part of Brasil. After learning about our vision to serve the underserved, she told us that her director just “happened” to be in town for meetings and would love to meet with us. We spent two more hours with this director of Social Assistance, learning of the region from yet another perspective. They also told us that the secretary of health was the Presbyterian pastor in town so we went to his house, interrupted his day and spent the better part of a very nice afternoon becoming friends with a kindred spirit. He shared that he had just arrived back in town from traveling in South Brasil. He shared freely about the lack of gospel presence in the region and the lack of workers willing to reach into the interior. He shared that those living rurally were largely illiterate, lacked access to health care, and had great need in every respect. He also shared, however, that they were open to the gospel and to education and social assistance. He enthusiastically offered us an open invitation to come and help these people. We also observed in driving around town that it is minimally churched. There are 12 church buildings, four that could hold about 100 people and the others were quite small, perhaps able to hold thirty or less. This, for a regional population of over 70,000 people.
On our last morning, one of the doctors we met “happened” to meet us at our hotel during breakfast because he lives next to the hotel and commonly eats at this particular hotel before work. He shared some of his personal frustrations and struggles and we were able to provide an ear as well as pray for him. I left our time with him with a sense that this was a simple, yet profound, encounter he will not soon forget and one that will likely have kingdom impact. If you would, please pray for Dr. Norberto, that God would continue to pursue him and that his eyes would be open to God’s profound affection for him.
The trip revealed to us another area of the Amazon Basin with significant need. There are so many people (thousands) in this region with the need to know both God’s love for them and His desire to walk in conversational relationship with them. So many, as well, with great need for practical assistance in areas of medical care, clean water, nutritional education, among other things. The people of this region appear to be poor, living difficult lives and yet they also appear to be quite open to the good news of the gospel.
We don’t know if this will be our family’s next step. I am resisting the temptation to make decisions before we complete our exploration trips. But we do know that this area would be a good place for a Xingu Mission base in the near future. The fields in this region are truly ripe for harvest. Would you consider approaching God to see if you might be granted the privilege of working with us as His servant/hand/voice in these fields?