We traveled north, down the Xingu, past the Amazon River, then further north on the Jari River to Laranjal. Laranjal is a town of about 45,000 people and across the river from its sister town, Monte Durado of 11,000. We saw this as a potential new base site because of it’s proximity to Porto de Moz (15 hr), and the vast wilderness surrounding these towns. Three missionary families and Clenildo left Altamira for Porto de Moz (PDM), our first stop. In PDM, we picked up Clyde and Angie, two of our missionaries living there to join us on the trek north. First, we spent a day in PDM and attended part of their three day retreat for leaders. It was held at their campsite, about an hour from PDM, where we’ve stayed in the past for Christoval. It’s a site of about 60 acres on the Xingu River, cleared from, and surrounded by, mature jungle. The missionaries were teaching on Vineyard values and it was so well done. The values we love re. God’s kingdom, a focus on intimacy with God, connecting in small groups, God’s pleasure in our worship of Him, and praying for people with them before our Father are being taught and caught in the Amazon Basin.
We had a delightful boat ride north, through narrow passages of mature jungle, where we saw toucans, monkeys, and macaws up close. The morning after our arrival to Monte Durado, I went for a walk at sunrise and saw a Paca (a rodent the size of a beagle, that I have eaten) cross in front of me and I was entertained by about a dozen monkeys frolicking in the trees over me for fifteen minutes. Tyler and Allison saw a deadly snake (Bushmaster) on the path in front of them and we able to easily avoid it.
While in Laranjal, we visited churches and spoke with Pastors, we visited hospitals (one in each town) and their directors, and we visited the Secretaries of Health for the region. The towns are quite poor but the health care access appeared “adequate”. The pastors spoke of certain need for laborers in the city but the pastors and the health departments both agreed that the people living outside of the city in this region was far less than in most other areas of the Amazon Basin. This information was unexpected and important to us because we, as a mission, focus on “forgotten” people in the Amazon Basin, who live remotely. With this region having a disproportionate concentration of people in the towns, we were able to all but eliminate it as a possibility for a next mission base.
We were told by several people in the town that some waterfalls nearby might be worth seeing. It sounded inviting to spend the night close to falls as well as a fun place for the kids to swim, so we headed north on the Jari, a river about ½ mile wide. “Nearby”, “soon” and other such terms are far more relative in Brazil that in our culture. After about two hours, we began to see globs of foam on the surface of the water. As we drove on, our expectations re. these falls grew with the ever increasing foam. Then we began to hear them, from more than an hour away! These growing expectations would not be disappointed. The falls were definitely one of the most beautiful natural wonders I’ve seen. They were huge (the whole river flows over them) and loud, forming clouds with their mist, and left me in a place of humble worship of the One who designed them. The pictures won’t do them justice but I’ll include a few. Sleeping nearby was nice and I awoke the next morning to one of the sweetest times I’ve ever had with my Father. It was a beautiful memory.
This was one of the many wondrous things on this earth that God made for Himself. It is so remote that, like the intricate flower hidden on the forest floor, or the ant army, millions strong, that we passed on a walk one day, or the toucans (“Fruit Loops” bird) or the flock of blue macaws that flew over our boat, or most of the Amazon animals, insects, or fishes, likely no person will see these things. He made us, like all of these “natural” wonders, for Himself. He made each one of us, for Himself, to reflect His glory. All of these miraculous, created wonders delight their Maker, as do we. We can stop and remember His delight in His creation, and His delight in us, anytime, and receive from the refreshment and the encouragement this brings. He is beyond wonder, and His wonder, power and beauty are on display all around us as He reveals Himself to us through what He’s made.
We had wonderful connecting time on the boat. Boat travel is slow which makes it a wonderful relational tool. There were so many conversations about so many things, personal as well as related to the work. The kids seemed to have a great time, as usual, and were a treat to travel with. We had a couple very nice times, as a group, before our Father, and He was faithful to speak intimately to several of us.
On the return trip, we stopped in a small canal for the night. There are many canals through the thousands of islands in the Amazon River. As soon as we stopped, the mosquitoes introduced themselves. They were large and thick. You know how sometimes you make a decision that is dead wrong? We had brought enough mosquito nets for our family, but several others were without nets and in my “wisdom”, I thought repellent would be enough and I gave our nets away. We (the Kubacki’s—thanks to the “leadership” of their father) had a very, very long night. We all had hundred’s of bites on us by morning and we developed quite a dislike for the all too familiar buzzing in our ears. Why do they like ears so much? I was then told in the morning that there were plenty of extra nets in the boat closet! Apparently this was shared the previous night and I missed it! But I was so proud of our kids. They complained so little, despite ALL of the irritation, both during the long night and over the next few days. Dad did, however, catch quite a bit of grief from the other adults on the boat. No malaria yet!