Our family just returned from a trip out on the rivers north of Altamira, in and around the region of Porto de Moz. We traveled with a team visiting from the Toledo and Fremont Vineyards. We ventured as far as ten hours out from Porto de Moz, visiting a village called Nova Vida (“New Life”). We stopped at five river villages and spent two days in Porto de Moz. At each visit we visited with the local people in their homes, held evening worship services, and spent the mornings helping people with their health issues. It was a very nice trip… very nice. We had such refreshing times of worship and prayer together on the boat. I was able to have many intimate conversations with those on the team. Bill and Barb, the pastors from Toledo, are as good of friends as I have anywhere and God has brought us together again after many years apart, in the Amazon of all places! It was so nice to spend some time with them, connecting, laughing, and just being together. I was so encouraged in sharing our various experiences and the trials God has brought us through. Getting to know Rick, the pastor from Fremont was simply a joy. There are few things in the Kingdom as sweet as sharing hearts, joys, and struggles with brothers and sisters who are walking the same road at different locations, playing the same game from different positions on the field, fighting different battles in the same war. All the members of this team freely shared deep personal struggles and joys. The obvious love they had for us was so uplifting and the passion they shared for Jesus left me wanting more of the same. Mary, Cathy and Marsha helped with the health care and everyone chipped in praying for each person we served. It was a nice picture of what I want to devote myself to in my work in this region.
For most of us, the highlight of the trip was a unique experience on one particular night. It occurred during a visit to this remote area (Nova Vida) and holding an evening service where, other than the leader, not one person showed up. There was a scheduling mix-up and the leader thought we were coming the next night. Out there (10 hrs from the small town of Porto de Moz and 24 hrs from the city of Altamira), word of mouth is the only means of communication, so we couldn’t get word out last minute. As the time of the service approached and we recognized that no one was coming, we decided to worship Jesus and ask Him to lead us as to what He would have us do. We worshipped for some time and began to pray… and pray, and pray. There was a sense from the Lord that we were to pray against the hold of the enemy on these people. We identified particular spirits that were especially active in the area. We felt a renewed appreciation for spiritual warfare and how it affects Kingdom work, more than we often account for. We confessed sins that were present in the region, we sought God’s guidance in how to love and serve these people… It was sobering, it was emotional, it was powerful, and no one from the area was there! It was one of those unique experiences that left me with a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation for Jesus alone; for His love, for His power, for His purposes. So many of us have had these wonderful times alone with our Father, but this was special in the sense that it was shared with family. It was like we all approached the King’s throne on behalf of the people living in this small area. There is an old saying that when we pray, we are drawn closer to those we pray with, to those we pray for, and to Whom we pray to. This night was evidence of the truth of this simple saying. I was drawn closer to the members of this team in a way I wouldn’t have been without this night. Our kindred spirits were obvious. Our unified passion, for the people of this region coming to know God, was clear. The Father’s heart for us and for the people here was so real. I look forward to witnessing the change in the spiritual climate of this region as God’s Spirit moves among the people here.
I returned from this trip refreshed rather than wiped out. When considering why, several things come to mind. I don’t remember one complaining word, even in jest, and I’m reminded how complaining and grumbling are more of a drain than I realize in our daily tasks, especially difficult ones. This was a team of mature people, and that is huge. They brought suitcases full of various things to give away, to us and to the people on the river. So much forethought went into all that they brought to give away. Their generosity was beyond measure, and in their generosity, they communicated love and value to those they served. They had low expectations of people and circumstances and serving Jesus was more of a priority than personal comfort or happiness. I felt the freedom to be completely myself among them, with no doubt as to them loving me and accepting me, as I am. And I took a few naps! Thanks, guys, for such a nice two weeks! The Kingdom and this small part of the Amazon is different because you came.