A day on the river

It’s toward the end of the dry season, and the rivers of this part of the Amazon Basin are at about their lowest, well within their banks, weaving and curving north toward the Atlantic Ocean.  We set out yesterday for a village about seven hours west from Porto de Moz with a team of three North Americans and three Brasilians.  About two hours from the village, our fuel pump malfunctioned causing the fuel line to take in air and the engine quit and wouldn’t start.  Kevin Van Hulle spent about two hours finding the problem, repairing it and getting the diesel engine going again.  Because of the water level, we couldn’t get our larger boat into the village so we stopped in what seemed like a good spot and canoed the last 3 – 4 miles and spent the evening visiting with several families and playing some dominoes, the most popular game in the river communities.  We returned to our boat at about 9:30p, seeing with our flashlights many crocodile eyes along the banks observing our passing. 

This morning, I saw about thirty people with health concerns, ate a lunch of peacock bass, piranha, and rice provided by one family in the village, and returned to our boat.  Because of the low water, we thought it would be wise to return to the mouth of the small river we were on before nightfall.  We set out about 1:00p for the 4 – 5 mile jaunt.  We got stuck five times!  Each time, the three men got into the 1/2 meter deep water and sunk about to our waist in the very soft, sticky muck while seeking to inch the boat out of its predicament.  The boat is about 45′ x 15′ and I couldn’t even guess the weight (many tons).  When we arrived at the mouth, pretty spent, we found the rudder badly bent and needing removal and repair.  We had to remove the 250 lb. rudder by removing four large bolts under water and then drag it about 100 yds through that same muck to shore and pound it straight with a sledge hammer.  By the time we got it repaired and replaced, it was 5:00p and time to return to the village by canoe for an evening service.  We plan on modeling a small group and sharing some principles about small group gatherings.

One person always needs to stay with the boat and, because I spent the morning in the village and would repeat the same tomorrow morning, I volunteered.  So I am sitting in a hammock on the boat, observing a remarkable, multicolored sunset, listening to a chorus of thousands of frogs, watching a herd of about fifty water buffalo swim across the 50 meter mouth of the fast-moving river, marveling at the beauty and variety of birds leisurely flying around and over the water, and beginning to swat mosquitoes.  Last night the mosquitoes were pretty thick, causing even the Brasilians to ask for DEET and netting.  I slept without a net, because nets are so hot, and, needless to say, didn’t sleep very well.

The river is just teeming with all kinds of fish, with one jumping out of the water near me about every ten seconds.  As we canoe, literally hundreds jump over our wake every minute, with many (some large) jumping into our canoe!  In the dry season, one hardly needs a line to fish in some of these rivers!

It’s been a beautiful, hard, typical day of ministry out on the flood plains of the Amazon Basin.  Sharing the Good News of the Kingdom never happens without sacrifice, effort, and cost.  Thank you for sharing with us in the cost!

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