It’s early on a Friday morning and we will be returning home following a week on the rivers, delivering water filters and consulting with health. We are on Mojo River, north of the Amazon River, across from the town of Gurupa. We stopped in Gurupa to pick up Antonio and Pepetua, our Vineyard Pastors in this town of about 15,000. They are a special couple, who have ministered alone in this town for six years. They travel on the rivers surrounding Gurupa in a small boat sharing about Jesus’ love to all who will listen. They have beautiful, humble hearts, just the kind of people that we want modeling the Kingdom of God.
We met an 89 year old man, living alone, who has lived in the interior all of his life. Brazil had a “rubber boom”, similar to the “gold rush” in the States, in the early to mid 20th century. Rubber trees are plentiful in the Amazon Basin and many men during this time were hired to extract, process, package, and export the rubber. This man worked extensively with the rubber and told us all about it. It was a difficult life, living in the jungle and working long hours. But it was a steady job which is still difficult to come by in this region. The Rubber Boom continued until synthetic rubber replaced the natural product in the mid-1900’s. The trees still bear the scars of the extraction and the rubber is a thick, white, stretchy material that “leaks” out of cuts made in the bark of the tree. We received a demonstration of how it was extracted many years ago.
These folks living on the rivers love having visitors, without exception. They revel in sharing about themselves and their lives, work, and experiences. Our initial ministry is always asking simple, open-ended questions and listening. Isn’t this the same anywhere? So many Christians just want to talk, even about Jesus, but asking questions is honoring and demonstrates interest, which is a necessary part of love. We are called to love first, before preaching, teaching, and “witnessing”. Therefore, we are called to ask questions and to listen. Who can you minister to today by asking questions and listening?
We are in the midst of the rainy season and the mosquitoes are pretty thick on the rivers. We met one family that puts a pot in the middle of their one-room, wood house and they burn wood in this pot through the night. Because there is no opening in the roof, the room is filled with smoke all night and this keeps the mosquitoes out of the house. The young mother of three small children laughed when she said that they cough all night but have no mosquitoes!
Isaiah Kiener and I were installing one of our 400lb filters in one house and the kitchen floor completely collapsed. We fell three feet to the ground, uninjured. A broken board “caught” the filter about 6 in. above our feet, preventing certain serious injury to our feet. All of the filters are numbered and one of the guys on the team noted as we loaded the filters into the canoe that one of the filters was numbered 666. He suggested that perhaps we should dispose of that one. This same guy noted subsequently that it was this filter that fell through the floor, destroying a significant portion of this family’s house. This gave me the opportunity to use this as a simple illustration to share with the men that the motive of the enemy is certainly to destroy, but that “greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world”. The floor was destroyed and we were spared. I fell through the dock of the same house, uninjured. These types of occurrences are common in the work of delivering filters and all who have visited us can appreciate that there are some risks involved in our work here.
I saw many people with very high blood pressure, some minor illnesses, and a few significant illnesses, including juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever, a kidney stone (no pain meds for three days prior to our visit and we helped with ibuprofen!), and osteomyelitis. We gave away many pairs of reading glasses to older people who were thrilled to be able to see up close again. I saw about 250 people and our help was received with much gratitude.
Luke and Isaiah had a great time working and horsing around with the younger guys on the team. They “worked hard and played hard” and it was a joy to watch.
We had a time of listening to the Lord, worshipping, and “chewing” on a passage of the Bible each morning. This bunch, for the most part, is hungry for more of God and I look forward to seeing how God uses these trips to mold these young men.
We pray with each family as we install their filter and I pray for each person that I see medically. We had several people shed tears as we prayed for them as they had never experienced anything like that in their lives. Seeing God so touch people is a joy and is why we are here. There were also two men that I talked with at length after I told them that I saw that God had a special “calling” for their lives. They both agreed to pursue God’s heart for them.