The River Iriri

I spent last week with Clyde and Kelsie Bergquist, their four young kids, Kelsie’s visiting Mom, Robyn, and her husband Steve, traveling along the Iriri (eedeedee) River, west of Altamira about 9 hr by car or 25 hr by boat. It is my fourth time to this region and I love it because there live the best representation of the remote Amazon people that I came to serve. After arriving in the village of Maribel and spending a couple days at Clyde and Kelsie’s simple river home (no running water and electricity only by community generator for 2-3 hr/day), we headed out to visit three river communities over three days. At each community (each < 20 houses), we held a small gathering for those interested in learning about and discussing the Kingdom of God, followed by a morning clinic for any with health care needs.

We ate many fish, mangoes, and bananas and drank much river water (few people here have water filters) but no one became ill. The mosquitoes were pretty thick at dusk and dawn but calmed down during the night. There is much Dengue Fever and Malaria in the region but, so far, none of us have had a fever. Normally, Pium (a very irritating day-biting, “no see-em” insect) are thick in this region but there were very few. I was grateful! There are many crocodiles in the area and they were easily seen on the shores at night with a flash-light.

This region is true Amazon jungle, where the people live quite simply and travel into town infrequently. These people would not have access to the gospel apart from the work of the Xingu Mission and the Vineyard Church. Each community had a handful of people hungry for God and His Kingdom. It was quite evident to me that Clyde and Kelsie are doing very well connecting with the people and being used by Jesus to plant several small bodies of believers in this area.

Maria, who has lived in this region her entire life, after her baptism in the Iriri with her husband this week, shared the following. For years, she had asked God for help in knowing Him. She had asked that God come to her village. She shared how God sent several Vineyard teams from Altamira over the past few years to this region and she was able to hear about Jesus, apart from religion. She thanked God that He has now sent a missionary family to live among them and continue to teach them who God is and how to have relationship with Him. It was pretty cool, on the bank of the river and in the presence of the community, to hear her share the progression of events over several years that God used to reveal Himself to this woman and to others in this very remote area.

I am reminded this morning that Jesus builds His church, not men, missionaries, pastors, etc. His church is people in relationship with Him and each other, not buildings or organizations. His church is not a group of people who attend certain services, but Jesus-lovers who walk together.  He is building several beautiful churches along the Iriri and there are no buildings, no pastors, no organization, no hierarchy, no band, no microphones, no programs, no altar calls, no Sunday services…  He chooses, He builds, He sustains. Why do we so strive to plant, to build and to maintain organizations that we call “churches”? Is it to help people come to Jesus?  Is that the church’s role and responsibility? We are worried and bothered about so much. I wonder what it would look like if we compared on what our church spends money and on what the early persecuted church spent money.     Let us exit our churches and seek the Father as to how He might use us in His work in the world, rather than focusing so much of our energies and resources on building and maintaining churches.

Which bride is more beautiful, one focused on herself and her own beauty, health and wholeness or one focused outward on those she can encourage and help to become healthy and whole?

We are but hammers in the carpenter’s hand. Can the hammer take credit for being chosen or for building the house? What will it look like on that day when so many hammers stand before the Builder and expect praise for the work that HE did? We are servants, privileged to be used, so privileged. Should a servant expect praise for serving the Master? All praise is to Him and Him alone.

God doesn’t have to use men to share truth, to be witnesses to His reality, to love, to serve, or to embrace men and women. But He does. He allows us to participate in His work. Let’s today make ourselves available to Him to be used to serve someone needy, to speak the truth to someone confused, to embrace someone hurting, to go.


  1. How beautifully you have described what God is doing on the Iriri, Tim. I so agree with you that this is what we should be about. Clyde and Kelsie are doing the stuff, aren’t they? And God is blessing their willingness to just “go”. He builds His church, we just get to watch and encourage!

  2. As always Tim and Betsy, loved reading your update. Very insightful and anointed. God bless you guys and the work there in Brazil!

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