We just returned from what will be my last filter trip. Our friends, Brett and Naomi Latta are visiting and were able to join Ben, Meredith, Luke, myself, and eight local men and two women to serve the people of the Guajará River with 100 water filters, the good news of the Gospel, medical care, and as many embraces and encouraging words as we could give away in a week’s time. Most of the people we served lived 15+ hours from Porto de Moz and more than six hours from another small town on the Amazon River.
It’s always nice to spend quality time with old friends and this was so true with Brett and Naomi. Our kids all loved the trip, contributing to the work and having a lot of fun, as well.
It was a very good trip. Our small group times with the Lord were interactive and rich as we discussed wisdom from various Bible passages. We encountered several people that had clearly been prepared for our visit through suffering and difficulty and they seemed to receive and appreciate our Father’s love communicated to them through us. Most of those we met seemed to truly value our help and understand that we were there to serve and love them, no strings.
Our house and boat clinics saw about 300 people for health concerns over the five days that we were not traveling. A few of the highlights are described below.
I was able to counsel a grieving young woman who had given birth to a healthy baby boy two weeks prior, only to watch him die from malaria (transferred from mother, who had malaria during pregnancy) over the course of three days.
One couple arrived at the “clinic” that we were holding in a river house and tearfully asked for prayer for their 18 y/o son who had “fallen in with the wrong crowd” and was now drinking daily and was no longer interested in relationship with his parents. What similar challenges parents and teens face, no matter the environment! As I heard their story, I marveled how the same destructive influences are present no matter where we live in the world. The Adam and Eve scenario plays out again and again in every nook and cranny of the world as the foolish and unwise (often, me!) seek to find life independent of the only Life-giver and seek to satisfy the desires of their flesh, the desires of their eyes, and the desire to be esteemed (pride of life). It is nice when someone asks for prayer at our clinics for a non-medical issue as it communicates an understanding on their part of what we are really about, in that there is really only one Changer, Transformer and Healer and it is Him we must seek primarily with any challenge that we face, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or circumstantial.
Another touching encounter was when I treated a tearful woman of about thirty who had developed significant pain in both of her shoulders. She was so emotional about her problem of about two weeks that she needed several attempts to simply share her symptoms. She is unique in that she has two withered legs from childhood polio and her only means of getting around is by use of her strong arms and hands on the ground. She seemed to have a sweet, humble spirit and it broke my heart to later visit her river “shack” and try to imagine her life there. She has four children, ages 16 to 4, from different men, and had been abandoned by her last “husband”. We spent some time with her, sharing about God and his love and that He is real though there is much we don’t understand. We treated her medical problem and prayed for her and for her children. How quickly God can give you a special love and compassion for someone! It’s pretty cool to think that we just “happened” to be in her area as she faced a desperate situation. I saw her the next day and she was beaming and so much better.
One morning we worshipped for about a half hour as Luke led us beautifully and invisibly. When I asked what God was saying, several of the guys asked others for forgiveness for potentially offensive remarks made the night before during some animated Dominoes tournaments. I was struck by the level of honesty, surrender and openness before God in these guys. I thought about how often we “worship” and how often we worship, from a place of complete surrender and humility before God, asking Him to take and spend all of us, however He might choose. I think when we are able to be so humbled before men, caring no longer for success, esteem, achievement, and even gratitude from others, then we can consider ourselves worshippers, in spirit and in truth.
On my birthday, one of the guys on the team just “happened” to look at his cell phone when he was on the top of the boat and noticed that on one small spot on the roof he could get a weak cell signal. We were 6 hrs from any small town so this was incredible. Because it was my birthday, he “happened” to think of me and said I should call home and talk to my wife, who they all know and love dearly. I don’t exactly know the logic there but I thought it would be nice to surprise Bets with a quick call. Little did I know that, for two days, she had been trying to reach my by phone and by radio, knowing there was little chance of contact, because my Dad had unexpectedly been taken to heart surgery for a 4x bypass. After all of her effort, she receives a call from me, out of the blue, and is able to fill me in about the surgery that was happening as we spoke. She had been asking her friends to pray and one of our dear friends said that she would specifically ask our Father to cause Tim to call home, for whatever reason. One day I will really believe how precious I am to my heavenly Father. My Dad is doing well and on his way to recovery.
This was my last of many, many filter trips, medical trips, and ministry trips. It was a sad, reflective week. I had several beautiful, pre-dawn mornings with my Father on the top of the boat, listening to the frogs, birds, and monkeys. I had some difficult conversations with Him, struggling with what I sense God would have me do and what I want to do. They are different… again. So much of me wants to stay here. It’s familiar, we have established relationships with beautiful people, there is plenty of work (depending on your perspective), etc, etc. It is the challenge, I believe, inherent in picking up a cross and following the One who has done the same. My whole being screams this week for comfort, for rest from the pursuit of the ever-unfamiliar. How I long to do something of which I’m simply familiar and comfortable. How I long to avoid more insecurity. How I long to walk the well-worn path.
Yet I’ve learned so many times that to pursue earthly rewards and comforts forfeits the Kingdom. We all face this difficult choice every day. Do we walk the wide, smooth path that lies clearly ahead of us or do we seek the way of our Father, which is usually a less-traveled, rocky, difficult, unfamiliar, difficult to discern, little trail that doesn’t lead to where we think makes the most sense?
In a vision about a year ago, I came to the end of a path and was surrounded by beauty. When I lifted my eyes to behold the beauty around me, it was so obviously inappropriate to be sad that the journey had ended. My heart was full of gratitude for having had the opportunity to experience all that the journey had brought. This week (in reality vs the vision), I see the beauty around me, but I am fighting to be grateful and experiencing sadness. I am needing to exercise great effort to focus on the hand and purpose of my Father, and be thankful.
So, we now experience the mourning and the insecurity (Mt 5:3+) that comes with leaving the familiar path. Have you recently considered again joining the ranks of the foolish, being used and spent to love and to serve especially those who are suffering and those who don’t know Him, whatever the personal cost? You can go or send (both are of equal value). Please bring it up again with your Father.
Half of the world’s population lives on less than $2.50/day and 8 million children will die of starvation this year. You are His hands. What can you do?