Last year was incredible, I made some great friends, friends I went back with, or met up with once I hit Brazil, but this year not only did I get to spend the week with 'those guys and gals'....the entire boat was full of a family I wanted to be a part of....I know the rare treasure it is to work beside people like the Acts church did. There wasn't drama, except to be dramatically impressed....daily....by how cool God is in Brazil and beyond. There was a lot of laughter, and a boat filled with people ready to work hard. Nobody wanted to 'get out' of doing things that are difficult....the heat, stepping out of comfort zones, and fitting more into a day than I usually do in a week....we were all eager to be a part of the story, and I loved that most.
We flew into Manuas, and then boarded the boat and headed 28 hours (or so...more 'or so'-Brazilian time is always about twice as long as they tell you it will be) up the Amazon River to the first of seven villages we visited. We spent the first day just finding out 'river legs.' We sleep on open decks in hammocks. The first year I though...no way. I don't even like to sleep in my squishy bed under my pottery barn comforters.....sleep just isn't my thing, but....in the open, in a hammock? It's an incredible sleep, especially with a little wind and rocking....you are 8 months old again without a care in the world...I've never heard anyone complain about the sleeping arrangements.
Each member that goes south spends the year raising funds, the funds go towards the travel up and down the river, we were able to provide family bags of food as well, but our greatest hope is to make permanent changes that last beyond these temporary bags of aids. We were able to witness several water wells being dug. So many people die young because they drink, bath, and do laundry in the Amazon river. Beneath their feet are sources of fresh water, they just lack the means to get to it. Part of the funds donated are used for projects like that. We were in two villages that received fresh water for the first time in their life (thanks to generous donors from back home), and it's hard to wrap my mind around how precious this gift is, and how easily we access it back home.
Each day we are broken up into teams. Some are assigned to Vacation Bible School which includes a story, crafts, snacks, games, and face painting.
There is a women's ministry where we sit and chat, make necklaces, cut hair, and paint nails. A men's ministry that includes passing out some fishing gear, and telling some fishing tales.
A unique experience this year was a recreation center that was opened using some of the funds that were provided. This was located in the same city we visited last year and helped open a church. The kids do not have a lot of places to enjoy sports, and the idea is to bring in a team of athletes that are going to run sports programs and hopefully give some of these kiddos new interest. A lot of the people along the river in Brazil being having families very young. There are 11 year old Mom's attending the crafts at VBS while holding a baby on their hip. The hope is to draw those teens in, and provide additional paths for their life, given them an escape from too many harsh realities.
Honestly, I couldn't sum up this trip in a post....my plan this time is to plan to go next time. There is a verse in Isaiah (6:8) that says, "Here I am, send me." Instead of waiting for God to call him, Isaiah offers to go. No doubt, if God doesn't want me there, I won't be there....Paul was denied the chance to go to Asia because God needed him where he was at, and look at the impact he had? So this year, I won't wait for miracles and God's booming voice, I plan to be blogging about my trip next summer unless He tells me differently. This summer was an incredible journey. Over 280 people made professions of faith, we were able to pass out 480 bags to families, along with more than 200 bags of food. We got to witness two water wells being dug, and 4 churches being built. We were able to revisit a community we visited last year and find the same families that were just discovering the new church leading the church and being a light in really dark city. We stepped into 7 different villages and got to walk around love from Christ into the lives of the villagers. Regardless of where they were at in life, or what they believed, we loved on them and tried to make their day better.
This year we visited a city where one of the missionary families will soon be living next to the new church. I looked down on their door step and found this stick in the shape of an Ichthys. I love the Ichtys, and if God can paint pictures in the clouds, I'm pretty sure he can drop a twig or two in just the right location as a reminder of what He is doing, and who He is doing it with!