I headed to Brazil for the third time in as many years. There was a time that a global mission would have never made my wish list. I love local missions, felt like I was placed in this space for this time, and couldn't imagine spending money to go a world...or at least a continent away. I had no desire to visit Brazil, even as a vacation destination, but it is now a location that will always hold a big spot in my heart. The first year I went it was a difficult journey, but I knew I had been called, and I finally submitted to that calling. I learned a lot about myself that year. I learned a lot about the body of Christ both good and bad. I thought I closed that chapter. ...right up until the next year. Year two, despite my best efforts to avoid the trip was a truly incredible year. God had prepared the harvest, and gave us a week worth of double rainbows, pink dolphins, cooling rain showers, and open doors. When God said, Go!, again, I did it with year two fresh in my mind. I've tried to explain the mission to folks in the past, but my best description is...it's never the same. Each year I come back feeling really blessed to be born in this spot on earth. I readjust my thinking on what I find difficult....what I find necessary in life, and it changes me forever.
We spent 10 days on the river once again. I spent the week with some of my favorite people.
My friends back hom helped donate flip flops, sun glasses, hats, toothbrushes, toothpaste, baby clothes, and money to bring gifts to the folks along the river. We are all aware this doesn't 'solve' the problems faced living along the Amazon River. An absence of clean water (we raise money to drill wells), lack of basic supplies, few to no doctors, or access to dental care....but it's a small love offering we can bring. I have more in my purse than most folks have in their house and these bags do make a huge difference.
My buddy, Bill, raises funds to help build churches along the river. Though we come for a week with doctors and dentist, we work with local missionaries, and the funds he raise go towards the water wells, and churches. We usually participate in opening ceremonies and bring a song. There is a language barrier, but it's always fun when our melodies align and we can sing our songs in our words for One God.
One of my favorite parts of every trip are the translators. These men and women are awesome. I want to take them all home with me, and I'm so astounded by their hearts for the people living along their rivers. They also put up with a lot of jokes and rowdy American nights.
Each morning we set up the doctor, eye glass, and dental stations at a church, and outside we hold Vacation Bible School for the kiddos, and men and women's ministries to help with crowd control. In the women's ministry we usually chat girl chat. This year we shared a devotional about a butterfly and Phyllis had bought these feathered butterflies to give each lady afterwards. We usually share the gospel and make necklaces together, and then paint nails and do hair.
This year I emailed out at work and asked the gals there to donate any nail polish they don't need anymore and I got a huge slew of goodies. It saved me a ton of money while gathering supplies, and it's always awesome when you share a piece of your heart and your friends go out of their way to support it!
The last two years we have traveled with a married couple who are both doctors and their young son. Our trip cost covers stocking the pharmacy, and the doctors are able to give basic supplies to help cure common problems along the river. These doctors took a course on river diseases when they were in medical school, and what might take American doctors weeks to diagnose they can look at and it figure out before I can form my question. I take a lot of weird bumps and bruises their way while we are hanging out on the boat and get the best care possible without a co-pay or office wait.
This year we loaded up in the speed boats one evening and our crew took us alligator hunting. They called them making a clicking noise, snagged them with a pole with a noose at the end. They taped their mouth and we got to hold them. This was a little guy, we caught one a lot bigger that started thrashing around while I was holding it. This is the only photos I'll ever be taking holding an alligator, but now I can check it off the list!! I don't hold reptiles and as much as I'm not a fan of these, and we treated them well, it still disturbed me to pull them out of the water...I imagine their little alligator families and....
Another thing I love on the Amazon....rainbows after the storms they are usually plentiful. We only went through one rainstorm this go round, but after we woke up after all the lightening and thunder, there were two rainbows resting on the shore. I could have literally walked through them....if I weren't, like, on a boat.
One other little treasure....we saw monkeys! We stopped at this little barge were locals share their handmade goods. We usually run around for about thirty minutes at the end of the trip to buy thank you gifts for our donors. Last year we walked down this little path way and saw monkeys jumping in the background. This year the path was flooded, but we could hear an ape/gorilla in the background (I didn't see this guy, and didn't want to-they told us the Brazilian name for it, and it is some sort of 4 foot gorilla type thing making grunting noises). We asked one of the locals about monkeys, he hopped in his canoe and went and called them in! There were about twenty, including three Mom's with babies!!!
They gave us some bananas and we got to feed them. I died from all the cuteness. But then I undied so I could come back and share pictures and stories.
It really was a great trip. It was hot, the boat was broken the entire time. They had to cut away a large portion of the bottom floor to pull the engine out, we were towed down the Amazon all week while they worked, but everyone kept up a great attitude, the crew treated us well, and we walked away with 240 new brothers and sisters. Each of those experiences are stories of their own.
I don't know what next year will hold. When I prepared for this trip, my thought was-this is the last time, but every time I go and see what a difference a week can make....I open my heart back up to whatever God has in store for next year. But first....I'm working on a few crafts from this trip....stay tuned.