Thursday February 27 – Friday February 28, 2020
After a full day of travelling from Ohio, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina the team came together in Miami, Florida. We all met each other for the first time and instantly hit it off. Everyone immediately started to get to know each other and the conversations flowed naturally.
Just before we all made it to the gate as a whole, Bob had already met three of the others at a restaurant in the airport. Having no clue who he was, they asked if they could sit with him. Once they got to talking they realized that a God moment was happening and that they were on the same mission trip.
We later flew overnight to Manaus, Brazil where we boarded a bus. To keep the trip interesting the bus got stuck on the bridge and the front bumper fell off. I’m not sure what ended up happening to the bus because we got off and carried our luggage across. It made the trip eventful and was a perfect reminder that we have no idea what this week will bring. There was literally a bump in the road but we all overcame it together and got on with our journey. Here we are all safely on the boat and ready to serve.
The team arrived to the boat in the middle of the night. It was very dark so we couldn’t see the river very well. The first night several of us slept in a hammock (rede) on the top deck of the boat. The excitement of knowing we were on top of one of the most beautiful sights we may ever see but couldn’t see it yet was thrilling. I absolutely could not wait for the sun to rise so I could take it all in. It was definitely worth the wait. When morning came I just wanted to stare at the nature. The water was brown and dirty, yet so gorgeous. The trees stood tall while many were half under the water. You could see the shoreline in some places where the water was lower. The Amazon River is breathtaking.
As we floated down the river we got acquainted with the boat, settled into our rooms and got to know each other and the welcoming crew. The first day mostly consisted of travelling, relaxing and soaking up our surroundings. We unpacked the duffle bags we brought from our country filled with gifts for theirs. Medicines were sorted and vitamins were counted. We divided the vitamins into bags for 60 days to give out to our patients. We may not be pharmacists back home but we are on this boat. It’s amazing the difference in health care here than in the U.S.A.
Saturday - February 29, 2020
This morning we woke to the sound of a rooster yelling ‘’BREAKFAST, BREAKFAST, BREAKFAST!!!’’ The teamwork began immediately. We all patiently lined up eager to eat the freshly prepared food the crew cooked for us. Even though we had no idea what they made, we bit in with an open mind. Every bite has been surprising and savory. We’ve already eaten foods we don’t normally eat, even some that we typically don’t like. A lot of the foods taste so different here and some of the team members are enjoying foods they thought they wouldn’t. I never knew what fresh and unprocessed truly was before this trip. Going into every meal as a surprise, filling my plate with foods I do not recognize and biting into the unknown has made eating here very exciting.
After having a meal together, we went to the top deck to sing, pray and have devotions. Earl, the missionary Pastor here, lead a devotion about discipleship. He talked about how God commands us to go out into the world and make disciples. Yesterday Earl said `Where Jesus goes, everything gets better.` We are all called to spread the Word, to teach others about Jesus and share His love so that they can then make more disciples, which is exactly why we are all here on this mission trip.
We spent the rest of the morning spreading love while caring for complete strangers. Each team member was assigned a job and together we gave each patient dental and medical care. We also blessed them with vitamins and essentials for their family to take back to their homes. The jobs we did today, several of us without any training at all, are jobs that you have to go to school for back home. It was amazing to see these people put their complete faith in us. They trusted us with their health and took the medicines we gave them without hesitation. I was always taught not to take candy from strangers and here I am giving candy to strangers as they willingly accept and their faces light up. The kids were so excited to get free lollipops. The parents were thrilled to leave with new toothbrushes, toothpastes, washcloths and soap. It’s amazing the things we tend to take for granted. Today we were reminded that some of the things we don’t think about as luxuries actually are.
We spent the evening playing a diverse game of Uno with 14 people. Every other player was a Brazilian with an American in between. We didn’t play as individuals, but as two teams from two different countries. The experience was like no other I’ve had before. We all may not speak the same language, but we laugh in the same language. There was so much laughter surrounding that table we could not stop smiling. The Brazilians ultimately won, but we all definitely won tonight. The real prize was the fellowship we experienced, the teaching moments and the joy that filled the room.
Sunday March 1, 2020
Today we spent the day serving others in a little village. Some travelled to our boat by their own boat and others had to walk down a steep ledge. As a team we all worked together to give each patient the care that they needed. The Brazilians got them registered, Jay directed traffic, Marla cut their hair, Aimee and Dave checked them in measuring their height, weight and blood pressure. Denise gave massages, Geser, Ermitas and Ines worked in the dental office, Stephen and Haley gave deworming pills and gift bags while Ruth Anne, Denise and Judson worked in the pharmacy. Dr. Bill and Jared are the doctors on the boat and they saw every patient to ensure they left with what they needed. Earl helped the doctors and directed the flow ensuring the process went as smooth as possible.
We had the pleasure of handing out gift bags with essentials inside them. It was amazing to see how excited a child was to get a new toothbrush. The children hated taking the dewormer, but we rewarded them with a lollipop. We were also able to give them some toys, cross necklaces and sunglasses which they also loved. They lit up just as much when they received the toothbrush as they did when we gave them a toy. Someone sent a pack of silly glasses that made the kids fill the halls with laughter.
All of the children were adorable. There was one particular boy named Kaoi who really captured my heart. He talked to me the whole time. He had so much to say and he didn’t even care that I couldn’t understand anything he was saying. He just wanted to talk and share his thoughts with me. I wished so badly I could have communicated better with him, but grateful for my hands, signals and facial expressions to be able to understand a little bit. I could not stop giving him suckers and he hung around me while he waited for his Mother and his turn in the dentist office. When his turn finally came he laid on the dentist’s chair with the biggest smile. . He never stopped smiling. I was sad to see him get off the boat because I could have played with him all day.
Four of the children from the village got baptized right outside the boat in the muddy water. It was a beautiful sight to see them giving their lives to Christ. There was so much emotion surrounding us all and we were honored to be included.
Later that evening we got to go onto the land for the first time. We sat in a cute and tiny church and had service with the Brazilians. The whole service was in Portuguese so we didn’t understand what they were saying, but that didn’t stop us from worshipping together. In the middle of the service we all hugged each other. They’re all so loving and accepting to complete strangers. You could tell how grateful they were that we were there loving back on them. During the service a boy I didn’t recognize came up to me, hugged me and sat on my lap. It was exactly at a moment where my mind started to drift and his hug was just what I needed. He reminded me that Jesus loved me and that I deserved to be loved. A few minutes later Kaoi showed up and his face lit up. My heart exploded knowing he was just as excited to see me as I was to see him. I was so pleased to worship with both of those boys, even though I didn’t get the chance to learn the others name. Kaoi left an impression on me that will last a lifetime.
Faith is another common thread among us all. We praise with different words but worship the same Father. We sing different lyrics but are singing the same song. We fold our hands, bow our heads and speak different, but our prayers are the same. Our devotions sound different, but all have heart behind them. Multiple cultures coming together and sharing the love of Jesus with each other is so touching.
I feel so lucky to be here and a part of this mission. The whole team is grateful for this opportunity. Most of us thought we were coming on this trip to serve others, but ultimately this trip was for us. It has changed each of our lives in different ways. Some of the team has been here before and returned because they love the heart of this mission and wanted to reconnect with the Brazilians. For many of us it is our first time here. God has called our servant hearts and this experience has really sparked our passion. We have so much more time for devotions and reflection. This trip is helping us all grow spiritually, putting us on a spiritual high.
Monday March 2, 2020
The village we served at today was a rather small one. We were only there a few hours before we took off to the next one. We woke up to the soothing sound of rain and all gathered on the top deck. There we had devotions about love while surrounded by a swarm of flies. The message was truly a great one that everyone needs to hear. The men spoke about how the most important thing Jesus gave us is ourselves. We have to love ourselves before we can love others. Loving ourselves allows us to share that love with the people that surround us. Jesus made each and every one of us uniquely with gifts that should be shared with the world. He wants us to use those gifts to love on others and bring them to Jesus.
The few families we were blessed to treat mostly arrived by their own boat as they held umbrellas over their heads in the pouring rain. The lengths they travel, rain or shine to come to the medical boat shows how much we are needed. Every human we came into contact with this morning were very friendly. There was one man who made an extra effort to walk over to me and grab my hand for a firm shake. He didn’t speak but the grip of his hand and the motion of the shake said it all. I was so humbled. In that moment I realized that we aren’t just here for them, but also for ourselves. This experience has been as wonderful to our team as it has to those that live here. I’ve had the pleasure of watching my teammates light up while holding babies and playing with the children. Seeing the different cultures interact with each other has been eye opening. Most of us are already planning our next mission trip. We feel called to do more when we go back home and to help as many people we can. A few of us have been searching for our purpose in life and this trip has given us the push in the right direction. God’s plan for us is beginning to unfold.
During devotion Judson, a worker on the boat, shared his story. He lost his father to a terminal illness and later found out he was also sick. Judson has a wife and two small children. Through prayer and medicine he was able to get better. With God’s grace, he now has more time with his family and more time to help others through his job on the mission boat. God definitely has a plan for this kind man. He knows that and lives a life of faith.
An awesome miracle happened today as well. A bigger boat full of people pulled up with an extremely sick man. He was severely dehydrated and throwing up. Jerod, Earl and Junior jumped boats to help this man. Jerod was able to medicate him and hung an IV through a plastic liter bottle onto a wooden beam. You could almost immediately see him perk up. We were at the right place at the right time. That boat was headed to get their paychecks and God placed us there to help him. Someone who is that dehydrated and with such low electrolytes most likely wouldn’t have made it another day or two. It was awesome for the men to get immediate gratification knowing that they just saved a man’s life. It indeed was a God thing!
Tuesday March 3, 2020
We served a different village today and we were able to get off of the boat for the first time. It was eye opening to see the homes they live in up close. Stephen met the mayor of the town and he asked this nice man to give us some coconuts. The man grabbed an extremely tall stick and hit the top of the tree until some coconuts fell. He then cracked them open with a machete and gave them to us. We got to drink from them and share with the others on the boat. It was such a blessing to see how they pick coconuts from the tree firsthand and to be gifted with some to share.
The homes there were beautifully decorated with many different types of flowers. We saw gorgeous trees and really neat wooden boats. One tree was blooming with many different cactus. I have never seen anything like it.
We stopped at another village later on where we were able to buy some homemade art pieces from the people who patrol. It was neat to see such an official building with hammocks out front. We definitely would not see that back home. There were the sweetest young girls there who were very grateful for the goodies and sunglasses we gave them. We ended up giving them some medical care as well. I had my first mini conversations with a young girl there where I actually understood what she said. She asked me what my name was and I was able to ask her back. It was such a cool experience to communicate with her, even if just for a second. I loved that she wanted to know more about me.
We caught the entire sunset while traveling on the river. Watching the sun go down over the breathtaking nature was a sight imprinted in all of our minds forever.
Our dinner on the boat was tiny pieces of chicken and onions along with rice, noodles, salad and a few other things. Every single lunch and dinner meal has consisted of nicely chopped salad, the noodles and the rice. They are a constant here and I love that they take the leftovers and create other delicious dishes with them. Here they appreciate the food that they have more and do not waste the blessings. The soda and coffee are also deliciously sweetened and have totally different tastes than in the USA. Every dessert we have tried has been awesome as well.
That evening we saw some men transporting a big cow on a little boat. They were having trouble lifting the cow off the boat, so they had to cut it into smaller pieces. It was a sight I had never seen and amazing how much they have to work here out in the open with less tools and smaller means of transportation.
Wednesday March 4, 2020
Wednesday started out with one of the most inspiring devotions we have been blessed to hear. One of the crew members, Rose, told us all about her story. She was born with a deformity and was an extremely small infant. The doctors told her parents that she would not live. She survived anyway and was then told she would never walk. When she turned 9 her parents took her to the hospital to have surgery on her legs. The doctor could see a look on her face and separated her from her parents to ask her if she wanted the surgery. She said she did not. In her heart she knows that God made her this way and that’s exactly how she is supposed to be. Rose did not have that surgery and today she walks around on her own. Her personality brightens every room she walks into. You can tell she has the biggest heart and she is so kind from the first moment you meet her. She told us a story about two boys passing away in her village and they didn’t know what to do. They did not have anything to bury them in. Right away help came and brought those boxes and assisted in burying them. The kindness shown to the village by complete strangers really made a difference in their lives. Years later Rose had the opportunity to come get treated on this medical boat. The boat and the missionaries left an impression on her and later in life she was asked to come work on the boat. She gratefully accepted and is so happy and blessed by the job she has and the life she has made for herself.
As we are approaching a lot of the villages, looking out seeing the houses and how small they are, we realize how blessed we are in the states. We learned that there are 5-10 people living in these one bedroom houses and some of our bathrooms are the same sizes an entire house. Realizing they live in these conditions and they are perfectly content with very little, makes .you really think about life back home. People have so much and they still want so much more in the states. We knew we were blessed but this was eye opening. Watching this culture be so family orientated has inspired us all to take that back home. We all tend to be too busy to play cards every night and stick together the way the Brazilians do. Their way of life has made an impression on each and every one of us.
While treating patients an infant came in with an abscess on her arm. The doctors were able to drain it and treat it. With abscesses like she had, she could have gone septic in time. We are so grateful we were able to provide her with the medical care she needed.
Thursday March 5, 2020
This morning we had the pleasure of hearing Earls story and how this mission came about. He has inspired us all to not be afraid to dream big as he is living proof that big dreams can come true. God’s plan for him has lead him to serve a full life of purpose on this boat, traveling along the river and helping many Brazilians with free healthcare, dental work, medications and other necessities. He worked hard to raise the funds to purchase this boat and make that dream a reality. Earl works with ministries all over, finding others who feel called to come to Brazil and serve. This week we saw how well known he is in the Amazon and how much people trust him. The Brazilians love him and are very appreciative of the blessings he brings.
The rest of the day was spent bonding with our teammates and getting to know them further. We also had the opportunities to talk with the Brazilian crew all day and learn more about where they come from. Every single one of them have made us feel welcome and comfortable and shown us nothing but kindness. We will miss them when we have to part ways tomorrow.
Friday - March 6, 2020 - Shopped in Manaus and returned to the U.S.