AMAZON BOAT TRIP (August 29 – September 6, 2018)
Wednesday, August 29th
630am – The date and time we all have been counting down to the mission trip of a lifetime. We will embark on a medical mission trip starting today. Linda, Donna, Amy, Lori, Kathleen, Kelsy, Wendy and Joanne left from Rockville Christian Church to meet Jennifer in Veedersburg and head to Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
Our first challenge of the trip was met at the airport in Chicago as we tried to check in luggage. A quick redistribution of supplies to comply with airline weight limits of 50# caused a little panic within the group but with 9 women, 18 bags and prayer we got it done! Nailed it! Prior to boarding the plane for Miami we met up with Merle then off to Miami we went.
Miami was a breeze compared to Chicago and here we met Connie and Charles on the quick turnaround to board for Manaus. Approximately at 1130pm we arrived in South America to be greeted by Earl and the boys from CBM. What a pleasant surprise it was, after hours of travel time, to be welcomed with a hot meal on the boat. Noodles, beef, rice, fresh fruit awaited us hungry travelers.
The redes provided a place for some of us to rest our heads while others took respite in their cool cabins. Long days ahead to do God’s work.
Thursday, August 30th
Breathtaking is the way I describe what I woke up to. After sleeping in the rede, I awoke to a beautiful, rising sun. Quiet, still waters around our traveling boat which had been traveling all night along the Amazon river to meet our first destination. After everyone arose, a spread of fried bananas, fruits in plenty, tapioca rolls, cheese, ham, bread and juices were waiting. Edilza, Alice and Eliza prepared our meals and to God we give thanks for the talents they shared with us.
After breakfast, we all gathered in the clinic area to go through all the supplies we had brought on the ship for the coming days. Medicines, dental supplies, creams, hygiene items etc… were all divided in bins to take down to the basement of the ship for future use. We must not forget the bags upon bags of flip flops, sunglasses and washcloths that were also provided. Each had their own job but a few of us went to the basement of the ship to continue to further divide the supplies in the well-organized bins Ruth Ann was proud to show. Each supply had a place to be easily found when in need. Some supplies more plentiful than others but each serving a purpose as we travel over the next several days to the surrounding villages.
Earl was in the height of his glory now, explaining the geography of Brazil and how he came to be a missionary. As we listened atop the deck of boat, we were able to realize just why this mission was so successful and how God used Earl and Ruthann to start and continue a wonderful mission of serving others.
A little relaxation time was in store now as many of us took in the scenery as we traveled in the day light down the Amazon and in surrounding tributaries. Pink dolphins were in plenty during the travel time, the sounds of the birds overtook the quietness of the air and it wasn’t long before we were able to see the water lines on the lush rainforest trees – signifying a change in the water level for the coming months.
It wasn’t long before Earl called us back into action to separate vitamins and ibuprofen into small baggies to distribute to families in the villages. This will provide many men, women and children with additional vitamins they might not otherwise receive had CBM not provided services in the area. Finding this task complete, we found ourselves in São Sebastião.
9 of us decided it was time to take to the streets and see what the town was like. We quickly decided the heat of the day does not invite long leisurely strolls – IT’S HOT! Town people use this time to rest and relax and were few and far between. However, around 5pm the town was a little more alive. Mopeds, mopeds and more mopeds drive the streets thus enticing Amy and Jennifer to ask for scenic tours around town from Ceszar. Jennifer even got to drive!
Dinner time was quickly approaching and another spread of noodles, beans, rice, chicken and potatoes, salad and papaya juice. Can’t forget the Coca-Cola though with our bellies full, we were ready to turn in for the night to prepare what we came here for. To serve the medical needs of the natives. Mark 10:44-45 says….whoever wants to be first but be a slave of all. For even the son of man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give a ransom for many.
Friday, August 31st
We awoke to the sweet smell of “momma” cooking breakfast. Chocolate cake and fruit!! Passion fruit juice! Breakfast for the Americans first and then the crew of Brazilians eat. Next, sponge soaking in Portaguese words and songs. So hard for the Americans to roll their “r” and hard for the Brazilians to make the “th” sound. Donna McVay led us in our daily devotions – Hebrews 12:1-2 and Phil 3 7-14.
A slow boat ride down the Amazon took us to a village called Paur. Here we began doing what we were called to do – use our many talents to serve the people and their medical needs while teaching them about being called for a purpose to God. Fishers of men we were. When we arrived it was hot – heat of the day. Not many villagers to be seen once we walked up the very steep hill. Two men were building steps, by hand, brick by brick to provide for a safer way for villagers to come to the waters. School was in session for the small children – teachers could be seen in the school teaching preschool age children. As we walked around the first village we came to, we were greeted by children. Laughing, running, and pointing at the Americans. Strings of line for clothing could be seen along with women cleaning their homes. Quiet on the streets though.
It wouldn’t be long before Earl sounded the horn (5times) for villagers to know we were open for business. Families gathered to be treated. The assembly line began – a table was placed with Danielle handing out file cards for those who had been to the boat before. Villagers would walk to the boat, while not forgetting to remove their shoes before entering, would come on the boat for treatment. They could wait for the doctor or dentist and were called back for heights and waits. When prompted, they would come to the place where I was – the doctor. Several people entered – Earl even said he wasn’t sure where they were all coming from. He didn’t think we would see this many people. One of the patients I remember was a young boy on his first birthday. All the crew gathered and sang happy birthday to him. After the patients would come through the doctor or dentist they were given a wormer and vitamin. It is common for the villagers to have worms (as seen with white spots on their bodies). At the wormer and vitamin station the little kids were given “Bon Bon’s” aka candy unless you are Wendy and she gave out “bum bums” which in Portuguese is considered “butt butt”. Earl really thought this was funny! The day was complete and 76 villagers were served. Mostly stomachaches, cramps, headaches and a lot of condoms and birth control provided.
The evening rounded out with a walk on the beach where Kelsey and Jennifer had played soccer all day with the children. Too close to sundown so we decided to stay the night on the water next to this village. The rede was calling our names! Many played cards in the clinic downstairs because of the bugs. “Golf” was the game and many laughs and jokes were shared. My favorite was Merle’s story of his daughter’s Christmas gift – the Italian nutcracker!
Saturday, September 1st
Once again, our morning began with wonderful food to nourish our bodies for yet another day of serving God’s children. Devotions…..a lot of emotion this morning. Wendy led us with Ester 4:14 and Isaiah 6:8 (Here I am Lord, send me) and Peter 4:10. Alice, from Brazil, gave a powerful testimony on her health problems and how God led her Earl and Ruth Anne to help with chores on the boat. She does our laundry and cleaning in the rooms. Crying is how I describe how most of us left devotions this morning. She expressed her gratitude for the Americans serving on the boat and the lives we are changing by providing medical care. Socialized medicine was described in more detail from Earl and how fortunate we are in America to live with such wonderful amenities.
We noticed there was one more family to service here in this village, so we did so and then loaded up the boat to go back down river and hit some other villages.
We arrived at Sororoca to be greeted by children from the village waiting on a bench high on a hill. The excitement on their faces was priceless.
Prior to serving the people we ate lunch. Fish, rice, beans, salad and passion fruit juice were the main course with a pudding for lunch. A nap was in store for many but Linda, Wendy and I decided to walk the steps high on the hill to visit with the children. There were many…. One of my goals of this trip was to get a picture with many children and I accomplished this here. I quickly learned the children loved to have their picture taken. I got my phone out and we took many pictures including Snapshot filtered pictures. Funny faces galore. The kids laughed and giggled and it filled my soul with such joy. All were boys and there was one special girl – Alessia. She hugged me, laid her head on my arm and wouldn’t leave my side. This….This is where I felt at such peace doing some of God’s work.
With the quiet in the village at the heat of the day, women could still be seen doing the chores; placing clothes on the line. Electricity and a village phone were available. Lots of women were -pregnant and it was learned the doctor schedules most of C-section as not to be bothered on the weekends or holidays. September 17th was the day for many. So far, it has been an eye opening experience on the medical care many Brazilians receive. Many have to wait months at a time for care.
Dinner was served and pastais were on the menu. Guava, cheese, pepperoni, chicken were the choices along with hot ham and cheese sandwiches.
Another night of cards in the dining room and dominos with the crew. So many laughs! But, much work to do tomorrow.
Sunday, September 2nd
10 minutes at most was the time it took us to get to our next destination. Buçusal – where many of the missionaries were gathering for training.
After Merle and Alice led us in devotions from Hebrews, Philippians and Psalms we quickly started our work in the clinic. Here the villagers were different than past. Many were better off and dressed nicely. They were well mannered and babies were plenty. Children were very well behaved and large families were not uncommon to come on the boat together. Alice was able to see her children today in the village and Diandra came aboard the boat to help with dental cleanings. Diandra’s sister, mother and father are a part of this village and are missionaries here. Diandra and her cousin Danielle also led us in music each morning with the playing of their guitars.
12:30pm Wendy, Kelsey, Jennifer, Linda, Amy, Michelle, and Kathleen were taken by Junior and Cezar on a boat ride around the area. Beautiful and breth taking yet humbling and heartbreaking were words I would use to describe the ride. We were reminded of God’s beauty but to some it reminds them of hard work and sacrifices. Villages could be seen than would soon not be reachable by boat because of falling waters. Yet, beauty with changing scenery where ducks, macaw and other creatures of God were viewed by us. Amazing.
2pm came quick and it was time for church in the village. We shared in worship with the Brazilians. Donna led us in meditation, Danielle and Diandra and led in worship music and Charles and Earl led in the sermon. Fishers of men….we all have a duty to lead others to God, just one; each of us just led one person and everyone will be led to God. Charles preached on God calling us, changing us and us being committed to what God calls us to do while Earl was able give examples and involve the church. Communion was shared in a traditional broken bread and juice fashion were everyone walked to the front of the church to get. The Americans also were called to the front of the church to sing JESUS (5 letters).
After a short walk around the village, we arrived back at the boat to see Earl swimming and preparing to ski with some of the crew. Jennifer and I decided we would also! So…Jennifer, Kathleen, Kelsey, Linda and I all jumped off the boat into the water. Earl was able to get himself up behind a 25 hp. Motor and ski for a while but Linda, Jennifer and I were unable to after many attempts.
By this time we were ready for dinner and time to turn in for bed.
Monday, September 3rd
In American, many in America were probably celebrating Labor Day but we labored in another way. Time to serve the villagers again!
Earl described this was a village where a truck had run into the boat before. A bar and merchandise store sat atop the hill where we pulling up. Loud music echoed from the bar while several men sat and watched- giving haircuts, visiting amongst themselves while Danielle and Diandra gathered villagers to be seen by the clinic. Sol Nascente was the village name.
Being in the doctor’s office, I see it all. One gentleman caught my attention. Earl describes how on one of their visits the man had fallen and needed surgery on his leg. When he came to the boat after surgery, it was infected and laid open – exposing the plate that had been put in. The doctor fixed him up and saved his leg. The same gentleman also had a nail go thru a toe and the doctor also saved his toe. He expressed much gratitude for all the help the boat had given and says that only by the grace of God and this boat he was alive.
This village was also different although not far away from the last village. The children were less well behaved and more people seemed to be looking for a handout. We decided God would take care of them and we were here for a mission – to treat as many as we could. We waited awhile to leave this village because of many patients with Michelle in the dentist office. However, at dark we were able to move to our next destination and be ready for the morning.
Cards and dominos for all before bedtime as in previous night’s rounds the evening out great!
Tuesday, September 4th
There is a special rooster in this village called Divino that cannot tell time! While having a wonderful sleep in the rede atop the boat, the rooster crowed at midnight, 1am, 2am, and 3am and so on. However, the day must go on.
Mama outdid herself today with the banana cake for breakfast! Whoa was it good! Everyone fed and bellies full means a good day to start in the clinic again. Like all the other villages, this one was again unique. Tattoos were a new thing in this village along with warts. Could be a combination of the spread of the virus but who knows. Many already had sunglasses as they came on the boat and this village was decked out in their outfits. Lots of gold and “bling”. Men were well built and here is where we encountered the oldest of all the men thus far – 80 years old. Earl tells us he is the head of the village and once considered Earl their priest.
These natives were thankful for the work we were doing and continued about their day with medicine in hand. But our work was not done today…time to move to the next village called “Paradise”.
It was a short drive down the tributary again to where the waters met the great Amazon River. Children could be seen on the tall hill waiting for us to arrive here in “Paradise” (Paraíso). It seemed this village had some sort of a virus going on here. Fever, cough and cold were amongst the biggest complaints. We serviced 57 people here which were quite smaller than the other villages.
After our short stay in Paradise, it was time to move on to São Sebastião. Upon arrival to the village we noticed loud music and several people and police gathering in the city streets. It was a parade. The schools were marching to show off their soccer teams, medical students, school children, band members and any other special “team” from their schools. People lined the streets to watch!
Wednesday, September 5th
Kathleen started us off for the day with a devotion regarding forgiveness for people who have done you wrong or speaking well of others while Diandra gave a deep devotion about God’s grace.
Today was a manual labor day. Off to the greenhouse we went to work in the fruits of his labor. Some chose to take the 2 mile walk to the other part of town by Santana’s house but others waited for the motorized cart as a taxi. I, myself, preferred the taxi for the view. As we arrived at the greenhouse, rain fell…hard. It rained for approximately 30-40 minutes while we all visited on the back porch of the guest house at the greenhouse area. Vegetables and fruit trees could be seen within our view and we were anxious to get started. After the rain ceased, Earl arrived on the moped with Cezar. Time to work!
Some were able to move sprouting vegetables to an area closer to the greenhouse while others dug holes for the expanding planting house. About half of the crew started working on a plan for mixing concrete by hand. The chicken palace we were working on was huge. Fit for a king! It would take a lot of manual labor to mix different piles of concrete and move them to the chicken palace. Some wanted to help but they just weren’t able to. There were still things for them to do – some painted bottles to reflect light for the irrigation system, some played in the dirt and some were able to help Santana around the guest house.
It was an extremely busy day and full of manual labor. Dr. Donna was going to be busy tomorrow. Early night for most of us as we were exhausted! Always room for a round of cards though.
Thursday, September 6th
Group picture day and rounded out the morning with a heartfelt testimony from Earl about how he came about moving to Brazil and becoming a missionary on the boat. Such love for the Lord and deep faith is rooted in this man! I have the upmost respect for his devotion to God and leadership as a Christian man.
Santana had now arrived on the boat bearing handmade jewelry and crafts to sell. Beautiful works of art in necklaces, bracelets, crocheted items etc. The crew was able to purchase items to take back to the states.
After serving a couple of families’ medical needs, a birdie told us it was time to move on . The boat was prepared to move on and we were headed to Manaus. Our work in the villages was done. It was a little emotional for me. It was finished. We had arrived and our “mission” was done. Such a rush of emotion for me – completion yet incomplete. God’s work was never done.
Romans 12:6-21 says to use your gifts from God. Insignificant or not there is a purpose. Do not be overcome with evil in the world, but overcome evil with good. Go….make disciples and be fishers of men.