After counting down the days, packing and prepping, making it through our two flights (and one LONG layover!) the time had finally come: we were safely to Manaus. Our team of five ladies was met by three more people at the airport. Earl greeted us and our luggage was loaded before we took off for the boat. That brief trip was spent discussing schedules, our route and a little of what to expect. Once on the boat, we began our journey on the Rio Negro heading toward the Amazon. We quickly began exploring and familiarizing ourselves with the boat. Dinner was served (rice, pasta, salad and steak) and we settled in for the night. An amazing, clear sky and the excitement of the newness around us left all of the crew anxious for a bright new day to top the one we had just had.
June 27th- July 7th 2018
BomDia, Brazil! Best coffee ever + best crew ever + best views ever = best day ever. Our group started the morning by unpacking multiple suitcases full of vitamins, medicines, tooth brushes and other basic medical supplies needed to give the people of the remote villages off of the Amazon River the basic care they need to stay healthy. And with this crew, (because of our strong passion for serving others) the work felt like play and we smiled and laughed as we sorted the items assembly-line style across the boat. We stood in awe, gazing at massive boats stuffed wall to wall with people in Itaçoatiara. There we also had our first boat check. A long haul to São Sebastião gave us time for more work sorting vitamins into bags and prepping the lower deck for the patients. We also had time for some more gazing out over the water. We saw pink dolphins, a mama and baby water buffalo, a wild horse and beautiful trees of all kinds. We took a brief stop at Itapiranga then ended our travels for the day at Santa Helena. Our jobs were assigned and we practiced our roles for a bit before going out to explore the outskirts of the village and eating dinner. And if you think that was a great day, you are right, but I saved the best part for last. Walking onto the boat we were amazed at the CBM´s boat crew having worship with singing and guitars. We happened to know the songs and sang along too. So our evening ended with singing together; some of us singing in English and some of us singing in Portuguese but all of us were spiritually connected and praising the same great God. I am so grateful that we can have moments like this where we know God is at work.
June 29th, 2018
What a busy day! We spent the entire day serving in Saint Helena. The total number of appointments between the dentist and medical was around 190! In the afternoon following our lunch we had devotion from I Kings 13:7-30. We also spent time singing our worship songs in Portuguese, which we also sang front and center in the village´s church later that evening. Before leaving we handed out glow sticks to the adults and children. A brief thunderstorm and a late dinner wrapped up our evening and while we were sleeping our boat was traveling to our next stop, Cubuacá.
June 30th, 2018
Today was easily described as a day filled with love. In the small village of Cubuacá we provided care for the people and were done before lunch time. The people were friendly and eager to help us understand and communicate with them. The children were amazed when we pulled out the hula hoop. And of course the bubbles and soccer games were a hit. Shortly after lunch we went to the top of the boat for devotion, songs and had our quick English to Portuguese lesson. We read from I Corinthians 12:12-18 and Romans 12:4-5 and compared the parts of the human body to the parts of the body of Christ (specifically the church) and discussed the fact that God made each unique and important and to come together as a whole to function properly. In many ways similar to Cubuacá was Caranaucá, the next stop for our crew. It was small but left many big impressions. From the sweetest smiles of a young infant girl who had the biggest, darkest colored eyes to the heartbreaking story of the seven year old boy who was alone entire days at a time taking care of two younger siblings, we definitely grew to have a love and compassion for these people. The night sky was clear and we enjoyed another delicious meal and had so much laughter and joy fill the dining room. God has brought this group together for a reason; His plan is always good, His work is always important. We are all ready to see what His plan holds for us tomorrow.
July 1, 2018
Today we visited two small villages: Arara and Leandro Grande. The children were the happiest, friendliest and sweetest you could meet; the same could be said for all of the children here in Brazil we have visited. Straight off the boat we were greeted with hugs and kisses. I was lead around by a small group who was eager to show me around their home. They took me to see their pet parrot and their school; I showed them how to hula hoop and blow bubbles. All of the girls gathered around and we did fingernail polish and braided each other´s hair. We were welcomed into their church and worshipped with them. It is hard to top the feeling you get when different languages and cultures come together in worship to our Lord. Our good friend from the CBM boat crew, Cida, delivered the sermon that afternoon. Jennifer blessed us with our devotion for the day over the importance of family and the importance of listening to each other. Galations 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” When our work for the day was finished we prayed together and took communion.
July 2, 2018
Each and every day is a gift. We know this. We also know that we serve a good, good father who holds us in the palm of his hand; who knows the number of hairs on our head and who knows the plans He has set before us. Sometimes it is hard to understand the plans that the Lord has but we hold tight to the fact that He is good and He is always with us.
Our day started with shocking news which sent part of our family here on the boat back home to be with loved ones who had been involved in a tragic car accident. It is a blessing that God made it possible to receive the news promptly as we were in an area with no cell or internet service. But He is good and made a way for us. While Jen and Ellen headed home the rest of us stayed behind to continue God´s work on the boat. Like I said, His plan isn´t always what we had in mind but we quickly adjusted and made the best of a devastating situation.
In Brazil, a soccer game turns a city into a ghost town. Occasionally you will walk down the empty streets and find a handful of people gathered in a small shop, wearing their Brazil soccer attire and watching the game on T.V. On this day we were lucky enough to have two soccer games back to back. Today was also the day that anyone who wanted to took a swim in the Amazon River. A handful of us dove in and were thankful to be refreshed after a lot of work and a lot of heat. The evening was ended and the boat left São Sebastião and arrived at Bom Jesus. Jennifer and Ellen, along with their family and friends, will be on our minds and in our prayers throughout the duration of the trip and we are trusting in God who is in control of all things.
July 3, 2018
Our day started with breakfast, morning worship through songs sang in Portuguese and a beautiful devotion delivered by Cida. We were reminded of God´s glory in all things and that big and small blessings deserve thanks. We all find the time to ask God but when we receive we often forget to thank Him.
Bom Jesus was the first village of the day. This particular time of the month many of the people head to the city. We noticed this right away—our past couple of busy days made today seem way more relaxed. Fourteen were seen by the doctor and five for the dentist. The small numbers made no difference to us. The team was just as excited to be here helping these people as we were the last village. A quick morning was followed by a little bit of down time watching the soccer game: a nail biter that went into overtime and ended in a shoot-out.
Caíaua was seemingly a repeat of Bom Jesus until the heat of the afternoon sun faded and the soccer game ended. Forty-nine medical exams and twenty-five dental patients made for a steady day of work. We have traveled to many villages by now and it is interesting to see the differences in each one. But despite those differences we can all agree that there is a constant happiness and thankfulness that is received from all who go through that boat. The care and love given does not go unappreciated, and at the end of the day we are left with the same reminder that Cida started our day off with: In all things, give thanks.
July 4, 2018
Today was a bitter-sweet day. In Caiauá we shared many lasts together. It was our last worship service. We were about to help serve at the last village on our route before heading back to the city. Our time here in Brazil had flown by and here we were starting to finally make it a reality that we had almost finished what we had come here to do. The Lord blessed us with such a great way to end His work for this crew by giving us a full and steady day of people coming to the boat. There were eighty-eight medical appointments and thirty dental appointments. It was busy and fun. As we started to head back to São Sebastião, we watched the village fade into the distance and we took a deep breath and let it out. For this particular team, it was finished. All of the emotions hit and we were overwhelmed with it. The joy we had from being a part of this mission was beautiful and knowing that this part of it was over was sad for us. But we were satisfied knowing that God had blessed this past week of work and soon we would be reunited with our loved ones to share about all we had seen and been blessed to be a part of. The work and sacrifice of leaving our everyday lives behind us was temporary but the impact of the work and the memories will be everlasting.