NORTHSIDE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, NEW ALBANY, INDIANA
After arriving in Manaus last night around 1am, we boarded the boat nearing 2am. Following the long traveling day, our group of 17 was eager to see the boat for the first time. Personally, I was a bit apprehensive at first sight. The darkness of the night and the unknown waters made my stomach do a little flip. Nonetheless, we boarded the boat and got situated for the week to come. My first thoughts about the boat were that it was bigger than I expected, but tighter rooms and spaces than I was prepared for. Once the boat began to head out and everyone settled into their rooms, my worries and apprehensions gave way to excitement.
With a 13 hour ride to where we were heading, we set off down the river and spent nearly all of today getting familiar with the boat and bonding as a team. We were able to catch up on some sleep, and wake up to coffee and breakfast. The team spent part of the day preparing the clinic for the coming week. We sorted through supplies, and organized to make things run as smooth as possible. Part of the day was dedicated to a team meeting, where we discussed where we were, what we were doing, and assigned jobs to each individual on the team.
The most impactful part of the day was the group bonding. With being in an unfamiliar place, I have found it so important to be in the moment and get to know the people around you who are experiencing it all with you first hand. There were many moments that brought the team together, even on just the first day. Moments such as seeing a pink dolphin, thinking we see a snake or hear a monkey, and making up games to make each other laugh. Although the clinic has not yet started, today was an important day because it made us already stronger and better equipped to work together.
May 18, 2019
Today was our second day on the boat, but our first work day. Starting the day at 7am, we ate breakfast and got to work. The construction team began building the juice factory, while the rest of the team remained on the boat to begin serving patients in the dental and vision clinics. With this being my first time on the trip and not having much educational background with medicine, I had no idea what to expect. My job for the day was taking care of patients after they had seen the dentist and doctor while they waited for their prescriptions to be filled. This job included giving them medicine to protect them from getting worms and supplying them with a gift bag with supplies for their family. If they had children, we would also supply each child with a new outfit.
Although the first little bit was spent getting to know the system of the clinics and trying to work through the language barrier, the team worked hard and well together. Once we had finished taking patients for the day at the clinic, the team headed over to lend a hand to the construction crew. Our task was to transfer a pile of bricks closer to the build site. Taking as many as we could each time, we slowly saw the pile dwindle into dirt. I love seeing the team make the most out of not-so-fun tasks. They sang along to the music, tried cocoa, and encouraged each other.
Tonight we gathered on top of the boat and worshiped Jesus. This was one of my favorite parts of the day. There is something so powerful about worshiping with a group where a language barrier is present. To praise Jesus in two languages, but with the same heart and intention behind it is incredible. It was a beautiful reminder of why we have come all this way from Indiana to serve people here in Brazil. While the day can be long and exhausting, it is not about us or the bugs or the differences from being a long way from home. It´s all about Jesus, and how He is moving here in the Amazon.
I have the pleasure of working with Mike, Marty, Nick, JT, Manuel, Cesar, Benny, Christaino, Ronaldo, Gilberto and his wife Sirene. Prayed and had breakfast, applied insect repellent and headed to the job site. Carried brick, mixed mortar and got familiar with the job site. The sun came fully out at 10am. We all know what 92% humidity and 90 degrees feels like. The rebar was #3 with small stirrups . The block is made from brick material and approximately 3 1\2 x8 inches. Taking a small boat back for lunch was fun. Lunch was excellent, French fries are awesome everywhere. We threw a football with some kids, when it started raining and we headed back to the job site. We got wet in the small boat and Marty´s white tee shirt revealed more than I needed to see. Around 5pm the whole team came out to help, loved it!
May 19, 2019
Today was Sunday, which means we began the day with church! After coming from such a big church back home, a one-room church with open windows was a totally new experience. My favorite part of it was recognizing one of the worship songs and being able to sing the English version with our team. There is something about breaking through a language barrier to praise Jesus that compares to nothing else. We may have been singing two different languages, but we were all singing to the same God.
Following church, we all pitched in at the construction site. As was yesterday, our task was to carry bricks closer to the work site. Despite a ton of pouring rain and some close encounters with spiders, by the end of the work day we had moved the entire stack. We even had some help from some of the kiddos in the village, who were ever-ready to carry bricks through the rain to assist us in any way.
Aside from working, we also got to explore deeper into the village. A group of us walked through the village to see their way of life and what normal life looks like for them. One thing that surprised me was that many have televisions, even though they live in the middle of the rainforest. Since they live in such a remote area, it must be nice to have something to connect them to the rest of the world. In the village we also met some sweet kids. I connected with one little girl who held my hand all the way back to the front of our boat. Any time I would try to loosen up and point her back towards her house, she would tighten her grip. Children like her, and the others that were so joyful in helping us today, continue to show me what loving Jesus looks like.
Beautiful morning, waking up at 5am and going to church at 9am. And then we went to work with everyone helping. The ladies knocked it out of the park and kept packing bricks in the rain. Mad Dog saw a spider. The ladies and team also finished moving all the bricks.
May 20, 2019
Today was our fourth day on the boat. We started back with the clinic today, though the day started with heavy rain. Due to the rain, our day began at a slow pace. While waiting around on the boat for the rain to decrease, we spent the time sharing stories and bonding with the team. Our construction team was out in the rain as well, though their work was halted for the same reason. After few people came through the clinic in the morning, we took a break for lunch and gave it another shot. The rain had stopped and the people were waiting. The team had a busy afternoon, serving patient after patient. My favorite part of the day was getting to meet the children who came through and connect with them in any way I could, even if that meant simply knowing their name. I loved seeing the children again that we had met yesterday while moving bricks and exploring the village.
The food has been great the whole trip. The cooks work so hard for us, while we are helping others. They have joyfully provided us with a hot breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. Laughing and smiling the whole way through.
To end the day, a few of the girls on the boat hung out, listening to common music and panting nails. The language barrier was small compared to the amount of laughter we shared. The boat crew is so kind, and the girls had fun just finding common ground between music we listen to in the United States and the music they love here in Brazil.
Another great morning cutting rebar and clearing for exterior wall. We mixed concrete for the perimeter wall and had a property line discussion. A lemon tree was on the line, but after a civil discussion we were both happy to remove the lemon tree. We headed back to the boat for lunch, but a floating island of growth and pee bugs blocked out way. But we made it. We took a break and went behind the juice factory to watch them make farinha.
May 21, 2019
It has been a day of hard work. We began as we always do with breakfast, then a devotion and worship. All the while, we were overlooking the beautiful trees and still waters of the Amazon. While we left the construction team to work at their site for the day, the boat headed about twenty minutes around the lake to different village. For the morning session of the clinic, the patients flowed consistently. But for the after lunch session, there was a whole crowd of people waiting to be seen by the doctor and dentist. The turnout was incredible, and showed how much the people need and crave medical care. One thing that stood out to me about this village in particular was the importance they appeared to place on family. We saw countless families come through. The parents were compassionate with their children when the child was scared of getting teeth pulled, and stayed close to make their love known. There care for each other was clear. There was just a strong family presence in how they all carried themselves.
At the construction site, they worked tirelessly from sun up to well after the sun had gone down. They worked in the hot sun, and only took a break for lunch. Their motivation and partnership with the Brazilian construction workers is a beautiful example of their heart for Jesus and use of the skills they have been given.
Yet again, we had a day of great meals. There is no way I could possibly go hungry on the boat, the cooks take such good care of us.
And slowly, but surely, we are all picking up on common Portuguese phrases.
It was a beautiful, partly crowded morning and a nice temperature after rain last night. I think I am getting used to the climate. We got half of the building up with four rows of brick. We had a productive morning with a 17 minute ride back for lunch. After lunch, we laid more brick and that’s when it got real hot. We poured the sidewalk and worked until after 7pm.
May 22, 2019
Starting the day out with a downpour of rain, we were not sure how productive the day would be. Should the rain continue, the construction team would not be able to lay bricks and the clinic would probably be light for the day. However, the weather surely was not in our hands, but in Jesus´ hands. After our breakfast and devotion, the rain ceased and we made the most of the clear skies we were provided with. The clinic traveled to a bigger village nearby for the day. The two dentist rooms we have and the doctors were full from the moment we opened. The day went smooth, sending patients in and out consistently. We experienced a couple of unique cases today, one being a serious illness and the other being a freshly broken arm of a young girl. I see how in need all of the people are in medical attention out here in the Amazon, but these special cases show how serious their need can be at times.
After the work day, we had a bit to relax in the hedgys and hang out before dinner time. Santana made fresh, sweet rolls for dessert tonight at dinner. They are the best thing I have tried here yet.
A couple of the boys from the team went out fishing tonight. They brought back a little alligator for everyone to see. As cool as it is to see it right in front of me, I wanted no part of holding it in my hands.
God is great! It rained last night and the crew mates on the upper deck said it poured. I slept like a rock. We worked on stump removal and the sidewalk some more. We came back early today because of the heat.
May 23, 2019
Today was our last work day on the clinic. We started the day as we normally have this week, with a devotion in the morning. After the devotion, we went to see to meet the construction workers and see the construction site for the last time. After taking pictures, at the site, we headed across the river to a different village for the morning. We enjoyed the 40 minute ride on the top deck of the boat, taking in the views as we went. Once we docked at the village, we worked hard in the clinic before taking a lunch break. During the day, we traveled to the last village we would be stopping at. Although we were supposed to meet the construction team in the middle, we worked and worked to see as many patients as possible. So the construction team crossed the river in small boats, it sounded like quite the adventure.
With the clinic and construction site coming to an end, we started making our way back towards home. It has been such an inspiring week, filled with a wonderful boat crew, a fun team, lots of rain and hot sun, and serving in such a remote and beautiful area.
It was an absolutely beautiful day. We laid 3 more runs of brick and had lunch in local Pastor Ronaldo´s house. We poured more concrete in the footings and worked on pipe at catch basin. I cannot express in words what a pleasure it has been to work with these beautiful people. God is doing awesome things here.