AMAZON BOAT TRIP - February 8-18, 2022 - By Kim Hurst
This mission trip was the first trip of the 2022 year. The team was made up of several people from Virginia (Debbie Vest, Dr. Matt Paine, Mike Lewis, and myself Kim Hurst), Linda Gabelman from Ohio, Deborah Miller from Indiana, Meryl Franks from Wisconsin, and Isabella Thomas from Kentucky. Our trip veterans are Debbie, Meryl, Deborah, Linda, and myself. New to this Amazon mission experience is Mike, Matt, and Isabella. Our missionary hosts are Earl and Ruth Ann Haubner and the Brazilian crew members (Sanderley, Junior, Fabio, and Cristiano, Nete, Mara, Eliziete, Daniela, Dani).
Before the trip departure, all the American team members collected medical supplies, medications, toys, hygiene packs, sun glasses for kids and adults, and various strengths of reading glasses. These items were either purchased by the team members or donated from various organizations, friends and family, or individuals wanting to support the mission. Each person is asked to bring two or three 50 pound suitcases packed with the collected supplies for the boat.
This group tried a new flight plan arranged by Bob Todd of World Travel. Each person on the team would fly from their closest home airport with various connections, and finally meet up as a group in Panama City, Panama. Some of the group met up in Houston, while the entire group of 8 traveled from Panama City, Panama to Manaus, Brazil. Travel time took anywhere from 12 to 18 hours including lay overs and depending on where each one was coming from. Travel during the COVID pandemic is different than non-COVID times, but we all made it with minimal problems. My personal recommendation before traveling is to print ALL required documents (Travel Health Declaration, COVID results, vaccination cards, etc). Be sure to bring several masks on the trip. Most airports require a hard copy. At the very least make a screen shot if possible as a back up. Also, look into an international phone plan while not all plans are the same. There are some areas that have cellular service, but not all. It is always a good idea to check with your local health department for travel immunizations and medications. Be sure to study some Portuguese for the language differences.
The flight from Panama City to Manaus arrived at almost 3 am on February 9th. The Customs and Immigration process and baggage claims went smoothly at the airport. Always answer tourism when the customs officials ask. By 3 am, we were all tired and hungry, but Earl met us outside of baggage claim with a bus to head straight to the boat. After helping load and unload all the bags, we were finally on the boat with a grilled cheese waiting on us. Earl explained everything to us on the bus, what to expect, what to do, where our rooms would be, where to find things, daily routines, and what the next thing was. The boat trip started as soon as everyone was on the boat. I believe everyone went straight to bed (except for the captain). Earl told all of us to sleep in and to eat breakfast when we got up.
The boat has three levels. Top of the boat is an open space for gatherings, resting and viewing the Amazon. The middle floor (or main level) is where the kitchen and dining room are, living quarters for crew and guests. The bottom floor is the treatment areas, laundry room, and more living quarters. Every bedroom has bunk beds and most have their own bathroom. There are shared bathrooms located in various hallways of the boat. The kitchen and dining rooms are together. The lower level has 2 dentist offices, 2 doctor offices, pharmacy, and a waiting room. This trip we utilized one doctor’s office for treating, the other doctor and dentist offices for storage. They have not done any dental care since COVID started. Interestingly, the villages have all been vaccinated for COVID.
The first morning after arrival and once everyone was up and settled, we spent the afternoon sorting all the supplies from the bags. Medications went one place, toys and hygiene packs went one place, glasses went into one of the doctor offices. After sorting, we counted vitamins and stocked the pharmacy. We divided adult and children vitamins into 60 count individual bags. We also stored extra medications into bins in the ‘basement’ of the boat where they are kept until ready for use and the next trip. Ruth Ann manages the pharmacy and is teaching Daniela how to run the pharmacy. Earl sits with the doctor for translating and to keep things running smoothly.
Our first stop was in Sao Sebastiao to pick up Dani and Danieli. They will join us on the boat for the rest of the trip until we return to Sao Sebastiao. We traveled along the Uatuma River to our planned villages. At one of the villages, the houses were boarded up and there was no one there. Earl says they get paid the first of the month and go to town to buy supplies. This travel, for them, takes 10 days to 2 weeks before they return. The entire village travels by boat all at the same time. We returned to this village after spending a couple of days in other villages nearby. We did not see any major medical issues except for a few high blood pressures that should be treated. One lady thought she was going through menopause, but she was pregnant. There were lots of skin conditions like rashes, and muscle aches and pains. There were several pregnant women/girls, and lots of children. These people have large families. We met one older lady that had 15 children (3 grandchildren with her at the time) and she couldn’t tell us how many grandchildren she had. Every village had their own uniqueness to them. An interesting fact…a couple of the villages had women as their ‘presidents’ or leaders.
Our days consisted of hearing Earl yell ‘Breakfast’, ‘Lunch’, and ‘Supper’. All the Americans would gather around the dining room door, one of us would pray over each meal, then the two assigned to wash dishes would eat first while the rest would file in behind. The Brazilian’s would eat after we finished eating. Lunch and dinner were basically the same food and routine. There were always plenty to eat and very good food. Every day we had a snack with fresh smoothies. After breakfast, we all gathered on the upper deck for the English/Portuguese language lesson, singing, devotional and prayer. The Brazilians and Americans participated in this time of study and fellowship. We had communion on Sunday morning. The day of serving others in villages began after breakfast. We treated people for the morning hours, break for lunch from about 12-2, and then treated more individuals and families in the afternoon from the villages we were at. Some days we stayed at one village for the entire day, and some days we spent the morning at one village, then moved to another village for the afternoon. Word travels fast when the CMB boat is in the area, and people from the surrounding villages would arrive by smaller boats to received medical care. Every person received vitamins as well as other mediations they needed. There were a lot of people to receive reading glasses. Everyone got sun glasses, a hygiene pack, and the children received toys.
Tuesday evening (one week into the trip) we returned back to Sao Sebastiao for the night. Wednesday morning, before returning to Manaus, we had breakfast, team pictures, walk around town, walk to the Green House, the church, visiting friends, and shopping. Wednesday afternoon, we start our journey back to the Amazon River heading to Manaus. Our Brazilian friends have taken such good care of us while visiting them. The crew has kept the boat spotless, well fed and safe in our travels.
We have made new friends and seen old friends. This trip has been amazing. I am in awe and inspired of the joint effort from two completely different cultures being able to come together to serve one God. What a blessing it has been. We will miss you all until we see you again.