Project Amazonas: Christ, Life and Health
Earl and Ruth Anne Haubner have served as missionaries in Brazil since 1969. Their ministry is based in the city of Goiânia, near the capital city of Brasilia where they have a very successful church planting and leadership training program. More than 50 churches have been started as a result of their ministry. In 1995, their mission work expanded into the State of Amazonas, in the northern part of Brazil, and since the year 2000, they have taken more than 80 trips on the Amazon River to visit remote villages that are only accessible by boat. On a recent trip, Mark Miller, Senior Minister of the Greencastle (IN) Christian Church and Lenwood McCoy, a veteran of 8 boat trips since 2002, sat down with Earl Haubner to discuss the work in the State of Amazonas.
A summary of their discussion follows below.
How did your work expand 1,500 miles from Goiânia to the Amazon?
The mission assumed responsibility for a church in the city of Manaus, in the state of Amazonas, along the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon River. In 1995, shortly after beginning the work in Manaus, the local Brazilians suggested that the mission needed a boat in order to reach the people in the area’s remote villages. There are an estimated 32,000 villages that can only be reached by water in the state of Amazonas.
After much prayer and with the approval of the CBM’s trustees, I began searching for funds in February, 1999 to buy a boat for the new ministry. A used boat was purchased and modified for the mission’s work later that year, and in March, 2000, the first trip was made down the Amazon to visit the remote villages.
How is the work in the Amazon Region organized?
We refer to the work as “Project Amazonas: Christ, Life and Health” and have adopted this slogan, to describe the work being done in the remote villages of the Amazon and its tributaries. Currently, the work is divided into four major parts: a medical boat ministry, a nutrition (greenhouse) project, a children’s soccer program, and a construction program to build church buildings and houses for Brazilian missionaries in the remote villages. Our goal is to have 50 village churches by 2020. We are well on our way now with about fifteen churches already established and many other villages wanting a church in their region.
How do you recruit and train workers for Project Amazonas?
Since the beginning of the Central Brazil Mission, an emphasis has been placed on training nationals to become leaders in the local churches. Our goal has been to “make disciples, make better disciples, and make more disciples” through our preaching and through our leadership training program. Ruth Anne and I realize that we will not be in Brazil forever and there must be well trained and disciplined leaders for the church to grow and prosper. For many years, the “mother church” (Novo Horizonte in Goiânia) has provided the base for our outreach and training. Even some of the leaders for the work in the Amazon Region have come from this church.
So, this is a Brazilian mission program led by Brazilians?
Yes, while I provide leadership for the work, the missionaries in the remote villages and the program leaders in the Amazon Region are all Brazilians. We rely heavily on short-term mission trips by Americans to provide funding, supplies, and manpower for much of the work, but Project Amazonas is largely a Brazilian effort utilizing individuals who have received their training through Central Brazil Mission.
Is the medical boat ministry the primary program?
The medical boat program was our first initiative and it’s where we devote significant financial resources. This program “opens doors” for us in the remote villages where the people have no access to regular medical or dental care. Sometimes we are invited by village leaders to come to their village, and other times, we make a stop at a new village along the river where we meet with the leaders, and offer medical and dental care for their people. As you have seen on this trip, after providing medical and dental care, we close out the visit with a worship service in the village before we leave. Most of the time, our visit leads to an invitation to return and, ultimately, to the establishment of a new church in the village.
How did the nutrition (greenhouse) project and youth soccer programs get started?
When we started the medical boat program, we became aware of the poor nutrition of most of the people living in the area. This is due largely to the fact that their diet consists mainly of fish and farina (toasted manioc root). Because of this, we regularly provide all of the families in the villages we visit with multiple vitamins to supplement their diet. In addition, we have a greenhouse project located in the town of São Sebastião where members of the local church cultivate a variety of vegetables in greenhouses which are used to filter out some of the sun and reduce the heat on the plants in the extremely hot climate of the Amazon. We encourage the people to incorporate the vegetables into their diet for improved nutrition. In addition to providing vegetables for the church members, the surplus is sold in the village market and provides a small income to the workers.
The youth soccer program is fairly new to the region and is an outgrowth of the very successful Project Grow soccer program in Goiânia. This program seeks to build character and evangelize young boys through the very popular soccer culture in Brazil. We have an active program in the town of São Sebastião and plans are being made to expand it to other villages in the area.
How effective has the work been to date?
The work is growing at a tremendous pace. In the last two years alone we estimate we have treated over 4,500 children and adults and distributed over 500,000 vitamins. In addition we have performed approximately 2,000 dental procedures, provided 450 eye exams and eye glasses, and American doctors have performed 90 surgeries in the hospital in the town of São Sebastião.
We have observed that where the Gospel is preached, life in the whole village gets better. In fact, village leaders have thanked us for bringing Jesus to their villages. In addition to new-found hope through Christ, the people have a better life through better medical care and nutrition and the whole village benefits from the presence of the church and from the local missionary. Some of the missionaries have been elected to leadership positions in the villages where they live. New leaders for the village churches are being developed through the discipling efforts provided by the Brazilian missionaries and program leaders on location in the Amazon Region. More than 15 new churches with over 800 members have been established in the area and there are now over 30 Brazilian missionaries and program leaders located in the region.
In the town of São Sebastião, which serves as the headquarters for Project Amazonas, the church has more then doubled in size over the last five years—both physically and spiritually. A new larger church building was recently completed around the old structure and the original building was demolished to more than double the size of their building. The congregation of more than 125 members is now the largest church in the town. The greenhouse project and youth soccer program with more than 80 children involved have generated tremendous interest in our work and the church has benefited greatly from these two related programs.