JOURNAL OF FIRST CHURCH OF CHRIST OF XENIA, OHIO
AMAZON BOAT TRIP - JULY 18-26,2018
For most of us our journey started on Tuesday as we traveled to Chicago to catch a flight to Miami. From Miami we had a five hour flight to Manaus, Brazil.
We arrived in Manaus in the early morning hours, somewhere around 12:30 a.m. where we gathered our 26 plus suitcases and took a short bus ride to our boat. We immediately left Manaus, traveling through the night as we slept. And boy, did we sleep well! Earl let us sleep until 9:00 a.m.!
After breakfast we gathered on the upper deck where we discussed what we would be doing, had geography and language lessons, and shared in some devotions. We have been continuously traveling since leaving Manaus. Along the way, we looked for pink dolphins, finally catching a glimpse of one in the distance.
The rest of the morning was spent sorting the supplies we brought, and in the afternoon we counted out vitamins and medications and packaged them to hand out to the people we will be seeing. We also made a short stop in Sao Sebastiao where three of our guys will get off the boat tomorrow to help build a chicken coop for one of the missionaries. They wanted to see where they would be working and to meet the people there.
We arrived at our first destination Thursday evening around 6:00 p.m. and the sun was already setting. The people here waved to us but we did not get off the boat that night.
Friday morning we began to see patients in this small village of Taboari. It was a good place to start so we could get a feel for what we would be doing and develop a smooth routine. Here we saw patients 52 medical patients and 9 dental patients. The children here enjoyed having their pictures taken and blowing bubbles. Before leaving we spent some time jumping rope with them as well. They had so little and yet seemed so happy.
Friday afternoon we traveled back to Sao Sebastiao to drop off three of our guys to work on the chicken coop. We then traveled several more hours and docked for the night at a village where one of the missionaries lives. Here we swam in the river and cooled off, even shampooing our hair while we were in since the water was warmer than our showers. A couple of the guys took the small boat out to ski and wake board. In the early morning we will travel again to our next community where we will see “lots of people.” So far we have been amazed at the vast land, how poor the people are, how simply they live, and how appreciative they are for everything you do for them.
Very early Saturday we headed to our next destination. As we near each village, the captain blows the horn to let them know we have arrived. Earl greeted the president of the village and he welcomed us there. In fact, he was our first patient of the day and received his dentures! He also sat on the bench in the waiting room and joined the kids playing the fishing game we had set out for entertainment while they waited to be seen.
While waiting to be called to the boat, some of our teenagers would cut and braid hair, paint nails, and play with the kids. One of the local teens had to show them how to properly use the hair clippers though! It was a much needed and appreciated lesson.
As we called for each family and they entered the boat, we would obtain their weight, height and vital signs. They then waited patiently in the hot, crowded waiting area without complaint until they were called to see either the doctor or dentist or both. Some of the adults were able to get reading glasses or a massage from our dual purpose “eye doctor\masseuse.” Each family member would be given any necessary vitamins or medications before they left the boat. We finally closed our clinic for the night around 7 p.m.
We docked here for the night but had to share space with several other boats for the evening as there was a Catholic celebration of brining in the saints. The boats full of people just kept coming, to the point we were sure there was no more room but somehow they managed to squeeze their way onto shore. The party continued late into the night with music and fireworks.
Sunday morning we continued our clinic in this location for several more hours. In total we saw 262 medical and 67 dental patients, gave out 74 pairs of reading glasses, and provided 36 people with new haircuts, not including the many who left with freshly braided hair. One thing we all noticed was how the children helped one another, sat quietly, with rarely an argument. We all commented this is not something we see often at home.
Sunday evening we took the boat and traveled to a small town called Mucombo. Here the streets are paved and the houses are nicer than those we have seen so far. We went to a church service at one of the missionary’s homes. There were at least 100 people there. It was hot and buggy but it didn’t seem to bother them. Two young boys and a man played guitar. They were very talented. The youngest looked to about 7 or 8. The sermon and songs were in Portuguese but we recognized enough of the songs to join along. Here we also took communion with them. It was a very emotional experience to be able to worship with other believers in a foreign country. Even though we have very little in common here on earth, we worship the same God.
Monday we traveled to a nearby village where we stayed until lunchtime. It was at this point we ran out of children’s vitamins. The people here were very kind and helpful to one another, even though it appeared they had very little. One woman in particular stood out in our minds. She had an olive-colored skin with sores and discoloration on her face. Later we would learn she was allergic to the sun as well as sunscreen. This would make it very difficult to live here. The teens again braided hair and did haircuts and nails. The braids seem to be a big hit here!
We moved again for the afternoon to a location with a steep hill that patients had to climb down to the boat. The teens spent the afternoon splitting adult vitamins in half and repackaging them to use as children’s vitamins. In total today we saw 180 medical and 38 dental patients. That night we docked back at Sao Tome and walked into the village to watch some of our crew play indoor soccer.
Tuesday morning started off with our last group devotion. We had a fun time singing songs together in both English and Portuguese! Our final stop would require the patients to come to us by boat to a small dry area near their village as the water level would not allow us to get any closer to them. They were excited to see us. Earl saw some familiar faces here as some of the missionaries came to see us in this location. We ran out of hats but had a few sun visors, which no one seemed to want. They didn’t seem to understand why anyone would wear something that didn’t cover their head. They may have a point. We finished here around lunchtime. It was kind of sad to know this was our last stop.
We then headed back towards Sao Sebastiao. It was a cloudy day and we traveled through a couple hours of rain on the way. This was our first significant rainfall. We spent the afternoon napping in our rooms and the temperature was much cooler when we returned to the upper deck, some even putting on jackets. We talked about our time here, how it was nice to unplug from our cell phones, e-mails, or social media. The rat race we left behind didn’t matter. We certainly all missed our families but what we were able to do here for the Brazilians was very satisfying. Even more so was what they gave to us – to head home to simplify our lives, be less worldly, and appreciate all we have been blessed with. We cannot imagine living here but envy the simpler life.
We docked for the night in Sao Sebastiao where we picked up the Chicken Coop Crew (see their entry below). We hated to tell them what a great trip we’d had and all the fantastic food we’d eaten without them, but it sounds like their stay was equally as satisfying.
After breakfast Wednesday we walked into town to visit Santana, the missionary here. We were able to see her home and the greenhouse there. Wow, what an incredible operation they have! They grow vegetables which they sell to three different schools. We also got to see the “chicken palace” they guys had started. It will eventually house 100 chickens. Santana’s home was beautiful and she was so hospitable, feeding us rolls and ice cream treats. The missionaries here work so hard. What a testimony they have for these people.
As we moved up the river back to Manaus, we enjoyed sitting on the upper deck reminiscing about our trip. This has been such a great experience as we learned about the simple life here in Brazil and enjoyed their beautiful country.
The Chicken Coop Crew Report
On Friday afternoon four of us from the boat (Cesar, Jeff, Jeb, and Scott) arrived in Sao Sebastiao to begin work on the chicken coop and Ms. Mariquita arrived as well. We traveled by a three-wheeled taxi to the Mission House. The Mission House was beautiful, with tile floors and beautiful wood doors and window shutters. Within a short time we were working to clear an area and string the corners of the new chicken coop measuring 9m x 6m x 3m.
Day two consisted of post hole digging, painting the posts with creosote, and installing the posts. The heat was intense. We started work at 8 a.m., took a water break at 10 a.m., and then worked till noon. A sleep break was then in order until 2p.m. due to the extreme heat, then back to work till 5 p.m. some evenings as the shade covered the area where we worked. Dinner was at 7p.m. Meals were provided by Santana, Bech, and Evee. Our meals were exceptional: beef, chicken, fish on the grill, and pizza. The desserts were out of this world, consisting of fruits we had never heard of … coconut, passion fruit and other berries. The ladies were loving hostesses and superb cooks. Santana provided a laundry service for our very wet and smelly clothes. We would go through two changes of clothes per day.
In the four and a half days, we did accomplish setting, cutting and bolting the exterior support structure together. With the boat arriving one day earlier than expected, we were finished, leaving the completion to the next volunteer group. This was a great opportunity to help the people of this small town, creating a structure that they can raise chickens for eggs and more. It was nicknamed The Chicken Palace by another member of our team once they saw the structure! They will have fifteen chickens to start and Santana’s goal is 100 chickens. We wish them well and pray for success. God bless!