AMAZON BOAT TRIP
OCTOBER 3-8, 2021 BY DEBORAH VEST
Isaiah 6:8 “The voice of the Lord said: Whom shall I send” ………and we answered. Merle Franks and his son, Mike, Deborah Vest, Al Roesner, Phil McAfee and Diego Silva made up our team for this trip. Also the crew of the boat: Sanderley, Cristiano, Junior, Cesar, Daniela, Dani and the amazing cooks, Nete, Eliziete and Mara. Under the leadership of Ruth Anne and Earl Haubner we headed down the Amazon River. We are treated views of the lush rainforest with its abundant growth of trees. We catch views of homes along the river, simple structure to meet their needs. Our journey continues for many hours until we reach the village of Batista, where we would have our first clinic. The people of the village amaze me with their humbleness. Showing compassion for their needs is greatly valued by them. I cannot imagine not having something like Tylenol for a simple headache, or cold medicine. Not being able to go to a store for a new pair of glasses. Back home in America we have so much easily available for all our aches and pains, and doctors easily assessable if we choose to go. These people of the Amazon villages do not have the simplest of medications until our boat arrives with meds to help them. The villagers are so happy to have someone who cares, someone who returns time and again to help them. We treat many with backache, muscle aches, joint pain. They are hard workers and their bodies hurt but they don’t stop and give up. They continue to work and provide for their families. In America if our yard is overrun with ants or other bugs, we could have an exterminator come and help us rid our yard of the pest. Villages don’t have that luxury where many ants, mosquitos and other bugs abound. A frequent complaint of the children who play outside is the ant bites. They itch so they scratch and infection develops, so we give a lot of antibiotic ointment and hydrocortisone cream to help with the healing. But you can imagine it is a never-ending problem, and what we give only last for a short period of time.
We were able to visit 5 villages over three days. Each village had its own unique families who are so thankful for the care we offer. They value the simplest things we offer. Dani goes up to the village to register the patients, each one has their own file card with their info on it. When called they come to the boat, but only one person for family. We are trying to protect the boat from Covid. We also spray their hands and feet with sanitizer. Next, they get their blood pressure taken, eyes checked and glasses given if needed, but only reading glasses. All the adults receive sunglasses. Then they are checked by the medical personnel and treatments ordered. Occasionally a wound needs cleaned and dressed, or a pregnancy test done. As they wait for their medications, they are given a hygiene pack which includes a washcloth, soap, toothpaste, extra toothbrushes are added for the children and other members of the family. As a treat, suckers are given for the children, and maybe a small toy. Such simple things are treasures to these humble people.
We treat all ages and it is impressive to have someone 88 years old to come on the boat since it is rare to live to this age. It was a humble man with a sweet personality and had very few complaints. We were blessed to treat over 300 individuals in three days. There are some who come on the boat who need care that we cannot give. High blood pressure is one of these, and the challenge to get care is hard. First, they have to get to a town with a doctor, which could be hours away, then they have to have money to buy medication, which they don’t have. Can you imagine not being able to get to a doctor and if you did not have money to get the medication you so desperately need? Then there was the man with a machete cut on his foot that was infected. We cleaned, gave him antibiotics and antibiotic ointment with dressing. Tetanus shot is not available.
Each day after breakfast we have a devotional, renewing our spirits with the Word of God before we start our clinic. We enjoy singing songs in English and Portuguese. Feeling the blessings of God as we start our day in the clinic. We know the importance of showing compassion and love as we treat these people of the Amazon. Some of their problems could be improved with just good drinking water, and there is water everywhere, but not CLEAN drinking water. Sometimes they will have rain water to drink. The Amazon is where they bathe, wash clothes and the source for water, but it is not clean.
Children are active with outdoor games such as soccer and volleyball. There are no overweight children. They are healthy except for parasite infestation like pinworms which we treat. Their homes most likely don’t have electricity, so outside they go to play. How wonderful for them. I pray they will someday recognize how well off they are to be outside playing. They really like the suckers we give since they don’t have candy. And if we have small toys to give, they are very happy because they probably don’t have any.
We Americans feel we are in paradise as we cruse down the Amazon River enjoying the views of the lush green rain forest. Catching sight of some simple houses along the way, maybe some cattle or horses grazing along the bank. There are many birds as well. We are on a river cruise getting to our destination. We have awesome food prepared by Nete, Eliezete and Mara. Our boat is kept safe and on course by the crew of Sanderley, Junior, Cristiano and Cesar.
At the end of the week, we are tired, but restored by serving these people. We are well feed and enjoy the new sites we have seen. Such a blessing to serve our God by serving these Amazon villages and their wonderful people.