Bom Dia! Our team this year comprises of volunteers from Cincinnati, Ohio with relatives coming from Missouri as well as a team from Northern Ohio. Our total volunteer crew is 14 people.
We are fortunate to have a Brazilian Dentist, Michelle and a Medical Doctor, Regina from Daytona, Florida on our trip this time. We arrived in Manaus after 1030 pm to find Earl and his team waiting for us with a box truck and a chartered bus to drive us directly to the boat. And the journey begins!
The crew unloaded our entire luggage and we got the bags where they needed to be in preparation for sorting tomorrow. We prayed for our trip and the food that was prepared by Edilsa and Alcinete. We turned into bed and the crew got us started up the River.
We are blessed to have air conditioning in our rooms; however, many of us plan to sleep in the redes on the top deck to really experience our surroundings.
Wednesday October 18th: We awoke to a beautiful, hot, and humid day on the Amazon. We are thankful for the crew caring for us while we are here as well as our Lord for this gorgeous day. After breakfast we relaxed for a while and then began sorting all the suitcases of donations. We had a multitude of different items donated to our trip this year. They included various types of vitamins, pain medications, eye glasses, toothbrushes and paste, children sunglasses, personal bags of toiletries, allergy medications, hydrocortisone cream, muscle rub, children’s cough syrup, birth control pills, dietary supplements, soccer balls, and toys to name a few of the items. These items were organized further in the lower hull and placed into bins for future use. We are fortunate to have the donations to include eyeglasses as well as massages for the people we will treat this time.
After a busy morning of sorting and organizing the clinics; we had lunch and then a much needed relaxation period. Many of us migrated to the top deck and took naps in the redes while others went to their rooms to speak with Earl, or enjoyed the view as we continued traveling towards our first destination.
We made it to Sao Sebastiao, docked and had a group meeting on the top deck. Earl gave us a geography lesson on Brazil and the state of Amazonas. This information was very interesting. We learned some trivial facts such as the Rainforest is 1\3 the size of Brazil which is comparable to everything east of the Mississippi River. We also learned there are 1100 rivers in the state of Amazonas and 30000 villages. The most amazing part is that a 2nd Amazon River which is 3 kilometers under the earth and is the same size dumping into the Atlantic as well. This gives us further evidence of how truly amazing our God is! During this time we also received our CBM t-shirts and job assignments.
While we were meeting, there was word that one of their disciples in Sao Sebastiao was waiting and hoping to be seen by the doctor. So Doctor Regina started her service with this trip immediately.
After our discussion we had some free time to walk around Sao Sebastiao if we chose to. Others chose to shower or reach out to loved ones as we have Wi-Fi here. Another wonderfully prepared dinner was ready for us at 7pm. Earl showed us the promotional CBM video that will be placed on the CBM website in a couple of weeks. We are excited to be able to share this video with people who made donations to better explain all the God inspiring activities this mission provides. After the video we were dismissed for the evening to prepare for bed. We will need plenty of rest as we start treating villagers before noon tomorrow.
Thursday October 19th: We awakened and had breakfast. Most of us were well rested and ready to start treating villagers. We remained docked in San Sebastiao until after devotions. We then traveled to near St. Helena and tied off. We could not pull up to the village due to the low waters. A couple of our volunteers went out to fish while the rest of us were going to treat villagers. They informed villages that were further away that we were docked and ready to see them. Unfortunately they were not able to catch any fish. As we approached our docking area, the Captain sounded the horn along the way to alert near-by villagers that we were here to treat them. All the villages would take canoes or motor boats to get to us today. We treated 86 patients for medical issues, the dentist saw 15 patients. There were 24 procedures along with 6 massages. Some of the ailments treated were: Respiratory infections, vaginal infections, gastritis, pink eye, and skin infections. There were over 93 villagers who received either sunglasses and\or reading glasses. They were very pleased. We were also able to provide each family with a toiletries bag.
What amazed us was that the villagers would travel to us by boat with children of all ages. Some shielded themselves from the hot sun with umbrellas as they traveled; while others wore long sleeves and coats in attempt to keep the bugs away and to protect them from the sun. It was a very rewarding day all around.
We returned to San Sebastiao for the night because it is difficult for the crew to tie us off safely, because of low water anywhere else along our current location.
Friday October 20th: We had breakfast (including birthday cake-to celebrate Mike´s birthday today]. We had morning devotions as well as praise time with the crew and then we set off again to treat villagers at Boto. We again alerted nearby villages we were coming with the blowing of the horn. In total we treated 33 medical patients, 13 dental patients, 20 procedures, no massages and 40 pairs of reading or sunglasses were distributed. To see the villager’s eyes light up when they could see better up close was amazing. 2 more volunteers got to go out fishing. Unfortunately, the fish were not biting today either. However, they did hear some monkeys which they found very exciting! When we docked we encountered an unexpected delay. Due to the low water, the village was up on a steep hill. The crew was trying to figure out the logistics to get them down the hill as well as onto the boat because our ramp could not reach the beach. The crew managed to use some 2×2 boards to make a ramp extension. However, the villagers still had to wade knee high for some, in the water to get to our boat. We did not get to see as many villagers today; despite remaining docked for a while. Some of the illnesses we did see included much the same as yesterday such as respiratory infections and skin problems. Dr. Regina made a comment that the villagers seemed pretty healthy overall.
After seeing patients we tried to travel to the next village. However, due to the low river we traveled a bit further to find a safe tie off spot for the boat. We had dinner and retired for the evening to relax. Some of us went to the top of the boat to observe the beauty and vastness of the stars and galaxy that are so easily seen in this pristine environment. We did get a view of some alligator eyes; but so far nothing else. After breakfast tomorrow we will go to the village, Jacarequara.
Saturday October 21st: We started the day again with breakfast and morning devotion and praise for our God. During this time each morning we took time to practice our Portuguese to improve our interactions with the people. We also praised God in Portuguese and English thanks to the talented guitar players, Daniela and Diandra. The river is very choppy today and the breeze was somewhat brisk, which made a few of us ill. Villagers came to us today by boats because we could not get close enough to them. It was an amazing site to see them arrive, some with umbrellas protecting them from the sun and small children sitting very still within the boats. The crew assisted as needed to get them onto the boat. Today we treated 69 medical patients. We had 23 dental patients, 39 procedures, 3 massages, and 71 sunglasses\glasses. The doctor saw 2 pregnant patients, one of which was far enough along that the doctor checked the infant heartbeat with ultrasound. It seemed a bit slower than expected in the clinic but we are happy to treat anyone who makes the journey to us.
We started our journey to Livramento after clinic and lunch. We docked there so we can treat this village throughout tomorrow and attend church with them and those who would come from nearby villages. We were finally able to get off the boat and walk around the village before it got dark. The sand fleas were terrible here. Bug spray was a must. The crew and one of our team, Laura, started playing soccer on the beach. Several children\young adults from the village came down to the beach to play against the crew and Laura. The village team beat our boat team. It was neat to see how they were able to play soccer on the beach this time of year; because when we have come before, this area would have been under water. This village had several fruit trees: pineapple plants, banana, a huge pear, mango, passion fruit as well. This village also had box gardens and a water irrigation system that ran from a huge rain water collection container that had pipes running out of it and provided water through a few sinks as well as for their plants. We were told there was a gentleman here who made boats as well. We viewed where he allows the wood to dry. We saw a school here, a community center area and a church. As we toured the village we noted a thatch covered structure that was in need of some repair. It looked like they had some replacement thatching made out of woven palm leaves still in progress on the ground behind the structure. There was a HUGE cactus here that we got our picture next to so people would have a reference point for how big it was! This was really a nicely kept village. Earl explained to a few of us; that before they came to this village the people literally had worms crawling out of their body. They were a sickly people with limited access to medical treatment. They have come a long way with the help of CBM Missions.
Sunday October 22nd: our day started like any other and we remained docked at Livramento. The plan was to do devotions then start pretty quickly because Earl was expecting to see a lot of people to treat here. The river was much calmer today and we had a nice breeze that occasionally ran through the clinic. The villagers had to register and obtain a treatment card prior to coming into the boat clinic. Once aboard we obtained weights, heights, and Blood pressures as applicable. They then waited for the Médico or the Dentista. Once they were called they went to see the medico, then the doctor would examine them, write down recommended medications for the pharmacy to fill. During this time, Dr. Regina and Earl would test the patient´s eyes to determine if reading glasses were needed. The team also determined if they needed a massage. Sherry was our resident masseuse. The person would then go to the de-worming\vitamin station where our team would give them pills to keep worms at bay. They also gave them one of the toiletry bags that we had brought and all the children received a pair of sunglasses, a new outfit if we had it to give, as well as suckers and popcorn. The Dentista definitely stayed busier today. We took a break for lunch then we treated a few more villagers before we called it a day. The team had a snack and relaxed a bit before we went up to the village for church. Some of us chose to walk around the village to see if we had missed anything the first time. We went up to the church around 6:45 for a 7pm service. By the time the service got started there was standing room only. Pam Jackson got to stand up in front of the congregation and tell a little about our experience while here so far. Earl led us in worship including song battle wars between the women and men; as well as between Brazilians and Americans. One of the songs talks about giving a hug and at this time we were instructed to go around and hug others. This was fun. Daniela and Diandra played their guitars and sang beautifully. After service a couple of our team members got to hand out popcorn bags and suckers to the children. We returned to the boat and had a late dinner. Several of us retired to bed because we had an early morning tomorrow to go fishing!
Monday October 23rd: We remain at Livramento, but today we are going fishing and not treating any more people. We had breakfast at 6am instead of 7 to try and get an early start on the fishing. We were boated out to a different beach area which kind of went back to a big lake area. The crew baited and casted our poles for us and when we got a bite, we got to reel it in. We were fairly successful with a total of 20 Peacock Bass! Laura took the record at 4 peacock bass and a baby barracuda! Everyone who went fishing this morning caught at least 1 fish. Members of our team will go out to fish this afternoon around 330 to try their luck. It was VERY Hot but lots of fun! The afternoon fishing crew was not successful, but tomorrow is another day. We had devotions and dinner in the kitchen tonight instead of on top of the boat because of the sand fleas. After dinner the girls prepared to go to the top of the boat for our slumber party. This has become a tradition for the Bethel group but we always include any other females who want to join us.J We had glow in the dark bracelets and Edilsa made us popcorn and brought up soda for us. This lasted for about one and 1\2 hours because were getting up early again tomorrow to try fishing again. We had a funny moment when Judson came upstairs and acted like he was a girl. He only stayed a few moments, but it was a good laugh.
Tuesday October 24th: About half of us got up at 530 to try our hand at fishing again this morning. The crew has done a wonderful job caring for us and helping us with anything we need. They packed chairs for us to sit on as well as a cooler with extra water and pop. While we were out fishing a few of those left behind assisted Ruth Anne to empty the Pharmacy of medications and packed them away. This is their last trip this season so they are doing some work on the pharmacy room floor. The fishing crew came back with only 1 peacock bass which Earl caught. Bob and Ed had caught a fish as well, but was either not what they were looking for, or too small to keep so they released them back. We moved to 3 different locations and still did not have any better luck. We returned to the boat for lunch and rest. Earl said there would be 1 last chance to go fishing around 4pm today. The team chose to do many things today including going back up into the village and take more pictures and to interact more with the children. Others read a book, wrote in their journals, played cards, took a nap, or relaxed and talked with each other.
Around 4pm Earl, Bob, Ed, and Kim went back out 1 last time to fish. Some of the boat crew took off to catch some live bait while Caesar got us set up on one of the beaches to try our luck. Despite the live bait we only caught 1 peacock bass again by Earl. Both he and Ed caught a dog fish that was thrown back in. That is a mean looking fish with very sharp teeth. We returned to the boat after dark which was really cool as well. All in all it was a fairly relaxing day.
We had devotions in the kitchen again tonight before dinner. However, Danielle and Diandra had a very sweet and emotional presentation for the boat crew first. They made a cute Thank you sign of each of the crew members and explained who each of them were. They also wrote and sang a song for them. The 2 girls will be leaving the boat and plan to take a test in November to try to get into dental school. Their plan is to then come back and work as a dentist on the boat. Son had devotions tonight and this was very powerful and brought tears to many of our eyes as he spoke of the hardships people face to come on this trip or difficulties between crew members; but that with God those difficulties are taken care of. Where Jesus is, things get better! This is one of Earl`s sayings. A of the group have been spending time on the top deck each evening enjoying God´s night sky creation. Words cannot describe the vastness of the stars and the visibility of the galaxies! Truly breathtaking!
A few of us have also gotten up early to watch the sunrise which is another wonderful sight here on the Amazon.
We leave for San Sebastiao after breakfast and devotions tomorrow. The plan is to walk to the greenhouse and hear about the great work they are doing here. We cannot believe this trip is going to be over in a few short days.
Wednesday October 25th: This morning was our last time to enjoy devotions with the entire crew including Diandra and Danielle. Then we traveled 5 hours to San Sebastiao. Once we docked and had lunch we were able to touch base with our loved ones back home until 2pm. Then we walked back to see the Greenhouse project and Santana. It was a 2 mile walk for most of the team. A few of us got to ride back on a motorcycle taxi, which was much appreciated. Those who walked with Earl took the scenic route and were able to walk by Danielle house and meet her father who is the Preacher of the church in San Sabestiao. They also walked by the church and learned about the original property as well as 3 other buildings that include room for a stage, offices, classrooms, and bathrooms. They continued to make their way toward the greenhouse and Santana´s. Once there, Santana welcomed us with Açaí and Cashew juice. Both of these were very refreshing in the heat and humidity. We saw the training center where they bring their disciples for training courses on such things as first aid, giving stitches, and delivering babies. The property includes 2 homes. 1 is Santana´s house and the other is for the disciples to stay while they are training. The property also included a soccer field and many different fruit trees. A few were Açaí, passion fruit, banana trees, coconut, and mango. We were able to see and hear about how they recycle the cups and pop bottles from the boat for the garden. The small water cups are used to start new seedlings while the pop bottles are used to create borders around the beds of the greenhouse to maintain the dirt\plants. There are 2 families that work the Greenhouse. The produce from the greenhouse is used in the schools and sold to the town´s people. The boat also benefits from the greenhouse produce. We could tell that the workers here are very meticulous in their work. Every plant is well placed and they have an irrigation system to ensure proper watering of the plants. Once we saw the greenhouse, we were invited to shop on Santana´s back porch to purchase some of her hand-crafted jewelry which she makes out berries, seeds, and twine. After everyone had an opportunity to purchase items we walked back to the boat for dinner and free time. A few of us played cards and yahtzee for a while in the kitchen, while others talked on the top deck or in their rooms. The beautifully colorful sunset was a perfect ending to another day on the CBM Amazonia.
Thursday October 26th: This morning we had breakfast and went upstairs for pictures and to hear Earl tell us how God had guided him and his family to start this Ministry in Brazil. We took individual group pictures because the sky was looking ominous. We just got through the photos when we experienced first-hand a rain storm in the rain forest. It was quite a show and despite the dropped plastic sides we still managed to get a little wet! Before we left San Sabastiao we had to say goodbye to our musician friends Danielle and Diandra. Both will be testing in San Sebastiao these next couple weeks to get into Dental school. Tears were shed by a few of us. These girls touched a special place in many of our hearts and will not be forgotten. We are now making our way back to Manaus. The rain continued slightly along the way but finally stopped. Today is much cooler to the point of many of us wearing a light jacket or wrapping up in a blanket. The boat is traveling very slowing to time out perfectly our view of the encounters of the waters where the Rio Negro and the Solimões Rivers come together. This is quite a site as the Rio Negro is very dark and the Salimões is a dirty brown color. Where they come together they form the Amazon River. Along the way we will continue to be on the watch out for pink and grey dolphins, which we have seen a few along our trip. But we are REALLY looking for a monkey or other interesting residents of the Amazon jungle!
Once in Manous we shop til we drop after breakfast, then come back to the boat for lunch and then back out to shop again. We will then go to the hotel where we may swim, shop or go to the zoo for the rest of the afternoon. Then we will be treated to a top deck banquet fit for a king prepared by the wonderful boat crew. All will enjoy this last time together before we will head to the charter bus with our luggage and off to the airport. Thus ends another successful CBM Amozonia Medical Boat trip orchestrated by our amazingly, powerful, almighty God. Until next time, God willing tchau!