There is a narrow board that hangs from an old tire over the front of the Discovery. It’s a wonderful bright shade of blue, like the rest of this boat that was to be our home away from home for the next 8 days. Not wanting to lose my balance on this 10-inch-wide bridge between me and dry land, I kept my eyes down, intently calculating my every step. And that’s when I saw it, rippling there on the edge of my gaze was my reflection in the river. While the overall appearance is familiar, this was not the same man I met in the mirror at home a few days before. This man is at peace with himself, not rushing from one over-committed appointment to the next, but focused on living in the moment right in front of him. Here on the river, far from the noise of life, for one week a year, I get to be the best version of me.
This was my seventh trip to the Amazon and each trip has produced it’s own share of surreal moments, where I stop to fully realize the magnitude of what’s happening around me, and sometimes, through me. These are the moments I wish I could bottle and take home for those times when people casually ask, “hey, how was your trip?” Words don’t due justice for the feeling that wells up inside of me when I remember the people God placed in my path over the years… people like George.
George is 67 and has lived in the same village since he married his wife 48 years ago. His wife left a little more than a year ago to help take care of his daughter and grandchildren. Not long after she left, George had a stroke, resulting in the loss of much of the mobility on his left side. During a home visit a few weeks ago I got to meet George and, through our amazing translator, learned about his life and how he has no one to take care of him. In his own words, “I eat, when people bring me food.” I’ll never forget those words and can feel the familiar lump in my throat even now as I remember him saying them. Before leaving we set George up with a food bag, helped him sort out his different medications, prayed with him and just before our goodbye we asked if he attended church. He said he loved going to church, but after his stroke he hasn’t been able to go because the journey is too far and the services are held at night when it would be too dangerous for him to walk. That night a team of us went via boat and picked up George, basically carrying him from his home to the boat, then to church and back again. That night George sat in the front row of the worship service and as our team took the stage to lead the congregation in singing worship songs, I watched him slowly work his tired body into a standing position. Then, I caught his eye and for the first time since meeting him, I saw him smile.
These are the memories that stick with me. The times when I know without a doubt that I’m seeing God move right there in front of me. And until the next time I get to see my reflection in the river, I’ll share these moments with others, hoping they somehow inspire more people to take part in the amazing story God is writing here in the Amazon.