“Preach the word, be prepared in time and out of time.” (2 Timothy 4: 2a)
In time and out of time…
That has been the word that comes to mind as the rivers in the Amazon reopened and we had the opportunity to lead 4 Brazilian teams to serve 8 different villages in the midst of this pandemic. A time when most of us are cautious about leaving our homes and interacting with people due to the uncertainties that surround us. But, God had called a few to shorten the distance between love, hope, and relief to so many families along the Amazon river.
In October, we hosted an Open Arms team, that came on a tailor-made journey, with fired hearts, eager to serve the river people. It was our first JMA trip with a team in the midst of this pandemic.
The first changes were with our protocol to assure that our staff, crew, volunteers, and the villagers were protected. We now test for COVID-19 before the trip to ensure that everyone was clear to travel, as well as assuring the use of masks at all times and keeping the necessary distance in order to guarantee the maximum possible safety.
We went to places that no one had gone this year yet, we broke this barrier of isolation by understanding that these people needed to know that they are not alone in the jungle. The pandemic brought isolation never seen before in history, but the riverside population still had the difficulty of the river’s drought period, causing even greater isolation.
The team traveled for 7 days, serving 5 communities in Rio Negro, at a time when the river is extremely dry. It was difficult to reach some communities-some were only reachable by small boat, and we could only get to one village on foot, as the entire lake was dry. This only made us feel more cheerful and happy because in every community we arrived we were impacted by the joy of people when they receive us, and the smile of the children is priceless. We heard from some riverine people that we were the first outsiders that they were receiving in the community this year.
We serve the communities with everything we had at that time. Medical clinic, sports training for children, activities with children and teenagers (gymkhana and small groups). We provided training, evangelism through art, training for teenagers, face painting for the leaders, and different clothes donations. The team’s joy was contagious and even the adults wanted to participate in the activities together with the children though they were divided between the medical clinic, exchange fair, and activities with the children.
We also had remarkable moments inside the boat as a team, moments of sharing, prayer, praise, and even a luau. A moment that was remarkable for our crew and cooks was the tribute that the Open Arms team made. The team sang a song and read a Bible passage where “they were driven by a paralytic, brought by four friends. And the latter, being unable to approach him, because of the crowd, discovered the roof where he was, and made a hole in it, lowering the bed on which the paralytic lay. And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic “Son, your sins are forgiven”.
The team leader said: ‘Nobody knows the names of those 4 friends, but they were crucial to the healing of that paralyzed man. So are you, crew and cooks. You preached as much as we did to the riverside people, we used words, and you used your life, taking care of the team, going ahead to prepare the way we were going to go, preparing the food. Glory to God for each one of you!’
Obviously, this brought the crew to tears! A very special time for our staff, crew, volunteers, and villagers.
It is true, we are living in difficult times, but we cannot stop!
There are people who need to know that they are not alone in these rivers, children need care, doctors, dental, psychological, churches need training, pastors need to be cared for and somehow embraced. It is our joy to remain in the front lines serving, loving, and connecting God with His children in the Amazon.