Tuesday, May 24, 2016

An Amazon Adventure

We are safely back from Brazil! I'm so glad I had the opportunity to serve in the Amazon!

Day 1: San Francisco

We left from San Francisco airport on May 9. It was a night flight, and in the morning we arrived in Panama City. We had an 6 or 7 hour layover, and so we went and saw the Panama Canal.

Day 2: Panama Canal

It has been a year since I was in Panama!--and I never thought I would be back there again! A bus picked our group of 30 up from the airport and we went straight to the canal. We were only able to spend a short time there, but it was still fun being able to see the boats going through.

Panama City

Panama Canal
Around 9:30 pm we arrived in Manaus, Brazil. From there we pick up our bags and loaded everything on a bus. We drove the 45 minutes to the base where our boat was. When we got to the river, the boat was waiting for us! It was so exciting. It was a two story boat, and the only way to get on was a narrow plank going up the side of the boat. 

We all boarded and found where we would set up our hammocks. Most everyone slept upstairs, side by side. The boat immediately started traveling down the river to the first village. One funny thing happened that night too. I kept waking up to my hammock swinging violently back and forth. I couldn't figure out what was happening. Finally, I sat up, and looked around and noticed that everyone's hammocks were doing the same. Everyone started waking up, and we all started laughing. All you could do was just let your hammock swing and keep bumping into everyone else--there was no way to stop it!!  We must have hit some big waves from the cargo ships that caused that. 

Hammock village

Day 3: Traveling

It took us 36 hours of boat travel to reach the first village. The first day of travel we organized all of our luggage and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

Morning worship on the boat

Luggage of 30 people 

The kitchen! :)

 Day 4: The First Village!

We finally reached our first village! This village is an indigenous tribe that no mission groups had been to before. We spent 4 days at this village.

When we arrived, we first had a tour of the village, and then we had health lectures for both the adults and the children. I helped with the children. We taught them basic hygiene principles, like how to brush teeth, and why they should clean their hair everyday.

Getting to know the children

How to brush your teeth :)  Most of the kids did not know Portuguese, and therefore we had to have two translators

Precious kids!

They all lined up and we helped them brush their teeth

We also did lice treatments and shampooed the kids hair

Day 5: Meeting Them Where They Are

The main purpose of our visit to this village was so that the people would be more open to missionaries in the future, and gain confidence in them. There is a small Adventist presence in this village, and there are two full time missionaries that live there, but many still need to hear the gospel. So, in this village, we met the people where they were.

We were divided into groups. This particular day I helped with medical and dental. We had a doctor with us, and he was able to perform some small surgeries as well. There was also a lot of dental work that the people wanted.

The other group painted houses and roofs!...And maybe having a little too much fun with it too! :)

Each night we also had some meetings with music and a short talk. 

 Day 6: Sabbath

Church service
 Sabbath afternoon we did a health expo for the villagers. I helped with the kids expo, talking about the importance of proper nutrition.

Having fun! :) 

Day 7: Painting, painting, and...More Painting

Sunday we had a continuation of medical and dental, but this time I helped with painting. We had to paint by hand the inside and outside of the house. Despite the heat and humidity, we had lots of fun. When we were painting the inside of the house, we found some cockroaches, as well as huge spiders, some as big as a sand dollar. It was kind of funny because all of us would run away from those whenever we saw them, and then we would turn around and see the village kids smashing them with their hands....yikes!!

It was a blessing to be able to help with the small and seemingly unimportant aspects of their life--even painting houses. The villagers were completely capable of painting their own houses, yet I believe that just the fact that we were there and cared about even the color of their house made a huge impact on them. I would do it again any day--even by hand! :)

Spencer, Elias, Katie, & me....painting away!

Day 8: Traveling again

We left early Monday morning and starting traveling. We were originally planning to go to another village and do some more medical work for them, but apparently that particular village had a large Catholic presence, and they decided that we were not welcome. The coordinators of the trip that were with us decided to give us a day off, and stop somewhere along the river and let us swim. 

The beautiful Amazon River

Where we stopped to swim

You may wonder if it was safe to swim there. Yes, it was! There are over 1000 tributaries that are a part of the Amazon river, and not all of them have dangerous animals or fish. This was one of those sections; all we had to look out for were stingrays, but apparently if you step in the water they will go away and won't come back until you are gone. The water was amazing.

We also did laundry when we stopped, and so we had to hang it somewhere to dry :)
We arrived in the next village (that we were going to go to a little later that week) that afternoon after traveling a little more.  As soon as we arrived, they took us on a jungle tour. Because it was such a large group, we didn't really see any wildlife, but we did see butterflies, ants, and termites. :)

They also took us to the school they are building. We would help the next day with it's construction.

On the jungle walk

Sunset that night

Day 9: Medical, Dental, Health Expo, and Construction

It was a half day for the children's expo, which I helped with again. In the afternoon, everyone (except those with medical and dental) went to the school and helped with moving dirt. It was so hot, and literally, most of us had to take breaks very often in order to not get heat exhaustion. Some people had already gotten that from the morning construction work.

The work pretty much consisted of digging up the dirt around the school (by hand), putting it in wheel barrows, and hauling it into the school where it would become a part of the dirt floor. No back-hoes here!

Day 10: Last Village

In place of the village we weren't able to go to, we were invited to spend a day in another village. This village is mainly Christian, but they had never heard of Adventists before, so they were a little skeptical of us coming. We did a half day of health expos, and there was a full day of medical and dental. 

Children's expo

Adult health expo

That night Spencer did the sermon.  The pastor of the church there was a little nervous about our preaching there, but we assured them that we weren't there to push what we believe, but rather preach from the Bible. Spencer's sermon was perfect and definitely was led by God to preach what he did--on knowing God and what that really means. It was a blessing, and we were told afterwards that we would always be welcome in that village.

Day 11: Traveling back to the base

We left early in the morning and starting heading back to the base. We stopped halfway to drop off a missionary and organize which supplies he would take back with him. That took us about two hours. After that, we were on our way again. There wasn't anything pressing to do during that day, so I enjoyed spending time up at the front of the boat watching the birds, butterflies, and dolphins in the river. 

The sunset that night was beautiful. 

Enjoying nature together

A picture from a slow motion video I took that night. I had fun doing it. :) 

 Day 12: Arrival in Manaus

We arrived just before lunch time back to the base--and back to wifi! It was great getting in touch with our parents, taking showers from the well water, and repacking and getting ready to leave Sabbath night.

Day 13: Last Day There

Sabbath we went to the local church right by the base.  They actually had air conditioning in the church. I think I got used to the hotter weather though, because after a little while I got really cold. ;)

We had a Sabbath School panel about Weimar

Sabbath afternoon we had to get all of our things off the boat, as the boat needed to start another trip. We pretty much hung out at the base all day. Some people went on a hike and came back with a mama sloth and a baby sloth. That was the highlight of the day!!

We left Sabbath evening for Manaus. We first stopped at the mall where we had 30 minutes to find some souvenirs. It wasn't much time to really go shopping, but I found a few things.  After that, we stopped at a pizza place--the most awesome pizza place I have ever been too! You pay one price for as much pizza you can eat. Then you just sit down and let the pizza come!!! The waiters all walk around with different kinds of pizza, and if you see one that you want, just motion to them and they will give you a slice! It was awesome. They had some interesting combinations of pizza too--chocolate pizza, banana and cinnamon, caramel, and much more. 

Day 14: Going Home!

Our flight left at 3 in the morning, so from the pizza place the night before, we just headed straight to the airport. We traveled all that day, and finally arrived home!! 

One thing I have to mention before I close is about all the wildlife I saw--it was amazing! I saw pink dolphins, manatees, piranhas, Caiman (like crocodiles), iguanas (1.5-2 feet long), bright green lizards, parrots, parakeets, countless different butterflies, a snake swimming across the river, and many different kinds of birds.

It was such a blessing to be able to serve in the Amazon! I hope I can go back there someday. The coordinators were telling us that there are 1000 tributaries of the Amazon River, yet Adventist presence is in only two of those tributaries. Some of the villages are many days away too, so they are harder to reach. I hope I can go back and share more of the love of Jesus with these people!
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