It’s 2018 already. I remember as a kid thinking that any year after 2000 was a LONG ways off, and would we ever really get there, or be living on the moon or something wild like that…it was a different century after all. But here we are, almost 20 years into this new century. And though no one is living on the moon yet, alot has changed since my childhood…but one thing that hasn’t is that there are still communities in the Amazon without a church, which means there are still places where it is very difficult, if not impossible, for people to hear the Good News and be able to make their own choice to serve the Lord. Last month we took a trip to one such community.
Matt’s cousin Rodney & his wife Denise and their 4 girls arrived from Arizona, where it also gets very hot…but humid, not so much. I think Rodney commented every day about how humid it is here 🙂 It has been years since our kids have been together, but they were fast friends (isn’t this the case with all Steidingers?)
We left Santarém around 4:00 Sunday morning and traveled all day on the boat to arrive in the town of Santa Maria for church at 7:30 that evening. Members of the PAZ church in Santa Maria have reached out into 3 smaller communities, starting small groups and traveling weekly to encourage and support them. It was really neat to be there to worship with them as they don’t get many visitors. The pastor was excited to have the Portador da Luz (PAZ mission boat that we travel on) docked in front of his town for the first time! Pastor Elias and his wife have 6 kids and all are very involved in the church–their family’s heart to serve the Lord was evident. And Matt got the opportunity to preach, so he was their first international speaker 🙂
Monday morning early we headed out to one of the communities Santa Maria has started small groups in–Beira Rio. There are about 50 families that live in Beira Rio. One of our objectives for our time there was to help start a covered shelter as a place for the believers there to worship.
Our group also included two nurses, Geane and Wanderleia, who held a free clinic each of the three days we were there. People came from the surrounding small communities as well.
The “kids” on the boat–ours, Rodney & Denise’s, and Joaquim & Geane’s–had some activity/story time with the kids of Beira Rio every afternoon.
And the youngest three got in lots and lots of swimming–and ended up a little sunburnt!
The site was mostly cleared ground when we arrived. With the help of several teens/young adults from Santa Maria, a few men and kids from Beira Rio, and the 3 extra bricklayers that came along from Santarem, and our group of 12, by the end of 3 days the foundation was done, half wall started, supports raised to hold the roof trusses, and the floor much more level than when we arrived.
The last night in Beira Rio we participated in the weekly small group, and I was reminded again how much I take for granted as I sat on a backless bench made of 2 x6s with a single light bulb chasing off the darkness, trying to keep my sleeping 9-year old from rolling off the front or back of the bench. After about an hour and a half, I gave up and I took her back to the boat to crawl into her hammock 🙂
The “excitement” the next morning was discovering that during the night a small boat motor had disappeared off the back of the small speedboat tied behind the big boat we were all sleeping on. One of the guys from the community went diving looking for it, hoping that maybe someone had just taken it off the boat and dropped it in the water to be mischievious, but wasn’t able to find anything. The consensus was that it was probably stolen, there was a festival going on across the lake the nights we were there and a man from Beira Rio commented that many years during that festival things go “missing” on their side of the lake. Praying for conviction in the heart of the person who took it, that they will return it, and turn the life over to the Lord.
Wednesday late afternoon we headed back to Santa Maria to pick up a load of wood to haul back with us. Joaquim was able to purchase cheaper there, and because we were going past there on the way back to Santarem (the church that wood was for is only a couple hours from Santarem), he was able to save on freight also. But, the combination of the extra weight from the wood, and heading upriver, didn’t help us break any records for speed 🙂 After a 20 hour return trip, we were back on solid ground. (This is why my husband likes to fly 🙂 That much time on a boat gives the opportunity for some great conversations, and Rodney & Denise were a blessing and an encouragement.