In January, some of my family is coming to visit with their children. Our plan is to build a church in memory of my mother who passed away last year. I wanted this community to be special for us. Many times, for church construction, we show up on Monday, begin working and at the end of the week have poured the floor and put on the roof. There is interaction with the community during the work day and at night when we do a church service, but I wanted to get to know this community better to make it a little more special. I thought I would get in on the “ground floor” and be involved from the get go.
First of all a little explanation. We have a construction manager (Joaquim) that works with all the mission’s projects out in the communities. He told me they have been starting about one church project a week. The gospel is spreading rapidly here in the Amazon and so there is always a desire for believers to have a special “temple” where they can worship our God. Typically the mission asks that a core group of believers already be established in a community before we will look at helping with a church building. Two to three cell (house) groups firmly established with 8-10 believers in each group. Then the mission looks at their ability and desire to help. For example, I was asking Joaquim how much the building would cost to finish it. He said, “it depends on how much they help–if there is a bricklayer in the community, do they have sand available, does someone have trees we can use for the wood, etc”. I said, “what if they don’t have anything. Then how much would it be to totally complete it”. His reply, “If they don’t have anything….then we will go to another community. We want the people to be involved and it to be “their temple”.
The mission selected a community called Jupindá for my family to work with. The first step in the process is for Joaquim to go, look at the site they’ve selected, how much work to level the ground, what is available (sand, rock, wood, etc), and what will need to be brought from the city. Also, explain to them that this is not “the mission’s church”, that they are responsible for getting this work started and completed, but we are there to help THEM, they are not there to help us.
Thursday was the day we selected to go. You can get to Jupindá by boat (6 hours) or by motorcycle (theoretically 3 hours). We were going to leave at 7am, arrive at 10am, have a 3 hour meeting and then head back to be home by dark.
Our path (in reverse, 25 is leaving Santarém, 1 is arriving at the 2nd community):
Because of various circumstances, we didn’t leave Santarém until about 8am. We had an asphalt road for about 60 miles before we turned off onto dirt and then had about 50 miles to the village. Well, we stopped and visited different pastors/workers on the PAZ churches along the asphalt road (3 or 4) and so around 10:30 we finally turned onto the dirt. Joaquim is more experienced than me riding a bike on dirt so he left me in his dust. About 10 miles later I come up on him and he has an older lady on the back of his bike. He is going much slower now and talking dramatically to her (I see his hands waving in the air). We go for about 20 minutes to the next cross road. He gets off and says, “Matt, meet your newest sister in Christ”. He had been telling her about the Lord during his trip. He asked her, “Are you ready to give your life to Christ? Repent for your sins and make a commitment to follow Christ?” Yes, yes, she responded. Joaquim led her in prayer there at the crossroad. Then she asked if we could come and pray for her husband that had bitten by a snake.
You see the reason this 60 yr old woman was out walking in the middle of the jungle was that she had been to Santarém to buy some medicine for her husband. She had already walked 9 miles and had 15 to go when we picked her up.