Hey. So the last week before Amazon was great. Steve & I did many things we were always meaning to do since he leaves 5 days after we get back from the Amazon. We finally went to the tower. We could see the entire city of BH. The view is a little overrated but still it was fun to be with friends. Oh yeah, and I made beans and rice for the first time... correctly! I absolutely love beans and rice. I could eat it everyday for the rest of my life, like many people in the world do. A book by a guy named Bart Stamper found its way into my hands. It’s a personal testimony about his experience in Vietnam. The difference between his account and every other Vietnam account is that he is completely explicit. Other Vietnam veterans won’t tell much of their story because it’s too painful and they don’t have a sound mind. Their emotions and morals were so distorted by the war that maybe they can’t forgive themselves. This book couldn’t be sold in the U.S. as a war novel and a Christian novel with both parts - only as separate pieces.
More importantly than any of this, I’m in the Amazon right now! I stepped foot outside of the airport I felt the “Dragon’s Breath” on my face. The scorching heat wasn’t unbearable ... at first. We stopped at a restaurant and we had tapioca with cheese and delicious juices native only to the Amazon: cupuaçu and cajú. I arrived at the JOCUM base (YWAM).
So much has happened since my last entry. Steve arrived at YWAM and we checked out the boat. It has 3 floors excluding the hull. It was so hot. I was perspiring just sitting down and eating. We got picked up to go to a church by one of James’ friends. James did some worship, Tom spoke, then Judson led worship for a bit. God started speaking to me. Family is your first ministry. How can one preach the gospel to a crowd or another person if his family is in disarray? The body of Christ is essentially a family. If we can’t love our family, we don’t have the practice to love anyone else. I realized that before this trip and until that moment on the roof, I had been a man of little faith. I heard but did not hear. I saw but did not see. I didn’t fully believe that God was there. All the time. I heard about God doing real things, things that couldn’t be explained otherwise. My life is itself, since I was born, a testament to him because he saved me. I chose not to believe or live by his principles. I knew him and rejected him. I felt wretched, and loved at the same time. I believed the Bible was true and I spoke about its truth without knowing what God did in it. Loving God and accepting him is so much easier when one has read his word.
The boat ride was only a little short of being the best traveling experience of my life. We stopped by a gas station for boats in the middle of the water. It was like any other convenience store but everywhere around it was water. Moving water. I looked around once we embarked from the base. We weren’t even on the amazon river yet and already the river was so far across I could only see faint greys in the distance that resembled hills. Being so wide, it must also be deep. Tom told me that in places the water is so deep, the statue of liberty could stand at the bottom and would not penetrate the surface. The breeze created by the moving vessel made the hot, humid climate subside drastically. At one point in the voyage two rivers merged into one. One black, the other brown. Chemically the rivers were so different that they were not soluble. The two rivers ran beside each other for miles and never mixed. At night, Steve, Nehemiah and I watched Slumdog Millionaire, a beautiful film though above us was something even more beautiful. With the moon directly above us, a thin layer of clouds formed a perfect circle with the moon being the exact center. It’s a phenomenon that happens rarely and I don’t know the cause. However some of the drawbacks were that the boat was made for Brazilians, who’s height never reaches above six foot one inch, so I felt like I was in a hobbit hole. At night, it’s almost impossible to move around because hammocks are hanging everywhere. Also, where I was sleeping, right next to the engine, it’s impossible to sleep. It roars throughout the night which is bad enough, but also I had to get used to sleeping in a hammock which is another challenge in itself; though once I got situated it was very comfortable.
I met Greg, a pastor of the ARC. Greg is an awesome guy. The kind of guy that makes you feel comfortable enough that you want to tell him your life’s story within just four minutes of knowing him. It’s a trust thing that I think comes genetically from God. His short and chubby stature helps with this.
Talking with Josiah, a missionary from Alabama who plans on living in the Amazon, was also very enjoyable. Right away we got along. Maybe I have somewhat of the same gift as Greg or we are just very similar being two young guys, who have four siblings, are both the youngest in our families, and having a passion for missions.
The truck drops everyone off at their destinations. Looking around from the back of the flatbed truck, I notice that the grand majority of the girls here are very beautiful and attractive. I’m reminded that this city, Maues, is known for its sexual promiscuity. The city is known as the “Pastor’s Grave” as many pastors fell into sexual sin here; the YWAM base shut down here and I’m sure that sexual sin was a major cause of it. I’m the last stop and it’s a good thing too as our house is the most luxurious out of any of the others. Coconut trees and star fruit trees are scattered everywhere. We are left to help ourselves to the fruit and we eat a meal of delicious coconut water and coconut. Though the flavor is subtle, I enjoy it ten times more than the artificial coconut you will find sprinkled over cookies or cake.
Today Greg spoke about how the Bible isn’t supposed to be read as a rule book. Yes, the Bible talks a lot about “Don’t do this or you’ll go to hell,” and whatnot. However but we find out in the new testament, which is more applicable to our lives, that we will do God’s will by just asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The more we have the Holy Spirit the more we are able to love and think less about living a perfect life.
I don’t want to step on anyone’s beliefs ... well here we go. You alone are not the image of God. There. It’s out. When God first made the world, everything was good, until, however, he made man. He made us in his image, but it was not good. Anything that is not good, is not of God. So he changed it. It was not good in the sight of God that man was alone. So one single person isn’t what God intended. We become the image of God when we are together. Also it says in Matthew 18:20 that the Holy Spirit is present whenever two or more people meet in his name. In Psalms, there is a passage, one that my dad mentions, about a man speaking so passionately about how much he loves being in the temple. However, there is nothing holy about the actual temple. It’s only a man-made structure. The psalmist is talking about the people. After all, the church is about relationship.
James was talking about the church in America and the ritual of feet washing. Many think it is a practice of just being a servant to one another. Though being a servant is nice, I think Jesus intended something even deeper. After all Jesus rebuked those who were not willing to expose their uncleanliness so that it could be cleaned. So foot washing is about revealing your sin, accountability, and repentance as well as being a leader by serving.
During the conference in Maués, God healed me in many ways. The first day I was able to play drums. The second day, when Judson spoke, another drummer played. I noticed that he was better than me and he looked only a little older. An uncontrollable jealousy came over me. I couldn’t concentrate on worship. All I could do was watch him, examining him, waiting for him to make a mistake, and wondering what I would have done better. Feeling guilty for giving in to my jealousy, I then tried to worship God. Soon after, James came and prayed over me. He prayed that the Holy Spirit would come into my life. He prophesied that I would change lives and not know it, filled with the Holy Spirit, that others would weep at my very sight. He asked God to manifest himself in my life. This was exactly what I had been praying for the last two days exactly. Down to the very word “manifest.” Now it could be coincidence that he talked about the Holy Spirit coming into my life because it was what Greg talked about. Also the word “manifest” could also be coincidence because James uses the word often and maybe it found its way into my subconscious. Although I don’t want to pass off something that was of God to coincidence. this would be exactly what Peter did when Jesus walked on the water. He denied that it was Christ and thought he was just a ghost. After this, I felt compelled to pray for the drummer, despite my jealousy. Miraculously after I did, my jealousy was gone. Disappeared.
Drilling the well in the tribe is amazing though it’s a ton of work. Let me try to paint the picture for you. You can’t walk up a hill without sweating. When you play soccer, you feel as if you just dove into a pool. It’s a necessity to take baths in the river two times a day. I drink more than 3 liters of water daily. We take shifts working on the well - somebody is there at any time of day or night. The process of drilling the well is not that complicated, but it is also something that can’t be screwed up. The last well that was made in this village caved in. As a result, the Satere leaders have been passing on bad information about Christians and our God. We need to make one in its place to regain trust and access to the Satere Nation. This is also important because clean water is invaluable to them. If you have it, they will do anything to get it, even follow your god. But we don’t want to make a trade of any sort. We just want to bless them with a well and, if they accept it, a well that gives the water of life. A witch doctor of the Satere prophesied that our equipment would break, we would get sick, and end up leaving before the well was completed. The first two have already come true so far, but we’re not giving up. Being successful will prove that our God is more powerful and our love is greater than anything the witch doctor can supply. So there is a huge spiritual battle as well as a physical one.
As a side note, I got to bake bread on the boat with Kathy teaching me. Also we made a 1.5 inch thick pizza as well. The food was delectable. It would've been delicious even if we weren't on a boat. I swam across the river and took a walk in the jungle and found a stick bug and razor grass. The tribe has pineapple farms and cajú trees everywhere (cashews grow on cajú fruit).
The tribe also has a methodist church believe it or not. My guess is that a missionary came, planted the church, pumped the tribe full of religion, then left. We went to a service. The pastor, Leo, dressed in a collared shirt and khakis, started by praying then reading a single verse from psalms, which i thought was very comical. Although it was very sad because I feel like the gospel was delivered to them in a very religious way. I severely doubt that this tribe would worship God in a building with desks facing the front of a room like everyone in America.
The children of the the tribe are all beautiful. We would see them everyday swimming, washing clothes, and eating fruit by our boat. They all know Portuguese and the native language, but they are very timid to the point where you have to guess their ages and they will only give a smile and a nod as a response.
Never before have I both swam and played soccer at the same time.
Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m in the Amazon, with a tribe, living on a boat. Yesterday, I had an experience only a small percentage of Americans get to do: Alligator hunting in the Amazon with two Indians, one of them being the chief of the tribe. We embarked at nightfall. The air was cool, the water comfortably warm, and the moon lit our path well on this night I will never forget. You’d think that those jungle sound tapes created for relaxation are accurate, but, on the contrary, it’s quite loud. Frogs croak in unison. Some kind of large duck makes it’s mating call seemingly from every direction. Thousands of crickets chirp, a subtle harmony behind the bird’s melody. Layers upon layers of animal sounds make up the orchestra of the Amazon rainforest. There’s nothing relaxing about it. I’m definitely in one of the most famous place biologically in the world. We search around with a flashlight for the shining pearl that is the reflection of the alligator’s eye. It isn’t long before we find one. The alligator stops and is mesmerized by the funny light shining directly into its eye. Judging from the distance between the nose and the eye, it’s about a meter long - an adolescent, but still a fantastic meal. The 32-rifle remains steady as it aims. The next step would be to stab the reptile where the spinal cord meets the skull with a trident. Hesitating too long, the alligator realizes that the funny light is a threat and retreats in a splash of river water in an instant. Disappointed but still hopeful, we took the boat deeper into the jungle. Venturing slowly, at a paddle’s pace, we made our way through the trees. It reminded me of countless thriller/ monster movies concerning a giant snake or ape. We found some more alligators, but they were too small. Feeling a little defeated, we returned not empty handed, but with a small fish that we gave to the Satere rower.
Coming back from the tribe and back to Nova Lima, now a home away from home, I really started to reevaluate my relationship with God. Forgetting everything I was taught about God and just looking at our relationship, I realized that I wasn’t at the place with him that I thought. Asking questions like “How do I feel about God?” and “How does God feel about me?” prompted me to step into my subconscious. I thought that God was holding himself back to me. I wasn’t receiving the kind of communication that I would like from him. It seemed like others have a kind of understanding of him that was better while I still doubted. I felt as if I was waiting too long for the Lord to show himself. Now, knowing what I know is true about him, I find that I need to ask him to open my eyes to what he’s showing me. Open my eyes to the world around me. I don’t know how to seek him. In all of this I find that I am so conceited in how I relate to Christ. I want him to show me something or give me a supernatural understanding. I don’t want to doubt him anymore, but that is the essence of faith. Since I’ve been asking the Lord for these things, I find that he is nothing but faithful. One of the most convincing ideas for me that Jesus saves is that he transforms the wickedest of men like Paul, a murderer of the innocent, father’s who have become monsters or even me, into Godly men who live to serve God and love others.
Thank you everyone for your prayers and support while I was in the Amazon. No one got seriously injured and the well was a success. All glory and honor to God.