Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2nd Baptist Houston - Day 5 on the River

We have spent the entire trip on the Solimoes Tributary of the Amazon.  We are approximately 15 hours upstream from Manaus.  The trip has been an exciting experience for the team.  The river is at the lowest point it has been in over 50 years.  The river being low makes for a difficult trek to the villages.  It is definitely a workout to carry the supplies to the village. Today we are in Cuia, this village has approximately 100 families.  The ministries were extremly busy today.  VBS had over 80 kids, that was an exhausting experience.  Angela has done an excellent job leading VBS, especially with her revolving team including Chad Baze, Christine, Philip, Shawn, Michelle, Chad Butler, and Katie.  The eye glass ministry has been popular at each village.  Brian, Gary, and Mari have been busy sifting through the different prescriptions.  Medical has been popular as usual among the villagers; Rich, Christine, and Rebekah along with Dr. Pablo have made an excellent team diagnosing the Brazilians.  Elbert, Kathy, and Dr. Louis have have been performing skillful tooth extraction or as Christine says "yanking" teeth out.  The door-to-door ministry has been more of a blessing to us than the Brazilians.  The Brazilians have such a sweet heart and always insist on providing a place to sit, even if it is their only chair.  Jason, Philip, Chad Butler, Shawn, and Michelle have been fortunate to experience the blessing of door-to-door.  Mari and Chad Butler have been performing the women's and men's ministries.  Michelle has prepared the giveaways, and she has been working extremely hard to fill the bags with goodies for the ladies and teachers in the villages.  It is truly exciting to see the expression on peoples faces as they receive these donations including; tooth brushes, flip flops, tolitries, hats, fishing line, clothes, toys, and much more that people donated. 
Last night we had service on Vila Nova.  About 30 villagers come to hear a powerful message delivered by Dr./Pastor Pablo.  Mari and Rebekah led us in two beautiful worship songs.  Tonight we are having a service in Cuia.  We are excited to worship with this village.  Thank you for all of your prayers.  The team members can truly feel each of you lifting them up in prayer as the team continues to minister along the Amazon river.  Everybody on the boat misses their families and friends, but this has been an exciting journey that has been life changing for each trip member.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

2nd Baptist Houston - Day 2 on the Amazon

Docked outside Vila Nova in the Amazons during lunch break, the crew on the boat showed some of the team members how to fish. Nothing terrribly fancy, just a simple hook, a small fish as bait on a long fishing line. They rely on their senses to feel the bite of the fish and pull at the appropriate time.  No overly complex equipment that comes with a instructional manual that requires an overnight reading to understand, no going on at the "right" time, and definitely no rules.  Cast, wait, and pull.  Worked everytime.
How reflective is this of the Gospel?  We tend to think that the Gospel needs to be given at the "right" time, "right" place, and "right" method.  But the truth is, when Jesus said: "Follow Me, and I will lmake you fishers of men," (Matt 4:19), He never said: "I will make you fishers of men under ________ condition," or "I will make you fisher men only if you did ____________."
Here in the Amazon Bend, we didn't have nice facilities to work with.  Doctors worked out of  the little corner of the pavillion, the pharmacy was nothing more a long line of plastic bins filled with medication, and VBS was the dirt field at the center of the village.  Yet we feel His strong presence here. From every breeze carrying the scent of the river to the giggles of the children, we felt Him.  And it was good. (Gen 1:37). 
As the villagers waited for the doctors, we shared the Gospel with them.  As the women got their nails painted, we prayed for them.  As the children watched magic tricks, we loved on them. Unconditionally, unlimited, and unhibited love.  We wanted nothing from them, no materials, no goods, no favors, but only to rejoice in the LORD as we have all been so priviledge to do so.
This is what doing God's work meant. This is truly the Great Commission at work.  The supplies we brought here is laughable in its adequacy, but thankfully, God came along with us.  Actually, God was here already. He has already gone before us to deliver the land to us. 
"Because everywhere I sent you, you shall go... For I am with you to deliver you, declared the LORD." (Jer 1:7-8)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 1 on the Amazon

A simple dinner, a quick change of clothing, lots and lots of bug spray later, we were groupred from our boat home Linda Espranca unto a small get boat to carry us to shore.  Complete darkness immediatley surrounds us.  No sound but the crashing waves of the river hitting the shore bank.
Guided only by small flashlights, we bravely cross the thin metal bar bridge, stairs that definitely have seen better days, and fields of unknown construction.  We cross this sleepy dark town, passing empty houses and dimly lit local hangouts.  It is Saturday night here, and it does not seem to carry the same glamour United States has.  Here, a few people gather at outdoor patios, with music softly playing in the background.
"Scorpion." Someone from our group said.
This caused another in the group to jump up and scream.  It is the Amazon River afterall.  The jumper fantically waved the flashlight at the ground while leaping from leg to leg to avoid the dreaded insect.
Nearly everyone in the group chuckled.  It wasn't the insect, But rather the band Scorpion that was playing on the television at the local hangout.
A 10 minute quick walk later, we see the only brightly lit building from the darkness.  There was a crowd outside,  The pastor was of small stature but big spirit was standing by the door, greeting everyone in his congregation by name.
Our team was rushed into the brightly lit church.  A few rows of plastic chairs followed by another few rows of wooden benches.  Little to no decoration except a few colorful drapes at the center of the altar and hung at the ceiling.  Small fans along the wall circle the air in this small place.
The pastor opened the service with Psalm 24:
"The earth is the Lord's, and all it contrains,
the world and those who dwell in it."
The congregation loudly replied to the pastor.  We understood little to nothing.  Stood when the congregation stood, and sat when they sat.  Familiar tunes begin to play, some of us began to mutter the lyrics in English, doing our best to fit in.
But God had better plans than just letting us fit in.
The pastor grabbed the guitar and began singing a tune obviously familiar to his congregation, but not to our foreign ears.  Unable to pretend we knew any further, we shut our lips, closed our eyes, and was suddently hit by God's presence.
In this small church of no air conditioning, no songbooks, no fancy artwork/equipments, God is present. His Spirit was filling this place wall to wall.  Only with our eyes closed and hearts aligned, we understood that nothing mattered by God now.
We look at the faces of everyone here.  This is what worshipping is.  In a town so far away from it all, In this town of unpaved roads and limited supplies, these people worshipped the Lord.  This small town possibly forgotten by most, has not been forgotten by God.
As our sister Rebehak shared tonight, she leaned on Jesus through Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust the LORD with all your hearts,
and lean not on your own understanding,
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will set your paths straight."
This small town has little understanding of the world. It leans not on science, reason, philosophy, nor anything else us from the U.S. are so easily distracted by.  Instead, this simple life town trusts in the LORD.  With glowing faces, they shouted their acknowledgements to the LORD proudly.
And God is here.
He is here indeed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 3 of Clinic: Perpetuo Socorro

From Tuesday, 2 November
Today we moved to a new community on the Amazon called Perpetuo Socorro.  This little village is the home to approximately 65 families whose wooden, open-air houses are connected by trampled paths through the high rainforest grass and fruit trees.  It was evident during our afternoon walk through the village that it is an area of rich natural agriculture.  Growing wild on the plateau were bananas, mangoes, papayas, grapes, passion fruit, acai, cacao, and cashew (the acidic yellow-red fruit that accompanies the raw nut we know as "cashew").  The locals showed us a dozen recently-born piglets who frantically squealed when our mischevious young tour guide picked them up.  Marco, one of the staff members of Amazon Outreach, also taught us the traditional process of harvesting and preparing manioc root, one of the customary foods of the villagers.
We set up clinic in a dilapidated, wooden open-air barn overlooking the Amazon.  Approximately 104 patients congregated at the site to receive medical and dental care, some of whom had walked over 1.5 hours throiugh the humid, 100-degree heat to arrive.  The primary health issues we encountered were worms and lower back pain, both of which stem from the villagers'  dependence on unpurified river water.  The lack of water purification made the spread of worms inevitable, and the steep trek up the rocky, mud bank carrying drinking water, fishing equipment, and laundry from the river to their homes was certainly a major cause of the presistent back pain.  During the morning, Molly and a partnering physician from Bolivia treated a young boy who had been bitten by a piranha four days earlier on his hand.  The wound site was severely swollen, and countless tiny teeth were still embedded in his finger. 
The clinic became an event in the village, and many of the patients and their families stayed throughout the day to participate in community education classes on water sanitation, CPR and first aid, sexually transmitted diseases, and nutrition.  Molly even sponsored a Baseball 101 workshop to introduce the All-American sport to Brazil.  Although baseball didn't seem to inspire quite the same enthusiasm as soccer, all went well until Paige commented, "Sometimes in America, we like to heckle the batter.... Hey Batter, Batter!"  The batter was understandably baffled, as you might imagine, but the game continued!
As we all hit the hammocks after nightfall, we made one rather disconcerting new discovery: dozens of bats circling the waters around our boat in search of insects for dinner (which, for the record, are not in low supply).  Dr. Ray even woke to one hanging from the rafters of the boat.  Perhaps that rabies vaccine wasn't such a bad idea after all...
For more information on International Medical Relief, visit

Day 2 of Clinic: Back to Novo Remanso

From Monday, 1 November
Today was our second day in Novo Remanso... and word of the clinic spread like wildfire within the community.  Over 175 new patients came to the medical clinic, and the doctors diagnosed many conditions similar to the day before, including a large number of worms, urinary tract infections, and some fungal rashes.  The most endearing patient landed in the caring hands of Dr. Ray: Daniel, a little boy of just seven years had undergone surgery three years prior to remove a lung tumor.  The operation had left Daniel with scars stretching literally around his torso and a tracheotomy tube--but nonetheless, Daniel sported the most genuine grin of any little one who walked in the doors of the clinic.
The dental clinic was in tremendously high demand today.  Dr. Mulvany and Mary saw 49 patients and completed 20 extractions, half of which were difficult surgical extractions.  During the past two days, we have seen a great deal of tooth decay in patients as young as 4 or 5 years old.  We discovered that the villagers have a problematic candy habit, and the constant consumption of inexpensive hard, sugary candies has inevitably impacted their dental health.  For one patient, the problem had converted into a medical issue, and we couldn't help but smile at the diagnosis:
"Major complaint -
No appetite, only wants to eat candy, feels like she needs to throw up after she eats, but can't.  x 1 mo. When she eats candy, it gets worse.
Diagnosis -
Tooth decay
Prescription/Treatment -
Need to see dentist"
And that is precisely why Dr. Mulvany's services were in such high demand! 
A report of the day's events would be incomplete without mention of Wendal.  Early in the day, a charming, loquacious little 7-year old came into clinic and, for both our fun and his, Wendal faithfully stayed with the traige nurses all day long to help treat and care for patients.  With little Wendal, there was never a dull moment.  During lunch, he exclaimed, " You are all so white you look like angels!" -- which was our first indicator that even the constant Amazon sun hasn't given us a tan that can rival the beautifully, dark mocha skin of the Amazonian villagers we've met.  Perhaps best of all was Wendal's attempt to woo and charm our very own Bryn Mayfield.  At the end of the day, he gave her a blue plastic bracelet and ... a metal ring.  So, for any of Bryn's relatives reading, please be aware that she has been promised to a Brazilian fiance right here in the Amazon.
Tomorrow we are moving east on the Amazon to set up clinic in three small villages in the region Costa da Conceicao.  We will keep you posted!
For more information on International Medical Relief, visit

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 1 of Clinic: Novo Remanso

From Sunday, October 31
The sun rose this morning at 5:30am, and the bright light pouring into our hammocks woke us up literally at the crack of dawn.  Today was our first day of clinic, and after we boated to shore and walked through the dustry roads into town, we landed ourselves in Novo Remanso--the home of 6000 Brazilians.  The town received us with enthusiasm and warm smiles, and when we began setting up in their local clinic, a few little curious children were peering in through the doorway.
During our 8-hour day in Novo Remanso, there was a constant stream of families and patients.  The team doctors examined over 150 patients whose chief complaints ranged from work-related arthritis to yeast infections to a soon-to-be mother in labor.  The most common diagnoses included worms, urinary tract infections, and upper respiratory infections.  One family was treated for scabies, and Alex, our resident burn ICU nurse, even treated secondary burns on a young boy's shins from a motorcycle accident.  The dental clinic was swamped all day, as well, and treated over 30 patients.  Dr. Mulvany and his team extracted 17 teeth, 2 of which were surgical cases.
Since Novo Remanso is the largest community we'll be visiting this week, we will be returning to the town tomorrow.  After the sun set, we all gathered on the upper deck of the boat to organize the medication and count pills in anticipation of another flood of patients tomorrow.  With Bob Marley playing in the background and bugs dive-bombing us in the dim lighting, there couldn't be a better way to end our first day of clinic in the Amazon.
For more information on International Medical Relief, visit

International Medical Relief has arrived!

From Saturday, October 30
After a full day of traveling, we are thrilled to say that the IMR team to the Amazon has arrived in Manaus, Brazil!  We spent our first day adjusting to "river life" on our boat, the "Linda Esperanca" ("Beautiful Hope" in Portuguese): from the thickness of the hot, humid air to the colorful hammocks strung from the rafters, every detail of our surroundings is a reminder of the amazing week we have ahead.
After getting settled on the boat at 3am last night, this morning was a much-needed opportunity to rest and relax.  Despite airline delays, we were so glad that Andrea finally arrived in Manaus, and soon after her arrival, we began our journey east on the Rio Negro.  About 1.5 hours downstream, we crossed the " meeting of the rivers": an amazing place where two waterways--the dark, muddy waters of the Rio Negro and the lighter Amazon--converge.  For hundreds of yards, the waters remain separate like water and oil... a phenomenon so unique that it is only found one other place in the world.  Today was also our first opportunity to drink in the deep oranges and rusty reds of the Amazon sunset.  All in all, it's been an amazing introduction to life on the river.
The major success of the day, though, has been getting to know the rest of the team--dare I say it, team bonding!  Conversation and laughter are never lacking, and even though we have spent just under a day together, it already feels like we've developed a real sense of comraderie and friendship.  Jed, the Executive Director of Amazon Outreach, promised that we'll be like family by the end of the trip--and I suppose that given our overlapping hammocks and the cozy quarters of the boat, it's only to be expected.
For more information on International Medical Relief, visit