Thursday, August 11, 2011

Prestonwood & 1st Baptist Terrell

DAY 5 (Monday, Aug. 08)

As I write this, it is Wednesday morning, approx. 99 degrees, with a slight breeze. We briefly had rain this past Friday night and last night for about an hour. We are in the dry season, so it will rain less frequently until later in the year. There are only two seasons on the Amazon, dry & wet. The river level fluctuates approximately 30 to 45 feet between these two seasons. Just 150 feet from shore, the river along our journey can be 75 feet deep and drop to around 200 feet in the middle. So it is easy to see how the river remains navigable in the dry season.

Just to recap our Sunday activities, we had a morning Worship Service at Igreja Presbiteriana de Barreirinha (pronounced ge Bahadinya), then after lunch went to the second Church in Nova Con Quista. This second Church is where the water well is being drilled. We received a report that water was reached on Tuesday and they are in the process of cleaning out the well. The residents are very excited about having clean, fresh water. Until now, their water supply has been from an abandoned business near the town and it is has limited availability. The first Church is about a 20 minute walk from the boat and the Church in Nova Con Quista is about a 40 minute walk from the boat. After the first walk though, one of the leaders on our team got smart and contracted with one of the locals to transport the team and supplies each morning, afternoon, and evening. The truck wasn't big enough though, so some still got their exercise. Our trip sponsor, Ron Kelley, has labeled this trip a "Cooper Fitness friendly" trip. We spent about 3 hours Sunday afternoon in Nova Con Quista dedicating the Church and conducting medical & dental, and VBS for the children.


DAY 6 (Tuesday, Aug. 09)

The key word for our team has been flexibility, as plans often need to change with each new day…or hour, in response to the needs of four villages we have scheduled to visit. We mentioned in our Day Three blog entry that enough money was raised for two Churches and a water well, but the actual number is 5 Churches and a water well.

Church 1 Igreja Presbiteriana de Barreirinha

Church 2 Igreja Presbiteriana de Nova Con Quista and water well

Church 3 Igreja Presbiteriana de Terra Preta

Church 4 Igreja Batista de Barreira To Agira' (pronounced ge Badayda Tu Ahjir-ah')

Church 5 Igreja Batista de Castanho (pronounced ge Castanyo)

We spent Tuesday in Terra Preta (a little further from Manaus{pronounced Manows'} than Barreirinha), where a third Church (Igreja Presbiteriana de Terra Preta) is being built. Both the second and third Church have walls and a roof, but need the walls finished with stucco, painted, and the electrical wiring installed. As with most mission trips, there is more to be done than is physically possible. Since much of the construction work on these five Churches is done, our team has been able to minister directly to the people. Four groups of three people visited homes in Terra Preta to witness and tell people about the new Church. Other ministry activities included medical and dental, Vacation Bible School, pharmacy, and fitting people with eye glasses. All of these are standard ministry activities on any Amazon Outreach mission trip. This past Saturday, all clothes and toys were divided and placed into 230 plastic bags, which were then given out in Terra Preta at the conclusion of a Church Service. In Barreirinha, about 50 people were fitted for new reading glasses and in Terra Preta, 42 people were fitted with new reading glasses. Our prayer is that this makes it easier for them to read God's word. Also, on this day, several team members took a small boat to the fourth Church to check on its progress, but our team was not able to conduct mission activities at this Church. Only the walls are up.

As of the end of Tuesday's ministry activities, approximately 100 people have made decisions for Christ through personal witnessing and Church Service invitations. Pastor Mario and his ministry team plan to follow up on all people making decisions in the coming weeks.


DAY 7 (Wednesday, Aug. 10)

We began our journey to the fifth Church site last night and expect to arrive in Castanho on Thursday night which gives our team time to catch up on the blog. With our first three Church sites, we traveled east from Manaus, to arrive in Terra Preta (about a 12 hour boat ride). Castanho is about 6 hours by boat west of Manaus. Before anchoring just east of Manaus we enjoyed a time of fellowship and devotion. We assessed our trip to this point and Pastor John reminded us all that this mission trips may begin far beyond the US boarders, but the purpose is to take these experiences with us and back to America and be a better witness day to day and not just trip to trip.


DAY 8 (Thursday, Aug. 11)

Travel from Manaus to Castanho




DAY 9 (Friday, Aug. 12)

Planned is a full day of ministry and conclude the day with a Church Service.

Travel through out the night and arrive in Manaus on Saturday morning.


DAY 10 & 11 (Saturday & Sunday, Aug. 13 & 14)

Leave Manaus at 3:10 pm, Saturday for Estados Unido; Arrive in Miami around 8:30 pm

Brief overnight stay in Miami

Leave Miami at 6:20 am, Sunday; Arrive Charlotte, NC around 8:25 am

Leave Charlotte around 9:30 am, Sunday; Arrive DFW around 11:06 am, Central Time

Monday, August 8, 2011

Prestonwood & 1st Baptist Terrell

Sorry for the delay in blogging post. Believe it or not, it's not easy as we thought to get signals and send out information via the world wide web from a river in the middle of the Amazon. This may be our only post, but we are grateful to be able to send this out and let our friends and family know we are doing well, and creating waves here on the Amazon. Who knows, maybe we will be up and running from each village from here on out. Regardless of our future posting activities, be assured we are taking lots of pictures and collecting many stories to share when we return. In the meantime, here are a few stories to tide us over until our return…

DAY 1 and 2 :The journey to the Amazon began long before August 4th. This trip involves more than the 30+ people on this boat. We've spent months preparing. Friends and family have spent time, money, and above all, prayer to make this mission possible. It's hard to describe in detail the impact each of those contribution have made in this mission, but it's a living breathing gift here on the Amazon making changes far before we arrived, and with God's will, remaining years after we leave.

Our group met at DFW August 4th, this is where our ministry would begin as we attempted to make our way through airport check in and convince the agents our shots were accurate, our luggage was acceptable, and our body parts all pass inspection. This is also where we made some of our first friends. TSA Agents. There are pictures involved. Perhaps we can sell some of the evidence to raise funds for our next Amazon trip.

After some of us (fill in the blank if you have a friend on this trip) tried asking the TSA Agents to a dinner and movie after close encounters, we took a flight to Miami, stayed overnight in MIA airport, and journeyed 5 hours to Manaus, Brazil.

Minus one bottle of hot sauce, everything and everyone arrived safely.

We set sail up the river, eating, trying out hammocks, meeting up with are a Brazilian translator…or on a few occasions babysitters (it all depends on who they tag along with on any given day), but most importantly-new friends. Around 7, we were treated to a friendly pirate invasion via our sister boat from Amazon Outreach. More translators hopped aboard.

The Village Church sponsored a trip that was returning, and the boats allowed us the opportunity to float side by side, hop over railings and greet new friends. It was a sweet reminder that each journey is a part of a bigger story here on the Amazon River as we seek to reach the villages up and down this amazing place and bring them the truth of the Gospel and the promises God's love can provide in our lives, regardless of where we are living those lives.


After a small storm and a swinging sleep we woke up early to the sunrise, and…more food. We passed small villages, small huts with people coming out to see what our boat was doing as we passed by, and many…many heads of cows. We spent the morning unpacking the clothes, shoes, hats, glasses, and goodies we brought with us and shuffling them into family size bags to give out later at the villages. We also launched balloons filled with information about our visit, and candy to some of the villages we passed that we are planning on heading back towards as our mission continues. The local children swam up to grab up these goodies, and we hope to see these faces in a few days.

The first village we arrived in is actually a large city by the Amazon's standards. Enough money was raised (Most of this a la Bill Blythe) to build two churches and a well in this village. We left the boat and made the first of many…many…many long and hot walks to the church. It's another reminder of how different life is for so many people on this earth, and we are reminded of just how grateful we are for a breeze, much more the luxuries of air conditioning that so many who came on this trip get to enjoy daily. Seeing the church, and meeting the people make this all worth it. It's important to stop and pause for a minute and just say, there is a lesson to be learned in giving and receiving that is so very visible in a place like the Amazon. We've taken many pictures of these churches, and they are true jewels in these villages. Amazon Outreach is run through donations, donations are raised by people brave enough to ask, bother, stalk….whatever the term is, but after seeing the impact, and the difference those dollars, clothing, and candy make, be warned, many of us will be banging on your door, asking for your support with future endeavors.

We spent the afternoon walking through the village and meeting the members in the community. Each group traveled with a member of the team who can speak Portuguese. Americans are a rare site, and half of the battle to launch conversations is conquered in citizenship alone.

It goes without saying it could not be done without so many willing to join this boat who can speak Portuguese. Their passion for the people of the Amazon is humbling, and learning is being accomplished through our visits, but also the friends we are making who are going on this journey with us.

We spent the evening at the first of three evening services the church held, this was the launch to open the church.

The church asked the Americans to come and sing a few songs, and we managed to stumble through a few songs. Translations were made on both sides as various groups got up to speak, preach, and preach some more. We discovered there is a universal beat we can keep without translation while singing, and regardless of the words being said, you can feel a pastor's passion for the word through his tone. This village is very alive. There was a special guest singer who attended the service who had written a song for Bill Blythe. He was able to gather support from many people back home to not only build the church, but provide musical instruments for worship. One of the church members called Bill Pastor Papa, many who know and love Bill call him Papa, he assured us he has been called many things in his life, but this is the first time he's been called "Pastor." As his friends, somehow Papa merged into PooPoo via translations and accents, and Pastor PooPoo was born. We promise to bring Bill back from the village, but his honorary title is reserved only for his trips below the equator, one can only imagine where this could take him if we let it continue much further. After much laughing, and singing, we came back to rest and do it all again on Sunday.


We spent the entire day serving two villages in the same docking site on Sunday. We attended the morning service at the same church from our first day, and provided Vacation Bible School activities for the students during worship. After a long walk and a quick lunch we visited another village whose church walls have risen, and the first water well is being drilled as we blog. While some members stayed to bless the church, many of us also went outside and conducted our second Vacation Bible School of the day. Our best count is around 300 children attended, listened to stories, created crafts, and then were fed hot dogs and juice. The children were very engaged and well behaved. Many of the mothers attended the event with their children, and a group provided hair cuts to these parents. A dentist and a doctor also travel with the Amazon mission trips, and free services were offered to this village to try to better their lives in some way. We went back to the first church for evening service, and the process began again on Day 5. In many ways the routines have been the same the first few days in this village, but each person has new stories, and new chapters to add to their testimonies. Some of us even have a few new trade skills-nail painting, face painting, hair cutting….

Tomorrow we will be heading on to the second of four stops we are planning on making on this trip. We are each looking forward to sharing our travels on an even more personal and individual basis. Please keep us, and most importantly those we visit, in your prayers as we are given the opportunity to meet, greet, and grow in Christ with each other and the villages of the Amazon.