Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mixed Nuts Aug 6 - Final day August 8

Oi (Hi),
This will be the last blog entry for the Mixed Nuts 2013 trip.  The last several days were busy.  
We visited the villages of Divino (which means Divine) and Paraiso (Paradise).  There were many similarities between the two towns that had about 30-32 families in both establshed villages, both with one church, Catholic.  They fish and farm Mandioca, a root that they grow, cut down peel then dry out and cook over large skillets.  It's crunchy farina when finished. 
The morning we visited Divino, it poured right up until when the time came to enter the village, it stopped raining and didn't interfere, but it did provide a cooler day for us.  This village was welcoming and the people friendly.  We did the normal services , dental, medical, men and woman's ministry, teens and of course VBS and eye glasses.  It is nothing short of amazing to watch our group of 5 different states and 3 different denominations come together and work like a well-oiled machine.  Nothing but our Lord can bring stangers together like He has on this trip.  And of course, we can't forget our Brazilian crew and Interpreters, who are now our brothers and sisters.  What wonderful examples of love and service they have been.
Yesterday we were able to take a break and Captain Nilo found us a great spot in the cove just outside Paraiso (if you saw this place you'd know why they call it Paradise!) for us to swim.  All the teenagers and young adults did their best flips and dives off the side of the boat, no pirranha in site (LOL).  Part way through the swim a herd of amazon buffalo decided to take a cool dip as well right off the shore.
At the end of our day in Paraiso we had to say our good byes to Pastor Willer, his wife and their 3 little boys, along with Fernando and Socoro the matriarch and patriarch of the family we were encouraging in Sol Nascente, they came to Paraiso to join us for our last day.   There were tears and hugs and long good byes to our new found friends and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 
Our team gave the crew and interpreters the night off, Gary (our resident chef) took over the kitchen, the teens and young people decorated the boat and we had a party of thanks for our wonderful crew.  We talked and laughed until we finally had to go to our hammocks for our last night sleep in this beautiful place. 
As I write this blog we are cruising west toward Manaus, we plan to visit a floating souvenir store we have come to call "Stuckeys", and then to Manaus.  We will have some time to visit the local shopping before heading to the airport about 9:00 p.m. local time.  We leave Manaus 11:30 p.m. and we will all be back home Friday.   We had a sweet time of sharing and worshiping on the boat this morning, with many tears and words of what God has done on our trip in us and through us.
To God be the glory for the great works He has done.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mixed Nuts Days 4 & 5

Oi (Hi),
We spent Sunday and Monday in the same village Sol Nascente.  Pastor Willer, our trip pastor, has been assigned as the local Pastor in this Village for the next two years.  His goal is to try to establish a Christian community of believers.  He has been here less than a year. 
Since it was Sunday, we attended Sunday school at Pastor Willer's church.  The men, woman, teens and children all split up with the Brazilians and had Sunday school.  It was a blessing to help build up the Christians there trying to minister to their fellow Villagers.  The Village has over 70 families but only 3 families profess to be Christian.  There is a Catholic church but it literally looked like it wasn't cared for.   The villagers told us they rarely hold services.  Someone from the church comes one time a year for a specific feast in May but other than that, there really aren't services. 
We are told this village has been here over 20 years, and much of the trouble started when they sent workers from the city and other places to put in the power lines. They brought with them alot of the problems the village still experiences today.
It was apparent from the time we stepped off the boat that there are problems in this village. We were told later that alcohol, drugs, families breaking up,and young girls having children when they are children themselves plague this village.  We witnessed public drunkeness in some adults and teenagers. The two days spent in this village was different than the past villages.  The lack of the presence of Christians and the effects of Godlessness were tangible, you could feel the oppression and lack of positive Godly influence. 
This village gets health services and financial aid from the Brazilian government.  For a large village we did not have the attendance for medical services and dental as we have in the past two villages, proabably because they do have access to them outside of missionaries.   
VBS was well attended as was the Woman's ministry.  The Woman's ministry meeting offered a testimony and sharing of the gospel to 19 woman.  Men's and teen ministries were held as well.  The Men's meeting discussion was about accepting each other no matter what church or belief they had come from.  The Christians had been persecuted because of their faith.  As we found out the non Catholic Christians are outcasts and teased or verbally antagonized.
Pastor Willer joined us aboard our boat for dinner and sharing.  He broke down as he heard us talk about the challenges we faced over the two days, taking on the immorality, drunkeness and disinterest from the villagers but still having victory in the end with some.  He is struggling to build God's church in this dark place.  We had a sweet time of prayer and encouragement for him this night.
However at the end of the day, doors were opened and hearts softened toward the Lord.  We were able to encourage our brothers and sisters in Sol Nascente.  We promised to pray for them as they try to minister to and change their village
The bright spot of this village visit was being able to encourage and build up the families and specifically one large family where the patriarch of the family, Fernando professed Christ over 18 years ago, his wife, his mother, their grown children and their children are all active and commited to building the Pastor's church.
We had a service outside the Presbyterian church (Pastor Willer's) that because of the persecution isn't called a church, it's actually called a "library".  The setting was incredible, God's glorious nature, the sun setting, God's children worshiping him.  Dogs and chickens wandered in and out as the service continued.  We celebrated the Lord's supper together.  A little taste of what heaven will be like.  Amelia wondered if this was like the Garden of Eden may have been!
We are trusting God for our "second wind" as we are off to the next Village down river, Divino.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

August 3 - Mixed Nuts

Bon Gia (Good Morning),  it's the next day, this blog entry is for yesterday.  We spent the day in the Village called Sororoca, in the same area not very far up the river from the village the day before. 
This village is home for 39 families (70-80 children) and has been around at least 20 years.  We were warmly welcomed.  Like the last village they rely on fishing and farming for their livlihood.  The health of the villagers was good as they also have a Well.   The children attend school in the village, with two of the teachers being the Pastor's wife and the President's wife, there are 5 men who come to teach from the larger village Ururaca.
The President Ardecy and Pastor of one of the churches DeJalma took Phyllis, Gary and Peggy on a tour of the village.  They gathered and gave us Jambo (prounced Joombo) fruit, sort of a cross between a plum and a peach, several cocunuts and limes. 
The highlight of VBS was the skit telling the story in John of the fisherman (disciples) being called by Jesus, while they were fishing.   Nancy and Amelia rounded up 4 "tough" teenage boys from the Village and dressed them up in their costumes, as Mechiel told the story the boys acted (with much coaching from Nancy).  The smaller children got quite a kick out of seeing boys from their village make their debut acting!   Cindy connected with several girl's helping them with their craft.
The pharmacy team, Mary Jo and Gary were consistently busy the entire day, providing antibiotics, vitamins and mild pain relievers for the villagers.  They diligently worked most the day in the high humidity, joyfully serving.
Pete and Joyce fitted and distributed eye glasses and sunglasses to 27 villagers.
Dr. Dja saw 19 patients and performed 40 procedures.  Janet was their faithful assistant and stood all day long holding the light and witnessing each procedure, maybe a new career for her!
Dr. Pablo saw 57 patients. 
Twenty village teenagers listened and interacted as Jamie, Jessica, Anthony shared their experiences as teenagers in America, with Jessica and Anthony giving their testimony's. Five prayed to receive Christ. They then handed out "Courages" banded bracelets for the teens.
Lee and Pastor Willer spoke to Men about the challenges they face in their village and challenges of leading their families.  
10 Women attended the Woman's gathering.  The most influential woman in the village attended...the President's wife, the Catholic Church representative (here it's often a woman) , the Pastor's wife.  We had woman 20 years old up to 78 years old.  We shared the gospel message of faith not works.  We talked about how even if you have faith and believe in Jesus, you still make mistakes but God's forgiveness is available.  One woman Maria remained behind and Phyllis, Grace and Peggy were able to encourage her in her faith and for her to turn back to God in her struggles.  It was heartfelt and we were blessed to be able to encourage  even one of God's faithful.
In the afternoon, Kyle, Jessica, Brent, Gabby and Carlos went for a walk along the beach where they came to some different sand. Kyle tossed in a stick and it was immediately submerged.  He put his foot in and it was up to his knee in no time flat.  About that time Carlos intervened and told them it was real quicksand, just like you see in cartoons or movies!
As we gathered to hear a word from Pastor and pass out family packs, the temperature started to cool down the sun began to set over the hills.   God was showing his Glory in the beautiful creation around us.   The children and teens of the village played soccer with our  Brazilian interpreters, American teens, Mechiel and Jamie (every village has a huge cleared out soccor field!) President Ardecy addressed the gathering and told us we were welcome back anytime to their village.
We began our good bye's and you could feel the change in the village from the time we arrived. What started as a group of people unsure of each other, we ended the day as old friends sad to be saying good bye.   It's amazing each day when we start out unsure of one another and by the end of the day we realize, we are all sons of Adam and Eve and we pray to the same God.
As the captain prepared the boat to push off the shore, several of us stood at the front of the boat.  3 girls, two of them twins came and sat at the shore, singing in English the words from the song taught to them in VBS that day.  They shouted out goodbye's and stayed at the shore until we were almost out of site. 
We enjoyed a great time of good food and worship together and shared the blessings of the day.  Topped off with an alligator hunt hosted by the crew  including Janet, Amelia, Gabby, Nancy, Jessica and two others.  They did bring back a 3 foot alligator! 
It was lights out by 10:00 p.m. as we have another full day of ministering in Pastor Willer's village Sol Nascente, more on that later..... 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mixed Nuts Day 2 -August 2nd

As I write this, it's evening and we are anchored in the middle of the Lake Carara off the shore of the village of Maranhao~.  This village is rolling hills covered with palm trees and beautiful vegetation.  22 families call it home.  They farm watermelon, passion fruit, banana's and whatever seeds they can get they grow.  They share the fruit of their harvest among each other.  The village has been here for about 10 -12 years.
We started the day with worship and devotions and headed into the village to provide Vacation Bible School for 30 children.  The children heard the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  They were given wooden spoons to symbolize how God provides food for their Mothers to prepare.  The plan was for them to give them to their mothers, instead some chose to beat the village cow with them instead!  Kids will be kids no matter where you are in the world!
At the same time we offered eye tests and glasses.  Sixteen villagers were given reading glasses., including an elderly woman wiith double cataracts was given 3+ pair of glasses.  Because this village has a well, Dr. Pablo did not have to treat for parasites.  The medical needs were basic, pain relievers and providing antibiotics and vitamins and medicine for asthma.  Our local dentist Deja saw 21 patients and pulled 30 teeth.
All the woman of the village, 21 in total, attended Woman's Ministry where we shared the love of God.  Peggy and Patricia gave their testimony.  We handed out care packs with kitchen items and toiletries. We had a special package for the oldest and then for the youngest woman in the village, the oldest here was 83 (she told us she has 15 children!) and the youngest 20 with 3 children.
Men's Ministry headed up by Lee, Dr. Pablo and Pastor Willer with 8 men from the village attending.  They discussed the similarities and differences between our two countries and how they are blessed and we were blessed to be there to minister to them.  Dr. Pablo told them they are blessed to not have all the material distractions we have in the U.S., they have more time for God and family.  Dr. Pablo having spent a year in the U.S. knew that first hand.
One elderly man named Glauder was in pain from a childhood injury on his hip.  Lee gathered the teenagers from our group who prayed over him to relieve his pain. The man walked away telling Grace (our interpreter) that his hip was not in pain.
Lee, Phyllis, Peggy and Claudia (interpreter) met over an hour or more with Arcangelo a 25 year old father of 3 children.  We talked about God's love for Him.  His plan of salvation and what it means to have eternal life.  This village only has 1 Christ professing family.  We are praying seeds were planted for Archangel and his family and that God's salvation will come to his home.  We presented him with a bible later in the day and highlighted verses we discussed earlier that day. 
We ended the day with a service in the center of town, most the Villagers came.  Each family received a family pack filled with clothes, flip flops, toilitries, toothbrushes and toys.    The representative, Yolanda,  of their church thanked us and asked us to please return.  We hugged and said our good byes.
As we were preparing to settle in for the night the village fishing boat pulled up to ours and passed over a 5 foot long Piraruccu fish they had caught, they wanted to sell it for $60, Dr. Pablo said that was actually a small one!  They get up to 7 feet long.
Overall, God was glorified and His love shared in many ways on this day.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1st - Greetings from the Amor

Thursday August 1st - Greetings from the Amor Esoeranca!  (please follow the Linda Esperanca blog, as we are told the Amor blog may still not be working). All of our teams coming from Dallas, Los Angeles, Arizona, Kentucky and Tennessee all made it to Miami where we boarded our plane to Manaus. Not only is our group geographically diverse but also diverse denominations, Evangelical, Baptist, Methodist and Prebyterian.  With our youngest Gabby Rielle at 12 on her first mission trip all the way up to Pete and Nancy who are 80 (yes 80) who have been on 34+ mission trips each, our group name "Mixed Nuts" is appropriate!
We breezed through customs to be met by our wonderful Brazilian bothers and sisters who will be our hosts and interpreters for the trip.  For some of us it was a reunion with familiar faces of past trips to this warm and friendly place in the Amazon!   We arrived at the boat about 12:30 a.m. got our hammocks ready, and settled in about 1:00 a.m.  Captain Nelo drove all night headed to the area of Urucara`, as I write this we are still motoring at 2:30 p.m headed East on the Amazon.  It's a beautiful breezy day.
Joining us on our trip is a newly Graduated Dentist, Dr. Dejailson and medical Doctor Pablo, both from Brazil.  We will work with Pastor Willer from the local Presbyterian church to bring hope to the people of the Urucara` (this is the region of the Amazon where we will spend our time here).
We had a wonderful breakfast made by our chef and his two assistants.  We spent the day up to the late afternoon organizing VBS supplies and preparing family packs we will distribute tomorrow at the Village of Maranhao made up of 22 families.  We will distribute these to this needy village as well as do VBS,  Men and Women's ministry, basic medical and dental care..
Our group of people who are all virtually strangers are starting to form a working group already.  Just a little taste of what it will be like in heaven with every nation and tongue will worship Him and serve Him together.  God is already at work and we are eagerly looking forward to serving the people of Maranhao in the morning.