The highlight of my trip!


From Friday until Sunday I had the pleasure of joining in with the biannual meeting of the Confederation of Youth of the Methodist Church Brazil. They were meeting at the National Headquarters, Sao Paolo, and the agenda included structure and organisation, youth training and mission projects for this coming      year. The group consists of the executive – a President (Renato), Vice President (Sinval), Secretary (Cacau), Finance Officer (Simone) and Communication Officer (Julio) – and a president and/or vice president of each of the 8 regions.
 

The Confederation covers the 18-35 age group, so significantly different from the Children and Youth remit of GB which is up to 23 years. The Confederation is the national body, and each region has a Federation. The executive serve for 5 years and the regional people for two, although they can be re-elected.  Their vision is “Being young people committed to the Methodist Church fulfilling their prophetic role in society and in the Church's decisions, reflecting the unity of the Body of Christ” and the team’s theme for this five years is “Connected to Serve”. They have a lovely attitude of serving and wanting to not just pick the easy bits of God’s calling; prosperity theology is common in Brazil and Latin America in general where status is very important. They are all volunteers and extremely dedicated and hardworking. They are doing a wonderful job with little resources compared to Great Britain and no paid national children and youth staff. In fact, it is unknown to have paid youth, children's or family workers in churches or the community in Brazil which really surprised me - the job just doesn't exist. I would love to see an increase in investing in children and young people in this way in the future in Brazil - perhaps the Methodist Church could lead the way?!
 
 

Most of them have known each other and been working together for a number of years so they are good friends and laughter regularly run around the room. It wasn’t a sort of friendship that excludes new people though – in fact I felt completely welcome and comfortable. It’s strange how strong the inclination to laugh when a whole room is laughing is, even when you don’t know why everyone is laughing!

I didn’t attend all the parts of the meetings as they had a lot of business to get through and some just wasn’t necessary for me to be involved in, so I had the luxury of catching up on sleep and emails, and Skyping some family and friends, which was really nice.  The Confederation looked after me really well!

On Friday night I joined a meeting with the ‘Malta’ section of the Confederation. Malta is the mission branch of the Confederation. They are currently planning mission activities during the Confederation Cup (June 2013) and the World Cup (June & July 2014) and I was able to tell them about the missional activities of the church in Great Britain during the Olympics and Paralympics, speaking about national events I’d heard of and on a more personal level of my experiences through my in depth involvement with Refresh, an ecumenical project in Weymouth and Portland (sailing events venue). Got really great feedback and they said it had really inspired them about what a great opportunity sporting events are and how much we can do to bless, engage with and show God’s heart to our communities and visitors.

On Saturday I had the opportunity to talk to the whole group about the Methodist Church in Great Britain and ended up talking for two hours!! I expected I’d only last an hour – can’t believe I had that much information in my brain! Just shows how things sink in when you are in an environment consistently and for a while.  I covered general recent history, national structure, my role, the Connexional team, children and youth work including the Youth Participation Strategy, 3Generate, the Reps, the One Programme, the vision of the church, Venture FX, the development of the Learning Network and the general current situation of Christianity in the UK.
 
 
They asked a number of questions and I really hope the time was interesting and useful. I’ve certainly found it both interesting and useful learning about how the Confederation works and about the Methodist Church in Brazil and the ‘Christian scene’ generally. As I’ve seen things done differently I’ve felt both the warm glow of appreciation at what we have, and pangs of jealousy when things are done better – and challenge is good and inspiring so I am thankful for that. I think it’s really good and important to step out of your bubble once in a while so you can see what others are like, and consequently really see what YOU are like.

On Sunday we got to the really exciting bit – talking about how young people in Brazil and Great Britain can partner together. Loads of great ideas, some simple yet effective and some way out there! Watch this space J

My time with the Confederation has been my favourite part of my trip to Brazil – quite a big statement when I think about the crazy adventures I’ve had here! However cool flying over the Sahara Desert or canoeing down the Amazon is, what I really love is being creative with other people about something that I am passionate about. It was a joy to spend time with young people who love being together, love God and love their country and their church. Seeking the Kingdom with great friends – I think it’s one of the best things in life and it’s great to see it happening in the Confederation of Youth of the Methodist Church in Brazil. I’m glad to have made some new friends and am thankful for the inspiration and challenge God has given me through my time with them.

On the topic of friends, and with the fact that being away from home can make you feel a bit sentimental, I’m also really thankful for the friends that I have made in the Methodist Church in Great Britain, of all ages and from all sorts of places. As a relative ‘newbie’ to all this, it really means a lot when people help me understand something or tell me I am doing a good job as it can all be rather overwhelming. The thoughtful messages I have had from numerous people and prayers of which I have been ensure have encouraged me so much these past 3 weeks, and I’m really grateful. (And of course I appreciate the love and prayers of non-Methodist friends!!)

God, I pray that you would help us to strengthen and deepen our relationships with others, those on our doorsteps, those we love,  those we struggle to get along with, and those across the other side of the world.  Through these relationships may we learn to become more like you Jesus.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend”

Proverbs 27:17

Manaquiri and being a tourist in Manaus


Thursday was another early morning, leaving at 5.45am to catch a 6.45am boat. We were going to visit a small church in Manaquri. Manaquiri is a largish town near Manaus, accessible by a 2 hour boat ride. You can drive but it's a difficult journey that way. Thankfully the boat today was not a habita (enough of those adventures yesterday!) but a proper chug chug chugging boat holding about 30 people.  Travel by river is very common in the Amazonas region as it is a comparably cheap way of getting around. Despite it being 6am when we got there the area around the dock was very busy and noisy with loads of people setting up market stalls or running to catch a boat with belongings balanced on their heads.
 
Busy Manaus dock

Megabus Amazon style!

2 hours later we arrived in Manaquiri, where I was very thankful to see proper buildings, as this meant proper toilets! There were also lots of cars, and helpful moterbike taxi service from the dock (which you couldn't have paid me enough to use!). Saw one lady hop on holding a tiny baby - no helmets on anyone - madness!

Manaquiri is a community that has been visited numerous times in the past 10 years by the Hospital Boat, with people becoming Christians through the evangelism they do. However, there had never been a Methodist Church here despite it being a fairly sizeable place, so there was no ongoing support and discipleship. Last year the Bishop challenged the local pastors to look into planting some sort of church in Manaquiri. There is now a church of about 40 adults and 23 children led by a lay leader called Wagner.




They were extremely proud to show us their register book in which they write the name and date of birth of each person who becomes a church member. Vast majority people born in the 80s or 90s - the church here is very young in comparison to in Great Britain. We spent the morning with Alberto and his wife chatting, looking around their shop and visiting the rented building which they use for church. They are hoping to build a new church building as this one really isn't up to scratch and is costing them a lot of money to rent. They struggle financially as a small church with no local minister and little financial support from other churches and I heard many of the same questions and worries that I hear in the UK - are we really ever very different? We prayed for them and Karla, who works with the Bishop, was able to give some helpful input from a practical point of view.



We rounded off our short time in Maniquiri by having lunch at Wagner and his wife's house (3 rooms with 6 children age 6 - 17! Lots of fun!). They had been out fishing a few days before and caught over 200 fish - I told Alberto he should give my dad some tips! The fish were kept in a big box of ice in the same room as the toilet - have you ever been to the toilet with a toothy piranha watching you?!


I happened to be looking out of the window at the right time on the boat trip back and saw the famous Meeting of the Waters, the point where the black waters of the Negro River and the brown waters of the Solimoes River meet and begin to run side by side without mixing for about 9km. It was a bizarre and interesting site and I'm glad I saw it - blink and you would have missed it as we crossed over it very quickly. You can see it very clearly on Googlemaps (https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&tab=wl)



Once back in Manaus we switched to tourist mode. We went to the market and bought some very stereotypical souvineers - indigenous wood carvings of fat tribal leaders wearing loin cloths and the like. It almost felt disrespectful to buy these things after getting to know real local people - really strange. Hope it is good for their economy.


Our final stop was the Amazonas Opera House, a beautiful huge theatre built with English bricks, French glass and Italian marble. Not what you'd expect to find in the busy, sweaty, shouty city of Manaus to be honest. It's a stunning place, naturally cool inside, luxurious in every aspect, made with beautiful craftmanship - including nearly 200 chandeliers. It was built during the rubber boom in the 1880s when Manaus (quite successfully for a short while) aimed to become the Paris of South America.


Our visit to the Opera House quite delighfully coincided with that of a group of about 100 German package holiday tourists, mostly in their later years and looking wonderfully out of place and foreign. I felt positively local compared to them, with my 15 Portuguese words and slightly less gigantic rucksack. Nice to hear a familiar language as I speak some German and I think confused some of them by eagerly talking to them in the ladies loos.

Then home for a shower and to repack before another early night as leaving at 4am to fly to Sao Paolo. Very sunburnt at the end of this day, despite multiple applications of sun cream, going in the shade whenever available, and carrying an umbrella for the latter part! After 2 weeks of avoiding it I look like a tomato coloured British tourist - there goes my pride from the experience with the German tourists. I am no match for the Brazilian sun it seems.

An Amazon Adventure

Pushing a VW campervan down a hill in Manaus at 4.45am to bump start it is not how I ever imagined I’d start a day – and little did I ever imagine the following events of that day! This was the start of our journey to visit a riverside community deep in the Amazon. We joined a man called George who has travelled into the rainforest on a weekly basis for two years building a relationship with the people in one particular area, telling them the message of good news in Jesus Christ, and walking with them in the journey of living as disciples of Jesus and becoming ‘church’.

We drove for 3 hours – the last hour of which, a VW campervan is in no way designed for! I honestly can’t believe how far we go in that van, but time and time again the campervan proved my doubts wrong. After being thrown around the van, it was actually nice to discover that the road had been broken up by recent rain and we would have to walk the rest of the way. We walked for around an hour, first along something like roads, then as we went further into the rainforest, weaving between trees, squelching through mud and balancing on logs across waterlogged ground.  We discovered that we were going to take a boat to get to the riverside community, and waited for the boat at a lady called Josephine’s house. Met some jungle chickens!
 
Four of us perched on two benches in the first little canoe, plus George manning the engine at the back and Josephine manning the paddle at the front!



The canoe took us down little rivers which broke through dense rainforest, trees often touching overhead. The sound of the rainforest around us was amazing - a constant cacophany of who knows what creatures. The rivers are very shallow in some places so a small canoe type boat, called a ‘habita’ is the only kind that can be used. The water is just a couple of centimetres lower than the edge of the boat so you have to sit very still so it doesn’t rock, and you have to bail water out regularly. A motor can be used most of the time, but the paddle is crucial to avoid the random branches sticking out, and to go around the sharp corners. At one point we got stuck on a tree, and George had to get in the water to shove us off. When the shoved, the boat tipped, water poured in and I nearly fall out! Big gasp, life flashing before my eyes, but luckily George steadied the boat quickly and I got away with just one very wet leg! Having visited the Amazon room at the Sealife Centre, I was very keen NOT to go in that water!



The Methodist Church in Brazil has committed to buying 25 habita boats, which cost £230 each, and giving them to missionaries to travel into the Amazon and meet with the communities there. George will be one of the missionaries to benefit from being given one of these boats. Up until now he has had very little support from his church so he made contact with the Methodist Church who are keen to support him both by providing a boat and in other ways. This project is in the very early days and our visit was the first time the Methodist Church in Brazil had visited the community so a very exciting time to be there. The photo below shows George and a habita.
 
We expected the boat trip to take about 10 minutes ... 1 ½ hours later we arrived, very numb in certain places! The river had widened out and more resembled a lake at this point. We jumped out and went to meet the community. We were meeting in the house of one of the families – a really cool house on stilts. When it’s the rainy season, the river comes up very high, so they build up!

 
We arrived at 10.30am and stayed for 3 hours, first of all looking around the house and getting to know the people (about 10 including children) and waiting for the second habita to arrive. When it came, we have a sort of church service, where we each introduced ourselves (and I gave the customary gift of a box of toffee from Weymouth with greetings from the Methodist Church in Great Britain!), then Pastor Juliao gave a sermon. As part of this he told us that when Leo Osborne (ex President of Conference) had visited Manaus he had spoken with him about the dream of starting a project working in the hard -to-reach communities of the Amazon, but had no idea of how this would be possible. Then George got in touch and now just one year later the project is underway. Pastor Juliao encouraged the community telling them ‘you are the fruit of the dreams in our heart. You are a gift from God’. It was lovely to see these people being told that they were valued as they spend much of their life cut off from the rest of the world. Then we prayed, they took up an offering which they asked me to pray for, and they shared some testimonies with us. One gentleman told us about how he used to drink a lot and wander around the rainforest, not letting his family know where he was going or when he’d be back. One time he was drunk in his boat and he started seeing things, thinking he was being chased by policemen, and he fell out of the boat. Later he woke up under a tree with no injuries. He said ‘God had saved me. I am very grateful to God and the church for all you have done for me, it has changed my life. Now I am safe.’  A lady told us about how when her son was little he became very sick, and they were very worried because they live far from Manaus. She had heard something about Jesus, but didn’t know him, but she prayed and asked him to save her son, and he got better and is now 5 years old and totally healthy. She cried as she told this emotional story, and said to us ‘I will never leave God’. It was amazing to hear these stories and know that God is doing really great and loving things in people’s lives in places I’ve never even heard of! I think God is so kind to us.
 
We travelled back the same way, but with an extra two people in the boat for some of the journey, which really scared me as the boat was so low in the water and nobody could move for fear of it tipping. Thank God we got back safely. It poured with rain on the way - rain in the rainforest! Then the long walk, and the long drive. We got back to our host families house at 6.30pm, exhausted, aching, dirty and smelly. I Skyped with my lovely husband then we went out to this amazing pizza restaurant where the waiters walk around and bring never ending pizza to the table. And the best thing was, they had sweet pizza! It was AMAZING! Pizza with banana and toffee, pizza with pineapple and some sweet saucy stuff, pizza with chocolate and finally pizza with a scoop of ice cream. A very good ending to an adventurous day!

Manaus Methodist Camp, the Hospital Boat, and the value of volunteers.

Manaus is the biggest city and the capital of the state of Amazonas with a population of 1.2, 2 or 3 million people, depending on who you ask! It is a vast, sprawling city very unlike the perfectly designed Boa Vista. As we drove from the airport to the Methodist Camp it was clear that in some areas roads and buildings are of good quality, but in many they are not. A car with 4 wheel drive seems a necessity! In Methodist geographical terms, Manaus is part of the REMA region – one of two ‘missionary regions’ in Brazil, which are given extra support from other regions and the national headquarters in recognition of their pioneering work. There are now six churches in Manaus – 2 of about 120 members, and 4 smaller church plants. One interesting historical point is that both the USA and Korea (not specified North or South!) did missionary work in this area, so buildings or projects can often be traced back to one or the other of them, including both of the larger churches.
The Methodist Camp was built by the Korean Methodist Church for Central Methodist Church Manaus. Central Methodist Church has two camps there per year and other groups also use the camp. It is directly next to one of the rivers and surrounded by beautiful rainforesty vegetation.
 
After a lifetime of camping with my family, girl guides, the Camping and Caravanning club, and various churches, it was cool to experience Camp Amazon-style! It chucked it down with rain and most of the electricity went out – leading to muddy campers eating dinner in the dark! Proper camping J This particular camp was one they have during Brazil’s annual ‘Carnaval’. Methodists (and I think Christians in general) in Brazil don’t tend to participate in Carnaval seeing it as a negative time of excessive drinking and unhealthy relationships. During our short time at the camp we had yummy dinner, watched a muddy game of football, saw a hilarious but very confusing (for me anyway) camp talent show, and joined with the church in a time of passionate prayer and worship. It was fab to see the (mostly young) people there really going for it, particularly when praying for their communities and country – it really challenged me about how seriously I take prayer and the effort that I put into praying for our world.
 
The next day, Tuesday, we visited the Hospital Boat. As the name suggests, it’s a boat which is a hospital. It was bought 10 years ago and paid for by the USA Methodist Church but now responsibility has passed over to the Brazilian Methodist Church. The boat is moored on the Taruma  river and travels down the rivers in the Amazon visiting tiny riverside communities which are pretty much cut off from the rest of the world. It administers vaccines, treats a variety of illnesses and health problems, and also has the facilities for dentistry. Volunteers come from Brazilian churches and overseas to spend a week on the boat; some medical professionals, others people who chat to the communities about God, play with the kids, etc.  Jan – March the boat goes out once a month and April – October it goes out 3 times a month. In 2011-2012 36 villages were visited with 17,000 people given medical treatment. The church has a good relationship with the government, which is necessary to do this work – they could easily tell them to stop. However the government appreciates the good work being done, and even sends a member of their health team on each trip.
After this we visited two Methodist Churches – one of the larger ones and one of the smaller ones. The smaller one is based in a deprived community rife with drugs and violence. We met with the Pastor, Katia who shared her heart with us, talking about her dreams for the church and the area, and also the struggles she is experiencing in this work. When Katia arrived 4 years ago the church was in a sorry state – there had been some issues with three consecutive church leaders and the church had been abandoned and had a very bad name in the neighbourhood, receiving regular threats. The church has grown but is still pretty small, with less than 30 members. However, Katia is running a successful and worthwhile ministry among children and young people, with 50-70 children enrolled in the ‘Shade and Fresh Water’ project which provides education and healthy food, and 150 teenagers attending a programme educating them about the dangers of drug abuse. I asked Katia who helps her run these programmes, and she introduced her to her one helper. That’s right, just one. I could hardly believe this, so I asked Flavia, who translates for me, about it. She explained that in Brazil they don’t have a culture of volunteering and social responsibility in the same way that we do in Great Britain – ‘in Great Britain children are brought up with a heart to help other people, but that doesn’t happen here’. Even in churches, volunteering is not a part of the everyday culture. It broke my heart to realise that Katia does so much good work with so little support from her congregation. We’re quick enough to moan that we work too hard, that we don’t have enough helpers, but really we are so blessed to have a culture of volunteering, and an understanding that using our time for the benefit of others is a part of our calling as Christians and a part of our discipleship. I thank God for every person who makes the snacks for the kids club , or hands out the hymn books, or does maintenance on the building. Thank God for all those who use their gifts for our church and our communities. Imagine working with 150 young people who are possibly involved in drug taking and violent behaviour, and having just one helper. We prayed for Katia and I assured her that people in the Great Britain (and around the world) would pray for her when I told them about her (I hope you will, now that I’ve said it!!).
 
 
Tuesday also involved a stop off at a road side stall selling gorgeous tropical fruit, most of which I’d never seen before, and barbequing a massive fish for lunch!!

 

Some resting, some laughing and some visiting in Boa Vista


Sunday 10th was a rest day. We slept in, had breakfast, and generally relaxed for most of the day with our lovely host family. What energised me the most wasn’t sleeping in or lounging in the hammock (although enjoyable!) but being silly on the Just Dance and Guitar Hero playstation games with the 2 daughters of the family, Lais (15) and Lara (7). We laughed a lot trying to understand each other.  For ages Lara didn’t seem to understand that I couldn’t understand her and was jabbering away in Portuguese. Then she started repeating what she had said really loudly and slowly to me – classic! Lais is learning English at school, and their parents knew a bit, so with that and a lot of miming we laughed our way through the day. It was a lot of fun and so good to really laugh. We had a delicious barbeque for lunch -good food and nice people!
 
In the afternoon we went to visit the local military barracks which has a sort of zoo, with animals which they find injured in the rainforest. In the evening we went to church. It was good to see a worship team which included people from age about 10 up. The highlight for me was the song they do at the beginning of the service, where everyone hugs everyone else in the church! This had happened at the youth service the day before, but I had thought it was a one off. Apparently it is a common feature. No awkward hugs either – proper, friendly, smiley hugs J I love it! As usual, I had the opportunity to introduce myself and bring greetings from the Methodist Church in Great Britain, and I also gave them a small gift – a tea towel from London!

After saying goodbye to our host family, taking photos and exchaning contact details, we had a city tour and went to a very touristy gift shop with indigenous style souvenirs before catching our flight in the afternoon. Boa Vista is a planned city – all designed before being built. It has a grassy space in the centre, surrounded by government and law type buildings, then shops, then residential areas spreading out from there. It’s a really nice city – I much preferred it to the busyness of Rio. I think I am made for a quieter life!

Flying over the Amazon was amazing – I thought it looked like fields of broccoli! I managed to hop on the internet to post a blog at breakneck speed, then we went straight to Manaus Methodist Camp. I will try to post about the Methodist camp and the things we visited in Manaus tomorrow – but now I must go to sleep as it’s nearly  22.30 here and we leave at 4.45am to visit a river community. Must remember to take travel sickness pills as we will travel 3 hours by car then onwards by boat!
 

Maruwai - Indiana Hayley


Before I came to Brazil Rev Tom Quenet, the World Church Relations team member who has very brilliantly organised my trip, told me that the trip to the Maruwai community would be an ‘Indiana Hayley’ experience! He was certainly telling the truth! The last 2 days have been a real adventure. We arrived in Boa Vista, a city in Amazon region in the North of Brazil, at 5.30am on Friday having flown overnight. Unfortunately I left my camera on the plane (I think – I was half asleep and concentrating on remembering my passport) and Flavia’s luggage didn’t arrive (it eventually arrived 2 days later!). We gained 2 hours because of the time difference so it was 3.30am local time. We expected to be able to rest in the morning but plans changed (as they do in Brazil – ‘you must to be flexible!’)  so we were up at 7am to travel to the Maruwai community of the Macuxi tribe, a remote village in the Amazon region. Our group now included myself, Flavia (translator), Pastor Dimanei (a pastor in Boa Vista) and Karla (a young women who works with the Bishop of the Amazon – her role is strengthening partnerships with mission projects). We travelled by Landrover to the Maruwai community, a 150 kilometre journey which took around 4 hours on a very bumpy road/track. It wasn’t what I imagined the Amazon is like – not jungley like you see on TV, more wide open grassy plains with mountains in the distance. Apparently about half of the Amazon region is like that and half is jungle. We went through rivers, over rocks, through scrubby fields – it was a very cool but bouncy journey!

 

Upon arrival we were greeted by Pastor Cize, first native pastor of the Methodist Church in Brazil and the spiritual leader of the Maruwai community, and Nathaniel, the political leader of the community. There are 188 people in the Maruwai community including about 40 children. They live in traditional huts with brick walls and roofs made out of some sort of woven plant – they have to rebuild these huts every 5 years.

 

Each hut is home to about 9 people. Pastor Cizi came to the Maruwai community many years ago to tell them the gospel; the community has responded over the years to the message of the gospel and now 95% of the tribe are Christians and members of the Methodist Church. Not really what I expected to find after travelling for 4 hours to a remote Amazonian tribe!!! It’s amazing how far the family of God stretches.
 


There are approximately 3000 Methodist Church members in the Amazon region (REMA), which is seen as one of the two missionary regions in the country – these are given extra help and support from the other regions and the National Headquarters. Maruwai has benefitted from a well, pump and water tank being built in the village. I asked Pastor Cize what difference the well had made to the life of the people, and he told me ‘We have clean water to drink, we have better health, we can take a shower, we can grow crops. It makes everything different for us, because everything depends on water.’

 

We were warmly welcomed by the community and were blessed with lovely food, many hugs and kisses and readiness to smile for photos! There were children everywhere, ranging from gorgeous chubby babies to football playing little boys to typically embarrassed teenagers. The tribe used to be bigger, over 200, but a few passed away and some moved out to the city. Pastor Cize is aiming to hit a target of 200 people again, and 2 of his daughters-in-law are pregnant, so they’re on the way!

 

On Friday we had some lunch, set up our hammocks and rested for a couple of hours. I had a battle with my hammock and my mosquito net, as the mosquito net is designed for a single bed and just generally a really rubbish design! I was pretty worried as we were sleeping outside and in the Amazon, so it was important for me to try to protect myself. I spent about an hour trying to make the net cover the hammock and eventually managed to make it almost, pretty much, kind of cover the hammock (with some big gaps at the side!). It got to the point where I thought this is the absolute best I can do, God will have to protect me!

 

After our rest we visited the water pump and joined a church service. The service was very loud and full of passion. The worship was all in Portuguese and they don’t have song words so I had no chance of joining in, so I just made up my own words. I’d really struggled with the language barrier all that day as Flavia can’t translate everything so 80% of the time I have no idea what’s going on, which is very frustrating. It’s also very true that everything is worse when you’re tired! So it was lovely to spend some time with God and be reminded of the connection that I have with these people that transcends linguistic and cultural differences.

It was difficult to get to comfortable and go to sleep in the hammock (I must have annoyed everyone else by being the wriggliest hammock sleeper ever) but once I did I slept well. On Saturday we had some breakfast then were joined by about half of the tribe in an opportunity for them to ask questions about Great Britain and the British Methodist Church – but they were quite shy so we ended up mainly talking about the Maruwai tribe; things like their way of life, their dreams of mission to other tribes, their plans for discipleship, and whether they feel part of the wider Methodist church family in Brazil and the world. It was exciting to hear of their passion to tell the other tribes about the gospel; this is very difficult because of the distance and the terrain, but they are determined, and the Methodist Church Brazil is hoping to raise money to provide them with a suitable truck. There were mixed feelings on the question of connection to the wider Methodist Church – it is something they feel they need to develop, with more effort both from them and from other people. If they are able to get the truck it will greatly help as they can travel more easily to Boa Vista. Pastor Cize finished by saying ‘we are members of the Methodist Church in Brazil, in England and around the world. And that’s all I have to say!!’.

 

We had a time of worship (action songs exist in Portuguese and Makoshai too!), I gave some gifts to the tribe, then we took some group photos. Lots of people wanted their photo taken with ‘a Inglesa!’ – the English person!
 


After lunch we set of home – unfortunately the boat which took us over one part of the river on the way there had broken, so we had to go an alternative way, turning our journey from 140km to 400km!!! Pastor Dimanay was a hero driving us all that way safely. When we got back we had a quick shower, some food, went to a great youth service at one of the churches in Boa Vista, then gladly fell into bed at our new host family’s home.

 

Rio de Janeiro - day 2


We left bright and early this morning to make the journey to the InhoaĆ­ba neighbourhood. In England this journey would have taken less than an hour but here it took over too – I do not love Rio traffic! Flavia, who is accompanying me on the trip and translating, drove us there, I’m glad it wasn’t my job!

First we went to LAMAG which is a centre which cares for elderly people. It was in an amazing setting – lush tropical greenery in the grounds of the centre and mountains crowned by misty clouds surrounding it. The centre has space for 22 residents but there are currently only 6 there because the government instructed them to do some maintenance work, which is completed, but the government is being very slow to verify it. The centre is completely funded by the Methodist Church. We said hello to the residents with a kiss and a hug. The staff told us they very rarely get visited by their families – most don’t even ever ring to see how they are. Once a resident was bought by a man who said he was going to get the rest of her belongings and never came back – the elderly lady was there for 20 years!! Another story was that someone rang to ask how their grandmother was, and was told that she had died 3 years ago. People from the 1st Methodist Cathedral in Rio especially give a lot of support to the centre, both financially and with visits. It was very well staffed with a wide variety of carers and on site medical professionals, necessary to fulfil government criteria.  The residents feel safe because there is everything they need there at the centre. The staff become like a new family for them. The picture below shows a lady called Maria, aged 86, who seemed very excited to meet someone from England!
 
Then we drove a short way to IMAG, a social project with a nursery which has 250 children, a sports programme and a computer programme. Unfortunately the children weren’t there because it had been raining too much the day before. IMAG is having some problems with cows from the neighbourhood wandering onto the land, leaving the things that cows like to leave! They are trying to get some funding to build a fence to keep the cows out. After this we were due to go to the Methodist Ecological Centre but couldn’t because of the rain.

In the afternoon I was interviewed for the Rio de Janeiro Methodist District online tv channel! They asked me questions like why was I in Brazil, where had I visited, what evangelistic and social projects does the British Methodist Church have, how is the youth work structured in the British Methodist Church, and have I ever been involved in any mission during sporting events (they are gearing up for the World Cup). The last was a great question because I was able to talk about my work with Refresh 2012, an ecumenical project during the Olympic and Paralympic Sailing events in Weymouth and Portland, which was my One Programme Project last year. It’s helpful that I have been involved in a similar project I hope that my experiences will be able to help them. The interview was pretty nerve wracking – I can get flustered when put on the spot sometimes! But the camera crew were sooooooo friendly and helpful. I invited them to England and offered to find one of them a nice English husband which she thought was brilliant!!
 

Tonight we fly to Boa Vista in the Amazon, far in the North of the country. We will arrive in the early hours of the morning. Then we go to to Manaus and Manaquiri, and leave the Amazon next Friday to go to Sao Paolo. I am unsure if I will be able to access the internet whilst in the Amazon so may not be able to post for a while. I can’t believe I’m actually going to the Amazon – so terrified and excited!! Please pray that the journey will be smooth and that the next week will be valuable for all involved. Thanks and God bless!        

Rio de Janeiro - day 1


Part of the role of Youth President is an overseas trip, which led me all the way to Brazil! I arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Friday and spent a few days getting used to the heat and enjoying the beautiful city.
 
 


Today the trip really began! I visited the Central Institute of the People (ICP) which is a social project that has been running since 1906. The project is based at the base of Providence Hill where 5500 people are crammed into a brightly coloured patchwork of shanty houses. The government are investing in the area at the minute but still there is a lot of poverty. ICP, which is 50% funded by the government and 50% by the Methodist Church and a small amount of other donations, serves the community by providing baking and computer classes where people can learn skills to make them more employable, a nursery, a medical centre, a music programme (which has developed a 20 strong orchestra!) and a sports programme.

 

I was shown around the nursery school where 350 children aged 4 months – 4 years are cared for from 6.45am-5.15pm and receive 3 meals and a shower. This provision is a lifeline for mothers as it means that they can work. Classrooms are very basic but what really struck me were the simple, sweet decorations obviously handmade by the teachers. Individual name labels for each child’s book box have been cut out by hand and bunches of orange balloons adorn the walls.



 

We met with the director of the programme, Ronaldo, and Marselo, a deacon who is responsible for all the social programmes in the Rio de Janeiro district. One of the pictures shows myself and Marselo, in front of the medical centre. To our left is Igreja Metodista Centenaria Garboa (the local Methodist church) and to our right is the nursery. As Marselo said to me, a lovely picture of 3 core principles of the Methodist mission throughout history - education, health & social care, and spirituality. It was interesting to talk with Marselo and my guides, William (Youth President in Rio) and Flavia (involved in mission in World Cup) about how young people (and all people) can be inspired to engage more with social projects and see these works as a fundamental part of God’s kingdom and the expression of their faith.


 

In the afternoon we visited the 1st Cathedral of the Methodist Church in Brazil, a lovely building adjoining the first Methodist chapel that was built in Brazil (in 1878). We also went to a cafe where I tried Acai – a sort of soft sorbet made with a purple berry, which for some reason made me cough like mad!