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!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on writing such a clear and vivid account of your adventures Hayley. You write really well. Love and prayers. Fran (Mum's cousin)