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.


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