Who knew that one missions trip would require three updates for me to scratch the surface of everything God did with our team in South America! But alas, here we are at update #3 to talk about my time in Brazil, the final leg of our South America trip.
While some of my greatest spiritual warfare happened in Peru, Brazil was the toughest portion of the trip for me both physically and emotionally, despite the fact that (praise God!) my sickness did not follow me into the Amazon jungle. Physically, the pounding heat and humidity of the jungle wore on me over the first two days there, and emotionally, due to the length of the trip, I was really missing my family the most in Brazil, especially in the jungle where I had zero contact with them.
But we’ll start with the good… the Miller family, our missionaries in Brazil, are amazing! The four of us pastors quickly bonded with their kids, and good thing, because we would all be in close quarters for our five days in the jungle! The Millers were super hospitable upon our arrival in their home city of Manaus, which is a sort of hub for missionaries who serve in the Amazon jungle of Brazil. We spent a day in Manaus just getting to know the Millers, and doing some shopping with Brad Miller in the city in preparation for our trip, which was an adventure in itself.
The next day, we took a 2 hour drive to Manacapuru (say that 10 times fast…), the port city where we boarded our speedboat. That little speedboat would take the nine of us to the Apurina people, the tribe that the Millers minister to, in 11 hours down the Amazon river. The view was beautiful, but between that and the return trip, I’m not looking to board any more boats any time soon…
The Apurina people are amazing, and the Lord is doing great things among them through the Miller family. Brad typically stays there in the village for three weeks at a time, sometimes alone and sometimes with his whole family, before going back to Manaus for a few weeks, and then doing it all over again. While there, he does a church service every evening on top of Sunday mornings, as well as Bible classes for a few of the men every morning, and a children’s ministry program on Saturdays. But perhaps the coolest thing is that some of the leaders Brad is raising up, who take over services for him while he is not in the jungle, are now preparing to go to other tribes to be missionaries there. It was amazing to watch God’s plans for unreached people groups unfolding before our eyes!
The brutal jungle environment did wear on me physically and mentally. Praise God He sent lots of rain while we were there, which did have the effect of cooling things down slightly, though the humidity was still overwhelming. One night, as I lay in the pitch black in my hammock, missing my family as all of the jungle noises made their best effort to lull me to sleep, the words of Martin Luther’s hymn played on repeat through my mind…
Let goods and kindred go
This mortal life also
The body they may kill
God’s truth will triumph still
His kingdom is forever
While I certainly wasn’t facing death, I realized in a deeper way than ever all of the comforts of home and family and friends and hot water and A/C and the English language, etc., that missionaries give up, because they count lost souls as worth that sacrifice. They care so much about God’s glory, about the eternal state of the souls of the lost and unreached, that they are willing to leave everything familiar to them. And believe me, in the jungle, there is very little that is familiar to us! I praise God for this insight, and that night in my hammock, He began the process of dealing with some of the idols in my own heart.
As seems to be typical in foreign countries, the locals love English worship, so I played plenty of songs for them. I also had the privilege of teaching their children’s program Saturday afternoon, as well as teaching their Sunday morning service! I will always treasure those special blessings.
When our time in the jungle was over, we went back to Manaus, where Pastor Trent got to share some ministry vision with Brad, and we got to bless the kids with some fun times, including a trip to see pink dolphins!
All in all, this whole trip was an amazing experience. I was so happy to go home to be with my family again, but I also came home a changed person, with the many things the Lord taught me and ways He showed me I need to grow. Most of all, I saw the importance of trips like these. SGWM is committed to not just making decisions from a desk in Yorba Linda about what is going on in the nations, but actually being willing to get our hands dirty, so to speak, and actually connect with the work the Lord is doing through our missionaries. That way, our partnership with them is more informed, our fellowship with them is all the sweeter, and we can carry back the great news of how the Lord is using them in order to stir up the church in America for missions. And that was more than worth it for a few days of me letting goods and kindred go.
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Love in Christ,
Joel, Amy, Maggie, Harrison, Jude, and Clara Garcia