Project over, a look back
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When looking back over our Brazilian adventure it is difficult to know where to begin! What first comes to mind is the words of our ‘theme tune’ that we sang pretty much every day, and everywhere we went…
Blessed be your name in the land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow,
blessed be your name.
The Amazon region of Brazil is certainly a land that is plentiful… flying in over the rainforest was just incredible, miles and miles of lush green, punctuated by slashes of azure rivers, on a scale difficult to imagine in comparison to the UK. Probably the most amazing and diverse natural habitat on earth, the local wildlife was for some reason reluctant to get too near to a loud group of 13, but even so we glimpsed river dolphins, a manatee, monkeys, parrots, toucans… and lots of really big bugs! As for a stream of abundance, well, you can’t get much more abundant a stream that the mighty Amazon, and her sister the Tapajos. When we headed down river on our trip it was so wide in some places that we could barely see the other bank in the distance…. We wondered in awe at the glory and majesty of God’s creation.
In a land that is so naturally plentiful, however, very little of the plenty is available to the people who actually live there. When we first arrived, the visiting president of the MISPA project told us that the people who lived in the villages and settlements in the jungle were not starving, as they could grow the manioc root and catch fish in the rivers… but that beyond this they had nothing. These were the people we had come to help, through the MISPA boat project.
And blessed be your name when I’m found
in the desert place,
Though I walk through the wilderness,
blessed be your name.
Actually I’m not sure how to link in the desert place • except that perhaps the somewhat unpredictable water supply on the boat made it somewhat desert-like at times… until ‘aguaman’ Luke got on the case! But apart from the occasional dry spell (fortunately the nearby swimming pool had showers!) our home on the larger MISPA boat was just fantastic • very comfy with a galley (which was even better once we got proper piping on the gas bottle) and flush toilets and showers, and beds for at least half the team… the boys became real pros at sleeping in hammocks!
The area around the boat will perhaps count for the wilderness… a bit of wasteland, anyway. We didn’t have far to go to work • we did actually do some work! - as the small boat was out of the water right next to us. Although at times it looked as though we would never really be able to get going on her, by the end of the month she was re-painted, re-caulked (with the help of local workmen!), with lots of new boards in, and generally in a much more useful state than she was when we arrived.
Just to ensure that we didn’t get bored, we also helped out with some work at the local church, plastering and tiling rooms at the back of the church that are used for the Sunday school, and will also be used as an office for the boat project. The engine on the main MISPA boat also received lots of attention during our stay (‘tho mainly from people who knew what they were doing) as it was basically knackered • and its demise would have meant that the mission was unable to go anywhere. By the time we went on our trip it was pretty much fixed, with a few ongoing problems… but hopefully should now be able to keep going for a good many more missions yet.
Blessed be your name when the sun’s shining
down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’,
blessed be your name.
The sun certainly shone • it was even hotter than your heat wave! There were certainly lots of times when we felt that the sun was shining down on us and the world was all as it should be… In case you’ve ever wondered where heaven is, it’s a beach called Alter de Chão, an hour and a half’s boat ride away from Santarem… a favourite occupation of the team was jumping off the roof of the boat into the warm water by the beach, preferably with the sunset as a backdrop…mmmmm.
Other ‘all as it should be’ moments were definitely some of the meals out we shared with our Brazilian friends, either at the pizza restaurant, or at various ‘churrascaria’s’ • bar-b-que restaurants where you can eat as much as you like!
And blessed be your name on the road marked
Though there’s pain in the offering,
blessed be your name.
There were harder times too though… especially when the brand new Yamaha engine we had been able to buy randomly fell off the back of the brand new aluminium dory into the river, seemingly never to be seen again. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look quite so devastated as the Pastor on that dark day. As a team we had been studying Ephesians, and 6:12 became very real as the Brazilians talked about the power that black magic has over many people in Brazil (For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers of this dark age.) Together we prayed against the forces that wanted to harm the boat mission, and as English and Portuguese words entwined heavenwards, we gained something even more precious than an engine… real unity in Christ.
You give and take away, You give and take away.
My heart will choose to say Lord blessed be your name.
Those of you who read the updates while we were away will know that this wasn’t the end of the story… After three days of searching, we had all come to realise that the engine was gone forever • even if we found it now (which was nigh on impossible in such an expanse of water) the engine would be damaged beyond all usefulness due to being underwater for so long. Although everyone was upset at having lost such an asset to the mission, we had to look forward • to choose to say ‘blessed be your name’ whatever.
After our amazing two days in the jungle we returned to the village where the engine had been lost, only to see the engine waiting for us on the beach!! As Ralph looked it over we still didn’t have much hope that it would be able to work… But of course God had other ideas. After only a few minutes the engine was fitted on to the back of the dory and sprung into life • and away they went, racing across the river as if nothing had ever happened!! A true miracle • a true blessing • and a true sign that God was in control.
The other thing on the theme of ‘giving away’ was the giving out of the children’s clothes that so many of you donated to us. Fortunately we had an extended baggage allowance as we struggled to check-in with our many suitcases of clothes! It was all well worth it though as we met the children while out on the trip, both in the village of Brasilia Legal and in the jungle itself… they loved and needed their new clothes… thank you.
Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise.
And when the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say:
God certainly poured out many blessings, especially in the form of fantastic people… Perhaps the most memorable is Dona Maria, with who we stayed during our 2 days in the jungle… completely unfazed by 20 or so extra house guests, God’s love crackled out of her as loudly as her laugh as she ran round cooking, telling jokes and showing off her newly learned English. All in all we were surrounded by fantastic Brazilians who soon became our friends… the Pastor and his extended family, the magnificent and humble Maurico who looked after us on the boat, the young people at the church in Santarem… it’s amazing how well you can communicate with sign language and a Portuguese dictionary!
Our first few days in Santarem were made much easier by the input of Long- haired- Luke, the son of Latin Link missionaries, who travelled the length and breadth of Brazil to help us settle in. His blessing to the team was even longer than his hair…
And of course the team itself… what can I say? We all got on incredibly well, many friendships were formed and deepened. Everyone’s different talents, abilities and flair combined to produce a fantastic team who worked, prayed and played as hard as possible… bless ‘em.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be your name.
Blessed be the name of the Lord,
blessed be your glorious name.
So that’s pretty much it • the highlights of a month of highlights. People inevitably ask ‘what’s next?’… a difficult question to answer… One thing’s for sure, and that is that both God and Pastor Alberto are in the MISPA boat project for the long haul, and the least • and most - we can keep on doing is supporting them with our prayers. On a more practical level, many of the team are continuing to fundraise for the project, in particular to top up the money that we have been able to leave out there to be enough for the project to buy a truck, which will be useful beyond words for carting stuff and people around • especially as the Pastor’s car stalls at every junction (quite scary for the passengers!)…
Well I hope that this has given you a glimpse into the world of the Brazil Boat Project…
Obrigado for all your support and prayers,
with love from
Ruthie, Ralphie, Gilly, Ed, Dan, Chaz, Luke (me), Anna B, Anna G, Rach, Kate, Wilma and Heather xx
Well, the truth is that our adventure didn't end there. Ed, Rach, Kate, Anna B and I went on a two week whistle-stop tour of Brasil, taking in the sights of Rio from handgliders, chilling and snorkeling in Recife and seeing the sumptumous natural beauty of Foz d'Iguacu. Brilliant. But this only gets a brief mention as that wasn't what this trip was about.