About three years ago, three men from Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville, Florida, Pastor Gary Crawford, Navy Commander (ret.) Derek George, and businessman Joe Fincher, came to Manaus and bought a luxury bass fishing boat. They converted it into an evangelical mission boat to ply the waters of Amazonia with the Good News of Jesus Christ. This boat, the Marco Polo, embodies the Amazon Vision Ministries.
Teams of volunteers conduct evangelism, discipleship, children’s VBS activities, as well as frequently providing medical and dental services. These teams fly down commercially to work in specific villages within the Amazon River Basin. Brazilian professionals are an integral part of the team, and the American clinicians work as their assistants.
Rarely do the Americans speak much Portuguese, so the mission, Amazon Vision Ministries, must secure paid translators for the whole team’s activities—about four or five would do it. I was free. But then, you get what you pay for. And I was in for the ride of a lifetime!
Arquives of Amazon Currents from Prior Years:
That's Derek at the left in the red shirt. Jen, the team leader of the group of American college students who came down during spring break, is about to lead us in a morning devotional on the top deck of the ship.
Below left, a group counts children's vitamins and bags them to issue during the clinics. These have been brought down by the team. They are not commercially available in Manaus, probably not in Brazil. The one big socializing room in the ship is the dining room. It's always air conditioned, and the big cold water dispenser and hot coffee stand ready. Meal times are a delight. Food has been bought in Manaus and prepared in the galley by a cook below. We are served and cleaned up after.
The staterooms are airconditioned, with two or three bunkbeds and each has a bathroom. Compared to the kind of missions Darrel does, and the food he eats, this is the very lap of luxury. We even retreat here for lunch and a short nap. There is also a supper break of about two hours before the evening service on land, if one is possible.
One of the villages in which we spent the most time. It was kept quite clean.
Close-up of the landing near the boat. The village clothes washing, bathing, and swimming is done here. This village was fortunate in having a pump housed higher up to deliver river water for drinking.
Elionaia, the Brazilian nurse to the right, was the first person to receive Jesus as Savior on this mission! The night before the mission began, Derek was reviewing the use of an EvangeCube with several people, and this was being translated for her. When she asked if she could pray the prayer to receive Christ, Derek did a double back flip! From then until nearly midnight, we talked through translators to begin the process of helping her unload old baggage she had gotten by being reared in a church with many non-Biblical teachings. "Naia" was my roommate that week, so we had a great bonding and discipling experience together.
Here, Naia begins the medical clinic process by registering the patient and making a triage judgement. The boy has a yellow star painted on his face from the children's fun class.
Kim, the American RN to the right, is cleaning the seriously infected finger of the young man while Livia assists and translates. Two days before, he was stacking and carrying wood when a heavy piece of wood fell on his finger and took off the end down to the bone. It was a large, open wound and he did not have the knowledge or material to care for it.
The Marco Polo came to his village in time to save his finger and probably his life. Kim made some closeup photos of the wound which I declined to put on the web page. Believe me, he was in deep trouble. He came to us with a towel wrapped around his hand, grimacing in pain. The wound was cleaned and bandaged, there was follow-up treatment the next day, and medications and instructions were given by Kim and Dr. Dave. I do not doubt they saved his life.
Dr. Dave, an American cardiologist, puts in a week of family medicine. Technically, he was assisting the Brazilian nurse Naia, as explained above. Nadyr, on the right, was one of our translators.
Dr. Dave continues through the heat, now with Livia, the daughter of Nadyr, translating between himself and the patient's mother. One day, in one village, he had a small air conditioned room and more privacy. Electricity was usually quite limited. Privacy, too.
Dr. Mario is a dedicated Christian dentist whose family lives in Manaus. He alternates two weeks with them and two weeks in river villages. We picked him up in Novo Airão.
June has a husband and two adorable little daughters in Florida.
Though Dr. Mario spoke little English and June spoke no Portuguese, they worked well together, rarely needing translation.
June, an American dental hygienist, assists the Brazilian dentist Dr. Mario. A college student works with them. June did a lot of deep cleaning and took some memorable photos of her work on this trip. However, they didn't make the selection for the web page. Other professionals would no doubt love them.
I was on a similar search and tell trip when we found this fellow working up in his fields on a particularly hot day. He is 85, a Christian believer, and proud that he has never been to a doctor in his life. But he agreed to come to the service the next day if we would take a picture of him with his grandson, and give him a print when he came. I took the photo, Derek made the print on the ship, and the fellow and his grandson did come for the worship service.
When the Marco Polo arrived at a new village area, we sent groups by motor boat to scattered houses to tell them we were there with free medical and dental services, evening worship services, and fun classes for children all day.
Eli, who manages the Marco Polo operations, goes on such a trip with the team leader, Jen. Could missionary life be this much fun?
An excellent drama wordlessly presented Christ's sacrifice and redemption of man. It was powerful, and no one missed the point. Sadly, one of the actors got sick during the week and the next village didn't get to see the drama.
A typical home outside the village. Allowance must be made for the water to rise and fall sixty feet or more during the year.
The team brought games, balls, beads, activities, Bible story coloring books, and endless energy. Oh, yes, and animal crackers, which brought over a crowd of older siblings.
Mandy and the kids! About two thirds of any village is children, and they just loved the attention given by the American college students. I translated for those activities a couple of days, but no translation was needed in these photos.
Then the kids wanted to paint the teachers, and it kept going on!
Face painting was a huge success, and was not limited to faces.
Like most of us grandparents, Jim loved making friends with the little ones. Again, love needs no translation. He has a whole set of photos of these beautiful village children.
I'm giving eyeglass tests. Not eye tests. The glasses come in set strengths, equal for both eyes. "Try to read this. Can't read? Well, do the lines look clearer?"
An elderly lady came up with a better test: she went home and got a needle and thread. She couldn't read, but she needed to be able to thread her needle and sew. Several ladies used that test. All got free glasses who found some that helped.
The photos on this web page are not only mine; they are from all the team. Derek made copies and distributed CD's before we parted. I had no idea this picture existed until I began to assemble the pieces for this page.
As a translator, whenever I didn't have a specific job, I went where there were people, especially adults, to talk to. That was usually on the porch waiting to see a doctor or dentist. I typically took an EvangeCube as a picture device to talk to people about salvation through Jesus.
I had been sitting on the far side of Jim in the brown plaid shirt, talking to the three young women, not especially aware of the 12 year old girl at the far end. The women all assured me that they had salvation in Jesus. Two are evangelicals, one Catholic, and all confident of their faith.
When we came to the part about how salvation through Jesus is a free gift and yet it must be accepted by each individual, I suddenly saw the great anxiety on the face of the young girl. I asked her if she had ever accepted that gift, and she said she had not. I asked her if she wanted to accept Jesus' gift of salvation for herself today, and she nodded yes.
So I crossed to her side, talked with her quietly to be sure she was understanding and not being pushed. Right there on the porch, she prayed a simple prayer recognizing that she was a sinner in need of God's forgiveness and salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. She asked God to come into her life.
The man at the end of the porch in the black shirt with blue bands on the sleeves is the Presbyterian pastor. I took comfort in turning Angelinha over to him for further care and spiritual growth, knowing that the boat would leave the next day and I would probably never see her again.
Another team returned to America with a week's worth of stories and photos and memorable events. I went home feeling blessed beyond measure. And the Marco Polo returned to ply the dark waters, "Bringing the hope of Christ to the Amazon Basin."
When the week was over, we picked up Darrel and went for a spin out to the Meeting of the Waters, where the yellow Rio Solimões meets the dark Rio Negro and becomes the mighty Rio Amazonas, not mixing for several miles.
Would you like to go on a trip like this one? All the contact information is at www.AmazonVisionMinistries.com
For information on the EvangeCube, go to firstname.lastname@example.org
There's a very helpful picture cube, the EvangeCube, which AVM uses a lot on its missons. I'm using one to the right in its normal form, and the girls above left have the large form, opened up double high, in front of a class of young children. The girl on the right is translating. The Cube moves through the steps in photos explaining a person's need for God, Jesus' sacrificial death, his resurrection, and how one can accept the gift of salvation personally. The Cubes can be bought in Bible book stores or directly from their web site given below.