(June 27 – September 18)
Well, technically I’ve been back in Kona for a few days now. Sorry I didn’t get an update posted right away. I know you’ve all been anxiously waiting to hear how my time in the jungle went, so I’ll get right to it. (That sounds a little presumptuous now that I read it again. If you haven’t been waiting anxiously, it’s totally fine.)
Three flights, two layovers and approximately twenty-eight hours after leaving Kona, we made it to Brazil. Our first stop – Brasília. We spent only a few days adjusting to life in a new country before the class split up and our team headed for the Amazon. I should note one highlight during that time was our introduction to Brazilian BBQ – it’s amazing!
A short flight north towards the equator (that’s weird to say) found us in Belem. A couple more hours on the bus and we finally made it to Alcance Amazônico (Jocum). That’s Amazon Reach (YWAM) in Portuguese. This would be home base for the next six weeks.
However much we might have thought Brasília had gotten us ready, we were wrong. I never looked at the temperature (not that I didn’t try, there just wasn’t much cell service), but I’m pretty sure the temperatures hovered somewhere right around 98° (that’s an early 2000’s boy band reference for those of you who didn’t know) with humidity hovering at a steady 350% ALL THE TIME. In total, we visited four different communities were we stayed between five and seven days each time. We took the boat to all but one, although frequently a bus and taxi were also involved just to reach the port. We carried in our food, sometimes water too, and slept, not always well, in our hammocks. We stayed in a church, a school and homes that were opened up to us. We cooked and washed dishes constantly. Usually we had toilets. Sometimes they worked. Same goes for showers. Did I mention it was hot?
We were only on the base a few days before our first deployment outreach into the jungle. Why not kick things off with the farthest trip and the longest stay you ask? Apparently that’s what the base thought too, so they sent us to Arapapuzinho, where along with staff from the base, our days were filled with house visits, bible studies, kids’ camps and even preaching a few sermons.
While everywhere we visited was unique, our ministry in the next three communities pretty much followed the same pattern. Whether we were in Arrozal, Tauerá de Beja, or Tauerá Açú our goal was to share the love of Christ by spending time with people. Some time ago, Amazon Reach refocused their ministry. The bible has called us to make disciples of all nations. That doesn’t happen through a single prayer. Salvation is the starting point, but if we truly want to see people living their lives for Jesus, we must be willing to walk with them as they grow. Doing this means establishing lasting relationships. Once those relationships are established we have a better understanding of the needs in the community both spiritually and physically and are able to work together to solve those needs. Much of what they’re doing is elaborated on in the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett, if it’s something you’re interested in, I’d encourage you to give it a read. It definitely helped me look at things differently.
When we left the Amazon in mid-August, it was bittersweet. I’m going to be completely honest and a little vulnerable here. As incredible as our experience in the jungle was, our drive from the Brasília airport to the church with the cool evening air blowing into the car might have been the best thing I’ve felt in my entire life. We rejoined the other half our team and together we spent a couple of weeks in Brasília editing photos and finishing up our projects before heading back to the US for our final stop before Hawaii. Orlando was our base for the final two weeks away. We shared our stories at different venues, showed our gallery in an art studio and did some street evangelism using portable photo printers to let people know they were valued.
I wish I could say otherwise, but to be honest, I can’t point to a single moment or some incredible life-changing testimony that happened while we were away. Instead, it was as if the entire time was a constant reminder of the things God taught me during lecture phase. His faithfulness, how he much he cares about us (I got an aisle seat on every flight #FavorOfTheLord), and how he has called us love others just the same. There are things I’ve learned that I still haven’t finished processing. I suspect God will continue teaching me out of this experience for quite some time to come.
This has gotten a bit lengthy and I still have one more piece of news I want to share, so I better wrap things up with this. If there was an overriding them to our DTS Outreach, it was this: How can you use the gifts, talents, or passion that God has given you to connect with and impact somebody’s life for the Glory of the Kingdom of God?
With this season of my life only days away from coming to close, you might be wondering where it all goes from here. (You are not alone. I have wondered the exact same thing.) For a while, I thought maybe I’d just hang out for a while like this Giant Panda. As it turns out God wants me to hang out where the Panda lives, not like the Panda. (I must have gotten confused. It was probably from a lack of sleep during outreach.)
A small team including three of our DTS leaders and three of my classmates will be making a trip to Chengdu, China in October and God has called me to the join them. We’ll be applying the skills we spent the last six months honing to create a media kit encouraging international YWAM bases to engage in all the incredible things God is doing in China.
Just after I’d decided to go, my Chinese classmate reminded that during our first week of DTS I asked her about this random city in China I’d seen on TV called Chengdu. Long before I had any idea I’d be going God was already making plans.
It’s a short turnaround, that is for sure. I’ll have a week off before we get started with our planning, by mid-October we’ll head to China for three weeks and then back to Kona until early December so we can get everything put together. To make this trip a reality, I still need to raise $3000 by early October to cover all the expenses. I’d appreciate your prayers as I continue chasing after what God has called me to. If you feel moved to support me financially, you can send me a message and I’ll let you know what the best option is.