Happy Easter; Christ is Risen! I hope you all had a meaningful weekend, remembering and celebrating the death and resurrection that gives us undeserved life. I missed sharing the holiday with you, so write if you have time. I spent Easter doing laundry and cleaning, which was a nice break after last week. We had a week off from school, so I spent 6 days with a group of students visiting missionaries in the Amazon jungle (based in Leticia- see map). It was an unforgettable experience.
First, let me give you an objective account of what we did: Day One we helped out in an orphanage and then rode motorcycle taxis to Brazil to watch the sunset on the Amazon River. Day Two we took a boat 4 hours down the Amazon to an indigenous Ticuna community called Zaragoza. We set up our tents in a school, and in the afternoon our kids did children´s programs or house visits, some teachers gave haircuts, and I, with the school director, gave a presentation to parents about health and hygiene and then talked to some of the adults in the community. After dinner we made popcorn and watched the Jesus movie. Day Three started with a walk through the forest to see where they grow their crops, followed by a swim in the Amazon River, and then lunch. In the afternoon we did more children´s activities, and I went with a local missionary on house visits. They took me to the houses where they knew kids were sick- we shared what little medicine we had and prayed for them. In the evening we presented choreographies, skits, and testimonies- I got to dance. In this village of 500, 20 go to the church, so the idea was to encourage people to seek Jesus. Day Four: Back in the boat for a few hours (on the way we saw dolphins!) to a village in Peru called 2 de Mayo. More house visits, children´s programs and health presentations. At night we showed a movie. Day Five: We visited their local school and I gave a little nutrition/anatomy lesson and reviewed with kids how to brush their teeth with their new toothbrushes. Then the local kids showed us the tree they use to jump into the river, so we splashed around with them. We read the kids stories, had lunch, did more haircuts, shared with their youth group and at night repeated our presentation again in this new village. Day Six: Back in the river to the missionary base in Leticia, showered for the first time in a week, and flew home.
So that´s the facts, now here´s my thoughts: The beauty of the jungle is stunning. The poverty in the jungle is incredibly sad. It broke my heart that children were sick with very preventable and curable diseases, and since most are subsistence farmers and fishermen and earn no money, they have no resources to invest in medicine or hygiene. Even when we offered to pay for them to visit a doctor in Leticia, they were untrusting and fearful. What they need is a doctor who lives among them that they learn to trust, and how I wish I could fill that role right now. (This trip made me think a lot about what God might have for my future). Next time we go, I want to bring more children´s Tylenol, parasite medicine, Clorox (to purify water) and antibiotics- and a doctor or nurse. Other thoughts: dancing before God in the jungle, under the stars, was one of the coolest things I´ve experienced spiritually. We knew domestic abuse is a problem in the villages, but glimpses of the Holy Spirit experienced there give me hope. Also, my students are incredible- they are extremely mature and desire that God use them. Watching them selflessly serve the communities, pray with people, and publically share their testimonies gives me hope for the future generations. They were able to encourage the Ticuna people, who had heard of Jesus, to make life changes and follow Jesus, seeking God with their hearts, minds, and souls. My students are also a lot of fun (I couldn´t take any pictures, but somebody sent me the two I´m passing on to you).
For those of you who have been on missions trips, you know that when you go back to life as usual, part of your heart can´t stop thinking about or praying for the unusual experience you had. That´s where I am right now. We had a few days between our return from the jungle and school starting again, so the school director invited a few of us to rest by a lake outside the city, and it was helpful to verbally process many of our experiences together. Back at school I´m keeping busy. My kids are starting their science fair projects, so I´m trying to help them refine their ideas. And in two weeks, my mom and dad are coming to visit! So next weekend (April 17), could you pray for safe travels?
1 Corinthians 3:7 says "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." I realize that in all ministries, especially short term trips, we only plant or water. Praise and trust the Lord who makes us grow.