The Amazon adventure all started out when I was interested in bringing the Christian gospel into the villages of the Amazon jungle. I read about missionaries in the jungles of South America and I so wanted to take a part in the ministry. I then realized that in order for me to pursue the mission’s goal, I would have to experience living in the Amazon. After surfing the web, I then found a ministry that took young adults interested spreading the gospel overseas. The location nearest to the Amazon was Iquitos Peru, located in northern Peru between Ecuador and Brazil.
The trip took many months of preparation. Here are some examples. It is wise to get shots like for yellow fever, typhoid and other hepatitis vaccinations. Malaria is common also, it is best to ask your doctor for a malaria pill prescription. It is also best to carry your baggage in a large campers backpack with an unbreakable bottle of water. Bring mosquito repellent, but don’t overdue it, you wont need it all the time.
After the flight landed in Iquitos, my mission’s team took a bus back to a native Peruvian friend’s home for the night. The next morning was very busy, packing everything up and finding out what the team needed. All then men on the team headed out to the markets to help carry the supplies purchased in the markets. My experience in the markets was quite fun; it felt like going through a maze of little shops and stands. The only thing that bothered me was the fear of getting lost in the crowds. Anyway, we bought the supplies needed for living in the jungle — supplies like hammocks, mosquito nets, large rubber boots and machetes. My opinion is that the machete is the most important tool in the Amazon; it helps protect you from anything wild and you can use it for cutting almost anything. One of the funniest moments I personally had in the markets was when I was trying to communicate a conversation with a Peruvian salesman. He only knew a little English, and I only was limited in speaking Spanish. We talked in Spanish and English and then we both stopped because we both ran out of words to say in each others language. When we both realized what had happened we both laughed it off.
After returning from the markets, the group distributed all the supplies needed and packed up what was left. That afternoon my group loaded up a bus and we traveled an hour to a smaller City called Nalta. Nalta was where our river barge was docked. The barge was named El Bien Samaratano, the Good Samaritan. After unloading supplies, the group had a little time to relax and explore the boat. I then found a monkey tied with a leash that I later found out was named Gordon. Gordon and I later became real good friends during the trip. He would ride on my shoulders, eat all the spiders and he would make me laugh sometimes. The place where the men of the boat slept was the boats cargo hold. I would tie up my hammock to the rafters of the boat and slip into the hammock for the night. There was a concern that people might like to sneak on to the boat while we were asleep and steal supplies. So the men decide to take shifts in the night to watch over the boat. When it was my turn I grabbed Gordon and my machete, ready to stand guard. Whoever messed with me would have to mess with a machete and a monkey.
Early the next morning, the barge made its takeoff, and we traveled for more than two days up the Maranon River. While traveling, my group prepared for the ministry we were doing in the Amazon. The preparation was for how we would do children’s Sunday school lesions and how to distribute reading glasses and Bibles. I also learned how to write a sermon that the natives would understand. The challenge was that many of the jungle natives didn’t know a lot about recent events or theological things. So the sermons had to be simple in a way that any common person would understand and relate it to their culture.
As the trip continued, our barge was having motor problems and we had to drive the barge to the nearest village and dock for the evening. That evening was also the first time I ever bathed in the river. It was different bathing in the river, especially when you don’t know what creatures may murk the waters. For, instance I was bathing in this village called Parinari and a river dolphin came out of the water and swam right past me. The next morning, there was some change in plans. The barge did not run well enough to continue up the river and the group had to transfer over to a public barge. Public barges come up and down the river with either cargo or passengers. Most of the large barges come out of the cities like Nalta or Iquitos. The public barge was much larger and had three levels with roof top where we could tie up our hammocks.
It was arranged that night; the group would transfer over into two long boats along with all the supplies needed. The boats were made of wood with a canopy made of palm leaves with only a small motor in the back and only a flashlight for guidance. At the time I was on the boat I was very tired. I tried to lie down in the boat but there wasn’t much space and there was a chicken next to me. Traveling the river at night in a small boat is very different; you hear sounds that you have never heard before and you don’t know where you are going. The team stayed the night at a village called San Juan in a tall hut that seemed more like a tree house.
The next morning breakfast was prepared, our breakfast consisted of Quaker oats, fried bananas, other tropical fruits and sometimes pancakes. Most of the food on trip didn’t require refrigeration and was fresh. Dinner consisted of mainly chicken, rice, fried bananas, yucca and sometimes fish. That evening after church, it was arranged that we could go crocodile hunting with some of the natives. I have heard there were river crocodiles but I have never been up close to one. In the canoe we were armed with a spear machete ready to strike the monster. My hunting party never got a crocodile; we almost speared a monkey, but it got away. Only one hunting party got a crocodile, but the rest only were able to bring back wild game, like frogs and wild birds.
The people in the 8 different villages were mainly friendly and didn’t really seem to care about time. There was a myth they had about white people that was surprising and disturbing. Some believed that white people were face peelers and they we will cut your face off. Not everyone believed that; some just laughed about it and made stories up. I was also asked some interesting questions; some I couldn’t answer. For an example, a lady asked, “Does it rain a lot where you live?” I told her, no we have more sun. She asked again, “Then if there is more sun, why are you so white?” I also brought 3bags of Twizzlers along to share with some of the villagers. One young man didn’t know that Twizzlers were even a food, he thought it was candles. It wasn’t until I showed him that it was candy that he took a bite. He then wanted to thank me for my generosity and offered me a fresh cut coconut. The taste of cold coconut milk was refreshing in warm jungle heat of the day.
In the afternoon my group would have Sunday school for the village children. To make the Bible lesions interesting, we would act the story out or have the children act it out with use. We would sing praises to God in Spanish, beat the drum and dance. From my experience, most of the jungle churches are very active. Sometimes I would sing and dance so long that I would be worn out by the time the night was over. Before we would leave a village, we would always leave gifts to the host that let use stay in their hut –practical gifts, like candles, flashlights, batteries, soap, matches and sweets. For anyone planning to visit villages such as these, please restrain from gifts like shot glasses and playing cards; it might offend your host. My time spent in the Amazon was the best time of my life and I hope to come back soon because two months isn’t enough time in place as wonderful as the Amazon.
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