For pictures from our time in Puerto Alegre, go to:
As we arrived in Zaragoza yesterday, we found out that the floating medical team sent out by the Colombian government was also in Zaragoza… actually, the 3 traveling doctors were the drunks outside our house last night. Good times!
So, we decided to go to Puerto Alegre with our medical brigade after breakfast.
Because a majority of the students were in the kitchen during the evening last night, I decided that I would cook breakfast… at least try! Andrew came with me, and we tried to get the fire started on wet wood… crazy hard! I used candle wax, plastic, anything I could to get the wood to catch, and it took at least an hour! We had to boil water to make coffee (we’re in Colombia, so coffee is a MUST), boil water to make hard-boiled eggs, and cook the sausage. Honestly, I was just fanning smoke and small flames hoping that it would work!
The kids came around and were just watching me, talking to each other in Tikuna. One kid decided to cut wood with a machete to help us out. Another helped me fan the flames. Slowly but surely, the team started waking up and coming over to help. So, I decided that I would just hang out with the kids. They wanted to sing, hear stories, play games, etc. I couldn’t believe how they absorbed EVERYTHING we had to say! It was so much fun to have a completely captive audience!
After breakfast, we loaded up and headed across the river to Puerto Alegre. Once again, arriving there was a complete shock. Last year, there was a huge field in front of the school where we played with the kids. We walked from hut to hut to invite people to the brigade. This year, everything was covered with 3 feet of water! The only way to get around safely was in the little wooden canoes.
There was a little girl in front of the school in her canoe, and we asked her to go tell people that we were here. Leo thought that he could get in the canoe with her, and he did a good job for a little while. I totally thought he would sink the canoe! Ha!
The school teacher lives in the school with her family, and was more than willing to have us set up in the classrooms! She even helped us invite people. As soon as we were set up, families were arriving in their little wooden canoes. One family arrived with a baby sloth that got passed around from one person to the next. It was absolutely adorable!
The parents registered their families and then waited outside the classrooms while our pastors, German and Rocio split up the women and men to share the gospel with them. We took the kids into a classroom and started playing games, telling Bible stories, and doing crafts. The students were incredible! They stepped up and lead with such confidence! Last year, it took us all day to get the kids to open up to us, and it seemed like this year they were open from the very first minute! What a blessing!
I went to the kitchen to cook the oatmeal for the kids, and someone brought a quarter of a cayman (Amazonian crocodile) to be heated up as well. I didn’t touch it! Leo gave me a little piece of it to taste, though… and it tasted like a mix of fish and chicken. Good times!
After handing out the oatmeal and cookies to the kids, I went into the boat to “rest” for a little bit. I was totally beat after not sleeping for 2 nights, but instead of taking a nap, I got in a great conversation with Betmen (Batman!) about malaria. He had malaria 2 years ago and also almost died from it! He has an incredible testimony, and I was all caught up talking to him and forgot how tired I was!
We spent the rest of the daylight hours there at Puerto Alegre… playing, singing, praying, talking, etc. They were SO open! I praise God for the diversity of our team. While some students were helping with the brigade, others were leading the children’s ministry. One of the moms on the team, Sandra, is a pastor’s wife, and she spent time counseling some of the young girls. Two girls went through the line of the brigade and shared that they had tried to commit suicide by eating rat poison. Sandra had a very special time of prayer with both the girls, and we pray that the things she shared with them from the Word will help them stay strong.
We also met a new pastor and wife that arrived to Puerto Alegre just a month ago. They were from a “different” denomination whose seemingly only doctrine is that women need to wear skirts. We were talking to them about the possibility of doing a service tomorrow, and the pastor’s wife was a little put-off by that idea. She spent over an hour talking with our pastors about her doctrine of “proper clothing”, and then finally let us invite people to our service tomorrow. We were also hoping to do a marriage ceremony, as there was at least 1 couple who wanted to get married… but she asked if we leave that stuff up to her and her husband.
While we were packing up to leave, one man asked us for a Bible. We were so happy to give him the first of the 18 waterproof Bibles that we brought with us! There was a crowd gathered around as we demonstrated that even dunking the Bible in the river wouldn’t harm it! Praise the Lord for Voice of the Martyrs and their donation of these very special Bibles!
As we crossed the river back to Zaragoza, the sun was setting in the most beautiful colors! We even saw the famous river dolphins! It was a refreshing, beautiful time together in the boat!
As soon as we got back, we had to get set up for our evenings’ session. The kids were waiting for us and were more than eager to help invite everyone again!
As I was walking and talking with some of the kids, I started asking them what they wanted to be when they grow up. One little one said that he wants to be a soldier; a little girl says she wants to be a health promoter; another said he wanted to be a policeman; then there were 2 responses that hit me: 2 little boys said they want to be pastors. Pastors! They know this at 8 years of age!
The crazy part is that the pastor in the village is a drunk, and the church is tired of him stealing the churchs’ money to drink. So, to know that these 2 little ones feel called to be pastors was amazing. They had been stuck to us the entire time we were ministering so far and absorbing everything. I could see a hunger in them for the things of the Lord. As we walked and invited people, I just prayed for them to continue to have hearts that are soft for the Lord! We passed the kitchen where Monica was getting the fire started for dinner, and I told her that the dream of those 2 little ones was to be a pastor. She looked at them, held their heads in her hands, knelt down and said: “O.K. then… you need to go where the drunks are and invite them to church tonight so they can be changed by Jesus”. They excitedly ran out in the direction of the bars.
As we were playing with the kids in the church before the service, I saw the pastor, Humberto, sitting on one of the benches and I asked Leo to spend some time talking with him. As their conversation progressed, Leo’s arm went around Humberto’s shoulders and they cried together while they were praying. After German and Rocio preached and incredible sermon about repentance and forgiveness, Leo called Humberto up to the front so the church could pray for him. He confessed his sin to the congregation and they surrounded him in a circle of prayer.
During the sermon, I heard the kids running and screaming around the church so I decided to go out and see if I could do something with them. As soon as I got out there, they surrounded me and asked me to tell them stories. So, we found a “dry” place on the hill outside the church, and I told them the story of the Prodigal Son. I asked them what they thought it meant, and they said that the Father’s love is big even when we sin a lot. I think they got the point!
Then, we played and played farther up the hill, away from the church. We had so much fun!
It was time for dinner and sleep. We were all praying for an un-eventful rest, and the Lord was so good to give that to us!