After another un-eventful nights’ sleep, we awoke early to a cloudy morning. The smell of our home-made bug spray quickly filled the air, and with boots and long-sleeved shirts on, we traipsed over to eat breakfast and talk about the day. Hector was going to return to Puerto Alegre and attend to the rest of the dental needs, while the rest of us set up for ministry and medical brigade in Zaragoza. The kids, as always, crowded around the house where we ate… peeking in the wooden slits and pushing through the doors. It continues to be hard for me to eat in front of them. I always wonder what they think about us… gluttons who “need” to eat 3 times a day. We always give them leftovers, but today it seems as though Monica made sure we cooked enough oatmeal for them to eat as well. She told them to go get their cups, and they were back in a flash, steaming oatmeal in their cups… smiles on their faces.
As we were walking back to the house to get our supplies for the day, it started to pour. With ponchos on, we started walking down the muddy slope to the sidewalk that led through the village. With so many kids around, we decided to let them walk with us, under our ponchos. I felt like a giant… my big rubber boots trying to not step on their tiny bare feet. I learned quickly that the best way to do it was not with my head poking through the hole blindly feeling the little ones next to me, but to put my head under the tarp with them. They were speaking in Tikuna (probably something about the giant with rubber boots), and I loved it! When we arrived to the end of the sidewalk, I told them that it would be better for them to run up the hill to the church instead of slipping and sliding with me up the muddy hill. They screamed and ran through the rain. So cute!
While getting set up, I took the kids aside and taught them “Open the eyes of my heart” in Spanish. The first story of the day was about blind Bartimaeus, and we were making masks to symbolize that before we know Jesus our eyes are closed to who God really is… but after we meet Him, He opens our eyes.
Masks are almost a taboo topic here, especially with the practice of the Pelazo, but we did this activity anyway. The kids had a blast!
While the little ones were working away, there was a group of older boys sitting in the corner. I had no idea how to get them involved with what we were doing, but I saw that they had a large string tied in a circle that they were doing tons of tricks with. I asked them to teach me one, and I think they taught me the easiest one. I went around to the different benches and showed the little ones, and they laughed. The older boys were just watching and smiling. Then, they tried to teach me one where you wrap the string around your neck and then pull but it comes loose. I couldn’t get that one at all! I think my head is a little bigger than theirs! Pravaas and Daniel came around and knew a few tricks of their own, so a connection was made (an answer to prayer for Pravaas). I left the boys to their tricks and walked around.
Our students were incredible! Lily was painting the nails of the older girls, Laura, Sara, Mafe, Andrew and Diana were helping the kids color, Zach was taking pictures… all of us were busy either helping or talking. The kids were SO into the craft! They were so funny as we tied the masks on, too. Their beautiful little eyes were poking out of the slits of the mask with the most hilarious faces!
While the first activity was wrapping up, Leider and some other boys sat next to me and we started talking about the Pelazo. Leider thinks it’s a fun tradition… even saying that his dad has made masks (which made me sick to think about) but the older boy shook his head to say “no” when I asked him if he liked it. I encouraged him to change the tradition when he’s older. I told him about other villages that don’t practice it anymore. He seemed surprised to hear that. I encouraged him again that change is possible. We’ll see.
After the mask activity, Sara got up to teach the kids John 3:16. They loved doing the hand motions with the verse! Kylie and I helped out, too. Then, Andrew got up and explained the colors for the salvation bracelets. With great eloquence and confidence, he did it in a way that I had never heard before. He started with the gold bead, explaining what Heaven is like… the beauty, the angels, etc. Then, he explained the dark bead that represents our sin and how that prohibits us from entering into Heaven. He went on and carefully explained every color and then we gathered the kids in groups of 10-12 to help them with the bracelets.
I had made the mistake of not making a sample bracelet with the stretchy nylon to see how well it worked. It was really hard. I could get it to work, but a lot of the students had a difficult time. But, by the end, all the kids had their gospel bracelets, and could tell the story.
Right around this time, someone came with the oatmeal and cookies for our refreshment. The kids loved it! They were so happy!
We got out the long balloons and pumps and started giving the balloons out to the kids. It was hard to make the animals we had learned because the humidity made everything sticky. But, the kids found fun things to do even with the popped balloons. They would take the rubber and make their own popping sounds. And, at the end of the activity, we had just enough for each kid to have their own balloon (praise the Lord!). They went home happy!
I was burning up hot and really wanted to cool off in the river. Batman, our boat driver, said that there was a spot on the sidewalk bridge leading to the school where there was a current making it safe to swim. I was so excited! After lunch, I told the kids that we were going to swim. They were so excited!!! I went to the river with about 30 of them, and we all jumped in together! Not wanting to get bit, I stayed in the water while they kept jumping in and out, flipping off of anything they could. I was amazed at how high the river had gotten! 2 years ago, we walked on the ground between the village and the school. This year, as I jumped off the newly-constructed sidewalk bridge, I couldn’t touch the bottom of the river.
We had a blast playing in the water! Leo came out just to take pictures and be with us. John, one of the missionaries, and Andrew also came out and just threw the kids into the river. They loved it!!! At first, Andrew was hesitant… but I told the kids to push him in, and about 10 kids surrounded him and he was completely defenseless!
As I was trying to keep submerged in the river, I felt a fish rub across my back, shocking me with little electric shocks. It freaked me out so much that I jumped straight out onto the sidewalk! So, since I was out, I thought it would be a good time to wash my hair. I had bought a HUGE shampoo bottle for the team, and it took about 5 seconds for all the kids to surround me, holding out their little brown hands for a dab of shampoo. They were hilarious!!! Some kids covered their entire bodies with the shampoo suds, sculpting their hair into horns or mohawks. They would jump and dance around on the sidewalk, making sure they had my attention, and then jump right into the river coming back to the surface squeaky clean. Amazing how much fun they have with something so simple!
Leo decided that it would also be a good time to have them wash their hair with the lice shampoo. We had to be very clear that it was poison so they wouldn’t get it in their eyes. Some older boys came up to ask for the lice shampoo, saying that they had a bad lice problem. As the kids were helping each other lather up, they started picking through each others’ heads, watching the lice die. They got in lines about 3-4 kids deep, all picking through the infected hair. It was really cute. Then, after waiting 5 minutes, they all jumped in together.
We had so much fun!
We cleaned up and then loaded up the boat for our time in Puerto Alegre. Zach and the medical team stayed behind to help with all the needs in the village. There were many babies with fevers and people who needed attention!
The pastoral couple in Puerto Alegre asked us to have our service with them at 3:00pm so that the people wouldn’t need to be out on the river when the mosquitoes were at their worst. So, we arrived and picked up Hector at the school. He told us he had a great day, and that the villagers had cooked him a HUGE fish for lunch. We went to the church, unloaded the generator and speakers and realized that we were missing a cable. So, Leo crossed back over to Zaragoza in the boat and took Hector with him so he could rest for the evening. While we were waiting for them to get back, the villagers slowly started arriving in their little canoes. There was no dry land to be seen, and the families were piled in together, dressed in their finest for the church service. The pastor’s wife even showed up!
The students made more jump-ropes and they came in handy! The kids had a blast playing the “limbo” and other games! Kylie even connected with 4 little ones doing a miming activity.
Leo got back, and we were ready to start! The church service went really well… the worship was beautiful, the drama and dance that the team did was well-received, and Pastor Burgos gave a great Word about love and respect in the family. I think that even the Pastor’s wife (who was a little put-off that we weren’t wearing skirts) was encouraged.
We left with full hearts and exhausted bodies! The women of the village, before we left, made sure that I had a gift of the local fruit, copoacu (that I love) and the dried yucca that they eat, farinya. I was so blessed that they would give those things to me! We really feel as though we have made friends in Puerto Alegre, and we can’t wait to go back!
We crossed the river as the sun was setting. It was beautiful! Again, we saw dolphins.
I could tell that most of the team was tired, so we made the decision to let them rest for the evening. We had dinner together, and then Lauren, Liz, Kylie and I took 30 or so kids to the main community house to play and sing. We had so much fun! We gave them jump-ropes, they taught us their games, and we had a good time together. After a little while, I got the guitar out and we sang and sang! Then, they asked me to tell them a story, and I told the story of David and Goliath. They had never heard that story before. I told them that they are going to face many things in their lives that seem impossible to conquer… but with God everything is possible, no matter how small they feel.
Then, we said good-night.