Wednesday, October 12, 2016
"We looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short day that comes and departs for ever, but in the august light of abiding memories." —Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Like every morning our team got together for coffee and a devotional before heading out to the church for breakfast and training. We talked about our schedule for the day and agreed to be flexible. After our morning sessions we were supposed to go with some of the students downriver to some villages where some of them serve in order to pray with the believers there and give them some encouragement.
Santos and I taught in the morning because we wouldn't be able to in the afternoon. Santos went over 1 Corinthians. Because the letter is addresses so many different topics, he needed extra time to finish, so I had to abbreviate a little of my material on 2 Corinthians in order to finish on time. By now I had learned from Santos's example to make my lessons more practical and address situations and questions arising from the church. It was a bit of an eye opener the day prior when someone asked about the ethics of receiving offerings from someone who made his money growing coca for drug trade. The details may be different, but the issues seem to be common across cultures. Most of the problems they identify revolve around matters of sexual immorality, domineering leadership, alcohol abuse—all problems you can easily find in most any church in the U.S. The overview of 1 and 2 Corinthians allowed us to touch on each of these areas.
Our afternoon excursion downriver was delayed a little, so someone from the church brought us a bag of juane to enjoy for supper on the way back upriver. We went down to the harbor to await the group and had to take shelter under a tent canopy when it started raining. Once the group arrived we all loaded up into a motor, a boat with a good-sized outboard motor. The peke-peke, on the other hand, is essentially a long canoe that sits low in the water and has a smaller motor that makes a sound that give it its name: peke, peke, peke, peke... Our boat could fit about 20 of us.
Santos was very nervous at this point. He can't swim and we had no lifejackets. To make matters worse, people were telling him that the life preserver was more to help locate the body, not save a person from drowning. As we set out on the river, the fast current, rough water, and whirlpools suggested the jokes may not be all that far off from the truth. When the boat started taking on water partway into the journey we were kind enough to not tell Santos about it. Looking back, Santos was probably the only one in our group who actually recognized the danger of our situation.
We made two stops to drop people off before arriving at our destination 9 miles and 1 hour away from our starting point. The village of Curiyacu doesn't appear on Google Maps, but it's there. One of our students, Osvaldo, ministers there. We arrived just after 6 pm as the sun was setting behind the mountains. A steep trek up the bank brought us to the main plaza of the town, complete with a cement soccer pitch. Up the hill we could see a small building with sheet metal roofing and no walls. As the sun set and the area was bathed in darkness, a light shone in that building. Ítalo, an elderly local believer, explained to us that the building we saw was the church. Two months ago it didn't exist.
After climbing the hill in the darkness we gathered with some believers, prayed, and divided up to meet some families that had supported the church in some way but were not attending. The New Testament describes these people as a "person of peace" or a "God-fearer." Because the arrival of outsiders was something of a special event for them, they wanted us to meet those people to express their appreciation to them. Santos and I followed Ítalo down the hill to the house of Galindo, his wife Celmith, and their five children. Santos was able to steer the conversation with Galindo towards the gospel. Galindo stated that he had believed the gospel, but had stopped attending the church for various reasons. Santos was able to talk to him, encourage him, and pray with him. We discovered that the two youngest children, fraternal twins about 13 months old, had been born with vision problems. The girl, Débora, had been treated, but the boy, Abram, remained blind. Until now, Galindo had not been able to take the trip to Lima to have his son's blindness treated.
This whole conversation brought Galindo to tears, and both Santos and I had to work to maintain our composure. Galindo decided to return to church and start reading his Bible again with his wife. We prayed together, thanked them for receiving us, and left to the central plaza to reunite with our group. Santos and I decided we couldn't leave Chazuta without doing something to help this family, and sure enough, we did. But that's another story for another day.
At the plaza we met more believers from Curiyacu and posed for some group photos before returning to the boat for the trip back. Santos had Ítalo write down the names of all the believers in Curicayu, as well as the names of Galindo and his family. By now the river and jungle had been swallowed by darkness. Navigating back upriver against the current and without a good line of site made the trip more dangerous than the trip down. We spent a lot of time in silent prayer as we made our two stops to pick up the rest of our group. We decided to wait until we returned to the hotel to eat our juane. The trip passed without incident. When we arrived back at the port we said our goodbyes until the morning and our team returned to the hotel to enjoy supper a little after 9 pm. I discovered that juane, a local dish, consists of rice cooked in various spices and wrapped in a banana leaf. Food never tasted so good.