After 27 hours of traveling I arrived in Manaus meeting up with Harvesters staff. The hot humid air couldn’t stop the excitement as we headed out early morning on a private flight to Santa Antonio de Iça – an important indigenous community which will launch all church planting in the Amazon.
The trip itself in a small 8-seater was adventurous enough and gave us yet again a bird’s eye view of how huge and lush the Amazon really is. Some parts of the Amazon are so vast and wide you can’t even capture it from above.
Safely on the Ground
We were greeted at the airport by an eagerly awaiting crowd from the church.
Due to our short three days on this remote outpost in the Amazon we rushed into our training to meet all our goals and objectives.
This was against protocol as the way of the Amazon people would prevail! We had to eat first and like every day after that – fish was on the menu! Well fish – and a very awkward drink that tasted like 12 Volt battery water with a strong acidity. We ate and swallowed fast!
With no time to play we headed into evangelism, discipleship and multiplication. Many pastors, elders and church members attended our first training in scorching heat.
Amazon: 3 Degrees from the Planet Mercury
The ten fans that ran in the church didn’t cool us down at all but brought a sense of comfort knowing that our hosts felt sorry for us as we overheated during presentations. The enthusiastic gasps echoed through the small church as pastors got the Harvesters strategy and way of thinking. We pushed through the evangelism model until we noticed that there might be people that needed Christ and didn’t know Him personally – even though they were pastors. We made an invitation after explaining ‘regeneration’. People were on their knees praying – seven beautiful souls gave their lives to Jesus Christ.
The Next Step
It was great to see them engage in learning and going out to evangelize their own community. “Is this even possible?”, a pastor echoed as many souls were won for Christ.
It was the mapping methodology that continued to wow the local people as we helped them to reach difficult areas to plant churches by boat. 4,000 Villages in the area are without any church. We spent an hour on mapping their part of the 6,400 km Amazon river.
Deep conversations continued as everyone in Santa Antonio village realised the importance of what we were trying to teach and facilitate. There was a seriousness about our task as we were the first church planters to ever visit the area.
Training bears Fruit
A lively pastor, Sadia, was full of fire. She made sure she understood the ‘mechanics’ of how to plant a church and off she went …and planted a church – before we even left.
Our dedication service was a special event on our last evening as we trained until late night. Would the pastors buy into the church planting plan we shared? Would they become our Hub-Leaders? Our ultimate aim after every training is to find dedicated pastors that will commit for 3 to 5 years to be trained and ready to train others that will plant churches.
23 Pastors dedicated their lives and ministries to plant churches with Harvesters.
Accept one Another
The whole church was ready to celebrate a new vision in their village and community.
The celebration ended as it begun – by eating fish! This was ‘badhu’ a type of mud eating, hard-headed, blackish, thick-lipped, skew-eyed, slippery catfish! We were served fish soup, fish eggs and fish meat to end off the ceremony. They watched us carefully as we ate the fish as brave, culturally-sensitive missionaries do. They proudly announced: “Now you are part of us – truly Amazonian”. We faked a smile as one last fish egg found its way down our throats.
To culturally submerge in a new setting where you plant churches ALWAYS ensure you connect on a personal level. People need to see you care, love and accept them – although we are different.
Leaving the Amazon
Leaving Santo Antonio was very difficult. Despite the drenching heat and the overweight mosquitoes – God was here too. God knows every tribe and every tongue in every village one very continent. God has allowed Harvesters to play an integral part in many parts of the world and we understand the seriousness of the task at hand.