The following is an update from my (Richard) most recent trip to the deepest part of the jungle I, as a foreigner, can go. This trip, for those who don't know, was to finalize plans to launch our first project here. It is amazing what the Lord is doing in this place and I am humbled and honored to be a part of working along side the indigenous leadership to get the G0spel to people that no foreigner will EVER be able to reach.
Wednesday, 10.15.2012, at 4:45am here in Recife, my trip began to the jungle. It was an hour earlier in the Jungle and I had about 14 hours and 4 stops before I would finally be in Tabatinga. After that, I still had to get a moto-taxi to the main port and get on a fast boat and go to Benjamin Constant and try and find a place to sleep. The next morning, I would be up early and on another taxi to get to my final destination of Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas, Brazil. I was dropped off by my good friend that I met in Argentina, Guilherme Franco, at the airport here in Recife and started the long flights. The whole time I was up and down in the air and walking through the airports, I was focused on the task ahead and thinking through everything. After all, I had 2.5 days to finalize 2 large projects that I was starting and I didn’t want to miss any opportunities. For those that know me really well, you can testify that I am a person that likes organization and for things to be planned out well in advance. So, me, Lecrae, the iPhone and my notebook were busy most of the trip getting everything down on paper to make sure I didn’t miss anything. No amount of planning could have prepared me for the following few days and what God had already predestined before the creation of the earth.
All my flights were uneventful and I was glad to be travelling light with just a backpack – my last 10-15 international trips have been with teams and the latest was our international move so those have inlcuded thousands of pounds of equipment, 10-12 people each trip and immigration paperwork to be responsible for.
My trip began to get interesting as the man across the plane came and sat next to the free seat to my left and began talking. He broke all the first conversation rules, our talk ranged from how horrible the US is, why we are to blame for the drugs and Guerilla war in South America and how it was unfair that we killed Saddam just for his oil. He also proceeded to tell me I was wasting my time working with Indians, he explained all their problems and why I would never be successful with them. I am generally very easy going and love to talk to others but this encouraging fellow began to become a frustration as it was the last thing I wanted to hear at the end of 14 hours of flying with another 2 to go on motorcycles and boats. It was there that the Lord began to work in my heart and say, “Don’t you see that this man sees no hope for these people because he has no hope for himself?” My frustration quickly left and I was searching for ways to share Christ with this man. He finally gave me the chance and I had the opportunity to explain that he may very-well be right and the Indians may not accept anything that I try to do. But I quickly followed that up with the fact that I wasn’t doing this for the Indians (even thought they are the “beneficiaries”). No, in fact I am doing this because Jesus has called me to do it. I was able to explain how I turned down a 100K plus dream job to come here and didn’t regret it one bit because my life was all for Him. He changed his tone and began to talk about knowing more about what we do and wanting to visit – he even asked for my contact info to stay in touch…..that was quite a difference from, “You gringos are so greedy that you are ruining the rest of the world”.
I made it to the hotel that night and searched for a place to eat. Nothing was open so it was a good thing Ashley had packed me one of Elliott’s cereal bars. The next morning I ran into Pastor Eli (the indigenous leader that is responsible that most of the leaders in our area have received the Gospel) and we headed to Atalaia. We were also joined by a Pastor from a more fundamental denomination in Manaus. He and his family were going to see about Marcos’ ministry. We had also run into an American lady that was with the same denomination in Benjamin. Eli later confided in me that they have had many issues in the past because these missionaries have taken credit and ownership of the ministry in the area. He said they had donated to help in the past and then claim credit for the work that is being done 100% by indigenous effort. He also said they have tried in the past to make these Indians that are barely out of the Jungle, starting a discipleship ministry with Marcos, to start wearing ties, cut their hair and not be around people that didn’t look like them. I have to admit that I was angry with these people at that point. Who are they? A song I listen to says, “They talk about the Law, but they are twisting the Law, the Law is the tool that leads us to Christ, by GRACE we are JUSTIFIED and HE gives us life”. It is amazing how we are saved by grace yet resort back to the chains of the Law. Galations 5:1 says, “ He freed us INTO freedom”, not chains, preferences or ancient Jewish Law that was put out not to be fulfilled by us but to show us we could NOT fulfill it! Anyway, I shared with Eli that many do horrible things in the name of the Gospel with the best of intentions but poor foundations. I told him I had NO intention of pushing any denomination, I was there to be Christ and serve in any way I could be used. He then said something many would say he (as an Indian) was uncapable of even understanding. He said,” Ricardo, I’m not interested in denomination. They have hurt my people so much in the past. I’m not talking about Doctine, Doctrine is extremely important and we will guard that but my allegiance is to Christ – not a human-founded denomination.” Wow! Sounds like the Holy Spirit just spoke through someone.......