The Catamaran Arrives to Brazil

May 17, 2009 at 5:08 pm

           Sun rays glare off the endless waves, as far as the eye can see nothing but endless waves.  Count the days, the hours the minutes.  Measuring fuel, recalculating distance remaining, and constantly looking at the GPS.  Today makes day 9 at sea!  Praise God the catamaran is on its way to Brazil!  After working on the import papers since November of 2007, after 5 import attorneys and loads of paperwork, after God’s people uniting in prayer all across the world, the donated catamaran is on its way to Brazil.  On Thursday night, April 30, Edmiltton, a Brazilian boat captain, and I loaded into a bus in Manaus headed north.  After 2.5 days of bus rides and a short visit with the missionary families in Georgetown, Guyana, we flew to Grenada to pick up the catamaran.  We were met there by Jack Faatz, our volunteer boat keeper and Beck Straussner, an extremely experienced Hawaiian boat captain.  After a couple days of boat preparation the four of us set sail for Belem, Brazil, where the Amazon meets the Ocean.  With God as our captain and His angels as our guides, we Luzeiro Amazônia IIwere bound for South America.  Now, nine days later, and many miles behind us, we have roughly 4 more days until we reach the mouth of the Amazon.  After clearing import procedures, we will load back up and continue our journey up the Amazon river, until we reach the base outside of Manaus, some 900 miles beyond the mouth of the Amazon.

            Truly after one and a half years working on this boat’s import, we are so thrilled so see God’s hand leading to help restart the LUZEIRO program in Brazil’s Amazon region.   God has once again done so many amazing things to make this boat’s import possible, we are in waiting expectation to see what marvelous plans God has in store for the restoration of this program.  Let me share just a few miracles that God has done to help us get to this point:

  1. Beck, our experienced Hawaiian helper received his Brazilian visa, enabling him to make the trip with us 46 minutes prior to his flight leaving for Grenada.
  2. Three days before I left for Grenada we knelt down with our Brazilian team and prayed for God to provide the $6,000 USD needed to finish the import process.  We were moving forward with plans in faith, but still lacked this last payment.  Five minutes after we prayed I received a skype message from some dear friends of ours in Tennessee who, having no idea of our prayer and our current financial situation, donated the $6,000 dollars needed to import the boat. 
  3. Nearly midnight one evening, on Jack’s nightly watch, we were nearly hit head on by an oncoming boat, despite Jack having altered course to avoid the situation.  After the close call, radio contact was made with the other vessel.  Many apologies on both ends, and thankfully no one injured.  However, when learning of our destination of Belem, the on coming vessel was able to share some very helpful information about strong currents ahead and where we needed to navigate to avoid them.  Having fought these currents for one full day we know without that information our fuel would not have lasted us until our arrival in Belem. 

 Please join us in praising God for His miraculous provisions.  We are reminded of the fact that our God is infinite in power and knowledge, and that when we place our lives in His control, we can move forward with certainty of His presence.  Even if our outcomes are not what we planned or expected, we can trust our God who knows the end from the beginning.

 Aluminum Boat “under construction”

            With three days left before I left for Grenada, during our morning worship with our team, we reminded the Lord of the boat we had purchased in Manaus which was just sitting waiting to be finished.  Since purchasing the boat in December of 2008 we had not received enough money to move forward with its termination.  We reminded the Lord that with two boats we could double the area reached. Luzeiro Amazônia III

            As mentioned above, shortly after this prayer time I received the communication regarding the $6,000 donation for the catamaran’s import.  Excitedly, I called GMI’s office to let them know about this money that would be coming in and asked them to deposit it immediately into our ministries’ account so that we could pay for the boat import.  Christina Parson’s, in GMI’s accounting department, then informed me that a donation for $10,000 USD had come in this month for boat construction!  Thrilled and amazed we reunited our team to Praise the Lord for His wonderful provisions, answering our prayer requests within minutes of praying.  Truly, God had answered our petitions before we even mentioned them.  The day I left Manaus I was able to have a meeting with the boat builder, who agreed to immediately start work on the aluminum boat.  Cleber, our base director, is working out the fine details and is overseeing the construction process on the boat!  This last week, using satellite internet connection in the middle of the ocean, I received news that $3,500 dollars more had come in from a church in Georgia, for the boats construction as well!  We are so thrilled to see that God is always at the helm!

First boat in the water

            The legal non-profit Brazilian organization that we work under in Manaus is named ASVAM, Ação Social Voluntária Amazônia.  Our Luzeiro Amazônia Ipresident, Ricardo Faria, is a medical doctor who is currently the Secretary of Health of a town located along the Amazon River.  Several months ago he was presented with the opportunity to purchase a 45 foot boat that was for sale in his area.  After much prayer, he decided to take a step forward by faith and put all his money into God’s work to see the Luzeiro program move forward.  He purchased the boat and overhauled it completely.  Last week the boat made its maiden voyage along the Amazon River with the name Luzeiro Amazonia I, Light bearer to the Amazon Number 1.  He along with several other volunteers went for a weekend trip doing medical evangelism in a very poor area of the Amazon.  I will attach his translated letter for you to read first hand how needed and important this work is along the banks of the Amazon river.   Brothers and sisters, as the name suggests, soon we will not only have Luzeiro Amazonia I, but with the arrival of the catamaran and the finishing of the aluminum boat, we will have II and III.  How many more will come after?  Only God knows, but the plan is to have a boat for every region of the Amazon.  The more boats and captains, the more teams of dedicated volunteers, the faster God’s work can be completed in the Amazon.

 Snapshots of future plans

  • We will be having a booth at ASI this year in Phoenix, Arizona August 5-8.  We will be there with pictures and stories to share.
  • July 4, 2009 we are planning an inauguration event of the restart of the Luzeiro Program, where we will dedicate the land and the two boats that are already in the water.  The date was picked because the Luzeiro program was originally inaugurated on July 4, 1931 when Leo and Jessie Halliwell christened the first Luzeiro boat by breaking a glass bottle of Guarana over the bow of the boat. 
  • Evangelistic series in our own neighborhood starting May 25, a small group of Americans will be joining us to help with medical evangelism during this time.
  • During the month of July we will be hosting some nursing students from the Adventist University in South Brazil who would like to come and serve their people during their break from school.

 Please remember this program in your daily prayers.  Please plead with God daily to bestow wisdom on those of us involved in reaching the lost along the Amazon river.  Please join us in thanksgiving to God for His amazing blessings that He has already poured out upon this program.

 Friday, May 22, 2009

            Just an update note… we are in Belem.  We have made it to Brazil and today are going through our import inspection process.  Praise God that the trip across the ocean was successful!  Please continue to pray for our next 900 mile stent up the Amazon River!  Lina, Levi and Lucas will be joining me on Sunday to do the rest of the trip with me.  Our first voyage on the Luzeiro across the Amazon River!  Praise God.

 Dr. Ricardo Faria- Trip with the Light bearer to the Amazon Number I

            Providing support for the medical clinics being held in the city of Manacapuru by ADRA Amazonas in collaboration with ASVAM, we made a trip by river from Coari with destination to Crocodile Community, city of Manacapuru, a distance of some 300 kilometers.  Since the finishing of the small boat Luzeiro Amazonia I, we have only made short experimental trips right around the city.  This would hence be our first official trip of any notable distance.

            On May 8, after a very hectic day for the ASVAM Coari Volunteers, and with our original departure plans completely passed, by God’s grace we left Coari at 8:30 pm, descending the muddy rivers of the Solimoes River being led by a marvelous moon.  On board our small boat we had 8 people, four crew and four passengers.  With the marvelous moon in the sky that night and with my hand held GPS, we began our descent down the river.

            We traveled through the whole night in the middle of that challenging River Solimoes.  Sometime early morning, right after passing the opening of the Purus River, and close to the city of Anama, the weather begin closing in on us.  Even though there was no rain yet, we realized that we needed to quickly prepare for a storm.  After just a few more minutes we were forced to pull up alongside the bank of the river, the right side of the Solimoes River, amongst the trees and underbrush, searching for a shelter from the storm.  A torrential rain began pouring over the region that Sabbath morning.  The poor visibility made further navigation very risky, so we decided to continue waiting alongside the banks of the river.  After some time, by God’s grace, we were able to continue our journey with destination to Crocodile Village. 

            Several hours later, a warning light lit up on our dash board.  We were fairly close to our destination, but my heart rate began to accelerate, for we were still in the middle of this great river with no community close.  After shutting down the engine we went to investigate what had happened.  After a short investigation in the engine compartment we verified that a belt connecting the alternator to the water pump cooling the engine had broken, and with the resulting jolt the water pump was completely moved from its correct position.  In that moment I began to pray silently to God asking Him to help us resolve this problem.  I knew that we had a spare belt, and that reassured me some, but I was still quite worried that the pump was moved from its location.  Quickly one of the other captain mechanics jumped down into the engine room and did several maneuvers with his hands, not even having the necessary tools.  After several attempts, he was able to adjust the pump back into a temporarily satisfactory location so that we could at least arrive to our location. 

            After spending the Sabbath day and Sunday morning meeting the medical needs of that small community, we refueled up our boat, and at noon on Sunday, we had our departure prayer and began our return trip to home.  The day was rainy and we knew that the return trip was more difficult than coming.  Descending the river our velocity was around 12 miles per hour, however going up stream our velocity would fall to half that and our estimated time en route would double.  Accordingly, if we descended the river in 15 hours, returning upstream could take us up to 30 hours. 

            We continued our journey upstream.  After 6 hours of navigating we begin to navigate the famous coast of Ajaratuba, a long coast that connects Manacapuru to the city of Anama.  Now, in the late afternoon, we were passing several villages completely flooded due to the overflowing Amazon River.  This year the Amazon has overflowed its borders, flooding thousands of people out of their homes.  I soon observed to the right a group of people signaling with their hands for us to come to them.  After passing them, I began to think that they were calling us.  I immediately asked our Captain Satu to return and anchor close to their home.  After a few minutes a small motorized canoe pulled up alongside our boat and we were invited to enter into their house which was totally flooded over by the river.  As soon as the small canoe pulled right up to their house we were met by a whole family with large smiles on their faces who said, “Welcome Pastor!”.  I smiled back to them and responded, “ I am not a pastor I am a doctor.”  And they all quickly flooded around me to compliment me and invite me to enter their house.  I quickly learned that this family was the pioneer Adventist family of this whole region.  The father, Mr. Genico, as he called himself, with his children at his side, told me how they were so overwhelmingly surprised to see a Luzeiro boat passing through this region and that is why they called us over.  They quickly began to tell me how much they felt the absence of the old Luzeiro boats, which always brought medical help to their families and how their pastor had so many difficulties in making a visit to their village.  They shared stories, with tears in their eyes, of the many memories they had of the Luziero boats and the help it always provided in the past.  In that very moment I felt extremely satisfied and happy that we had arrived to this far away community aboard the Luzeiro and at the same time I praised God because the goal of the Luzeiro program was being put in practice, far away from board rooms and meeting halls.  When I spoke with the patriarch of the family and looked into his eyes I noticed that he suffered from an eye problem, called cataracts, where the lens of his eye was cloudy and was completely white.  I spoke with the man, “Mr. Genico, can you see well?”  Mr. Genico said, “Oh doctor, I can’t see well at all, this very week I was going to try and find my way to Manaus to search out an eye doctor and I know that it won’t be easy.”  After a medical evaluation, I was able to refer him to one of our volunteers in Manaus, who is an ophthalmologist.  After this I examined all the family, was able to leave medicines, pray for each one, and we started back on our journey.  For our dinner, the family humbly offered us two beautiful fish, tambaquis and a little cassava flour.  I left with a happy heart, because the true objectives of the Luzeiro program were being realized, after two years of no medical help in this area. 

            During our return trip home, due to the strong current of the Solimoes River, we were always forced to navigate on the banks of the river.  In various points between Manacapuru and Coari, we were surprised by the natural force of the water, and in some locations by the formation of “water encounters”.  The water encounters are truly whirlpools mixed with a current that with huge forces easily displaces boats that try to brave her forces.  Large boats are easily displaced by these forces and our sweet little Luzeiro wouldn’t be any different.  Observing these areas, I saw during the day and night the large impact on our boat.  The moment your boat enters one of these areas, you are immediately thrown sideways, leaving the captain to immediately try to maneuver the boat to try and overcome the force.  During all these encounters my heart was quite anxious, and each time I asked the Lord to guide us with His angels around the boat.  During the return trip we passed hundreds of these spots, and thanks to God, we were able to arrive safely home.  My dear friends, our lives are like a large flowing river, full of water crossings along the way.  We are the small boats trying to navigate this large river.  At any moment we can be quickly surprised by these water encounters that try to displace us from our walk with God.  We need to be attentive and prepared captains so that when the bow of our boats enters into a tough spot, we can quickly turn and prevent from sinking in this river of life.  And to do this we need to place our boats into the hands of the greatest captain, Jesus Christ.  If we don’t trust this journey into His hands, we will be fatally surprised by the waters of life and we will sink in our spiritual lives.  May God bless us today and forever.  Luzeiro Greetings!

Dr. Ricardo Faria, Medical Doctor, Volunteer, President of ASVAM Luzeiro

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Entry filed under: May 2009.

Saving Hearts and Souls Longing for Heaven

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