into the Amazon

On July 11th, Ryan and I and four of our favorite people embarked on a jungle adventure. We got off the plane in Belem, Para in Brazil, with no clear idea of what the next two months would look like.  

Belem is a city of 1.6 million people. The architecture is a mix of Portuguese and French, lending to it's contrast of beauty and poverty. I grew to really love this city.

Belem is a city of 1.6 million people. The architecture is a mix of Portuguese and French, lending to it's contrast of beauty and poverty. I grew to really love this city.

View of Belem from the water taxi.

View of Belem from the water taxi.

After a car ride through the edge of the city, we navigated a busy dock with our camera gear and backpacks held close. There were all sorts of vendors selling acai and juices and cooked meats, stray dogs scavenging the ground, and men urinating off the edge into the river. A boat captain motioned to our guide in frantic Portuguese, and we quickly climbed into his rickety, vibrantly painted water taxi. The seats were red vinyl and the whole boat smelled of food and sweat. 

We stretched our necks out the windows and watched the city fade into another world altogether. 

My teammate and friend, Joy. 

My teammate and friend, Joy. 

Suddenly I swear we were on a National Geographic expedition. The river was wide open in front of us, with dense jungle on either side. Every now and then we would pass a boat with entire families stuffed inside. They would turn their heads to watch our boat of blue eyed passengers. 

River houses could be seen tucked amidst the palms and vines- brightly painted, balancing on stilts, with full clotheslines flying like pennants outside. Each one had a boat tied to a dock. The rivers are the highways around here, and days are planned at the mercy of the tide.

Typical river homes. Stilts, clotheslines, and canoes.

Typical river homes. Stilts, clotheslines, and canoes.

After an hour on the water, we arrived at a dock with a few small shops nearby. It was dark, and we waited for our ride with wide eyes and fast hands to swat at mosquitos. The Amazon Reach base leader, Joe, pulled up shortly after and we jumped in his car for the quick ride to base.

Edilma and Joe, leaders of the Amazon Reach ministry. 

Edilma and Joe, leaders of the Amazon Reach ministry. 

The dock on base, perfect napping place.

The dock on base, perfect napping place.

A sweet local woman who would come make lunch at the base sometimes. The lunches she prepared were always the best meal of the day.

A sweet local woman who would come make lunch at the base sometimes. The lunches she prepared were always the best meal of the day.

Amazon Reach is a ministry of the YWAM base where we stayed in the rainforest. The base itself is a charming old home tucked back on the river. It has a long dirt driveway, a pool, a wrap around porch, and beautiful old hardwood floors that squeak with every step. There wasn’t room for Ryan and I and our leader/friend Igor on the property, so we stayed in a room about a mile from the base. The three of us would walk there every day in the morning, munching on tangerines from the tree outside our rooms. I didn’t mind the walk at that early hour— the heat hadn’t fully set in, the jungle sounds and mist were lovely, and the snakes had retreated back to their treetops.

We passed this building every day on our walk to base- it was my favorite one.

We passed this building every day on our walk to base- it was my favorite one.

Amazon Reach is a ministry with many different facets, all of which involve sending boats to remote villages. They send teams of dentists and doctors to tend to basic health needs, run a community development school and program, and also send missionaries to share the love of God with communities that feel forgotten. Here's a video about the ministry that two of our team mates, Igor and Natasha, put together. They did an amazing job! 

Over our two months there, we only spent about a third of our time in the Amazon at the base, the rest we were in remote villages. Our first trip began only two days after we arrived in the jungle, to a community called Arapapuzinho.