Another stop along the Amazon River was Buenos Aires, Peru not the capital of Argentina! It is a small pueblo just a 20 minute boat ride from Veinte Enero. As we passed the last outcropping on the side of the river and approached the pueblo we were greeted by what seemed like the entire village dressed in their “Sunday best” lining the banks waiting for our arrival. What a sight. Kids were everywhere, smiling, waving, and jumping up and down. It was all they could do to keep me in the boat. I wanted to jump out and go play with the kids!
Every place we went we never carried anything. Not a suitcase or a trunk or even our backpacks. They all wanted to help unload the boat and as much as we protested it didn’t matter. It didn’t seem right – we had come to serve them and yet they were serving us. At one point it felt like they were carrying us personally up the embankment! Each one of us was surrounded by countless numbers of people, not only kids but the adults too. Trying to get our attention, wanting to be near us and wanting to touch us. It can be very intimidating but for them it was about the personal contact. Human face to face contact – not contact through email, facebook or whatever social media we use here. It was about honoring us for honoring them by coming to spend time with them. It’s the simple things that always make the most impact for me on these trips. I wish you could see and feel inside my heart and then you would know what I experience when I am there. I can never quite put it into words. It is something that has to be lived out and experienced first hand.
Look at this family. They are one of the many families that we found out had traveled for 4 hours in a crowded “canoe” just to come to the program. It had been “talked up” for months every time the pastor came to this village and those surrounding it. Word of mouth, no calling on a cell phone (they don’t work here), no seeing it advertised on tv (there is none), no buying tickets from Ticketmaster. These people had no idea how long the program would be (to justify the long trip by boat they had just taken) or who would be performing or what the program was about other than it was sponsored by the church in Veinte Enero and it would be about Jesus. And later when it was time to leave around 10 pm, they were headed back the same way. A slow 4 hour journey, on a crowded tiny canoe type boat with NO LIGHTS! IN THE AMAZON. Just the moon and some flashlights to light their way. Yikes. Now that made an impression. Would I have done that just to hear the word of Jesus? To see a relatively short bible school program for kids? And yet they came. They didn’t go to Buenos Aires for the restaurants, or movie theater – there are none. They didn’t come for the shopping, there are no stores. They didn’t come for a quick get-away in a hotel (there are none). In fact just to go to the bathroom you have to walk out into the jungle and find a tree! And at night – well it is a little unnerving! These people came for Jesus………..
The girl in the white shirt stayed with me the entire time we were in Buenos Aires. 6 hours she was glued to me like a siamese twin. Sometimes she asked questions and sometimes she just looked at me. And when we left she asked when I was coming back. I kneeled down and gave her the biggest hug I could manage. When we let go of one another I said to her “soon and very soon.” I prayed she believed that. And would hold onto that hope. I wish I could have told her next week or even next month. It’s hard to look someone in the eyes who is crying and leave. It is harder to hold back the tears in your own eyes so that is not the last impression they have of you. And even harder leaving them with a smile and walk away when all you want to do is cry. So through the tears and smiles, I waved goodbye and turned and walked away. It’s just too tough sometimes.
In His Mighty Grip,