09 November 2020
Reflections from Brazil: the Amazon mission boat
Earlier this year before lockdown, Carolyn Lawrence visited the Methodist Church in Brazil. Here, she shares some of her reflections on a trip to see how a boat brings support to isolated Amazon villages.
The Project Mission Amazon, known as the Boat Methodist Hospital is a social project of the Methodist Church of Brazil to the Amazon Missionary Region (REMA) which provides assistance in areas of health, education and spiritual teaching to riverside and indigenous communities along the river.
The boat we visited, ‘Manfred Grellert’, was donated to the Methodist Church in 2001 by World Vision. Since then many have heard and responded to the gospel and have also received miracles. The boat is welcomed with open arms in all the communities it visits. Over the 19 years that the mission boat has been operating they have served well over 150,000 people and the leaders are trusting God for his provision for this to continue.
There are around 24 million people living in the remote Amazon region of the country and there is a lot of poverty amongst these communities, many of whom rely on fishing, hunting and subsistence farming for their living. Illiteracy stands at 25% and for every 1000 children, 39 die before they are one year of age. This difficult situation is often made worse by natural events such as floods (the rainy season is November to April), drought (the dry season is May to October), disease and conflicts between those who come to exploit the land. There are more than 30,000 riverside villages in the Amazon, most of whom have no evangelical presence.
The goals of the mission boat are to:
- Announce the gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ.
- Contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of riverside and indigenous families through health care.
- Contribute to raising the educational levels of people in the communities of all ages.
- Provide environmentally friendly practices, to reflect on environmental issues and change the way of thinking and acting of families in relation to sustainable development.
- Train community leaders.
- Reduce the frequency of disease caused by lack of basic sanitation and drinking water.
It was a wonderful privilege to visit the mission boat and to hear about the valuable work done by Pastors Max and Jessica, the boat’s captain, Paulo and their teams. The boat is taken out six times a year for up to a week at a time and last year, between March and December, reached over 10,000 people! Not all the volunteers on the teams are Christians but everyone usually joins in the regular devotionals on the boat when they are out on mission trips and some volunteers have become Christians themselves as a result of these trips.
The mission boat
Pastors Max and Jessica gather groups of volunteers from Brazil and overseas with skills as evangelists, health care, dental care, children’s outreach, discipling, leading of classes on environmental issues and teaching. As people in these communities have responded to the gospel, they have planted churches and established and trained local leaders to pastor those coming to faith.
Carolyn with Pastor Max
Sadly, since Covid-19, the boat has been unable to visit these communities and has been undergoing necessary maintenance, but the team have managed to get to some of the remote villages by chartering a plane to take essential supplies and check on the health and well being of the communities they serve.
You can follow the work of the Mission Boat on their Facebook page - Barco Hospital Metodista.
As we talked to Pastor Max about the mission boat he reminded us that you need the gospel to transform lives. He said, ‘Other religions are not afraid to share their faith so neither should we be as Christians. We shouldn’t judge people but we do need to talk about Christ. The gospel will touch their lives.’
Both Pastor Max and Bishop Fabio talked about the importance of social action and evangelism going hand in hand and this mission boat is a wonderful example of that in practice reaching people along the Amazon with the love of Jesus in word and deed.
Collecting supplies for the boat
This important ministry also reminds us that we are called to reach out to people in our own communities especially at this time when many are going through difficulties and facing anxiety about health, finances and jobs. It is a real blessing and privilege for us to be able to share the hope and love of Jesus as we remember that God is always with us.
Carolyn Lawrence, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, 2020 - 2021.