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Trip Summary (October 13-27)

For the first time in almost two years I was able to return to Manaus, Brazil to reconnect with old friends and work with my favorite charity Ray of Hope Amazon. Ray of Hope serves the people who live along and around the Amazon river. We feed their physical, mental and most importantly their spiritual needs.

If you just want to look at pictures, go HERE If you just want to watch videos I took with my drone, go HERE

This year's trip was from October 13 to October 27 and took me from Kansas City to Dallas to Sau Paulo to Manaus (and back). As a result of the pandemic, the normal flight from Miami to Manaus was eliminated thus adding a day of travel both ways. This was my third or fourth attempt at getting to Brazil since 2019 with the other times not working out due to airline cancellation or other matters. At this point, I had made up my mind that I was going to Brazil regardless of how long it took me to get there and I was going to stay there for longer than usual. If I needed to work, I would do so remotely since I've been remote working since March, 2020.

Over the course of my time in Brazil, we visited about 15+ locations all generally around Manaus. For the first part of the week we traveled by car or small boat. Later in the week we spent multiple nights on a boat and for our last trip we did car, boat, bus and stayed overnight in hotel before repeating that for the way back.

I reunited with old friends, familiar traditions and was able to experience the amazing love that is always present in these areas. I preached, prayed, and played guitar. I swam in the river, ran in the jungle and did pull-ups in the rain.

It was simply amazing to be back with my people and to see God's never ending work in the jungle and the tireless work of our volunteers and staff.

We obviously always need donations. If you'd like to support the work we do in the jungle, you can make a tax-deductible donation HERE.
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Pre-Trip Exeperience

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I'm not concerned or anxious about going to Brazil. Even before Covid people act like if you go to the jungle you will be swallowed up by a giant snake or catch some rare disease. It's so funny what people think by watching TV shows. Then again, the rest of the world watches movies from the US and has similar crazy thoughts about how we live.

But I do spend hours (or days) going through my mental checklist to ensure I've brought everything I want to bring and don't bring stuff I don't need. We are only going to have a couple days on the boat so I can leave most of my boat stuff behind. How much clothes should I bring? How many pairs of shoes? How many running shorts (the important stuff)? But most importantly, how can I bring all the fun stuff with me.

We get lots fo requests for stuff. Some more serious than others. This year I'm bringing a hydraulic steering system for our boat. I didn't even know these existed. And due to shipping delays, I bought three to ensure one would be at my house prior to departure. Two of the three arrived. Whew. I also took down a collection of Ray of Hope shirts that one of partner's was going to take down in 2020. He still has them and send me 25.

Most of the other requests and supplies are more fun. Electronics are SO expensive down there so I took down two laptops. Otherwise, it's fun stuff to share with them such as Ranch Dressing, Stove Top Stuffing and Gates BBQ Sauce. Journals are also in high demand. And then I bring candy and sweets. Yes, Brazil, has candy, but it's not like OUR candy. Much better of course.

I can bring 50lbs, and I pack exactly 50lbs of stuff. Two checked bags. One carry one bag. One backpack. All packed as full as you can possibly make them. All my physical fitness training prepares me for this.

I get a little uptight prior tot he trip. It's a long flight. I get laser focused on my packing and preparation. I can tend to ignore everything else going on around the house. Sorry Melinda.

I didn’t sleep well Monday night. My mind races with my mental to do list. What should I bring? What should I leave behind? This happens every time. New this year was my Covid test. I took it too early. They tell you it takes 48-96 hours for a result. The airlines say no earlier than 72 hours before your flight. They didn't say which flight. It's 72 hours prior to my flight out of Dallas and not KC. So I had two tests on Monday hoping one would get done in time. I dreamt about this.

For the past month or so on Monday nights I started going to a prayer service with Radiant church. I enjoy that church although not my home church. I like their pastor and they are just five years old. I figured a little dedicated prayer would be good for me. Life can be distracting. Even at church life can be distracting. That’s the downside of being at a start up church. You know everyone and can’t always focus on the message and God. Listening to more than one message, more than one pastor is good for you. Different perspectives. It was a good dedicated prep for my trip. I will continue with it after I get home. There is value in spending time praying for yourself and for others.
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October 12 - Tuesday

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At around 6:20 AM I noticed a text. My cvs test had come back with the correct result. That is an answered prayer. I spent part of the night thinking through various scenarios, and how far I could go while waiting for the result. Would I even be able to board the flight to Dallas?. Happy I could stick with the original plan.

The morning was full of last minute preparations. I started by taking Lauren to school. I then came home for a run with Jayhawk. He’s been my constant companion though out my work at home time. We can both do an easy five miles and when the weather cools his energy explodes and we can go a full 13.

I forget to eat until we just about get in the car to go to the airport. My mind was elsewhere. What should I bring? What should I leave behind? How can I support Melinda from afar?

The airport was uneventful. I checked my two bags. Said goodbye to my wife and then through security. I know Melinda can wonder about my trips at times, but regardless she’s there by my side supporting our work. She tells me how much the Brazilians enjoy me. I’m not always so sure. I do my best. I try.

First flight was to Dallas, and then in Dallas, I spent four hours in the airline club before leaving at 7:20pm to São Paulo where we will arrive at 6AM the next day. It’s a long day. I was fortunate to get upgraded to business class so will hopefully get a decent night of sleep.

Where will God lead me this time? Thy will be done. Oh Lord, help me to remember that. It’s been a long 24 hours. 16 more to go until Manaus.
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October 13 - Wednesday

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After a Tylenol PM, I was able to get a good nights sleep on the plane. Breakfast was served at around 4 AM. I had no idea what time zone I am in. We are landing into a cloudy foggy city.

As I was departing the plane, I noticed that my AirPods had fallen from my pocket and into the seat. I was the last one off the plane as they had to call maintenance to dislodge them from under the recking chair. Based upon everyone's reaction, I was not the first one to lose them in the seats.

I trekked down through customs with no problems, found my bags and ventured off to my next flight. I had switched airlines and essentially rucked with my large heavy backpack and another large carry on to the LATAM airline counter. The airport in Sau Paulo was hot and I feel like I walked an hour. Checked bags were now gone, and I had a few hours to kill. I noticed the exit to outside was right there so I took a moment to sit on a concrete bench which was clearly a favorite of smokers despite "no smoking" signs everywhere.

São Paulo isn’t anything special as far as airports go. Very dated and dirty on the outside. Parts of the inside were updated. Not too crowded. I found a solo table where I could sit for awhile. Ventured to a food stand for a ham and cheese sandwich and then to the gate.

The LATAM plane is crap. Three seats on each side. No legroom even for shorter guys like me. Four hour flight. Hot and packed together.

I let Gloria and Patrick, my hosts, know I was on my way. He’s planning some fish on the grill tonight. It’s one of my favorite meals in Brazil. I'm looking forward to it.

I arrived in Brazil where Gloria, Patricia, Nate and Rox met me at the airport. It was great to see everyone again. Had no problem with the bags, loaded the car and we ventured to home. Karin, a long time missionary from Sweden, is also at their house.

I decided to take a walk up by the beach. I needed some fresh air and with sun setting it’s not too crazy hot.

We had a nice dinner and enjoyed catching up. Austin, their son, was here too.

It’s as if I never left. Friends that are friends forever. We just jump right back in. I eventually took a shower and went to bed thankful for a long and uneventful day of travel.

One of the hardest parts traveling is all the stuff we bring. It is nice to unload all of that and thankfully everything made it, and I'm thrilled they enjoy it. And I'll never stop.

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October 14 - Thursday

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Today I started my day like every other day when I'm home. I went for a run. I do know the area pretty well now so did about 4 miles up along the beach area. It was 85 degrees at 7:15.

Gloria and Patrick busted open their new Special K for breakfast. I was still recovering from my run so ate some eggs while standing up (and sweating). The best part was the fresh passion fruit juice. So good. The fruit here is spectacular. I need to watch myself from eating too much of it or I'll be spending a little more time around the toilet.

Today we headed to the Ray of Hope office. This was my first visit to this location as we have moved offices several times. It was great to see everyone. Luzinette. Thais. Fran. The family was all here.

I got a tour of the office, and saw that we had just received 750 food bags from world vision. They deliver to us. We deliver to the people. It will be a lot of work. And it costs us money. We need to figure that one out at some point.

Later on we had a staff meeting to talk about the next two weeks…who is going where. It was nice to be with everyone. They start out translating and then after awhile, it all turns to Portuguese. I pick up words and phrases. Gloria tells me that on Friday I’m playing guitar and delivering the message. I figured as such. Nate tells me to get ready for a lot more. I love doing it. I really don't care where we go or when. It doesn't matter to me. I just want to go where they tell me to go.

Our organization has not communicated to our supporters all that well. We need to start a regular newsletter. Met with Nate and Thais to talk about getting a newsletter started. I used to do something from America but it really needs to come from Brazil.

I had the pleasure of meeting our volunteer psychologist. The needs of mental health are many. Panic and anxiety are high. Same stuff we have in the states. She is here two days a week. Serving the jungle people. It’s really an amazing ministry

Lunch was brought in. I’m not sure what it was. Some kind of chicken cheese sauce thing. It was good. The food is quite similar at times, and I haven't had any issues with food at all.

Around 3:30 we went back home. I decided to go hit the beach for a bit. It’s about a 1/3 mile walk. It was hot and the Rio negro was also warm. Like bath water. Refreshing? Kinda. It's a beach. And the beach in Manaus is WAY better than the beach in Kansas.

I went home, showered and had dinner.

I spend my time thinking about the message. It’s going to be on the similarities of fitness, our faith walk and Peter. I enjoy the studying and preparation. I also grabbed Patrick’s guitar and practiced a bit for Friday night.

We went out for ice cream after dinner. I got to catch up with Vivi, their daughter,. She is working for World Vision. Sheis very happy with the job. It’s a blessing after a LONG time locked down during the height of the pandemic.

My room has air conditioning so I retired a bit early to cool off. It takes a while to fall asleep.
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October 15 - Friday

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I woke up and went for a run in the jungle. It used to freak me out a bit as I’m on these paved roads behind where I am staying. Lots of the roads look alike so it's easy to get turned around. I know it's a big circle, and I"m in pretty good shape so I can always backtrack. But I’ve gotten used to it. There are a few other runners and lots of people walking to work in the housing complexes. What if some crazy jungle animal comes out at me? I will run faster.

Today we went to two locations in Iranduba which is a community across the bridge from Manaus. There aren't ANY bridges that cross the Amazon. This is the only bridge that crosses the Rio Negro which feeds into the Amazon. Think about that. No bridges cross the Amazon anywhere.

We drive to this location. It's someplace I've been to many times. However, the first place we visited was a family with 9 children. This family was discovered by Ray of Hope while they were driving to another location. They felt the need to stop so on the way back they did, and we are so thankful they stopped originally. These home visits are simply checking in and seeing how they are doing….one of the girls was turning 15. It was a way to introduce them to me and a chance to hear how their lives are going and how we can pray for them.

They have a small house they have built on church land which means they could get evicted at any time. Not sure how likely that is….the husband was at work. I was happy to see a husband in the picture as it seems that is not the case all the time. We stayed there for about 90 minutes or so. The mother was simply delightful and cheerful. The small house had absolutely nothing in it until Ray of Hope came along. We brought donated furniture, stove, refrigerator and clothing. Amazing.

Afterwards we did a quick stop in the village of Sao Sabastio. We have been here many times. I learned today there are 85 teenagers and kids with 20 or so families. This settlement was created out of nothing several years ago. These people were living somewhere else on someone else's land. They were removed and the government paved a dirt road in the jungle and gave them land. They fended for themselves to gather materials to build small houses out of whatever they could get a hold of.

The kids have not been in school for the most part the last two years. And when it rains the bus doesn't come to get them because the roads are muddy and impassable. And let me tell you, in the jungle, it rains a lot.

They are in desperate need of education and support. We are looking to help them with tutoring and other school activities. It’s a very difficult situation, and would like to raise $1,000 a month for this location.

This evening was the first in person get together in a long time for Ray of Hope and their volunteers. There were about 35 people there. We celebrated birthdays, and I was given the opportunity to share a message. I passed on the guitar playing as someone had already played, and it just didn't feel right.


These are my raw notes:

"Friday Message
Fitness faith and Peter

New is exciting
—new workout
—new church
—new mission

There will be challenges
—some new ideas aren’t so exciting once you get into them
—embrace the suck
—12 marathons for 12 weeks sounded like a good idea….
—The enemy will give you reasons to quit

You don’t know when the gains will come if ever
—our athletic goals may not be achievable.
—or you may see tremendous gain

The story of Peter
He was the first disciple
He was Jesus right hand man
All,this new stuff….feeling pretty good about himself
First one to deny
Then he was the one to lead
Then he went to jail, got out of jail. Into jail
Finally he was said to be crucified.

This was not the first challenge ROH will face. It certainly won’t be the last. Just like Peter, we will all persevere. We may not see the fruits of our labor on earth, but unlike working out, we know the end result. Out eternal unwavering faith in Jesus Christ ensures us an everlasting life i heaven above. "

I think it is very important for Christians to realize that life isn't easy, we aren't ever going to know the plan, and the fruits of our labor most likely won't be seen in our lifetime. And all of that is ok.

Following the message, we wrapped up in prayer and called it a night. It's great to be back.
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October 16 - Saturday

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After a shower and breakfast (breakfast generally involves eggs, bread, coffee (which I don't drink) and fresh juice). All good!

Today was the first day on the river with plans to visit two communities. The first place we went to was about an hour north of Manaus up the Rio Negro. It was a new community we’ve never been to before. We heard about this place from another missionary and friends of friends. That’s how it works sometimes. They have 8 families and is a mixture of indigenous and afro-brazillians. Brazil had the most African slaves in the world. This tribe is originally from the border of Columbia and Brazil.

They have historical grievances against the white folk. The Christians that settled back in the day forced Christianity on you. The Chief’s father (and her father and her father) said never to trust the white folks especially those Christians. So we’e got that going for us!

But a missionary from Brazil named Reges who is young (28-30?) was persistent and managed to convince them to allow him to join. He is married with no children yet and are building a house. It turned out we have a missionary friend in common. So we take the selfie and I sent it to her. How the heck do I have mutual friends in the Amazon jungle?

Anyway, we did some introductions, I shared a brief message in response to the historical impression they have of us white folk. I told them not all Christians understand Christianity and that any Christian who doesn't lead with love, needs to spend a lot more time in the Bible.

The missionary played “How Great Thou Art” in the native tongue and then in English and then in Portuguese. It was amazing. We then talked with them and distributed food bags. World Vision gives them to us and we move then to the jungle. It’s a LOT fo work. They are about 40-50lbs each.

Ray of Hope gets demographic information for each person who gets a food bag. Official ID and tracks number in the household.

Afterwards we grabbed some some lunch at a river restaurant. There are places to eat all over the place in the more populated areas near Manaus. Typically they serve fish (surprise), chicken along with rice, beans and some sort of vegetable salad. It's always good and always fresh.

After lunch, we realized we were close to the next place and walked up there as someone else drove a car around to meet us with the food bag. This time of the year the water is down on the rive so the walks up are much longer. And in the middle of the afternoon, it's brutally hot with the sun out.

This village I had not been to in about 3 years, but the chief is a good partner and was at our volunteer night on Friday. He’s a really solid man of God. Very impressive. At this time, all we were doing was delivery food bags. We then walked back down to the water and took the boat back home. It’s always nice to be on the river. We dropped a few more food bags off along the way and then went to the marina on the other side of the bridge which is where we store our boat. Since there is only one bridge that crosses the river, just go ahead and search the web for it. You'll find it.

It was time for home and a shower and a late dinner. It was a blessed day helping people with their physical needs and being their to share the Word with them.
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October 17 - Sunday

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I did not go for a run this morning because according to my good missionary friend Nate Miller, "Today we are going to the hottest place on earth.". Sounds intriguing……

Today was a trip a couple hours nearby where we were going to distribute food bags in the community of Sao Francisco. This is the spring in the southern hemisphere and we are just a few degrees off the equator. So yeah, although there are seasons down here (rainy season and less rainy season). Where we will be working is in the middle of field with a small tree. This could be a hot one.

We don't simply give out the food bags. Before doing so we will deliver a short message and pray for everyone that is there. This is one of the larger crowds we have encountered and the Ray of Hope volunteers do a great job of keeping it all organized.

I don't have a direct role throughout the day and I try and help out wherever I can. As things get moving, I look for people to talk to. I noticed across the road a small farm with lettuce and some other stuff. The gentlemen who owns the land invited me inside his gate (and me grabbing a translator), we got a mini-tour. It turns out he is Catholic with two kids who practice other religions. He was thankful for our interest, and I had the chance to pray for him. Then we took a picture and we shared it via WhatsApp. For those of you who don't know, this is a messaging application that has 97% market share in Brazil. No matter how poor or remote a place may be, everyone has a cell phone and WhatsAppt.

Later in the day, I ran across the lady we met the other day with nine children and then reconnected with another lady from another village. How strange it is for me to recognize them (and them me) when I pop in every few years? I'm glad it happens, and it demonstrates our regular communication to them that they are not alone and we do care about them.

How was the weather? It was FANTASTIC. It was cloudy. We had a sudden storm towards the end our distribution and got a wonderful summer rain. It was glorious. The apparent "hottest place on earth" was amazingly pleasant.

Sunday evening is when Brazilians go to church. It's much cooler after the sun goes down. Gloria arranged for us to go visit my old friend Abner and his new wife Jewell. Their marriage (she is from Canada) is almost worthy of a movie. It was amazing to see them and attend his church. The order of service was very similar to what we have in America. Worship. Prayer. Preaching. Communion. More preaching. Salvation Call. Prayer. What was different? It went for 2:45. Really.

But you know what, I didn't care a bit. We were outside. The weather was great. And I truly believe that when you are in a church or hearing a prayer in a language other than your native tongue, you can sit there and actively listen for God to send you a message. I loved it.

The other thing Brazilians typically do is eat late. So at around 11, we had a pizza dinner with the whole gang. It was a great day!

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October 18 - Monday

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Whether it was all the fruit or the pizza, the late night dinner didn’t go over all that well….it does go through quite well…

This morning we went to the town of Macaruprunu. it is a town on the other side of the Manuas; about a 90 minute drive. Karin’s organization along with Ray of Hope support a feeding center there. The organization provides food and some other social services for the kids when they are not in school. Typically the kids go to school either in the morning or the afternoon. Where they operate is in a very poverty stricken part of town.

Karin has likewise not been here for two years and the kids and leaders had a birthday party for her and this allowed them to catch up a bit. While there we help where we can and are just support for the group.

On the way back we stopped for lunch and as if it wasn’t obvious, I realized how much beef the people here eat. Like almost every meal. Beef, rice and beans with an occasional pizza thrown in…..I had chicken. They do eat a lot of fish too. The food's great. I have zero problem adjusting to it.

Monday night I came back and went to the beach for pull-ups and pushups. I don’t go quite as hard here as it’s a million degrees and humid. I then took the drone out to get some footage….flying it up and down the beach. This drone gets some amazing video and pictures.

After all of that I grabbed some ACAI. It’s one of the best things about Brazil that nobody can seem to replicate it in the US. I love it.

After dinner, we had a devotional time. I typically speak at these and enjoy it so much. I played (badly) a few songs with Vivi and then I discussed how “love is patience”. That when we are patient, we show love. Most importantly, God is always patient with us no matter what we do or how far we stray. Getting back to Brazil required much patience on my behalf. I think about that verse a lot. Love is patient.
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October 19 - Tuesday

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Today my little problem was little. I drank some water and went for a 4 mile run. I run primary in an area behind the house here. It’a newish complex of large condominiums. The roads are not crowded and there is usually people walking to and from work along with some other runners. I’m always looking for my exit strategy if the bad guys come out. Different today was the military school had guys out running. Lots of people in their green shorts and white shirts. I just blended in….my army was there for me.

After a shower, I went up to the beach to take some drone footage. This time it turned out. I’m eager to get on the water and get some more.

I had some bread for breakfast, and we didn’t have much to do today other than a ROH board meeting.

It appears at the moment we’ll have some trips to plan for next year and Gloria and Patrick to the US in late Feb/March. That would be amazing.

I decided to hang out at home today to make sure what went in my mouth didn’t quickly come out somewhere else.

For the next two nights I was going to be spending my time with Nate and Rox Miller. They are two American missionaries who had previously worked with Ray of Hope for many years and recently moved to Manaus full-time. They gave up their comfortable normal life in the US to serve down here. They have been a BIG help with the organization and also helping me on how to operate from the US to support them.

It was interesting for me to hear about their life in Manaus, what they missed in the US, and the new items they've found here.

That evening we met up with Abner and Jewel for dinner. Abner skipped his class that night to meet up with us. It was wonderful all of to get together. Such a blessing for these young folk to hang out with the old guy. After dinner we walked home to Nate and Rox's place.
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October 20- Wednesday

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Today was a day of rest and relaxation on the Rio Negro. Even missionaries need a day to recharge mentally, physically and spiritually. The tourism business, Ecosight, owned by Gloria and Patrick have a Flutuante which is essentially a large floating dock/house where you can enjoy a day on the water. There is a collection of them in a certain area of the Rio Negro.

The water in this area is refreshing, and we had about 15 volunteers with us. A chef came with us to make lunch for us too. In typical jungle weather fashion, the weather was nice, then we had an absolute downpour followed by amazing weather.

It's easy to look around and see all the needs, not only here in Brail but everywhere. However, we must all recognize that we can't individually solve every problem of the world. We are all part of God's plan. And we are of no use to anyone if we work incessantly. For me, I would think, "I'm only down here for a short time period, and I have to do something ALL the time". This is false. The day was amazing.

Going home to Nate and Rox's place, I can't help but think after being here a week, how are there not more auto accidents. None of the road are straight. There are speed bumps and pot holes everywhere. And everyone drives like a maniac. Which is deliciously ironic because outside of driving, Brazilians have zero sense of urgency when it comes to being on time.

That evening Rox cooked a yummy salmon dinner with potatoes and broccoli It was a nice change of pace from and reminded me of home.

Following dinner we walked to the mall for Oreo supreme ice cream. She said it was the best in Manaus. It was good. But not the best. That tile is still held by Baskin Robbins Peanut butter and Chocolate.
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October 21 - Thursday

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Nate and I got up early to run. We drove over by where Gloria and Patrick live and about 4 miles behind Gloria’s house. It’s really hard to run in the main roads. The sidewalks suck, there are other people on them, and the drivers are crazy. I do see a few bikes on the road but it's generally all cars driving like they are trying to win a go-kart race. They should really put large rubber bumpers on all the cars and just let people go nuts.

Following a run and a shower we went to Thais's house for breakfast. That family is simply amazing. It was nice to see them all and her mother is a wonderful cook. She typically joins us on our boat trips too. From there I went back to Gloria’s and took a nap. The previous night I did not sleep well. It must have been the Oreo Supreme.

In the afternoon we went to a local indigenous tribe called the Juruparii to deliver food bags. There is SO much poverty. I had my first attempt at gathering demographic information for ray of hope and the food bags. My Brazilian friends are saying "Falar" which means speak. I did my best….and luckily had some help.

The pockets of people groups in the jungle is amazing. Manaus is a big city of 2 million. Yet in it and around it, you can find people who are living like they have for hundreds of years. They are ever so thankful we come visit. It seems simple, but a lot of what we do is reaching out to people who never have any visitors. We check in. We listen and we let them know God has not forgotten them (and neither have we).

That evening I went back to the office to help move 172 food bags up to the front of the Ray of Hope office. Kinda crazy. Hot. But we got it done.

We then went home via Uber, and I was dropped off at the beach so I could get some açaí. I use google translate a lot when I'm on a solo mission. I told Gloria I didn’t need to dinner. They came home after me and brought me dinner anyway. Ha ha. I don’t know what the sandwich was, but it was excellent. Beef, onions and good bread. Brazil has good fresh bread for sure. Really good bread.

I was excited for Friday. Friday was Big Boat day. The best.
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October 22 - Friday

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Today was boat day! If could dance, today would be happy dance day. There is nothing like being out on the river away from the city. Nothing.

It’s just me and it’s expensive so I knew we weren’t going to be out often. So I appreciate all that went on to get this going. But this morning, I had other matters to attend to….

First, back to the previous days village to deliver more food bags as we ran out yesterday. It's heartbreaking to see the need but heartwarming to know that at least for that next few weeks, their food needs are being met.

Then, after much delay, I went for a haircut. I had 3 haircuts in 18 months or so. I had wanted to get something done prior to the trip but it didn't work out. And so I proved I could still grow hair, and I think I liked it more than anybody around me (not think, I know). So Gloria knew someone who knew someone and off we went. Unlike my 10 minute sport clips haircut, this was a male salon. The young man, Matt, who cut my hair was great. Fun personality and became a Christian during the pandemic. I think it took like 70 minutes. Cut. Wash. Style. I really enjoyed it. $12. Amazing. If only he were closer….

I then went to rhe office to help load the food bags on the truck and then came to the boat where we loaded it on the boat. The logistical challenges to load the boat are numerous and difficult. After a while, you just expect to be hot and sweaty. I didn't understand this on my first trip. Now I do. Bring lots of clothes. Take lots of showers. Rinse. Repeat.

Just after we loaded up the boat, a downpour came. And not surprisingly, a few people were late too. Eventually we headed out on the water where we gathered as at team for worship. I can't begin to describe how spiritual and beautiful it was to hear my old friend Abner lead us in worship again. On the boat with a bunch of my old friends.

We bring EVERYTHING we need on the boat. Food. Water. Toilet paper. And our cooks make an amazing meal every time. After venturing out the river for a bit, we called it a night.

During the evening, we had some rain….more like a TON of rain. It was kind of crazy, but in a good way and kept the temperature down as we sleep outside in hammocks. What a Glorious night. Gloria a Deus.


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October 23 - Saturday

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When you are near the equator, the you have generally an equal amount of sunlight and darkness every day. And when you are on a boat with the sun rising about 5:30AM, you are waking up whether you want to or not. Some people do their best to ignore the world. It is however a futile effort.

We woke up to more rain so didn't get any amazing sunrises. But I have a feeling tomorrow will be a different story. A typical day on the boat is breakfast around 7, coffee is ready at 6. We then have worship, devotional time and then head out to the villages. Today was going to be a busy day, and. I think we ended up at four different locations.

Usually when we get to a village, we will take some time talking with the Chief, and then put on a short event that encompasses songs, dances and a message. Wherever we go we bring the Word. Always. Yes, we bring food and other items at times, but the most important delivery we always make is the Word of God.

I always enjoy sharing a Word with them. I do my best to connect to them, share my background a bit and leave them with something to ponder. For the more popular stops where tourists come, I implore them to see themselves as disciples. Other times it is more of a focus on love and why we are there. I know originally I would have freaked out about doing this kind of thing but by saying yes, I have come to enjoy it more than just about anything.

I have been to most fo these villages before and there is a general recognition of this on all sides. I try to pull up historical pictures and show them when I was there. They get a good response….and then I try to get a similar picture.

One place we went to was the home of Pastor Diego. I met him several years ago as a young 26 year old pastor with a wife and two kids just starting out. He's just got "it". It is like he has a halo over his head and a warm friendly smile. There is lot more to this story. Ask me about it sometime. Miracles on miracles. It's so fun to reconnect even though our conversation is through a translator.

We pray for all the villages. We pray for individuals. In one case a man asked for us to come to his house to pray for his ill wife and their marriage. It was amazing. A weeping man praying with us for their family and their struggles. That's all people need some time. A prayer and a hug.

After our next to last village and before our final stop and an evening service, we went swimming. At this time of the year, sand bars are visible, and it's very refreshing after a long hot day in the jungle. To think I"d be swimming in the Amazon river…..

That night I got to play Pastor. I don't remember being at this particular village, but the village gathered in a church for a service. None of this is rehearsed on our side. Gloria introduces us and then we react. Sometimes we need to spontaneously come up with a worships song. Tonight Fabio did a solo out of the blue and prayed for them. Then it was my turn to speak.

Again, always looking for a connection. How can the words of this American reach the people of the jungle. Always remembering, it's not up to me. It's up to God. I'm just the instrument. I tell my story. How I got here. How I was discipled, and how they need to likewise disciple others. I usually tell them the importance of supporting their pastors.

Jungle pastors have no or little income. Their people don't have money. They have little resources. They can feel very very alone in their service. If there is one group that touches my heart, it's jungle pastors. They humble me like no other.

I finished up the message, we prayed for them and then had some time to socialize and grab some food bags. One person in attendance remembered me….from another village two years ago. That's kind of crazy. These other villages aren't simply a few roads over. It's quite some distance. That was a fun reunion.

We trekked back to the boat and settled in for a late dinner.

God is good.


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October 24 - Sunday

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Sunday morning we woke up to a beautiful sunrise. Spectacular.

After another great breakfast, we had worship and devotions. I was able to lead worship today and dragged my friends Abner and Jewell with me. If it wasn't for Ray of Hope, I would have never learned to play guitar. I don't have the strongest voice so always grab some "volunteers' to help me out. It was fun teaching my Brazilian friends a few English words to Raise a Hallelujah.

Today we were visiting a place called 15 of September. I had been to this village once before. A few years ago after visiting Pastor Diego, we learned he had a motor but not a boat. So we decided on our boat to get him a small boat. Done. The next village we were supposed to go to the pastor wasn't there. So as usual, Gloria either sends a boat to another village or called someone for us to visit. Planning? Who needs plans? Anyway, by chance we went this village….15 of September. We had never been here before. We walk up the giant hill to a community platform where we will hold our event. As we look around, just to the right, we saw something. It was a boat maker. I couldn't believe it. I started to cry. Here was a boat we could get for the Pastor at a location we never were planning to go to. Needless to say, we bought the boat he was making on the spot.

We spent most of the morning there delivering food bags after we sang, gave a message and met with the kids. We also look for ways to connect with kids and share a message with them tailored to their level..

We wrapped up our visit and begin the 3 hour venture back to Manaus. The social time on the boat is also great. Water. Friends. Hammock time for naps. It's just a great situation all around.

We got back early evening, unloaded the boat and got some needed sleep before our next adventure on Monday.

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October 25 - Monday

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We are going to a town of Manaquiri to distribute food bags and meet with some pastors about a pastors conference in 2022. Before I leave, I generally never ask how long we are gong to be and how we are getting where we are getting. It's part of the fun of it. And other than potentially needing a bathroom break, it doesn't matter. I'm there to serve however and wherever and wherever.

At first I thought we were driving the whole way like four hours but we ended up going to a Marina in Manaus where we caught a small water taxi to take us to the other side. Any chance we can get on a boat I'm in! We went across the Rio Negro and the Amazon (meeting of the waters). We then grabbed a van with our driver for a couple more hours down the road.

This is a small town of about 30K where we have a relationships with some of the pastors. We checked into our hotel (small, very) and then went for lunch at the Pastor's house. Such a lovely time with him, his wife and two daughters, 12 and 8. From there we went to his church where we set up the food distribution center. Before starting the food work, he took us to the upper room in his church where he is building a feeding center. He'd like to feed 40 kids in the morning and 40 in the afternoon during the times they are not in school. Such vision and a worthy cause…..

It was very crowed and the area was very poor. Eventually the church was too full and we had to close the doors to control things a bit. We have 150 food bags and ended up running out of food. We needed another 50. For everyone who didn't get a bag, we took down their information and we shipped another 60 to the town to be distributed after we left. It's not the easiest place to get to.

While wrapping that up I went with the pastor to go get some food for a lady with 8 children. She was clearly "on something" and much in need. I took care of it as the store and a bunch of food was purchased for like $14. It could feed them for a week or so.

After we finished up, we went back to hotel for a few minutes, cleaned up and got ready for the pastors meeting. We were having at this pastor's other church location. About 20 pastors from 8 denominations showed up. This is really amazing because we were expecting 5 at most but the leader was able to gather the troops together.

And as usual, I have no idea the agenda for the meeting other than at some point Gloria is going to call on me. At that point I was able to explain why I was there, and why we are interested in supporting jungle pastors. Of all the times I spoke, I was in my element there. It was an incredible connection with these pastors. WE shared a video and then I facilitated a discussion about the needs or topics they would like covered.

Interesting enough they have the same issues we do in the states:
1. Discipleship
2. Keeping the young involved
3. Addictions
4. Pastor Care

It doesn't matter where you are or how many resources you have, those issues are everywhere we go in Brazil and in the US.

As we were wrapping things up, a pastor came up to me and said, "I've been praying for someone like you to come here for a long time". I couldn't help but wonder of all the times in the Bible where God calls on people and their response is "who me?". It's very humbling. I love the jungle pastors. Nobody has a tougher job. And heck yeah, I'm going to try and help these guys.

Lastly, I was able to grab a guitar and starting playing "How Great is our God"…at which point I was motioned to go up stairs where the band usually sits. A keyboard player joined me and gave me the microphone (always a mistake) and we played a bit. Then the pastor's wife joined in from down stairs. What a night. Again, if I told you five years ago I'd be playing guitar with some Brazilians in a remote location I would have told you that you were nuts. But it was a beautiful ending to the event as people left.

We grabbed some dinner with the pastor's family and called it a night. The sandwich was decisions. Hamburger with ham, bacon, egg and cheese. Bring it!
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October 26 - Tuesday

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After an OK night of sleep (the AC worked great), we gathered up our stuff and went to the pastor's house for breakfast. We prayed with him and headed back to Manaus repeating our route with Van, Water Taxi and Car back home. It's hard to forget a night like Monday night and am so thankful for that opportunity. We're coming back. WE don't know how or when yet. And we don't have money raised. All the little details we'll get to eventually.

We arrived home sometime in the afternoon and had lunch. It was my last day in town so headed up the beach for a final swim. The Rio Negro is really warm this time of the year. I didn't care. I just wanted to experience it all one more time. I also got some Acai.

That evening we had a final dinner with friends along and grabbled some end of trip pictures. I couldn't have asked for a better ending to an amazing trip.

Glora a Deus
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October 27 - Wednesday

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My flight was at 11:30 AM so I had some time to get a workout in before packing up and heading off. It was pouring rain and I didn't care. Summer rains are amazing. After breakfast, we loaded up the car and headed to the airport. I often get emotional at times like this, but not today. I was full of joy and so happy to have gotten to spend time with my friends and spread the love of God wherever I could.

I took a four-hour flight to Sau Paulo and then later that evening a nine-hour flight to Dallas. Everything went smoothly.
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October 28 - Thursday

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My flight landed in Dallas early in the morning and then off to KC where Melinda met me at the airport. It was good to be home although it was slightly (45 degrees) cooler than the jungle I left the day before. It's impossible to describe all the interactions and conversations I had oner the past two weeks. There were times when I was very hot, very tired while at the same time very rewarded spiritually with all that I encountered. These friends I have will always be there and it's like nothing changed at all in the last two years. Still great people. Still amazing servants of God. Still humbled by being a part of it all. Someday perhaps I'll ask God why. But not now. I'm just happy to have those folks and this ministry in my life.

I was also happy to be home with my wife and to grab some ribs from Gates.

Gloria a Deus