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Wednesday, January 1, 2025


If you just happened upon this little blog or came over from my personal Cactus Flower blog, first of WELCOME!  Originally this was a travel log of our big road trip all around mid-south Brazil in April of 2017 in a Mitsubishi Pajero.  

In September/October of 2017 Byron traveled to the northern states of Pará and Manaus and visited four of the major rivers of the Amazon River system.  He traveled by car, bus, slow boat, fast boat, small plane and commercial jet, UBER taxi and motorcycle. There are a series of posts about that trip.

Other posts from the fall of 2017 are about our survey trip around the back roads of Northern Bahia in the good old Pajero.  We visited over 200 communities and mostly slept in the truck.

Currently (2018) Byron and I (Michele) are traveling around the interior of Bahia near Sobradinho, Juazeiro and Sento Sé surveying towns and villages that have no gospel witness.  The most recent posts are of these trips.      

This blog displays posts in the order they are published.  So if you want to start at the beginning of the Big Brazil Trip, click here > 2017 Brazil Road Trip. Then scroll to the bottom of the page and work your way back up.  If you just want to see just the Amazon entries click here > 2017 Amazon Trip.  The Amazon trip posts are numbered.  Look for #1 to start at the beginning.

However you want to read, Enjoy!

Near Mugucé, Bahia

Monday, October 22, 2018

Interior Evangelism

Imagine you want to take a survey of the counties nearest to where you live.  You're looking to see what churches have works in which cities.  Easy enough, right?  You whip out your tablet and hunt around on Google Maps.  Then you can do some checking for Facebook pages for churches in the cities and towns your researching.  Easy peasy!  You can even go to the old Yellow Pages website and hunt around.  Add in a general web search and you're all set.

Not so easy in Northeast Brazil!  Many places are just not on the map.  Big places, little towns with 200 - 300 houses full of people are not listed on most maps.  Google Maps often won't take you properly from Point A to Point B.  And once you head down a highway, it quickly goes from asphalt to dirt and rock with no signs telling you what's ahead and where that side road runs off to.  

If you stop to ask directions, you get a wide variety of answers about what's down the road.  Often people with no cars have never been further along.  Maybe it's rained and the road is washed out ahead.  Some little villages have two different names and neither is official.  So what do you do?

First you check paper maps, highway patrol websites, and yeah, Google Maps.  Then you start building your own maps with a good GPS and a great map program.  Then you head down a road and see where it goes!

Sometimes the road just sort of ends.  Sometimes it just turns into a rocky path.  But it's down this "spider web of dirt paths" that we have been traveling.  We stop at each group of houses big or small and ask the name of the place and what churches are around.  We ask about "believers," the word for Christians that are not Catholic. Sometimes we sit and chat, but mostly on these exploratory visits we try not to linger.

This weekend we headed towards an interior town called Lajes dos Negros.  It has around 9000 people and maybe 6 different types of churches.  Just before Lajes we stopped in village called Bicos with a small Catholic chapel and no other visible churches.  Someone had indicated there might be a Christian around who was hosting services under an awning.  Asking around we were at first lead to the wrong man!  Finally we made it to the right one only to find that the man was a Seventh Day Adven-tist - not a Bap-tist.  The man received us well and told us about trying to get people from a big city church to come in a help with monthly services (on Saturdays).  

Byron explained about some solar powered mp3 devices we were offering to interior folks.  The devices have sermons in Portuguese and all of the New Testament read out loud.  We are carefully lending them to individuals to use for their own spiritual growth where they cannot get in to a church regularly.  They can also call their friends and family to come and hear together and host a church service of their own with a good, Bible message by a well known pastor.  Mr. B, above, was a little hesitant but seemed interested.  He accepted one.  Later on future trips we'll check in with him again and see how it's going.  The devices hold 600 sermons, but if "used" up can be loaded with new messages.

Mr. D, below, lives in a very small community where there is no electricity.  Byron spoke to him about our work and travels and offered one of the solar messenger devices with a flashlight.  Mr. D was very happy and we hope he will call the other men to listen.  The little village is inhabited by men who work in the pineapple fields and other crops during the week and go home to a nearby small town on weekends.  Without energy they have little to do in the evenings.

Mr. D is not a believer.  We hope through the messages he might come to make a decision.  We plan to revisit each of these men in the weeks and months to come.

Pray with us as we travel the back roads on Northern Bahia and strive to witness of Christ along the way!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Cactus Flower: Bahia Interior Survey Trip

Go over to my regular blog to read about a recent trip we made in the old Pajero over the dusty backroads of NE Brazil...

You know that road you see every day but you've never been down it and don't know where it goes?  That's how our trip started...

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Complete, Unedited Amazon Travel Diary

Just in case you wanted to read the whole story from start to finish... Byron is still making some correction and additions, but it's mostly done - rough and no Michele editing. 

Analysis of My Trip {AM Trip #20}

23 days, 11,000 km, 8,000 miles, 14 types of transportation. 5 (6) rivers (4 major) and a fair amount of money (haven't figured that out yet). So, what did I gain from the trip. I didn't go for adventure or sight-seeing and several times consciously made decisions to that end.  I didn't even really feel it was an adventure. I felt at home in the local culture and speech and only mildly frustrated by communication and transportation complications. I saw a lot of interesting things but few things seemed strange and I never felt I was in the "jungle" or in danger. 

Maybe it's because I'm naturally kind of easy going, or maybe it's because I've been here 20+ years. My visit was quick and superficial and because of family illness in one place I visited and a couple of boat problems, I was not able to do some of the in-depth visits I had planned. Too late I had the idea to go back to Barcelos and rent a boat and visit river communities there. It was my first survey trip and there were some things I should have done differently (taken maps & gps for example).

But here's what I took away from the trip so far. (I'm still analyzing).

1) Life and ministry there are difficult and expensive because of travel.

2) Ministry is complicated because of FUNAI (Brazilian government Indian organization).

3) Efficient ministry is difficult. A lot of time is spent "just living" and the pace of life is slower. Everything lakes longer.

4) There has been a LOT of investment in the region. There are old, mature works there and a lot of money has been invested. There have been and are many projects started though few ever get off the ground, much less last. There's something "romantic" about going or sending someone to the Amazon Jungle.

5) It's much more modern than I expected. A/C, electricity, cell service, internet (if slow and spotty), power along most of river (except the Negro). If your boat dies, you'll see someone or some house before long. (Where I went. Obviously you don't have to stray far to be remote, and some of superficial appearance belies the dangers just out of sight.)

6) There are a lot of churches in cities. Mostly charismatic and contemporary, but the conservative churches that remain are even more conservative (attire and music) than those where we are now. Many are old, mature works, but many are also struggling and static - not making much effort to reach those just around the bend.

7) Assembly of God is an exception. They are good at grass-roots growth. I was not able to assess the quality and am told that many of these "works" are weak, scandal ridden, and name-only. Which is the down-side to the Assembly of God method where someone was a drunk yesterday, converts and starts preaching today and is a drunk again tomorrow.

8) The afore mentioned Jehovah Witness push is making inroads. My observations and those of others, as well as the comments by a member, and the Halls I saw all lead to the same conclusion.

9) There is still a great need. It seems to be similar to the need hear in NE and many needy regions are prohibited now even to Brazilians. Mechanical abilities and decent support to operate a team boat ministry seems advantageous and viable. BUT I didn't sense an urgent, desperate, specific call to any place or the region in general. In fact, it opened my eyes to the possibility of a similar ministry here.

Homeward Bound {Am Trip#19}

10/18/2017 Wednesday

MUCUIM (moo-coo-WEEN). That's the word for chigger and I've learned it well. I used American repellent before going to Mato Grosso. Silly me forgot that the mucuim in Brazil can't read English labels and thought the repellent was steak sauce. Looks like they found it rather tasty! Man, am I itching to get rid of them.

We got up, ate breakfast, saw inside the church and parsonage there in Anori (the current pastor is in Manaus) and started walking with our bags hoping to bump into a mototaxi (as in motorcycle taxi). 

Pr. O stopped to show me an açaí grinder (closed), and bananas. Finally we spotted some mototaxis. One of the drivers thought the boat had already left. Since my plane home leaves in some 12 hours, that made me nervous. 

This Expresso doesn't come up the creek to town. A small put-put boat (like a mini-recreio) goes out into the main river to meet and do a mid-river transfer. The man was wrong about the time and we made it. Even had to wait. Downstream tickets were cheaper than upstream. 

Pr. O said vazante (land uncovered when the river recedes) used to be covered with planted corn, etc. before Lula (beloved, but recently scandalized President who started many free-money social programs). 

This is the nicest boat yet. Two 600hp Scania engines and speeds of 50+km/hour (30+miles/hour). Luggage is limited and overweight charged to keep weight down. Interesting tunnels on the prop outlets and the pilot dash in good condition. Nice lunch on fancy plate - beef, not chicken and real Coke. (Most boats gave water, once got what was either cheap orange soda or detergent for washing engine. Probably soda since they care about the paint on the engine.) Saw part of "Wonder Woman" in Chinese. She had a patch over 1 eye and a parrot on her shoulder (pirate).

Pr. O sat somewhere else and talked to a passenger he knew. He kept talking over top of me and I may have muttered something he may have heard. Or he just may have wanted to talk to his friend. I had already seen this part of this river but I did go out to look until the shade was gone. I used earplugs (because of the noise of the engines). I didn't find any pilots that were interested in talking - even about their boats so I stayed off the front.

Pr. O's daughter was waiting for us when we arrived in Manaus. The mucuim were complaining about their food being smelly, so I took a bath and then re-packed my suitcase and clean hammock (and rope). Ate tambaqui (fish) stew, toured Igreja Batista Regular Israel (the church across the street he started). 

My route, as shown on map, is Manaus, Belém, Fortaleza, Recife, Petrolina, Sobradinho. I have to change seats, change planes, change planes and airline, and get my car that is to be waiting for me after being repaired while travelling. 

At the airport, the wife and daughter disappear. I express concern several times but Pr. O says they'll find us. Eventually they show up with a bag. I'd commented that I had tried several times to buy a souvenir and it hadn't worked out. During this leg of the trip every one kept asking either if I spoke Portuguese or if I shouldn't be in the elderly line. I started thinking I'd have to punch them in the nose just to show them how young I was - or put my teeth in and bite them. 

I said good-bye and headed for security. I passed okay, but the x-rayer got this funny look on her face and started running my bag back and forth until it almost glowed green. She called the guard over and he asked what was in the bag. It was then that I uttered the absolute worst phrase you can ever spew from your lips - "I don't know, someone just handed me the bag while I was in line." I quickly tried to explain that it was bought in the gift shop, but to no avail. They had to see it. Was it a model gun or Indian arrow or Jungle ninja throwing knife???   

No, a thousand times worse IT WAS A WOODEN TOUCA-A-A-A-A-N. . . With 2 holes for pens (available separately at additional cost). Yes, it was the avian suicide bomber known as Toucan Blam, believed to be responsible for ruining the paint on hundreds of freshly washed cars. I left the gift bag open in case someone else should be suspicious, but managed to smuggle it the rest of the way home unmolested.

On the BEL-FOR leg a woman got on and sat beside me. She had several purses and looked kinda lost or nervous. She kept looking around and finally asked for water. We spoke briefly as the plane taxied to the end of the runway. The lights were darkened and as the engines revved-up she pleaded sheepishly, "Can I hold onto your hand."  I gave my best fatherly smile and stuck out the hand on that side. She quickly latched on during the take-off. Firmly. After a couple of minutes she relaxed a bit and settled in for the trip. 

Her name is Viviane and she was on her way to a Life Coaching seminar. Her ex-husband was an airline pilot and she had flown often but never got used to it.  I asked about her bracelets and she asked about the wordless bracelet I had on. One was a rosary and she seemed to be religious. She listened with interest as I explained the Gospel using the colors and even commented. I took it off and offered it to her and she seemed genuinely excited to have it. I asked her to review the meaning and we went over it again. (ED: Remember to pray for her.)

The trip was plane, plane, plane, car, & smile. The mechanic was waiting with the car (and a bill) but the air wasn't working. At this point I didn't care and quickly went home to a smiling wife and a hot lunch.

p.s. On 10/20/2017 I received message from Missionary Jaimeson that he could meet with me now. (See Post #14)

Side Trip to Mato Grosso {AM Trip #18}

10/17/2017 Tuesday

Off to Mato Grosso (not the state)!  It was about 9ish.  Went on motor bike. About 22 km (14miles) and takes 40-50 minutes. Mostly asphalt. Part way there's a road west towards Codajás. Pr. O doesn't think there are many communities in that direction, yet but later we saw several motorcycles going that way. 

The whole area floods with just islands here and there. A large part of the forest along road burned awhile back and the smoke made a lot of people sick. Saw buffalo, castanha do Pará (Brazil nuts), a strange bird nest (white tube), a dugout being made, a toucan, the Coari/Manaus natural gas pipeline, (the city generator station was the nicest I saw, uses natural gas) and Açaí (some with bags over the fruit). 

Açaí is out of season but is the major cash crop. Each tall (25 m,80 ft) skinny little tree is climbed (clumb, clomb - they go up it) at harvest.  The only protection is on hands and feet so they can slide down fast. The show-offs go down head first. Sometimes they move tree to tree without descending. Didn't get a lot of good pics from back of bike.

In Mato Grosso we saw the church. He has a little room in back. It's wood on stilts with a wood floor. The shower drain is just a couple of holes in the floor. I wondered about the PA, because he has a soft hoarse voice that wouldn't carry well. 

He had installed 2 donated A/C's but the electricity to the outlets wasn't connected. Since new red wires entered the wall and old white wires came, out I had some difficulty verifying the wiring. Amazonas is 110v, but the A/C units were 220v. Since he had installed 2 phase I just went phase to phase. One of the breakers couldn't handle both units together. 

We also installed a rural cell phone (more power and external antenna). For lunch we had chicken cooked on a pan w/ a whole in the middle. Wouldn't mind finding one of those. This was the last of some 15 times I had chicken on this trip. I ate so much chicken that when I laughed I cackled. When I went to shave, I saw it wasn't hair, but fine down growing on my neck and my legs . . . well, I already had chicken legs, but  in the street any chickens I saw fled in panic squawking "Here comes the chicken assassin!"  They even accused me of "hen"acide. But I would have sought professional help if I'd laid an egg. (you probably think I've cracked.)

We walked the villa. There was a Southern Baptist church but it closed.  But there are 4 Assembly of God churches for 500 people, the Roman Catholic and his church (Regular Baptist, around 18 people). It's part of Anamã and the bishop is from here, but much closer to Anori and easier, too. 

Saw some fiberglass light posts on the ground. I had first seen them in Barcelos. They are more expensive to manufacture than concrete (wood is outlawed and most have been removed and thrown away), but have the advantages of being easier to transport, longer lasting (no steel to rust) and can be installed by hand as I saw in Mato Grosso. I walked up to one and picked up the butt end. 

We walked through the grass and looked at the lake which connects to Anamã.  There are a couple of communities on the lake that have Assembly of God. While Pr. O was finishing up business, I did the evangelistic magic tricks with some children. More kept showing up and finally 1 adult tried to watch without looking too interested, Adilson. I called for the other adults and when they wouldn't come, I took the kids over there. 

Pastor O was eyeballing the sky worried about rain so we rushed off. We didn't get real wet, but the road did and it got really slick. Cars slide like in snow and motorcycles fall. The gooey mud builds up until it rubs the fenders. Many push. I offer to walk - plead, even - but he insists and we creep along and make it through. 

Back home at the house in Anori, we talk of the British adventurer who was murdered by addicts near here. She was warned it was dangerous, but camped out anyway.  She was first mistaken for a trafficker, then robbed and killed anyway. Perps were caught because they unwittingly turned on SOS messing with her GPS.   Pr. O's 57 year old brother was killed 5 years ago (2012?) on New Year's Eve by a similar group in same area. He had no money, but may have been killed because he recognized someone.

Still few mosquitoes. Little malaria around even in rainy season. Feet are starting to itch. Should be less to write from here on in - I'm heading for the barn. (home)