Monday, April 15, 2013

The Amazon River-from one end to the other

I was privileged this week to visit and worship with believers in Belém, Brazil at the mouth of the Amazon River. As I prepared for church Sunday morning I reflected that it was just in January of this year that I was at the far western end of the Amazon River in Iquitos, Perú. How the early explorers would have loved to visit both ends of the Amazon as easily as I did without all the dangers inherent in traveling its length by canoe. I was in Brazil visiting with Dr. David Riker, President of the Equatorial Baptist Theological Seminary, and IMB missionary Mark Johnson. Together we explored ways to advance theological education and pastoral training at all of the various levels required in order to reach and teach the lesser-reached, unreached, unengaged, and even uncontacted peoples of the Amazon basin.

We attended church at the Primeira Igreja Batista do Pará, famous for being the first Evangelical church in the Amazon region, started in 1897 by Baptist missionary Eric Nelson. Its pastor, Vitor Hugo Mendes de Sá, explained how the church had recently gone on a ministry trip to a region that had been first evangelized by Baptist missionary Eric Nelson (known as the Apostle to the Amazon). He said that their trip required a flight and then a motorized boat trip of twelve hours. He challenged us to imagine what it would have been like for Bro. Nelson when he first traveled there to preach at the end of the 19th century. Nelson had first arrived in a boat named Alegría, which means “happiness,” and indeed he was taking true joy and happiness to the people in the Good News he proclaimed. Pastor Vitor Hugo told how on this recent church ministry trip he shared a strong evangelistic appeal at the end of the week. The local Catholic priest had attended the sessions and was seated on the front row dressed in his Catholic vestments. When the invitation to receive Christ was given, he was powerfully moved and his response was among many others who prayed to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. One of the men there that week was from a community 75 kilometers further into the jungle. He emotionally shared that in-depth teaching of the Word of God is what they needed. The cults and health-wealth heresies are decimating the believers. In fact, on that very trip three “apostles” confronted Pastor Vitor Hugo with their arguments.

As the sermon concluded back at First Baptist, the pastor challenged his congregation with those vast needs, saying that the Amazon region was their “Africa.” He said that the people there do not lack food or water but they have great hunger and thirst for teaching from the Word of God. The congregation streamed to the front for corporate prayer and intercession at the end of the service, singing a chorus I know well in Spanish, “Renew me Lord Jesus, I don’t want to be the same anymore, renew me Lord Jesus, put Your heart in me, because all that within me needs to be changed and because everything that is within my heart needs more of You.” I sang . . . and prayed, “Renew me, Lord Jesus. I don’t want to be the same anymore.” Does anyone else want to pray that too? As I prayed I had the deep conviction that if God would give me another life to live, I would give it for this work. If He would give me a hundred more lives, they would all be His. And this would not begin to scratch the surface of all that needs to be done, not to mention all that He deserves. 

I pray that God would use me to impact His world, and if not ALL the world—at the very least—all of the regions from Mexico to Chile, and from the Andes to the mouth of the Amazon. I know; that’s a big prayer, but He is a Great God. And when He answers and this work is launched and progressing, I pray that we may be used by God to reach and teach throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. William Carey challenged us to attempt great things for God and to expect great things from God. I am actively and fervently recruiting missionary families to go reach and teach in the Andes and throughout the Amazon . . . right now. Today. If you’re not sure where or how to start, email me.  

Yes, there are hurdles to clear, calls to clarify, funds to raise, languages to learn, and selves to deny. But there are also millions to reach, sermons to preach, disciples to teach, and our Lord Jesus Christ to honor and glorify. We are all walking down a path in life for whatever season of years the Lord gives us. One day we will step from this life into that which is truly life. As you take that step, and you look back over your shoulder, will you like what you see? As one who is a slow learner but who has learned at last, let me gently remind you not to waste your life on you. It’s not yours; you were bought with a price. Come go with me on a trip and let me show you what I find every time I go. What a wonderful investment of life it would be. 

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