We remember arriving in Manaus eager for the unknown and now the extent of our life-changing, experience-filled stay is 2 days away. The ministry initiated many interactions between various citizens and created relationships with fellow brothers and sisters that we will never forget.
The group and many other friends arranged for a wonderful gathering to express their thanks to us. We had no idea of what to expect for this event. On arrival, we were greeted with music and loud expressions from the group. The gathering wasn’t a surprise to us, but the amount of people and everything that was planned for us was definitely a surprise. It was very touching to hear the group of young ones singing “Joy of Conventions” in English – “we are sisters, we are brothers, sons and daughters and more. And I love you even though I never met you before. ”
We were amazed, in shock and in awe as various brothers and sisters expressed themselves by way of a speech, poem or song. The love among all there is something we enjoyed receiving and being a part of. We hope our efforts to assist were felt by all that we were able to interact with. The positivity and joy that we were able to experience was just a small measure compared to what we await in the future. We pray that the seeds of truth that are being spread by the English group in Manaus will sprout and grow. Only Jehovah’s kingdom will bring about the necessary changes to the spiritually blind world that we now live in.
We’ll miss assisting in the ministry, Portu-glish conversations, the food, the long walks in scorching heat, the friends, the break times in ministry, the discourses, the waterfalls, “that” waterpark, service in Centro, the Amazon, the bus rides, …Brazil. Sentimos a sua falta, meus irmãos e irmãs. Esperamos vê-lo em breve. Sim, saudade.
UPDATE: The Manaus English group is now the Manaus English congregation! Karina and I plan to serve again where the need is great. — 1Corinthians 15:58
A Sunday involved in public witnessing, but today we are setup just outside the main market in downtown Manaus. Among our passersby are a brother and his nephew. The nephew has been studying and would like to talk to us further when we finish our ministry for the day. Karina and I are the first Jehovah’s Witnesses that he has met that are not Brazilian. So, during lunch, he tells us that his uncle had been trying to get him to see the importance of studying the Bible since he was a teenager. At that time, he wasn’t interested. He is now in his mid-40s. He was a police officer for 17 years and then became a lawyer. Due to a bad decision, he also spent a year and a half in prison. While in prison, he started studying the Bible. During this time, his wife left him and took the kids. And he now works in the interior of the Amazon as a traveling salesman. He stated that some trips take him from home for 2-3 months at a time. He wants to get baptized but feels that he needs to have a more steady life and be in one place to make progress. We hope to meet him again one day as our dear brother.
During our stay, the Portuguese congregation had a visit from the traveling overseer, Benjamin, and his wife, Yolanda. There were 175 in attendance for his Sunday discourse. The English group received encouragement also during this week. We were able to work in service with the overseer and his wife. Karina said they talked to everyone on the street and started 3 Bible studies, one of which Karina assisted with, in Portuguese. Yolanda recalls being 9 years old when her mother began searching for a better understanding of the Bible. Two years later, at 11 years old, Yolanda began preaching about what she was learning and decided to get baptized at age 14.
Benjamin was already serving as a traveling overseer in Brazil and Bolivia for 1 year when she joined him in marriage in 1970. They continued their work in that area for 4 more years. During the early 1990s, they were the first Brazilian couple sent to Mozambique as special pioneers. There were issues due to a war the first year they were there but things got better for the next 5 years of the assignment. They also have a daughter that served as a special pioneer and now lives in northeast Brazil with another pioneer sister.
Rise and shine…up and at ’em! We need to wake earlier than the norm today as we prepare for a long trip into “the interior”. The trip is by car and ferry. A couple will be visiting a gentleman for a Bible discussion and they have invited us and another young brother to join them. Usually we use the bus system or our feet to get where we need to go. Today we have to get to the couple’s home at a certain time but don’t know if certain buses are working this early. We also aren’t able to communicate in a way that the driver will know how to arrive at our address. Thanks to our Brazilian sister, she calls a taxi to pick us up and we arrive at a good time to start the journey.
We have driven the truck onto a ferry with about 30 other vehicles. The ferry will take us east and across the Amazon River. Along this route, we get to see one of the tourist attractions, Meeting of Waters. The Meeting of Waters is where the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimões (Amazon River) meet and run side by side without mixing for almost 4 miles. After reaching the other side, we continue by truck and arrive via a little off-road terrain. It’s a wonderful scenery and nice to take in a view of creation without the city environment. The man we have come to talk to is not Brazilian by birth but knows a lot about the land and when and how to grow various fruits and vegetables in this climate. He gave us a tour of his property as he talked about the many fruits, nuts and veggies. Any question we had about them, he was able to answer. Karina and I were surprised to find out that Brazil nuts are in bunches within a very hard coconut-looking shell. And of course after getting them out of that shell, each nut has it’s own shell. I tried my best to imitate what I saw done with a machete to get to the fruit of the nuts. I like the hammer method better.
As a meal was being prepared, we sat down for a Bible discussion. It was great hearing about his experiences in life and activities he was involved in before moving to Brazil. Thanks to the source of truth, the Bible, we were able to answer his questions.
We enjoyed each other’s company over a meal made from food that was grown right around us, even the fish. We stayed until late afternoon and decided to leave before the rain gave us any issues with the off-road part of our journey back home. We have since seen him at meetings. 🙂
I recently enjoyed a Bible discussion with a young man from Benin. He has been living in Manaus for a few years and speaks 4 languages. During our discussion, he reads the Bible study aid in French, as this is his first language. But he answers questions and speaks with us in English. His progress in Bible knowledge is excellent and continuous.
Before our move to Brazil, Karina and I enjoyed tasting cuisines from various countries. Actually, for each “monthiversary” of our first year of marriage, we tried a cuisine from a different country. Brazilian cuisine has been quite nice. Many people are familiar with Brazil’s famed churracso. The Amazonas state also has some great selections of fish, such as tambaqui and pirarucu.
We also have a love for the the beach, which is possible to enjoy here on the Amazon river beaches. Different from the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and the Pacific but they are still beaches. 🙂
Some time was also available for visiting some of the historical buildings and museums. New found friends also took us to some water falls and local zoos that have animals of the Amazonian fauna.
Every Monday night, brothers get together for some games of futsal. Futsal can be explained as soccer played on a court; but futsal is 5 on 5 with a smaller ball and smaller area of play. Where I’m from, the sports of choice are football and basketball. I have enjoyed getting used to Brazil’s game of choice. I get better each time but considering they have been playing since being a kid, I feel they still see me as having “pernas-de-pau”. This is what they call a bad soccer player because it is as if he has legs of wood.
Our Kingdom Hall was also used for the Creole Regional Convention. Around the country there were halls that were video conferenced to the convention in São Paulo. We had the privilege of assisting in cleaning and preparing our hall before the convention.
Efforts for the English group continue in various modes of ministry.
Ministry on our first Sunday involved the street fair that occurs each week. We joined a brother and sister for a couple of Bible discussions and were also able to speak to various English-speaking tourists that are present at the fair. A street downtown is closed and vendors setup to sale artwork, jewelry, fruit, veggies, clothes, appliances, Brazilian cuisine, etc. After being drained by the heat of 111°F, I enjoyed being refreshed by an ice-cold rala rala (the Portuguese ‘r’ is pronounced like the English ‘h’). The rala rala is a slush-type drink made by the Haitian vendors and flavored from local fruits. Coco gelado is a great refresher also; it is cold coconut water that you drink directly from the coconut.
Today was also a good day because Karina and I were going to look for an apartment. We greatly appreciated assistance from a couple of Brazilian brothers in the English group. We were able to look at once location only from the outside and take down the contact info. As the four of us are headed to another unknown location, just driving down streets looking for ‘Aluga se’ signs, one of the brothers just happens to glance down a street and sees a place for rent. We call the landlord, he shows up within 5 minutes, receive a quick tour of the 1 bed/2 bath apartment, we like it and make arrangements to begin renting.
A big thanks and much appreciation also goes to the brothers and sisters that voluntarily assisted us with getting certain items for the apartment and helping us move items into the apartment. They made sure no one took advantage of the foreigners. After washing clothes, it is my first time hanging items on a clothesline to dry. Thanks to the heat and occasional breeze, the natural dryer is a quick cycle.
It was cool to see the Arena da Amazônia, which I remember hosting games for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. I’ll possibly be able to attend a futebol match in the next few months. Our ministry also takes us near another attraction…the Teatro Amazonas. Many cultural events take place in and around this site. Maybe I can take Karina to a ballet performance.