The Presbyterian Church of Manaus is in the heart of the Amazon Basin. The church sits on the banks of the Rio Negro, the largest tributary to the Amazon in Brazil. For more than 20 years the people of the church have had a growing ministry to villages up and down the rivers of the Amazon system. A small fleet of flat bottomed ships travel the rivers with medical teams, clothing, training in food production, and the Gospel of Jesus. This ministry of compassion has opened numerous doors for sharing the truth of Jesus and as a result people are giving their lives to Him. Many of the villages are less than 100 people and the converts are the only Christians in them.
Eventually a leader will emerge from among the group of new Christians. That person then begins to be discipled and trained to be the pastor/leader of the fledgling church. I had the honor and privilege, along with Alan Chantelaue, to train more than 60 of these leaders. Over a three day period we taught six sessions that gave them basic skills in how to do their own Bible study and then lead and teach the people under their care. It was incredible to see these people, none with more than an 8th grade education, soak up the truth of the Bible and apply what they learned. Our times of worship with them were inspiring. They poured out their hearts to Jesus and sang with passion. At the end of our three days with them we saw 15 more converts get baptized and then participated with them in The Lord’s Supper.
One of the things that struck me during my time in the Amazon was that the ministry of the Manaus church reminds me more of the Book of Acts than anything I have ever encountered. People who have never heard the Gospel are being brought to Christ by the traveling missionaries, mostly volunteers, from the Manaus church. In short order someone is raised up by God to lead the new converts and the Kingdom expands. There are more than 85 churches like this all up and down the rivers. They have been started by missionaries on the boats. Only 30 of the congregations actually have a building dedicated for worship, what we usually think of as a “church”. Most of them meet as the church in a home. Some of them actually have a tree in the center of the village and that is where they meet to worship each Sunday morning.
Their love for the Lord is compelling and contagious. That love extends to their neighbors whom they serve with an abandon that only comes from the Holy Spirit. With medical help usually only available every few months when the ship comes from the church, they often are forced to pray for healing. They expect such prayers to work and they do. Their prayers for healing for non-Christians in their villages result in healing, conversions, and more worshipers of Jesus.
Now here is the really cool thing. You can be part of that ministry. Nearly every time the ships travel the rivers, there are people from other churches and countries who join the work. A week or two heading up river and down with stops along the way to share Jesus, pray for people, provide medical care, and show the love of Christ will change you as much as it will change the people you serve. It will draw you closer to Jesus and increase your commitment to Him and His mission.