Almost two months have gone by since I returned from the Study & Serve trip to the Amazon with Justice & Mercy International. In my last post, I shared about leaving behind many of the things in my suitcase as our group left the Splendor for our return trip to the States. Many of those things I had planned to leave behind, but God surprised me by asking me to leave behind one more important item. Here is that story:
On Wednesday of our trip, I followed five women past brightly colored wooden houses, flowering bushes, and dirt packed yards. We were on our way to visit a woman named Margarita and had a bit of a hike.
The muddy path continued up a hill and we were soon surrounded by towering trees and dense brush. We came to a narrow plank laid across a pool of dark water. Our translator explained that since it was the rainy season the path was washed out and this was the only way across. I inhaled a deep breath and tiptoed onto the board, praying I would not lose my balance and fall into the black water under my feet.
We all made it across and continued until we reached a scattering of wooden shacks. A tall blond woman came out to welcome us. Her yard was full of carefully tended trees and vegetable plants, but the house itself was only partially built. A family of cats slept in the first room we entered. Margarita led us past them to her narrow porch, full of potted plants and overlooking a flooded lagoon.
Margarita was a fascinating woman. She spoke seven languages and her English had a distinct German accent. Her great grandparents had immigrated from Germany to Brazil following the First World War, and she had grown up speaking both German and Portuguese. As I perched on the railing of her little porch, she talked about her life working as a tour guide and as a seller of fine jewelry. She explained that although she had traveled the world, she had chosen to settle in this tiny village in the middle of nowhere because she loved the rainforest.
Margarita was a talker and ran over her story like a fleet footed trail runner, barely touching on a subject before she went to the next. She seemed thrilled to have an audience and I sensed her loneliness. Life in the village had not been easy. According to her, the locals did not accept her. The people she had hired to build her house had not completed the job, hoping she would give up and move away. Her kitchen sink lay on the floor of one of the rooms and her bathroom was outside. “I wait until the man next door leaves to take my shower,” she confided.
As the time drew near for us to leave, I shifted the book bag I had carried with me. It held my Bible, a notebook, and a bottle of water. Why did I carry this heavy thing all the way out here? I wondered to myself.
Then I heard a voice as close as my ear say, Give Margarita your Bible.
I rolled the idea around in my head as our group stood and began moving toward the door. What would Margarita think if I offered it to her? Would she even want it? Did I want to give it up? The Bible was one I had bought to use at church, not my special one with forty years of notes —but I still was not sure I wanted to part with it.
Then I thought about the odds of meeting a woman in this secluded village who was fluent in English, when many of the villagers did not even read in their native tongue.
Could this be the reason I had come three thousand miles to this out of the way place?
I pulled out the Bible and asked Margarita if she would like to have it.
She hesitated for just a second, then shyly responded, “Well, okay.” I handed the black vinyl-bound Bible to her, and she held it to her chest.
We encouraged Margarita to visit the village church and talk to the pastor if she had any questions about what she read in the Bible. We said our goodbyes and headed back down the long trail to return to the boat.
My bag felt much lighter. I felt lighter in my soul.
I may never know if Margarita gets her house finished, or if she decides to leave the village and return to the city where she has friends and family. I will never know if she reads the Bible or if it gets thrown in a corner and forgotten, its pages becoming moldy in the sticky equatorial heat.
But I learned through my experiences in the Amazon that those questions are not important. What is important is that I said yes to the voice inside me that encouraged me to stretch myself by trying something new and different. Trusting that voice took just as much courage as venturing across the board placed over the black water.
Kelly Minter taught us on our first night on the boat that Jesus wants us to travel lightly as we follow him. (Mark 6:8) That might involve bringing only what we plan to give away or it might mean listening to His voice as He tells us to lay down a burden or pass along His Word.
I am thankful I made it over the plank to Margarita’s house and that I was able to leave behind something I loved. My prayer is that the Bible will become something she cherishes as well.