The black water of the river is like a mirror, reflecting the intense green of the foliage that surrounds us. The canoe lies low in the water with less than an inch between the eight of us and the river. We all joke about what might be watching us from the banks. Michael Hansen of the Delaware Vineyard (VCDC) comments that he is in awe of the colours, ‘so intense they seem fake’.
It’s my first time traveling with a short term team on a river trip and it’s our last day on the river. We’ve taken the canoe down one of the smaller rivers to visit an elderly lady and her husband of over sixty years. Their small wooden home lies at the end of a ‘dock’ comprised of small tree trunks. I try to imagine them navigating this pathway after paddling away from the service the night before into the impossible darkness.
Michael Hansen has been to Brazil with Xingu Mission at least four times, and beyond that their senior pastor Danny Meyer has been involved for eighteen. The vision for partnership with missions at VCDC is to go ‘Narrow and Deep’ building deep relationships with a few missions as opposed to spreading support thin and wide with several.
For five days the team of twenty travels along the rivers near Portel delivering water filters and the gospel together, sleeping in hammocks on the boat and getting to know the habits of people who, for me, were strangers just days ago which always leads to good memories and funny stories.
At each stop we meet with the families from the surrounding houses to worship and share the good news of the gospel. Team members share their own stories of how God has changed their lives. The services are simple, and the fragrance of God’s love is heady and sweet and many are touched by His presence, including those on the team.
It is often said that a better use of resources would be to send money instead of teams. I whole heartedly disagree. Not only is the team a blessing to all the lives they encounter (including mine) while they are here, but the lives and hearts of the team are transformed and become bonded to the people here in way that money could never accomplish.
Money can build churches and Sunday schools but it can’t pray for a wizened face old lady living in a wooden shack somewhere in the Amazon basin.
Teams build relationships and partnerships that span years and continents, something no amount of money will ever do.