At Iquitos we loaded our gear onto a boat and headed toward the big water of the Amazon. Our first stop would be several hours downstream in Orillanda where we would construct a new church building from the ground up. Flood waters had destroyed the previous one. Three of us, along with an interpreter, would leave the next morning and travel further into the jungle to the village of Irlanda.
Once in Irlanda, I saw many familiar faces; Peruvians I had met there last year. About 80 people make up its community. Children outnumber the adults 4 to 1. We stowed our gear and within minutes the kids were following us like our shadows. I Opened a bag of Jolly Rogers hard candy and then watched as another wave of dark haired little ones came pouring out from under the houses built on stilts; drawn like metal shavings to a magnet.
Off in another corner of the village we went to the spot where we would construct a pen for rabbits to be raised. Rabbits are a good and quickly renewable source of protein, and their droppings are great fertilizer. We brought the resources necessary for the Peruvians to build it, and 5 bunnies (1 male) to get the process going. It's interesting to see the children's relationship with the chickens, and ducks. They enjoy them as pets, but do not become so attached that they are distressed when it's time to have them for the next meal.
As an aside... we got very little sleep. Roosters crowed all night, and due to the high water, dozens of dogs were concentrated on the high ground of the village and fought all night. I must say that the Amazon has some of the most unappetizing looking fish I have ever seen, but they do taste good. Piranha was on the menu. Every day several women provided us with a really good meal; usually fish and rice. Once we had chicken.
Most of our time was spent with the children. We read to them, swam with them, and played with them. In the evenings we had church services with their parents, and the children sang for us. Just before dark there were volley ball and soccer matches among the villagers. They can flat-out play!
We were constantly on the lookout for opportunities to serve the villagers any way we could, but one of the main reasons for me to be in Peru was to get to the village called Leta. Leta is where Moses lives. Moses is a young believer that wants to be a pastor and spiritual leader in his village. There is a jungle trail from Irlanda to Leta, but this is the rainy season, and the trail was under 4-5 feet of water. There was no boat or canoe in Irlanda, so if I was going to get to Leta I would have to wade or swim.
My Peruvian guide led the way and we started down the trail to Leta. When dry ground disappeared, thankfully, the water rose no higher than my armpits! I think the villagers were pretty surprised and curious when this white haired man came walking out of the jungle and into their village. My translator and I were warmly received at every house, and I was able to share the gospel with small groups that gathered. With each group of people I answered questions and then prayed with them.
Before I left Leta I told them that another group of missionaries would be coming in June, and I asked the village elders if they would like them to come talk to them about God and interact with their children with stories and games. They responded very favorably. I asked them if they would like us to build a church for them (there are about 20 believers in the village). That question caused them to light up! There was one condition, I told them: like the Biblical Moses at the Red Sea, their young Moses would have to part the water so I could get back to Irlanda! They laughed and laughed!
We started back down the jungle trail for Irlanda. When we got to the water, Moses was waiting for us… with a canoe! He was smiling ear to ear!
We left Irlanda on Wednesday and headed back to Orillana to help finish construction on the church. Once in Orllana I got the sickest I can ever remember being. My body swelled to the point I feared my kidneys had somehow shut down. By Friday, the decision was to get me off the river and into the city of Iquitos in case my health got worse. I loaded up on cipro and other medicines we had (our guys are very experienced and prepared for such situations). I didn't get out of bed until it was time to leave on Saturday.
I am home, upright, and on the mend...
P.S. My camera died, but one of my comrades got lots more great pics that I will post when I get them.