When we first started working in Bujaru, we made visits to the neighboring communities using the traditional “rabeta”. The simple rabeta is an open canoe which rides just a few inches above water level. There is a small motor with a propeller which is attached to a long pole that is dipped into the water behind the canoe to propel the boat forward. Depending on how many people are in the canoe and how rough the water is, water splashes over the edge of the canoe and into the boat needing constant bailing so that the canoe does not go under.
In January of 2013, shortly after building our first river church in Bujaru, we saw the need for better transportation for mission teams and church planting along the rivers. We checked into options of buying a used boat or building a new one.
There were no boats for sale in our area and we were told that building a covered wooden rabeta that holds about 20 people was a simple process, a “galho fraco”. This is the Brazilian way of saying “a piece of cake” and literally means a “weak branch” (easy and fast to cut down when you’re clearing jungle on the Amazon).
So we went to the local boat builder in Bujaru and ordered our mission boat. “How long will it take to build,” we asked? “Only 2-3 weeks once I have the wood,” was the answer.
The first delay was finding the right wood. Little did we know… but the wood has to be a special wood so that it doesn’t rot in the water. This wood is not sold in any building supply stores. To buy it legally, you have to wait for one of the river people to sell an Amazon hardwood tree from their own property, then cut it down and saw mill it in the jungle. You don’t come across these trees every day, we found out.
Our wood was bought, a little at a time. The only boat builder in Bujaru had another full time job so he took on our project on weekends and holidays. As time went on, we found out that his 2-3 weeks was how long it would have taken him if he could work on it without stopping. Finally, after almost 18 months, our beautiful boat was ready for the motor.
In July of 2014, we ordered the motor from the best boat motor shop in Belem, the large capital city of 2 million people two hours drive from our home. Again there were delays. The boat motors sold here are actually refurbished truck motors adapted to put in a river boat. After paying the first payment, we needed to wait for the used motor to be rebuilt. What was supposed to take just 3 weeks, took the shop 10 weeks.
When the motor was completed we had to transport it to Bujaru and wait for the mechanic from the boat shop in Belem to have a day off work to go out to Bujaru and install the boat motor. Other boat parts – shaft, steering mechanism, electric starter for the motor, lighting for the boat all had to be built separately and installed. Each needed a different technician for their part. Then we discovered that the motor we bought needed an extra cooling mechanism because it was a little larger than the motors usually used on the river boats. After trying 3 different cooling systems, we were able to adequately cool the motor. A small bathroom was built into the boat for teams from the US who need an emergency toilet along the way . Life jackets were purchased.
We are now in the final stages of finishing our boat! The mechanic from Belem still has to make one more trip out to adjust the timing of the motor. We still need a tank to hold the diesel fuel for the boat and plastic window tarps to keep the rain out. There are still some final bills to pay for the cooling system and last mechanical work on the motor.
Working in a developing country is not always easy. Much of Brazil has become “first world” in the 25 years we have lived here, but Bujaru and the area where we live still have “third world” culture and work systems.
The boat has made many shorter runs, but we are now planning a longer trip up river to scout out areas for new churches. We are VERY eager to get further up the river to make visits and to see the areas of greatest need for new churches and for medical work. The enemy has held these river people in bondage for centuries.
Pray with us that this would be the month that the door would open wide to reach these people, that the boat motor would be in working order for this longer trip and that every provision would be here for us to go up river. IF YOU ARE ABLE TO HELP WITH BOAT FUEL AND TRAVEL EXPENSE FOR RIVER MISSION TRIPS – YOUR GIFTS WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED!
Scott and Michelle Toth and Family
“Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.”
2 Cor. 4:17
We were able to make a longer trip of 65 miles up the Guama and Capim Rivers on December 17-18 of 2015. We found that the rivers are very highly populated with at least 40 communities between Bujaru and Santana – the furthest town that we reached. Many of these communities have no church in their area and all of them are in great need of basic health and dental care. There is an open door to reach these river people with the gospel, demonstrating the love of Jesus through medical and dental assistance and then preaching the Word of God and planting churches.
We are currently using the mission boat on an average of 10 – 12 trips each week- transporting our pastors and missionaries across the Guama River for church services as well as picking up families and youth from the communities of Itabira and Conceiçao to attend the services and family groups. Please join with us in reaching these families and young people with the Kingdom of God!