Minister at the Helm

"The Luzeiro! The Luzeiro!" someone yells. Soon dozens of little bare-tummied children come running down to the water's edge, as the Luzeiro IV arrives for another visit to Curupira. . .

-Captain o the Luzeiro IV and a district pastor in the Central Amazon Mission at the time this article was written

"The Luzeiro! The Luzeiro!" someone yells. Soon dozens of little bare-tummied children come running down to the water's edge, as the Luzeiro IV arrives for another visit to Curupira.

After making our lines secure and turning off our big Lister diesel engine, I make my way up the bank to visit Brother Andrade, the head elder of the little Adventist group. After exchanging greetings, I am told that Brother Freire's wife is quite sick. Up in their jungle home, which is supported by stilts, Mrs. Freire has been in her hammock for three weeks.

Members and friends upriver do not know the launch has arrived, so our boatboy helps put our Johnson outboard on the skiff, and off we go to invite the neighbors. At seven-thirty that evening the chapel is almost full, and happy voices sing to the sounds of my accordion.

The first part of the program is a surprise, especially for the children. Out of a paper bag comes a big set of teeth and a bright red toothbrush. Most of the adults are practically toothless, but the children have teeth needing the best of care. On other occasions we talk about the effects of smoking, misuse of our digestive systems, how germs work, why we should care for our bodies. After the health talk come pictures depicting the second coming of Christ.

At eight o'clock the next morning the bow of the boat is loaded with people waiting their turn to be treated. One by one they come down the stairs to have teeth extracted or get medicines for eye infections, diarrhea, intestinal parasites, a skin disease, or somesuch. At noon there is still a long line, so after a break the work goes on. Thus goes a typical day onboard a Luzeiro.

After forty years of struggles and victories, hardships and successes, our little missionary fleet has had some losses. Altogether six Luzeiros have been built for medical-missionary work. Of these, only two remain to serve the Brazilian Amazon Basin, plus one which was bought and adapted for our work.

The Luzeiro V  is based in Manaus and works westward on the Solimoes and Jurua rivers. The Luzeiro VI , based in Belem, serves the Amazon delta area. And the Luzeiro IV, which replaced the original one, piles the eastern part of the State of Amazonas.

This renovated Luzeiro IV is our home and clinic. It is a wooden launch sixty feet long and has a fourteen-foot beam. On the upper deck we have the pilot house, my little office, and our living quarters. Below are fuel room, clinic, and engine room.

The district assigned to the Luzeiro IV is vast. A round trip of one thousand  two hundred miles means hundreds of hours of traveling  at an average of ten knots. There are thirty-five locations eagerly awaiting the arrival of the launch, one a church of 120 members and others just a few homes on the riverbank. Because of the
great distances and the ever growing number of groups, our visits must be brief. This makes it difficult to do as much health and spiritual education as we would like. As we journey along these watery highways, we often wonder how the three angels' messages will ever reach all the palmbranch houses perched on these shore lines.

Only the Lord can truly judge the extent of the good accomplished by this type of program. Many chapels today stand as fruits of the labors of Elder Leo Halliwell and others who have followed in his wake. Some of the seeds planted by our dedicated pioneer are just now bearing fruits. Numerous hearts once hostile to the gospel have been reached through our medical-missionary work and many friends have been made.

Even though it is impossible for us to meet the physical needs, or spiritual needs, of such a large area, we feel the Lord has richly blessed our efforts. Last year (1972) the Lord added 112 souls to His church in this district, and that has been the average for the past five years. We are counting on an even larger harvest this coming year.

Right now is our golden opportunity to work in this area. The doors are wide open and many are eager to study the Bible. Our prayer is that with each bottle of medicine given, with each tooth pulled, with each health lecture presented, and with each evangelistic sermon preached, our Lord's coming will be a little closer. The final results are in His hands.

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-Captain o the Luzeiro IV and a district pastor in the Central Amazon Mission at the time this article was written

January 1974

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