It was the second day of our trip, and as we prayed for the remote community of Inanu and the power of the Gospel message to transform their lives, I added a prayer for Jancis. 'Soften her heart Lord.' I pleaded in Portuguese, 'She really needs you.'
Jancis wasn’t one of the Inanu community in the Lago Grande do Curaui region of the Amazon River that we had come to evangelise.
She was part of ‘Amizade’, a Brazilian / American organisation that provides cross-cultural medical experience for final year students and she, together with seven other North Americans, was travelling on the boat with Asas de Socorro (Wings of Help) MAF’s affiliate in Brazil and Christian volunteer doctors, dentists and evangelists.
Having lived in Brazil for a year on a Rotary Exchange I had returned to reconnect with the Brazilian family I’d stayed with 30 years ago.
But while I was in Brazil, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see first-hand what MAF’s affiliate was doing. So I joined the team in the northern city of Santarem, and travelled by boat along the Amazon River to work for four days in the remote Inanu community.
Santarem Base Leader Ester Camilio assigned me to be part of the evangelism team.
Together with Aparecida Oliveira and Rene Pereira dos Santos we would leave the boat each morning and go door to door, meeting and greeting people. Everyone welcomed us warmly, invited us into their homes and sat and listened as we told them about God.
As we shared the Gospel message, people responded, many receiving Jesus on the spot.
To be honest, I just couldn’t believe that it could happen so quickly. As I explained to my two Brazilian colleagues it would never happen like this in Australia, because in our Western culture there are many barriers to faith, and we need a lot of time to have our defences broken down, to deal with our doubts and concerns, to debate the intellectual issues and prepare ourselves for that leap of faith.
Yet these simple people accepted the good news of Jesus and His promise of eternal life, at face value.
It was exciting, but tiring work and when I got back to the boat that second afternoon I collapsed exhausted at a table in the dining room. It happened to be near where Jancis was sitting and before I knew it I was sharing with her about God’s love.
As we talked I discovered that Jancis was brought up as a Catholic but did not have certainty about her salvation. So I shared the Gospel message (just as I had during the day in the Inanu community) and when I got to the end I asked if she wanted to accept Jesus as her Saviour. She immediately said yes.
Was I staggered? Yes. Was I incredulous even? Yes. Being brutally honest, I had never expected to be doing more than sowing seeds with any of the North Americans on the boat.
But Jancis was one of 28 people that week who accepted Jesus and received forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.
What an unforgettable lesson God taught me that day - the power of the simple, clear but direct Gospel message.
Whether we’re from a remote Brazilian fishing village on the Amazon river, or a nursing student from a university in North American, we all need to be forgiven, accepted and loved and we all need to have the assurance of eternal life that only Jesus offers.
God also showed me that my only responsibility is to share God’s love with others. It’s His job to do the rest. And, in case it wasn’t already clear, He showed me that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible for Him.