Genesis 24:27 “And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren.”
Abraham was concerned about his son Isaac. Isaac was forty years old and still single! Abraham sent his eldest servant on a long journey back to Mesopotamia to find a bride from among his relatives. In those days they didn’t have road signs, Rand McNally Road Maps and GPS’s to take a person to his destination. One day after many days of travel the servant stops at a well of water and asks the Lord to bring to him the right young lady for Isaac. No sooner had he finished praying than Rebekah comes with her flocks to be watered. When the servant discovers that he had arrived at the right place and that Rebekah was the right person he again prays, “I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”
That story may have taken place about 4000 years ago but one thing we can know, we today have the same God who still hears, answers prayers and leads in our lives. We too can say with confidence, “I being in the way, the Lord leads me.”
Jane and I had just finished studying Portuguese in Manaus, Brazil and had moved to Boa Vista in the state of Roraima, the northernmost state in Brazil, when some of my family came to visit. One day I asked Harold Burns, our colleague in ministry, if he could take my family on a trip to visit some Indian villages. We traveled to a remote village called Contão, participated in a New Year’s Eve service and the next day Harold said, “Let’s go back home a different way.” The road was really bad; rocks, pot holes, wash boards and lots of heavy white dust from the dry savannas. We traveled across the plains, a trail winding between huge termite houses and crossed brooks where there were no bridges. At one-point Harold climbed up on the hood of his car, shielded his eyes with his hand from the equatorial sun while looking to the east, and said, “Those mountains are in Guyana so we need to go more to the right!” I was beginning to wonder if we would ever get back to civilization! Soon we found the gravel road heading to Boa Vista and headed off again bumping along. It wasn’t long before the motor in my little Chevette stopped and there we were stuck in the middle of nowhere in the hot sun. Right beside us at the edge of the road were five or six big mango trees and we pushed the car into the shade. We worked on the motor of the dusty car to no avail. Harold took most of the travelers with him and headed off to the city and said that he would return the next day. Dad stayed with me and I remember it was January 1st, 1998 because I carved that into the bark of one of the mango trees. Not another car passed all afternoon or evening. I had no idea where I was.
That evening a big full moon arose and we hung our hammocks up in the branches of the mango trees. About nine o’clock that night I heard a big crack and in the moonlight I saw my dad, branch and hammock all crashing down to the ground! We found another branch for his hammock in the darkness and somehow got a little sleep. The next day Harold arrived with some car parts but still the little car wouldn’t cooperate. Harold returned to the city again taking dad with him and now it was just me and the Chevette under the mangos. It was about noon and I was sitting in the car reading my Bible and praying when I heard a voice behind me, “Bom dia!” or, “Good morning!” I got out of the car and there behind was an old Indian sitting on an old brown horse. “Bom dia”, I called out. He said, “Who are you, and what are you doing here?” “My name is Terry and my car broke down. I’m waiting for help.” I asked, “What’s your name and where do you live?” “My name is Tito and I’m from the village called Milho (Corn)”, he replied. In our conversation I asked him if there was a church in his village and he replied, “No, but we need one.” “Do you think that we could come and have a service? “Sure, you can”, he replied before trotting off down the road on his horse. Later that day Harold returned with a mechanic and soon the Chevette was fixed and we were on the way home.
Later Jane and I made a trip to the village of Milho and found Ramiro, the chief of the village. He told us that we could come back in two weeks’ time and he would inform the people of the village to prepare for the service. We were so excited! This would be our first service with the Macushi and Wapixana people of Roraima! We arrived early on the Saturday designated and there was a soccer game being played in the field behind the small schoolhouse. As soon as night fell the people went home and shortly returned for the service in the small two-room school. For light we had two small tin cans filled with diesel oil with a string wick on the teachers’ desk – I’m sure that they made more smoke than light! There were 35 people jammed into one of the rooms and they listened intently as we taught them choruses and preached God’s Word. The chief said to return again in two weeks and this time we brought a propane lantern that filled the room with light and attracted a host of bugs and beetles. There were 40 people at the second service two weeks later and at its end the chief told me to sit down. Ramiro, the chief, spoke to the people and said, “You have heard the missionaries two times now. Do you want them to return? It’s your decision.” One by one, the men of the village stood up and said, “Yes, we want the missionaries to come back and teach our children God’s Word.” The chief then looked at me and said, “You can come every week from now on.”
It was an exciting time for us as new missionaries in Brazil. We could see how the Lord opened the door to find the village, meet the people, see souls saved and a start a church. When the car broke down that day I was thinking, “Why Lord? Why did You let that happen?” Looking back we now know why it happened – “I being in the way, the Lord led me!”
Sr. Tito, the man who found Terry under the Mango tree was the first person to accept the Lord. Soon it seemed like every week someone was getting saved. The first year there were about fifty decisions for salvation.
The little school room was becoming so crowded that the people said, “Let’s build a new church building.” Macushi brethren came from other villages to help make sun dried bricks for the walls and gather thatch for the roof. With a concrete floor and wooden benches, the new church building was ready for services. The white washed church building was the nicest building in the village.
To inaugurate the new building a Bible conference along with having our first baptism was held in March of 1989. Our other Macushi churches were invited for the occasion and seven people were baptized.
The people at Milho enjoyed learning and singing songs of the faith and hearing the preaching of the Word. As time went on more people came to church and more people were saved by God’s grace. Our prayers are that Milho will continue to be fruitful and that the seed found under the Mango tree will continue to produce in the lives of many more.