The Project of a Lifetime: My Hope on the Amazon River
February 17, 2009 - Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and the biggest country in the Southern hemisphere. It can boast the largest amount of tropical rainforest on the planet as well as the most massive river in the world, the Amazon.
Before, my relationship with my wife and my kids was just a total failure, but now as we look to the future, we see success.
by Ann Marie Chilton
But in this land of large, a huge problem exists: Many people have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And without Christ, many families are suffering the consequences.
One missionary named Becky, who serves in Brazil with Project Amazon, a ministry that helps plant and build churches, says that out of the estimated 40,000 villages that lie in the Amazon Basin area, more than 35,000 do not yet have a Christian church.
“Unless somebody goes to their village with the Gospel, most of these people have never heard,” says Becky.
One Brazilian man name Joaquim, who works with Becky, feels called to go into the Amazon Basin to tell people about Jesus Christ. But his challenge is this: Where do you start if you want to journey on the largest and most dangerous river in the world in order to proclaim the Gospel to 35,000 remote villages?
Joaquim decided to use My Hope World Evangelism Through Television, a ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“I found out about My Hope through the church,” Joaquim says. “Every member was challenged to be involved in My Hope.”
In November 2008, My Hope TV programs, which present the Gospel through a sermon and a movie, were broadcast on nationwide, prime time television to homes across Brazil. Through more than 53,000 churches, hundreds of thousands of believers were trained to invite friends and family into their homes to watch the programs.
“This gave us an opportunity to do [evangelism] in a different way,” Joaquim says.
After watching the broadcast, host families shared their testimonies and invited their guests to make a decision for Christ. Stories and reports continue to come in from across Brazil as hundreds of thousands of lives were changed.
“Friends of mind have been following up with all the people who made their decisions at the My Hope broadcast,” says Joaquim. “People have been faithful, going to church, and they are discipling them. Churches are growing.”
But homes in remote villages along the Amazon couldn’t receive the nationwide broadcast, so today, Joaquim takes DVDs of My Hope programs to villages along the Amazon and holds public showings of the evangelistic programs.
As believers multiply, Joaquim also oversees the construction of churches in villages that have no church.
A HUGE COUNTRY: A FAR-REACHING PROBLEM
As Joaquim travels, he carries the My Hope DVDs along with his own story, a testimony of transformation. Before he became a Christian, Joaquim lived a very different life.
“Before, in reality, I did not know the value of the family,” he says. “I never really understood what the love of a family could be.”
He describes the difficulties that he had with his wife:
“We didn’t trust each other at all. We really didn’t expect to stay together, and we didn’t even want to assume a commitment of marriage together. We just lived together. After we became Christians, after God started dealing in areas of our lives, then I was able to re-examine just what a godly man could be.”
Joaquim had been unfaithful to his wife and betrayed her trust.
Becky says that the disintegration of the family has become a huge cultural and moral issue in Brazil.
“One of the big problem areas here is the unfaithfulness, often on the part of the man,” she says. “It is very common for them to be unfaithful. There is a spirit of infidelity and prostitution that still has a stronghold in our area. That’s what the enemy is destroying—so much of the families here.”
As Joaquim travels to villages to share the Gospel through My Hope, his story is one that resonates with many families.
A RAINSTORM OF GRACE
Recently, as Joaquim journeyed with a friend to share My Hope and to oversee some workers building a church, a heavy rainstorm stopped them along the way.
“I looked for a place to hide under until the rain passed. So then we went and stopped at a house. The husband of the home wasn’t at the house, so we didn’t want to go in the house. So we stayed just in a little covered area that was outside.”
They stayed outside the house for nearly an hour until the man of the house returned. The rain continued to pour.
“He received us very well and invited us to go into his house with him. He helped us warm up because we were so cold from the rain. As a way to thank him then, we said, ‘We don’t have silver or gold. But we have something very precious to share with you.’”
So the man invited them to share what they had to say.
“Then we told him about Jesus,” says Joaquim. “I shared my testimony. I told him why I was there, and where I was going. Then it seemed like he gained a little confidence in us and in what we were doing. Then we asked him if he wanted to become a Christian. At first he was silent. Then he looked over at his wife, and he said ‘yes,’ he wanted to become a Christian.”
After praying to receive Christ, the man opened up, in front of his wife, and began sharing how he had been unfaithful to her.
“I could tell at this moment that this man not only accepted the Lord; he wanted to make his life straight and get healed from this problem that he had,” says Joaquim.
“I encouraged his wife to make the same decision that my wife had made when I confessed my unfaithfulness to her. We knew that if she didn’t make her decision to follow the Lord, it was going to be awfully hard for her to be able to forgive him.”
Then the man’s wife said she would like to make her decision to follow Christ.
“We prayed and asked the Lord to give them strength to release forgiveness, one to the other,” Joaquim says. “Then they were able to release forgiveness, and it was so interesting how, in such a short time, we felt so close to this family. The man of the house opened his heart. It was so beautiful how the Lord used a rainstorm to save a whole family.”
Joaquim was able to contact a local pastor and get the family involved in a church in a nearby village. The family continues to grow in their newfound faith and learn to trust each other again.
ADDRESSING THE NEED
Joaquim encounters numerous families who are crumbling under the weight of mistrust and unfaithfulness. The culture accepts adultery as a practice, but does not acknowledge the private pain and lasting damage that infidelity creates at home in society’s most important structure, the family.
But the My Hope project speaks directly to this problem and offers families a chance to begin their journey toward healing. In the My Hope Brazil TV program, the featured movie shares a story about a man whose wife becomes ill with Alzheimer’s disease. In the story, the man feels tempted to abandon his wife and find a partner who is younger and healthier.
He does not think he has the strength to be faithful to his marriage vow throughout his wife’s illness.
“His temptation is to go after a young girl,” Becky says of the My Hope story. “But through the discipleship and mentoring he was able to overcome that and, through the grace of the Lord, say ‘no’ and be faithful to his wife. It was very, very good. They are still showing this program out in the river.”
As Becky and Joaquim witness, God is using this story to convict people of their sin and restore families.
The My Hope program also features a Billy Graham sermon and the testimonies of some famous Brazilian soccer players who are believers.
“Those were very powerful testimonies, and of course the ending was that movie. It’s been very, very effective,” says Becky.
With this program in hand, Joaquim continues to travel up and down the Amazon River, addressing the two problems that countless people are facing: a need for healing in their marriages and families, and the need for a Savior who provides the grace and strength to start again.
He describes it as an “adventure the Lord has given me the privilege to be a part of.”
Joaquim is thankful to be involved with My Hope, but even more thankful to share the grace that God has brought into his life.
“Before, my relationship with my wife and my kids was just a total failure, but now as we look to the future, we see success,” he says. “And it’s so good to just be there and be able to follow my kids as they’re growing up, to be the father to them that I never had. I know there is still an awful lot for me to learn, but the best yet is that they project of my life is in the Lord’s hands, and He’s working on it. Hallelujah.”