The Story

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Richard, Ashley, and Elliott (and little Raegan on the way) on the plane for the Amazon, August 2012.

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Once there was a young couple with a little boy and a pregnant belly that boarded a plane to the Amazon jungle who had absolutely. no. idea. what in the world they were getting into. All they knew was that God had called them to go, so they did. They made their plans, sold their stuff, and said their good-byes to all that they knew as “normal“.

Their plans seemed pretty simple really: use aviation as a means to reach uncontacted people groups in the Amazon jungle. How hard could it possibly be?

So cute.

It took approximately one week for them to see that things weren’t going to happen as neatly as they had strategized {bless their sweet hearts}. Sure, their baby girl was born in Brazil, securing them permanent residency, but that was about the extent of the successful check-marks on their predetermined goals list. The rest went something like this: Nope. Nope. Negative. Ain’t happening y’all.

What followed was a whole lot of discouragement and wondering, “Wait… what just happened?”

What is amazing though is that in the midst of the confusing closed doors and exhausting dying-to-of-dreams, God was up to something better. Something that neither of them could have dreamed or imagined (or even wanted for that matter) apart from the guidance and peace from the Holy Spirit. Something they would not even notice until a few years later. They kept their “yes” out on the table and this is what happened…

Instead of moving into an indigenous village as they had originally planned, they moved to a deadend street on a small road in the middle of a tiny jungle town called Benjamin Constant. Here, they knew no one aside from a couple of acquaintances. But it’s where a beautiful story began to unfold. They met a lady by the name of Rosa who showed up one evening shortly after they moved in and introduced herself. She would prove to be a God-send for the upcoming trials of lonliness and disappointment. She had a passion for kids and an undeniable love for Jesus that was contagious and key in getting to know the community around them.

 

 

Next, they were closer in distance to an incredible, faithful disciple of Christ by the name of Marcos Mayoruna whom they had met just a couple years before. This guy’s hard-core, unshakable faith would be crucial to carry-on their calling to reaching the unreached. It would provide a glimpse into how God uses unexpected ways to make Himself known.

 

Then there was Marcos Cocama and his family. This servant of the Lord would link them to a whole body of devouted indigenous followers who would help mold them, teach them, break them, and rebuild them into more of the image of God. They would allow them to experience what graceful suffering looks like. They would energize them with their unfailing joy. They would inspire them.

In good, spider-web-like fashion, each of these relationships branched off into more relationships.

Rosa began to share the stories of the dozens of street kids that soon filled their living room each day. They began to hear of the neglect, trauma, and abuse that these kids experienced on a daily basis and their hearts were stirred. They met one little girl in particular by the name of Mariclene. This little girl, who looked to be about 5, and her siblings would revolutionize their family through the process of adoption. It was also through this relationship that they began to explore the idea of starting a children’s home, something that never {in the history of EVER} had been on their radar. They watched as Rosa took in these kids, fed them, bathed them, clothed them. More had to be done. And so Grace House Amazon was launched in what felt like a total and complete shot in the dark.

 

They also began to invest in Rosa’s two older sons, Boboco and Pepeco. Facilitating dreams like soccer outreaches and BMX races and simply walking through life with them and believing in their gifts and dreams.

 

The closer proximity to Marcos Mayoruna allowed them to see him and his family, as well as the almost two dozen young indigenous boys in his care, on a regular basis. They were in turn able to build those relationships and facilitate trips for Marcos and several of the boys to go back into their villages to share the life-changing Truth of the Gospel with their own people, in their own language, in a way that was culturally relevant.

 

Through Marcos Cocama, they invited a young indigenous family to live with them. This was full of both trials and blessings as they worked to nurse them to health, invest in them spiritually, and show them a Better Way. Many nights were spent praying, crying, and teaching as they practiced dying to themselves and serving sacrifically across cultural barriers.

 

After nearly two years on this street and with the adoption of Mariclene complete, they began to sense it was time to move for the well-being of their family after facing some intense spiritual battles and physical ailments. But they stayed close, moving to Leticia, Colombia, only a thirty minute boat ride from this little town that now felt like home.

Here they began to see incredible advances as a network of believers continued to form. They began to get to know Cesar and Adryana better after they moved into the home they had lived in in Benjamin Constant. A friendship was born and they were able to connect them with Rosa and her family and Grace House, bringing it all full circle.

 

 

They also connected with Sam and Bea Hamilton and they quickly became close friends. During this same time, the idea resurfaced about starting a small, for-profit business to fund the various ministries. After a series of small miracles, the doors were opened to begin the first donut shop in this jungle region. Bea now works as the lead cook at The Donut Company, which provides an environment of relaxation and a loving atmosphere for both employees and clients alike and where discipleship is a daily focus.

 

This journey continues on and on. There are countless names and ongoing stories of people whose lives are being changed through the work of power of the Holy Spirit in us, working as the Body of Christ in this jungle region. This is barely a glimpse at all that He has done and is doing.

On the day when Richard and Ashley boarded that airplane, they thoroughly expected to do some pretty awesome things for Jesus. But they had no idea it would be this awesome. Because turns out, Jesus was already there and working hard through His people. They have simply utilized their gifts to lead, connect, and capacitate their fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ in order to form a community that is impacting the region with Truth and Love.

We each have roles to play, gifts to use. We each have strengths and weaknesses. And that’s the beauty of it all. When we work alongside one another as servants, esteeming the other as better than ourself, loving selflessly, giving sacrifically, we start to see that it’s not about our plans, our abilities. It’s not about us at all. It’s about His glory and the edification of His Body.

And it makes it a beautiful journey indeed.