December 9, 2014
Although I have been to several places over the past few weeks, I think I will concentrate on my last trip up the Juruá River. Let’s start out with some background.
In January 1966 the Lord called me to be a missionary. It was and has always been clear that I was to work right here in western Brazil. At the time I was only 17. On a Sunday night I made the call known to the church. On Tuesday night I preached my first sermon. Just after I turned 18 I went off to seminary in Manaus. Twice a year I would come back to Cruzeiro do Sul during school breaks. The first break I built a little wooden boat and Dad loaned me one of his motors. My first river trip was that same year and was to places beyond where Dad had been working in those first years of his ministry here.
At the time, there was a little church at a place called Campo de Santana. Dad visited them regularly. The next major village up stream is Vitória. This was my first stop on that first trip.
The house that I stayed at belonged to Henrique Linhares. He was a first generation descendent of the northeasterners who came here for the rubber boom in the early 20th century. He was born at Vitória and at age 57 had never been to Cruzeiro do Sul. His wife, Dona Bastinha, (Little Sebastiana) was the local midwife. They lived in a big house made of bark floors and walls with a thatched roof.
There were no Christians (saved folks) on the entire Juruá River from that village upstream. I preached in Seu Henrique’s home twice a year from 1966 until 1978, the year I became pastor at First Baptist Church. I started preaching there 48 years ago. I played the accordion, sang hymns, prayed and preached the gospel to them for years sitting on a crude stool. The services were lit by little open flame kerosene lights. The whole village would come. Not a soul was ever saved.
In the mid 90’s we sent our first missionary to Porto Walter, which is about a hour downstream from Vitória in my fastest boat. We encouraged Mário to keep up preaching points at Campo de Santana and Vitória. A few people were saved. Then 6 years ago we sent Alexandre to Porto Walter, as Mário had moved to Cruzeiro do Sul. He sped up the pace of work at both villages. This year he led the little congregation to saw lumber and build their first building.
Last weekend I was there to dedicate the new building. What a difference from way back when. All the houses in the village, which has grown a lot, are made with nice sawed lumber and covered with aluminum roofing. The government put in a dirt road from Porto Walter and strung up electric through the jungle. As I stood in front of the building waiting for them to open up and turn on the lights I had a strange experience. Looking up stream and downstream there were strings of lights from LED flashlights and cell phones as people coming to church lit the paths along banks of the river. How different and strange from years ago. There were over 200 present for services on Saturday and Sunday. I preached about the timing of salvation, for obvious reasons. There were 2 people saved! What a thrill.
Some of the young Christians there are Sr. Henrique’s grandchildren. Some of them remember the services I held there. One of them came to me Sunday night and said. “I understand you clearly now, but back then I didn’t.” His thought was that my Portuguese has improved, but it hasn’t really. I explained to him that back then he understood the words, but not the message. Today he understands because of the Holy Spirit who opens eyes and hearts. What a comfort. What a victory at Vitória after all these years.
Thanks for all of your prayers and support. God bless you as much as He has us.
Mike and Beverly Creiglow
Caixa Postal 24
Cruzeiro do Sul, Acre, Brazil 69980
mdcreig [at] hotmail.com