My Voice: Encountering God along the Amazon
By Nicole VacaGuzman
As I stepped into Igreja Presbiteriana de Manaus, I knew my faith would be strengthened.
I visited the Manaus, Brazil, congregation while traveling along the Amazon River on the medical mission boat, the JJ Mesquita. We visit communities along the riverside, sharing God’s word and teaching English to the students of each community. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter where a person comes from, or the economic or social class a family inhabits. Instead, it’s the church that brings everyone together. The difficult lifestyle in riverside communities makes it challenging to find someone to fully confide in. Nonetheless, the faith of the people there is astoundingly strong; the church becomes all they need, and the members become their best friends, their family.
This was demonstrated to me when I heard the story of a woman, Juliana, who has suffered tremendously, but who was saved by God and her church family. When she was young, her stepfather physically and sexually abused her. When she explained the situation to her mother, her mother failed to believe her, was enraged that Juliana would make something like that up, and tried killing her three times. The third attempt was so severe that Juliana ended up in the hospital alone, abandoned by her family. They didn’t take responsibility for the bills, her food, where she would live—nothing. The last words she remembers her mother saying to her were, “You’ll be dead after I’m done with you.”
Juliana’s rescue came when a neighbor brought his worship team to the hospital to be with her. A family from the church then took her in as their own daughter. She now has a beautiful family of her own and is a strong missionary who travels around Brazil sharing her testimony.
When I sit with families and hear stories like Juliana’s, I realize that we all come from extremely different backgrounds, but our hardships and tribulations bring us together under one God to strengthen our faith and spread his loving word. Brazil has not only strengthened my faith, but it has transformed the way I see others, deepened my understanding of others’ beliefs, and furthered my desire to do God’s work in any way I can glorify him.
Nicole VacaGuzman is a member of First Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan. “My Voice” shares the views and experiences of RCA women and men between the ages of 18 and 29.