Whether luck of the draw or the hand of the Lord God at work, a missionary team from Purcell’s Memorial Assembly of God didn’t build just another church during their recent trip to the Amazon basin.
Instead, they were blessed to build the 100th church for the Brazilian missionary with whom the congregation is affiliated.
“It was a real honor,” said the Rev. Duane Elmore, Memorial Assembly’s pastor.
That Brazilian missionary has talked about retiring, but Elmore expects he will continue to build churches “as long as the Lord gives him strength and he has people willing to come and do it.”
This was the Purcell church’s third trip to the region in as many years.
The first trip, he recalled, as “quite a step of faith” and then the Lord opened the door for the second.
“And He really opened the door” for this trip, Elmore continued.
A year ago they built church number 93 in the village of Jaraqui.
This year’s journey took them to the island of Nova Esperanca – Good Hope – on Lago (Lake) Janauaca.
At 1,716 square feet, it was the largest church they have built in the remote region. Others have averaged 1,300 square feet.
The new church has block walls and a tin roof. It is the only brick and mortar building on the island.
Mission group members Randy Idleman, Bruce Clark, Steve Hurt, Dillon Gardner, Terry Hillis, Dr. Rick Schmidt, Todd Russ, Fred Green, Scott Hosek, Crystal Hosek, David Elmore, Sarah Elmore, Pam Vaughn, Kathy Wollenberg, Penny Thompson-Massey and Stephanie Gentry flew out of Oklahoma City on September 23 and returned six days later.
They boarded a boat at Manaus, Brazil, and motored on the Amazon River for approximately six hours to reach the enormous lake dotted with islands.
Roughly 25 houses were on their island destination where approximately 100 residents attended church services under a tarp outside the home of their female pastor.
In addition to the church construction, the group conducted a medical clinic and delivered 125 water purification filters to residents there and on nearby islands.
They also conducted a one-day vacation Bible school for the children and distributed more than 100 pairs of shoes to the youngsters they met.
Daily they dealt with and worked through the equatorial heat and humidity.
While Schmidt and Elmore’s daughter, Sarah, a nurse, ran the medical clinic, others toiled on the church construction or were assigned to set out across the lake in a skiff with an interpreter to deliver water filters to homes.
The work was hard, the days long and the heat and humidity oppressive, Elmore said. Two or three workers got overheated and keeping hydrated was an ongoing task. Still, there was just one casualty on the trip.
Sarah Elmore became so sick an emergency trip up river was called for one night.
Elmore went with his daughter on the 2-hour trip by boat and then one hour overland by car to reach a hospital where she could be treated with IV fluids and medication.
That night on the lake, caiman were everywhere, their glowing eyes reflecting the light from the boat and marking their numbers and location.
The next morning, she was well enough to be released. But it was raining “like crazy” and Elmore wasn’t sure they could get back to the island in time for the church dedication that night.
The weather finally broke in the afternoon and they got back to the island just in time.
That worship service was an emotional one, Elmore said.
“There was a lot of joy, hugs all around. The Lord helped us and kept us safe,” he added.
More than 150 people attended the dedication.
Elmore is planning another celebratory service on November 3.
This one will be at his church for the congregation, as well as members of the community who contributed to the mission cause.
The 6 p.m. service will feature slides and testimony and will be followed by a meal in the church gymnasium.
Elmore said the water filters alone cost $12,000. The lion’s share of that was furnished by his congregation.
But there was also a woman in the community who gave Elmore a $1,400 check. Another man, not a church member, gave him a check for $800. And one lady in the congregation gave $50 every week.
“The community deserves a big thank you from us for helping us,” the pastor said.