A specially-designed boat that operates as a “floating church” has now begun sailing up and down the Amazon River, offering hope and healing along the coastal towns in northern Brazil. The “Hope of the Amazon” boat, which includes quarters for a pastoral family and a 100-seat auditorium, began its first trip down the 4,000-mile (6,400-kilometer) river on April 27.
“This is a watershed moment for the church in the Amazon,” said Reno Guerra, the pastor assigned to the “floating church.” “It is a landmark in Adventist history.”
According to church surveys, Brazil has eight areas that contain a significant population of Seventh-day Adventist members. Two of them are in Northwest Brazil, especially in areas populated with Native peoples. Last week, Adventist Review reported about a Native chief who became a Seventh-day Adventist member after watching the church TV channel. Demographic studies, however, have revealed that there are still 117 Native groups in the Amazon basin with no access or knowledge of the Bible and over 10 thousand coastal settlements with no evangelical congregation.
Determined to do something about it, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America developed the “floating church” concept.
“My heart starts beating faster when I think of how many people will benefit from this amazing project,” said Guerra. “This is the realization of a dream that came right out God’s own heart.”
The “Floating Church” idea was born as a special Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in early 2016, explained Arildo Souza, Global Mission coordinator in the area. Every three months, Adventist members around the world raise a special offering for mission projects in one of the thirteen major church regions around the world. Part of the offering raised the last Sabbath of March 2016, was destined to build and furnish the boat.
“Our plan included a proposal for a large boat, able to sail long distances, both in deep and shallow rivers,” said Souza. He explained that their project is part of a more comprehensive initiative which includes health services and finding missionaries who may go and live in some of those isolated communities.
“The strategic goal is to get the coastal towns ready for the ‘floating church’ visit, as well as provide long-term assistance to our evangelistic endeavors,” said Souza.
The 88-by-25-foot (27-by-7.5-meter) boat hull and major frame were cast in aluminum and tested on water for the first time in October 2016. The Hope of the Amazon has space for the boat captain and crew, a pastoral family, and a team of evangelistic assistants.
"The strategic goal is to get the coastal towns ready for the ‘floating church’ visit..."
To raise part of the funds for the project, a series of short videos were prepared to be shared with the global membership of the Adventist Church. “We introduced members around the world to the culture, habits, and challenges of the Amazon region,” said Souza. “And people from all around the world contributed to this initiative.”
One of the project goals is to get the few isolated members already living in some of those hard-to-reach towns involved, encouraging them to do mission as they prepare the local residents for the boat visit.
The first community to benefit from the Hope of the Amazon visit will be Gutierrez, a 3,000-resident stilt houses town located a three-hour sail from Manaus, the capital city of the Amazon State. On May 1, a church team—in partnership with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Brazil—will offer dentistry services, a health fair, micro-entrepreneurship advice, and relaxing massages, among others. In the evening, community members will be invited to attend evangelistic meetings, which will take place in the boat’s main auditorium.
Gilmar Zahn, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brazil’s Northwest church region, said an important goal of the project is to plant and build new churches in the hardest-to-reach places. “We dream of new churches that may become shining lanterns, spreading the light of God’s Word in the Amazon,” he said.
To see a one-minute video summary of the Hope of the Amazon boat construction, click here.