It was minutes to three o’clock in the afternoon and five boats, with about 250 people, left for the communities of Costa do Marimba, Igarapé dos Reis, and Aliança, in Brazil’s Amazon. On October 12, the port of Manaus Moderna received missionaries from several states across Brazil and other countries, including the United States.
The Rio Negro, the starting point for the missionary journey, is below normal levels for this time of year due to the historic drought affecting the state of Amazonas. The mission group traveled to assist communities on the banks of the Amazon River.
The first I Will Go Amazon Experience was organized by the Northwest Missions Institute and Adventist Volunteer Service (SVA) for the Brazilian states of Acre, Amazonas, Rondônia, and Roraima. The initiative is part of a larger strategy to make SVA even better known to church members and young people, organizers said.
Açaí, Tucumã, Buriti, and Cupuaçu. The boats are named after typical fruits in the region, part of the effort to help participants get acquainted with the Amazonian culture. The journey to the first community took about three hours. As the sun set, the volunteers worshipped and reflected.
“God has a plan for each of us. We are here to serve others, but also to have a personal experience with God and discover what He wants for our lives,” Bradley Mills, one of the official speakers at the event, said during the service that took place on the vessel deck.
Recalling the story of Amazon pioneers Jessie and Leo Halliwell, Mills drew a parallel between the challenges faced at the beginning of the mission in the Amazon and the current possibilities for spreading the gospel.
Linda Amazonas is Venezuelan and has lived in Brazil since 2015. In 2023, she decided to be part of the mission initiative. Living in Manaus, the dentistry student became very interested in the history of the first missionaries to that area.
The Halliwells’ example motivated her and informed her decision to help people in need once she graduates. For her, participating in the I Will Go Amazon Experience is already a preparation for what she wants to accomplish in the future.
“This is not my home, my mother tongue, or even my country, but I know God has placed me where I am to serve,” she said.
Riverside communities benefited from medical and dental care, house painting, games with children, distribution of more than 200 food baskets, and personalized visits, among other activities. Housewife Daniela Rodrigues has three young children. She lives in the Costa do Marimba community and was happy to get clothes for her whole family. The more than 500 items available were donated by the missionaries themselves.
Jacqueline Perini, who has a degree in dentistry, came from Cacoal, in the interior of Rondônia, to participate in the I Will Go Amazon Experience as a volunteer. “I can see the need, and I feel grateful to do my part in any way I can,” she said.
Between appointments, Perini shared that volunteers, including her colleague Stevenson Auber, set up a dental office in a classroom. In 2018, Auber participated in a mission in Africa. Five years later, he came as a volunteer for the I Will Go Amazon Experience. With a degree in dentistry, Auber did not think one day he would be on a mission initiative like that one. “I feel grateful to be here and be able to help people,” he said.
I Will Go is a project of the Adventist Church that seeks to provide practical mission opportunities around the world. Dieter Bruns, director of Adventist Volunteer Service in the South American Division (SAD), was also part of the team and shared messages to inspire young volunteers.
“Having this immersion with volunteers who are from other regions and come to Amazon to live this experience of volunteering, service, and mission brings a greater sense of responsibility and shows that they can be useful,” Bruns said.
Janaína Shayne came from Acre, braving a 32-hour drive to participate in the mission experience for the first time. For her, all the effort was worth it. “Every time I hear the testimonies of other missionaries, I think about what more I can do for God,” she said.
The event brought testimonies from missionaries and the opportunity for each participant to experience the mission in practice. “In addition to inspiring and empowering youth and adults, the I Will Go Amazon Experience also served three riverside communities, bringing love and strengthening the evangelistic initiatives of the Adventist congregations in those communities,” Tiago Ferreira, SVA leader in Brazil’s northwest, said.
At the end of the initiative, participants had the opportunity to renew their commitment to God through a joint Communion service.
The second edition of the I Will Go mission initiative is scheduled to take place in Chile in 2025.