September 7, 2017

Newest Mission Boat in the Amazon Builds on Decades of Service

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Brazil’s Amazon Region inaugurated a new mission boat last month. The launch of Luzeiro XXX follows a decades-old tradition of mission vessels providing medical care across the vast Amazon basin, said church leaders in the region.

“The Luzeiro project is not only a forerunner of ADRA’s presence [across the region] but also essential to inspire new generations to understand the value of [the pioneers’] sacrifice and service,” said ADRA Brazil Director Jefferson Kern. “We are happy…to support and coordinate this initiative.”

Inauguration of the Luzeiro XXX mission boat last month. The boat will provide medical and spiritual care to underserved communities along the Amazon river in northern Brazil. [Photo: Leandro Reis, ADRA Brazil, Amazon Region]

In an e-mail to Adventist Review, ADRA Brazil’s Amazon Region Director Brad Mills shared some of the new boat features.

“Luzeiro XXX is a 69-foot wooden vessel complete with three suites for its full-time missionaries to live in,” he wrote. “It also includes a full kitchen and a second floor where 15-20 hammocks can be hung.”

Mills shared that Luzeiro XXX will be deployed to an area accessible only after almost two weeks of boat travel. “It will be staffed by a full-time missionary boat captain, a physician, a dentist and a nurse,” he wrote. “Additionally, there will be monthly volunteer opportunities for healthcare professionals, who will be able to support the services provided to residents of dozens of isolated villages.”

Decades of Mission Service

In a statement, Northwest Brazilian Union Mission President Gilmar Zahnhighlighted the long history of mission boats in the region. “Pioneers opened the way and set the path in the Amazon so that new generations can be inspired to follow in their footsteps,” he said.

According to Mills, the first Luzeiro boat—“lighthouse” in Portuguese—was inaugurated on July 4, 1931, by Leo and Jessie Halliwell, American missionaries to Brazil. The church then continued to operate the mission boats’ project for several decades. In the late 1990s, however, the program began to downsize until the day came where there was no active Luzeiro boat left along Brazilian rivers.

Ten years ago, a group of Adventist church members joined forces with the local conference and the Northwest Brazil Union Mission with the dream of getting the Luzeiro boats operational again. Members knew therse were many villages with no Christian presence across the Amazon basin. They were convinced Luzeiro boats could be instrumental in reaching the unreached in that area, by providing villagers with medical missionary work.

Over the next several years and with much effort, boats began to operate in the Amazon once again

Over the next several years and with much effort, boats began to operate in the Amazon once again. Currently, Luzeiro boats are providing much needed medical care and village development in areas of the Amazon with no Adventist presence.

Why Luzeiro Boats Are Important

Zahn highlighted the mission boats’ role in bringing people to Jesus.

“Luzeiro boats’ service is not only relevant but also essential for evangelistic outreach,” he said. “In my eight years serving the Adventist Church in northwestern Brazil, I have learned to love, respect, and support the project.”

Indeed, professionals working on the Luzeiro boats provide not only wholistic care but also follow-up opportunities, explained Mills.

“The Amazon Lifesavers program places missionaries to live in the villages and cater to the spiritual needs of the people,” he wrote, sharing that as a direct result of these initiatives, dozens of new churches have been planted across the region.

Zahn agreed that the role of Luzeiro boats is essential for evangelism.

“They prepare the way and open the hearts of the people to God’s Word,” he said. “The [project’s] ultimate goal is to encourage people to accept Jesus as their guiding lighthouse in their lives.”