BY MADELINE MILLER and CAMBRIA WHEELER
Spring vacation can be a much-needed rest for Pacific
Union College students who have just completed final exams.
Yet, each year groups of students give up their
opportunity to spend time with family and take a break. These students,
motivated by the desire to give back and serve God, spend their time on a mission-oriented
adventure in places far and wide.
From March 20-30, 15 PUC students, joined by missions
coordinator Fabio Maia and biology professor Floyd Hayes, flew to Manaus,
Brazil, to work in Rosa de Sáron, in the interior of Manaus Amazonas.
The group traveled to this exotic location to build a
health clinic, provide water filters and water education, and to teach English
classes. Some of the students also participated in a tropical biology course
led by Dr. Hayes, giving them the opportunity to experience the wildlife of the
Amazon first-hand on morning trips along the river and through the jungle.
PUC partnered with the Adventist Development and
Relief Agency (ADRA) for the service element of the trip. ADRA supports several
projects in Rosa de Sáron—including a school, furniture business, church, and a
metal and dental clinic. The clinic is operated out of a boat by ADRA-employed
nurse Thianne de Oliveira. Dr. Oliveira, who also teaches at the school, works
with short-term mission teams who come to work in the area, including the PUC
The health clinic built by PUC will be used by 32
communities in the area and will create a centralized location for emergency
medical cases. Students made hundreds of wheelbarrow-trips with full loads of
dirt, mud, and clay as they built a foundation and raised the level of the floor
in order to protect the new clinic from annual flooding.
Maia joined local villagers who braved the teetering
heights of the loose frame construction to lay down roofing so that the
structure would be protected from incessant rain. With temperatures in the high
80s and humidity reaching up to 77 percent, dehydration was a serious concern;
the daily siesta following lunch was a much-needed blessing and reprieve.
PUC also brought 30 water filters to Rosa de Sáron in
partnership with one of PUC’s neighboring churches, St. Helena, California,
Calvary Christian Church. Maia taught both the students and the community
leaders how the filters are assembled and used. Using just gravity and a clean
bucket, the filters are able to process 1,800 gallons of water in a day,
turning the cloudy river into safe and potable drinking water. “PUC is
committed to making a difference in the Amazon by bringing clean water to the
communities in partnership with ADRA, Amazon,” Maia shared.
Each evening, Maia, a native of Brazil, led
English-Portuguese classes as PUC students were given the opportunity learn
some of the Brazilian national language alongside the people they had come to
serve. Several times throughout the process, Maia would laugh, “English is so
much easier to learn – there are only two forms for the verb ‘to swim’ [in the
present tense]: ‘swim’ and ‘swims’. Portuguese has six.”
Bianca Tolan, a junior at PUC, says, “The incredible
thing was that even though there was a language barrier, we were all working on
a project together and found ways to communicate.” The English-Portuguese
classes allowed for a third way for the group to bond with the community,
opening more channels for communication.
The trip had a profound effect on several students and
increased their desire to serve overseas. “I know I felt God and the joy that
comes with experiencing Him. That was for sure a spiritual high that we were
able to share together,” shared PUC junior Moises Ramirez. After the trip, five
of the students decided to spend a year as student missionaries through the
college’s missions program, and two want to dedicate their lives to working