Volunteer Trip to the Amazon: Broken No More
theHeart partnered with Wine To Water to lead a team into the remote reaches of the Amazon jungle. Josh Anderson, Pastor of Community Life, shares his story.
I thought I was ready for my trip to the Amazon.
Along with other team members, I had spent 12 weeks training for this opportunity through a program we developed with Wine To Water and a local CrossFit gym. Two days a week were spent pushing our bodies to the limit by attempting much of the same type of work that might be found in the field.
Over the course of 24 sessions, we ran with PVC pipes filled with water. We sprinted with buckets of water. We slammed tires with a sledgehammer, We performed Farmer Carries. We rowed, tugged, pulled, and pushed as a team. We struggled as a team. And we encouraged each other as a team. We talked about brokenness—our own and the world. We leaned into our time together, prayed together, and grew closer to God and each other.
And yet the one thing we couldn’t replicate during our workout sessions was the rugged discomfort of the jungle. It was hot. The humidity was relentless. We battled it during the day. We were buried under it at night. The air was heavy. Our breathing was labored, perhaps more than our muscles.
On Day 3, the jungle broke me. After an especially grueling day beating on a concrete tap stand, I eventually had to tap out. My head was spinning. Whatever energy I had left offered nothing but faint hope that I could pull myself into the hammock that beckoned to me.
I crashed. And burned. That heat.
But something happened when I reached the end of me. I found God waiting to nurse me back. He came in the nurturing voices of my friends and teammates.
“Here, drink some electrolytes,” Leslie encouraged me.
“Is there anything I can get you?” Dejah asked gently.
“How are you feeling, bud?” Aaron wondered.
“We missed you at the debrief last night,” Amber said. “It just wasn’t the same without you.”
And so many others whose words broke through the haze hanging heavy in my head.
The next morning God poured His love on us in the form of rain and relief. No work could be done, so I slept in. The pounding on the roof was like a soft lullaby. While the precipitation falling from the sky lifted some of the humidity off of us.
The rain finally stopped. And I got up. Slowly. My appetite had not yet returned, but I had regained some of my strength.
I walked out to the well we were working on—one of three we were able to repair during our trip into the remote reaches of Peru. And I watched as the team started adding pipes. People from the village started to gather around, several came ready to work. Even the kids.
As team members and villagers banded together to fix a well, something occurred to me.
My pride made it difficult for me to accept the fact that I was broken. But I recognized that my identity doesn’t come from my strength. And it doesn’t come from my brokenness either. My identity comes from God, who showed His faithfulness through the loving care of my teammates when I was at my most vulnerable.
They could have shamed me for being weak. They could have turned their back on me because I was of no use to them. But instead, they cared for me and brought me back from the brink.
And isn’t that what community is all about? They are the special people in this broken world who fully accept you for who you are, and not for what you offer them.
I’ve returned from the Amazon. And though I lost my phone on the return trip, I’m much more interested in what I found during this incredible experience—a group of teammates who I now consider my friends. Not to mention the joy I had working, shoulder to shoulder with the local Wine To Water team and Peruvian villages.