You know that road you see every day but you've never been down it and don't know where it goes? That's how our trip started out, heading down a path less taken and coming home by a road few would dare to pass.
On Tuesday, November 14, we headed out to find as many "unreached" communities within 150 miles of where we currently live. Our method was simple: Stop and Ask! Most of the places where we visited are not marked on any of the maps we own. Some are identified on Google Maps. Most all are on dirt roads - either roads that have always been dirt or old highways in need of repaving.
At each group of more than ten houses we stopped to ask the name of the community, took note of how many houses there were and asked about churches. We visited about 200 such communities over the course of our trip of seven days.
Going was slow due to the bad roads and all the stopping. Few places have any sort of sign identifying them. Most cross roads also have no sign indicating what lies beyond. We marked major crossroads and some points of interest along the way for future reference.
We found it very interesting that often people in one place did not know what lay ahead of them especially if any important town lay behind since there would be no need to go in the less traveled direction. Often people gave poor information about the towns near them simply because they don't have cars and don't travel much.
We came across community after community with no church at all, period. 80 of the almost 200 places we surveyed had NO church of any kind - good, bad, or ugly. Three places had only Umbanda Spiritist Worship Centers. Many places didn't even have a traditional Catholic chapel.
We traveled simply, eating food we took, cooking some easy meals at night we a mini gas butane bottle. We stopped at good and safe places to sleep and took advantage of hotels on two nights for a good bath along the dusty roads.
We found people to be very friendly and receptive. Many asked the reason behind our questions. Even though our purpose was to hit as many places as possible in a limited amount of time, we did have good spiritual conversations for several individuals and made a visit to a lady that had attended our church in Sobradinho but had moved away.
People along the roads we traveled suffer much like those in all of Northeastern Brazil from cyclical drought. Many people live with no running water, only water collected from what little rain there is or bought from government wells with special filters because most ground water is "salty" and undrinkable. Those who can afford it, dig wells and put up windmills to pump since many communities are off the electrical grid. The most recent cycle of drought in our area has lasted for the past 14 years.
Continue to pray for us as we crunch all the data from this trip and look to God for direction for our next term of service in the land of Brazil. Look for a prayer letter from Byron in the days to come regarding our trips and our furlough.