My first experience with missions was going to Brazil with my parents as a young boy. Missions had been on my parents’ hearts for a long time, so off we went with New Tribes Mission. Ultimately, my dad was part of a team that was building housing for missionaries coming out of the deep parts of the Amazon jungle. I still have vivid memories (from a child’s perspective) of our time there. We were mainly by the Amazon River (if I remember correctly), and ever since then, my interest is always peaked when I hear about that massive river.
A few years ago, I hosted a film series called “Reel Conversations.” The goal was to watch a film and discuss it afterwards. I love film and I love talking, so it was a perfect fit! When I came across the documentary Big River Man we had to watch it. The movie followed an adventurous Slovenian named Martin Strel as he attempted to swim the length of the Amazon River. It is to this day one of the craziest docs I have ever seen – Martin Strel is quite the character.
More recently, I was looking in Chapters for books I might want to buy for my Kindle. Yes, I am one of those people who “showroom.” I came across a book that immediately got my attention called Walking the Amazon by Ed Stafford. The title alone was enough to grab my attention, but then there was the endorsement by Bear Grylls – I knew I had to read this book.
Walking the Amazon took about two weeks to read in the midst of studying to teach OT overview and grading some big books. The book is Stafford’s memoirs of his attempt to walk the entire length of the Amazon River from its source to where it pours into the Atlantic ocean. It is an amazing story of physical endurance and mental strength and is a really different look at an area I have only really heard of through the stories of missionaries. Much of the book focuses on the trials of the walk, from hiking through flooded jungles with water up to his neck, to the isolation that comes from being surrounded by a different culture and language. Ultimately, it is about a journey along one of the most amazing rivers on the planet, and the challenges the river and the people who live along it face in our ever-changing world.
After finishing the book, I realized that 1) the British military creates some great adventurers and, 2) how important one’s perspective really is. Much of the difficulty Ed talks about facing was in his own head – it was in how he perceived his situation and how he chose to react to it. Many of us never face situations that cause us to analyze how we see trials in our lives and how we can choose to respond positively even to the worst situations. I also realized that though I could use some more adventure in my life, I have no desire to spend over 800 days walking through the Amazon jungle. Maybe a little cross-country skiing in Kananaskis will do for now.