First Baptist Church 2017 Mission Trip considered to be a success

First Baptist Church Mission Team members from the Waukon area spent time at a zoo during their 2017 mission trip to Brazil. Pictured above, left to right, are: Front row - Kari Roney, Cristina Smith, Sidney McQuade, Jacob Smith, Claire Beyer, Morgan Van Ruler, Brenna Smith. Back row: Pastor Duane Smith, Nathan Smith, Michael Smith, Aislinn Goettel, Deb Kiley, Steve Kiley. Submitted photo by Cristina Smith.

The young ladies who were part of the First Baptist Church Mission Team are pictured above with students at a public school in Brazil. The residents of Brazil were very welcoming to their mission trip visitors. Submitted photo by Cristina Smith.

Pictured above is a typical scene on the Amazon River witnessed by the First Baptist Church Mission Team during their June 2-18 mission trip to Brazil. Many such homes were part of communities built right along the river. Submitted photo by Cristina Smith.

submitted by Cristina Smith

The 2017 Mission Trip taken by First Baptist Church of Waukon June 2-18 to Brazil proved to be a wonderful and positive experience for the 13 members of the mission team. Those team members included Steve Kiley, Deb Kiley, Kari Roney, Claire Beyer, Sidney McQuade, Nathan Smith, Morgan Van Ruler, Michael Smith, Brenna Smith, Aislinn Goettel, Jacob Smith, Pastor Duane Smith and Cristina Smith.

The mission team began fundraising one year in advance and prepared a 45-minute presentation of drama, music, puppets and translated testimonies in the Portuguese language under the direction of Pastor Duane and Cristina Smith. Cristina Smith, carrying dual citizenship with the countries of Brazil and the United States due to being born to missionary parents in southern Brazil, taught the mission team Portuguese phrases, lyrics to Christian songs, and aided each member in preparing their salvation testimonies.

Rev. Duane Smith made all the travel plans, itinerary, and handled the finances of the trip. Each team member was committed to weekly training sessions that began in January of 2017 and raised funds individually by working jobs, participating in fund-raisers and writing prayer (support) letters. This preparation developed team unity, a stronger prayer life, character and determination on their part to participate in such a unique overseas trip.

After 31 hours of travel, the mission team landed in Belém - the 11th most populous city in Brazil, and the capital and largest city of the state of Pará in the country’s north. It is a gateway to the Amazon River and lies approximately 100 km upriver from the Atlantic Ocean, with an estimated population of 2,249,405, according to

The team was graciously hosted by Word of Life missionaries Gary and Sandy Parker in the city of Benevides, which is a suburb 30 miles out of Belém. Gary Parker is the Director of the Bible Institute and the mission team witnessed the Institute in session. This educational environment was a distinct aspect of the trip, in which college students openly shared their faith in God with the mission team members, their reason for studying there, and plans in serving God as a missionary or in other areas of vocational ministry. Several students spoke fluent English, or at least would try to communicate. The warmth and kindness of the Brazilian people and culture was welcomed by the American team members. Brazilians often greet one another with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

A distinct impression upon all the team members was spending one overnight in the Amazon jungle, and sleeping in hammocks. During their time there, the team crossed the Amazon River in a small boat and visited an island community that is thriving and healthy, complete with a grade school that the team visited and performed a presentation in. Seeing a yellow “school boat” was a fun sight for all to behold. Children from all over the area arrived at school on the boat for their school day. During that trip, a water snake was observed, as well as a tarantula and monkeys in the trees.

Another unique experience was going to the City Dump where an entire community makes a living by being hired at a Recycling Center. However, those who are unemployed and desperately poor dig through the city dump (several miles wide) to find food, items for their home, and anything of value to recycle to earn some money. Digging through the dump is forbidden by the Brazilian government, but the desperation to survive drives the Brazilians to do so anyway.

The American team walked through their neighborhoods and observed clean and neat homes, despite destitute circumstances and no sewer system. Ironically, the state of Pará paved all the streets in this large community; so as one walked through the neighborhood, one was walking on paved roads. Perhaps the biggest impact upon the team was seeing the joy that many Brazilians had - no matter their circumstances, and their warm hospitality extended to the entire mission team.

It was at this site that the team participated in the “Creative Hands Ministry” - a team of missionaries from Canada, Whales, Switzerland, USA and Brazil - that has reached out to this neighborhood. They offer sports at their gymnasium and also have a Day Camp, Christian Pre-School and a church. The team was so impressed by the missionaries’ dedication, and amazed at several of the missionaries’ education and backgrounds. Their intelligence, education and love for God and the community was witnessed by all the team members.

This rare experience caused each team member to examine his or her own life and consider the American lifestyle where one is accustomed to material possessions, and at times, narcissism, which leads to ungratefulness and entitlement. Returning to their individual homes, the mission team members viewed their homes and the opportunities in the USA with a new perspective and appreciation.

Sunday, July 16 at First Baptist Church in Waukon, team members shared about the trip and how it impacted their life. Each person took turns talking about an experience that stood out to them and what he or she learned from it. A common thread was the spiritual growth in Christ as a result of going on the trip and learning more about having a personal, daily, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The team was challenged by Gary Parker to be intentional in pursuing God, to be passionate about developing a relationship with Him, and to “chase after” whatever God is calling them to do in each of their lives.
The church family of First Baptist and Waukon community is thanked for their gracious support and encouragement of the 2017 Brazil Mission Team. The next overseas mission trip will be in four years, toward which the annual all-church garage sales proceeds are applied.

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