When you think of leadership development training, you probably don’t think of the jungles of the amazon rainforest. Two weeks ago, Rodney and I boarded a plane to Brazil for our first Jungle Pastor’s Conference with Justice & Mercy International (JMI), a non-profit ministry led by my dear friend, Mary Katharine Hunt.Leadership development training in the Amazon: 5 Lessons I Learned from a Recent Missions Trip Click To Tweet
It was in the middle of Brazil’s thickest jungles, in the heart of the mosquito-saturated, humid rivers of the rainforest, with zero AC, zero PowerPoint, and zero wifi — I came face to face with some of the greatest leaders I’ve ever met. While Rodney and I traveled on a comfortable plane, the pastors and wives who attended our conference carried all their belongings, food, and water, and walked for days to reach the Amazon River. Then they traveled by canoe for days to reach the larger boat that brought them to the conference.
We were honored to teach these pastors, but we found ourselves learning just as much from them. In fact my week in the jungles of the beautiful Amazon I was able to experience one of the best leadership development experiences of my life, learning from these pastors and their wives how to lead and love like Christ.
Here is what they taught me:
These pastors and wives are committed to the gospel and their churches. We heard so many stories of hardships, but these pastors endure, faithfully leading their churches and serving their villages. One pastor shared about his canoe tipping over in the middle of the night as he traveled to one of six churches he pastors. With tears, he shared how it took him over two hours to find the shore in the middle of the night. When asked how he survived, he said he finally found his canoe and continued on to the village expecting him. Another family lost their 18-month-old son to flood waters and yet they stayed to serve. I learned a new level of commitment from these pastors.
It is hard to describe the joy these pastors shared. It was on their faces from the moment we greeted them to waving goodbye to them as the boat pulled away from the shore. Their joy was expressed through worship, smiles, hugs, and even tears. It wasn’t an artificial joy based on circumstances, but a joy found in Christ.
They were so thankful. Thankful for the conference. Thankful we came. Thankful for the blessings God had given them. Thankful for the opportunities God had given them to serve in their villages and beyond. Grateful for their salvation and the opportunity they had to serve. One picture will be forever etched in my mind of a young pastor who fell to his knees praising God when he was given a guitar to take to his village for worship.
There was a profound sense of community, fellowship, and love during the conference. We came from different places, our stories were different, we couldn’t speak their language, but there was a bond of unity and love because of Christ. We were brothers and sisters in the deepest sense because of our love for Christ and our love for each other.
I was most compelled by the vision of these jungle pastors. They want to plant more churches. They want to reach the unreached people of the Amazon. They want to see more people come to faith in Christ. One pastor shared his heart to bring clean water to his villages and another wanted a school for the children. They have a hunger and a passion for their vision that requires them to give their all. I was reminded again of a leader’s job to provide a compelling vision of an achievable future. These pastors are on the front lines of work and leadership making their vision for their people a reality.
“Let the message of the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:16-17
You can read more about the Jungle Pastors’ Conference on the JMI blog here.