This is a long post and there aren't any pictures, but I promise it will be worth your time.
Atalaia is also known as the "last city". The reason it is known for this is because it is the last city any outsider can enter into before the Javari River Valley. The Javari is a place in the Amazon that the Brazilian government decided to make a "living museum" of the 3,000 Indian peoples living there. No one is allowed into the Javari that does not have the birth right to be there. They did this in order for the people to have an untainted culture. This Amazon region contains the majority of untouched tribes without any contact with the exterior in the World. The students studying at NISI (the Bostic's Bible school) that are Tikuna Indians are allowed into the Javari, but only if they have a special invitation to go. They weren't born there so they aren't necessarily allowed to go in and out as they please but they still have the birth right to go in. Whenever the Brazilian government decided to make the Javari closed to outsiders they ordered all white people to leave; they were mostly missionaries. Some decided to leave and some didn't. For those who didn't, the government hired a violent tribe to hunt and kill any outsiders who decided to stay. To this day, people still remember finding blonde hair, blue eyed children floating down the river who had been speared. The city of Atalaia has a statue of a huge, blue eyed man tied to a post and is being speared. It represents their distaste for outsiders and even in Atalaia we had to be invited in by a native.
We rode to Atalaia on a house boat and when we got there the boys got off to go look around and some how I got left on the boat. While they were off they met some young men from the Matis people group. They brought their guitars and it was the Matis boys first time to ever see a guitar. They sat and taught them how to play; Kendall said they could've sat their all day but they had to go eat the lunch that was prepared for them. Kendall said they brought in huge fish that they carried on leaves and everyone sat on the floor and would reach for pieces of the fish off the bone to eat. After they had lunch they came back and got me and Jen. We ventured off the boat and were met by a dark spirit that lingered over the place. I was honestly scared for my life at one point due to the stronghold of the devil there...especially over the people. We eventually met with the group that was showing us around and we were able to see the light that still shown in the darkness there.
I looked up to see a young man with shaggy black hair, a peaceful smile, tattooed lines on each side of his cheek, and wooden pegs through gaged ears. My heart did a flip flop and looking into the eyes of my husband, I know his did too. Something changed about my husband that day especially when I saw him look out across the River and see the entrance of the Javari as a canoe was coming out of the place he desired to go. Kendall described meeting this young man as seeing a brother he hadn't seen in a long time and from the way the young man looked at Kendall I could tell he felt the same. I later learned the young man's name was Schapoo and he had a story to tell. We left Atalaia both wishing we had more time there and especially more time to get to know Schapoo.
The next day was the first day of the youth conference. As I was teaching in the Maloka ( a large dome looking hut) that holds the Indigenous church, I saw that young man walk in and I couldn't wait to tell my husband he was there. Later during the day Schapoo and Kendall had a conversation (through a translator). Schapoo pulled up the sleeves of Kendall's shirt to reveal his tatoos and asked "Are those your Ethnic markings?" Kendall just smiled. Schapoo stood up real straight and pointed to the lines on his face and said "These are my ethnic markings." I think they had a bond every since then because you could feel the love the had for each other.
We later learned how Schapoo came to know Christ. He was a young teen at the time and had ventured out by himself to go hunting. He was attacked by a jaguar that literally scalped him and left him to die. He said a man came in a white robe to help him whom he had never seen him before. He asked the man who he was and the man said, " I am the truth and I am here to save you. You will follow me and tell your people who I am." With that, he woke up in a hospital in Manaus, Brasil which is a nine day trip by boat from where he lives. During recovery in Manaus which took about a year he did some researching into who the man that saved him could be. He finally found his answer and became a follower of Jesus Christ. He returned to his village and is desperately trying to learn more about the Lord.
This young man has hardly any knowledge of the Lord because it is not readily available for him. Yet, he exudes the joy and love the Lord and my favorite part about that is nobody taught him. I have never seen someone so ready to share the gospel with someone. His faith is untainted and he trusts in the Lord completely. What an encouragement he was.
That one trip to Atalia, may have very well changed the course of our lives....