We were just in time to go to our Bible studies in Pirai, a community neighboring ours. The canoe was already filled with our water gallons, our life jackets were in place, Bibles in the bags, laptop and everything was in order. Mr. Faustino, our commander,untied the rope and the engine sound of the small boat was heard.
We pressed forward less than a meter and the motor popped out of the water with screech and then stopped. The propeller of the engine had got twisted in a net that was nearby. The wires had made a great knot which would be very difficult to untie without cutting.
Mr. Faustino’s son appeared at the top of the hill to see what had happened. He was the owner of the net. The father gave him a simple command: “Bring a knife.” The boy went down the ravine with the tool in his hand, got into the river and handed the knife to his father. He turned his back and left. The threads began to be cut. The interesting detail was: no word was said during this whole procedure.
Talking about what happened, my husband and I could see that this reaction was a strong demonstration of the local culture. We then remember our missiology classes at the Lifesavers Mission School. In our big city culture, the normal reaction would be to complain or at least comment about what happened since we suffered damage. Smoothly perhaps we would joke with our father, something like “Not the best move, dad!”, or maybe we would show sadness by having lost something that was ours.
We realized that things don’t work like this here. Preserving bonds with one another comes in first place. This is so strong that often one who is impaired prefers to bear the loss rather than to ruin a friendship. The degree of tolerance is much greater. Is this good or bad? There is no right answer, there is simply a variation of habits and cultures between different peoples.
Within one country we can find completely opposite cultures. We are all Brazilian, but my husband and I would have a completely different reaction to this situation because we grew up in a reality led by always claiming rights on material and moral damages. Something like “I’ll lose my friend but won’t lose my money”, and this is fostered by the consumer industry to this day.
Perhaps because they live in such a difficult conditions, all they have is each other. Being is much more important than having. Without knowing they already preach what Christ came to teach us, many without even being Christians.
The Amazon has indeed many precious treasures. Fertile soil, plenty of fruit all year round and also the riverside population that has so much to teach us.