There wasn’t a single ripple on the water when Jordan climbed out of his hammock and walked to the river bank that warm May morning. The sun was beginning to rise and soon it would burn the fog off the waters surface and he’d be able to see the Discovery, the boat carrying the Americans, slowly making its way back to shore. They were coming back for a special ceremony to dedicate the school addition they’d been working on the past several days. This new science and technology center was just a barren piece of land at the end of a schoolhouse last week. Today, after seemingly endless wheelbarrow trips full of dirt and countless drops of sweat, the new center is being turned over to the future leaders of this village.
The addition carries the name of John Paculabo, the visionary who helped build this and 13 other schools along the river. His decade of service in the Amazon brought education and worship to the poor, forever changing the trajectory of life for children like Jordan. These schools are beacons of hope in a vast expanse of water and jungle. John lost his battle with cancer last year, but his spirit lives on in the lives of these children. His wife, Juliet, is present and humbly accepts the role of honorary ribbon cutter.
For Jordan, he couldn’t imagine a more perfect day. He had a new school building where he could learn. He had met so many new friends. But after the dedication, his mother led him to the center of the room for one last surprise. The group circled around him and everyone began singing; first in English, then Portuguese, “Happy birthday to you” In all the excitement, he’d almost forgotten that today he turned five-years-old. The cooks from the Discovery even made a cake for his special moment.
When we travel to the Amazon, Moldova or other locations to do missions, we certainly have physical goals we hope to accomplish. We will always build schools, install water filters, deliver food bags, train pastors and teachers and complete other work as God leads. But Jordan is a great example of why we come. He and his classmates are the future leaders in this area and the greatest need for he and his family isn’t material possessions, it’s the hope of Christ we share no matter what project we¹re working on. Jordan will know who Jesus is, because we have told and will continue to tell him. He will know what it looks like to follow Christ, because we will show him. We are invested in him and his spiritual development as much as we are his physical development. And one day, when he makes his own commitment to follow Jesus, our prayer is that he’ll look back on his fifth birthday and realize that was the best gift he got.