Young Adults Travel the Amazon for the Gospel
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“Young Adults Travel the Amazon for the Gospel,” Ensign, Jan. 2009, 79–80

Young Adults Travel the Amazon for the Gospel

Wading in a murky river, home to piranhas and anacondas, 15 travelers acted quickly to remove the water from their sinking handcrafted wooden boat. When it was empty, they reboarded and continued to navigate on faith and hope through the rough Amazon River waters.

The dangerous boat ride from San Regis, a village tucked in the densely packed Amazon rainforest of northeastern Peru, to the closest city missionaries could reach was a four-hour voyage toward salvation—the travelers had come to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and be baptized.

Reaching their destination wet, but hungry to hear about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ from the full-time missionaries, seven youth and young adults received the saving ordinances for which they had waited for years.

Each week for the previous three years, 30 people attended the Church meetings held at Miguel Souza’s house in San Regis. Other than Brother Souza and his son, David, none of the villagers at the Sunday services were baptized members of the Church. With no roads leading into the isolated village and restrictions placed on missionary travel, baptism remained something the nonmembers only read and dreamed about.

Realizing the people’s sincere desire, Brother Souza traveled six hours to Iquitos, the capital city in the region, and spoke to the stake president of the area about the situation. The stake president, along with the nearest missionaries, planned a way to provide the loyal followers from San Regis the opportunity to be baptized.

Nauta, a town situated on the edge of the Amazon and 58 miles (93 km) from Iquitos, served as the meeting point since it was the closest the missionaries could get to San Regis. This meant a perilous boat ride through dense jungle and predator-infested waters for the San Regis believers. However, upon hearing the news of the missionary meeting, many in San Regis desired to make the trip despite the danger. With room in the boat for only 15, Brother Souza and his son went with 13 selected youth and young adults to Nauta.

Obstacles immediately sprang up for those making the journey. People of other faiths in the village tried to persuade them to give up their dreams, telling them they were being duped and that they were already baptized and did not need baptism again.

Undaunted, they made the voyage, surviving the Amazon and a nearly capsized boat. After learning from the missionaries over two days, the group went to a remote lagoon in the Peruvian jungle, where the seven who were ready received the ordinances of baptism and confirmation.

A day later the travelers made the long journey back to their remote village, where others would prepare for a future opportunity to make the same voyage toward salvation.

Thirteen investigators traveled four hours by boat on the Amazon River in Peru to hear the missionaries. Seven were baptized; the others returned home with the goal to continue preparing.

Photograph by Jake Brandenburg