Our principle mission field, the Amazon Basin, contains well over 3 million square miles of land and water and makes up 40% of all of South America. It is nearly the size of the Continental U.S. (3,717,792 square miles) and most of it lies in Brazil, with the rest in the neighboring countries of Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. An estimated 10 million people live in the Basin. Largely undeveloped and unreached, it lacks a paved highway or railway network. The majority of the transportation is done via boat on the immense river system.
The Amazon River & Tributaries
The Amazon River is the greatest river in the world. It carries almost 20% of all the freshwater in the world discharging into the oceans. The area of land that drains into the river — the Amazon Basin — is the largest basin of any one river in the world. The Amazon River is the widest and arguably longest (7,100 km) river on earth. In fact, it drains more water into the ocean than the world's next nine largest rivers combined!
The Amazon River may have as many as 1,100 tributaries (official counts vary). The word "tributary" is deceiving when you consider that some are larger than the Mississippi River and only surpassed by the Amazon River in the amount of water that they carry. Even today, many of them remain unexplored. Click on any of these photos below to view them larger.
The people of the Amazon Basin region are a precious people with a rough and ragged history. Most of the indigenous people of the Amazon Basin were wiped out by the Portuguese when they came and ravaged the land and people in the 16th century. The Portuguese then proceeded to bring in 4,000,000 African slaves to Brazil - eight times as many as were brought to North America! The Portuguese colonization and effects thereof have had a profound impact on Brazil, as over the centuries all the ethnicities and religions have mixed into what is now Brazil.
Today, Brazil is free and its people are very responsive to the Gospel. Most of those who live along the rivers in the Basin are simple people that work as fishermen, farmers and ranchers. To visit them is to step into a different world where life is much more raw and a need unmet is life-threatening. These people are so precious to the Lord and we have the great privilege and challenge of sharing God's love with them where they live.
A large portion of the people of the Basin live along its rivers, lakes and streams. So even though you can't typically reach the unreached by land vehicle, you can get there by boat and seaplanes. And that's precisely how we do it.
PAZ has a fleet of over 100 boats - from several small canoes and speedboats for national pastors and missionaries to larger live-in boats for support teams (medical, water filter, construction, disaster relief, etc.). This fleet is a critical part of our mission and how we traverse our mission field. The mission is constantly in need of more boats of every type to supply the needs of our Brazilian pastors and missionaries.
Small aircraft and seaplanes allow our top leaders to oversee several locations in much less time. For example, the community Prainha on the Maró River takes nearly 16 hours to reach by boat, but is a mere 45 minutes by plane. The time saved by flying is invaluable, as a pastor is able to supervise many more places in the same amount of time it would take him to visit one via boat. Partnerships like that with Asas de Socorro (Missions Aviation Fellowship in Brazil) are key in our aeronautical transportation.
"It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it."
Isaiah 55:11 NLT
Now see how PAZ plans to reach this whole area...