Asmall but sturdy passenger boat cast off from the pier at the Port of Manaus, situated in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. On board during the recent voyage were 102 excited members who were beginning what would be a 3,890-mile journey by river and bus to the Sao Paulo Temple and back.
The journey took them along the powerful Amazon River and its tributaries - where there are no roads - to a bus station where they rode days and nights to Sao Paulo. They traveled six days and nights each way.The trip from Manaus to Sao Paulo by air is 1,630 miles, a mere four hours by plane, but the fare for the group was prohibitive. So stake leaders made arrangements for alternate travel that was affordable.
As the boat moved from the shore to the channel through the muddy waters of the Rio Negro, it soon slipped downstream where the river is joined by the lighter waters of the Rio Solimoes. These waters, forming the Amazon River, fight each other for several miles before finally melding together. On board the boat, the faces of the saints glowed; they knew their dream was becoming a reality.
The first day on the boat was joyful and relaxing as the members shared their hopes and dreams and talked of the planned visit to the House of the Lord, now less than a week away. That afternoon they reached another landmark - the Rio Madeira, which they followed, turning southwest from the Amazon. They would continue along this river 2 1/2 days to Humaita, a river port on the western side of the Amazon Basin.
By nightfall on the new river, the members were well-accustomed to the gentle rythmn of the boat, and enjoyed excellent food prepared by Carlos Alberto, the cook. Despite cramped sleeping quarters, everyone slept well that night.
The second day also passed quietly with members studying scriptures and discussing the journey.
On the third morning a special devotional was held. This day was the eighth birthday of one of the children on the trip, and she was to be baptized by her father. The boat stopped at Praia do Dourado (Golden Beach) and, after checking the river for alligators and piranhas, small flesh-eating fish common in the area, the girl was baptized by her father. Blue and white balloons decorated the boat and many hymns were sung with great enthusiasm as the group proceeded downriver.
On the fourth day, they arrived in Humaita, their port of debarkation where rain deluged the passengers as they transferred their baggage from the boat to a waiting bus.
Now the most wearing part of the journey began. The bus swayed and lurched to avoid potholes. No one slept well and there was no Carlos Alberto to prepare meals. There had been fresh air and showers on the boat. The bus provided no such luxuries.
Arrangements had been made for members along the way to provide rest stops in homes and meetinghouses for the travelers, but due to mechanical problems with the bus, the first stop was not reached until the wee hours of the morning on the fifth day. However, the Manaus saints were appreciative of the love and needed refreshments awaiting them from members in Porto Velho, about 125 miles down river from Humaita.
As they continued traveling, they rode steadily over better roads, stopping only briefly at meetinghouses or roadside restaurants. The group arrived at Sao Paulo at 4:18 a.m. on the seventh day.
The members spent the next four days receiving their endowments and being sealed as families in the Sao Paulo Temple. At the conclusion of their temple service, on a Friday at 5 p.m., a special session was held for the members of the Manaus stake. Emotions overflowed as they remembered the many sessions attended, the sealings performed and the patriarchal blessings received. They had enjoyed an outpouring of the Spirit; their sacrifices had brought them eternal promises and great joy.
As the bus left the parking lot the next evening, the members looked back in reverence. Tears fell. Their hearts and minds were still at the temple. Up the highway they went, into the expanse of the state of Mato Grosso, where the bus broke again but was eventually fixed. At an old fragile bridge, all had to exit the bus to lighten the load. A few timbers were laid to strengthen the bridge. Members held their breaths as the bus crept safely across.
On the following Sunday, they attended a stake conference in Campo Grande where part of the service was dedicated to their courage and determination. More tears fell as Pres. Santiago thanked the Lord for His constant help and protection.
At noon on the 14th day of their journey, the group arrived at Humaita where they gratefully boarded the boat and began their uneventful and quiet voyage home.
It was on a Thursday when the boat crossed the swirling waters of the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio Silomoes. In just a few more minutes, 16 wearying and glorious days after leaving, the group arrived home in Manaus.
Pres. Santiago requested that the group meet briefly before departing to their homes. He encouraged them to make their homes a little bit of heaven, and always remember how the Lord had had brought them safely through the journey. He encouraged them to endure to the end.
The experiences, covenants and blessings of those days have become a permanent part of their memories; and they know something very real about enduring to the end.