It doesn’t seem possible that the Rivers of Blessing riverboat, the M.S. Arrington, was built over ten years ago. Bolivian Pastor and Missionary David Flores and International Missions Director Phil Knott began the dream of a way to reach the unreached people who live along the great Mamore River, which is a part of the Great Amazon River basin. Missionary M.S. Arrington and his wife Katherine went to this area in the mid-1960’s and began the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) work in the southern part of the Mamore River where the Chapare River connects with it. Arrington planted three churches in the Chapare area working from his much smaller river boat which he called the War Ark. From the Chapare River northward to the City of Guayara-Merin, the Mamore River winds northward for almost 1,000 miles. Along this huge river (almost the size of the Mississippi), there are hundreds of small villages where people live as they seek to survive with food from the river and the jungle which surrounds them. Naturally, their needs are many, and often their devastation is severe. The dream was to attempt to aid them with their most basic medical, nutritional and of course, spiritual needs. The only way to reach these people is by the river; thus, the need for the riverboat, the Arrington.
Plans for the boat included a pharmacy, two consult rooms, a dental room, dining room, kitchen, bath and sleeping area for thirty-two people. There was to be a diesel engine with an electrical system which would be powered by the engine while traveling and then powered by generators when idle. The diesel tank holds 5,000 liters of fuel which is about 1,200 gallons. It costs about $4000.00 dollars to fill the tank. The Volvo engine can push the boat about eighteen knots per hour when traveling with the current and naturally, a bit slower when traveling against the current.
The ministry began with medical help mostly led by Dr. Ralph Izard and Dr. John Ladd. Many other nurses and volunteers made occasional trips to the remote villages along the river. By helping the villagers with their physical needs, Missionary Flores and others could more easily help them with their spiritual needs which, of course, began with the story of God’s love through the gift of his Son Jesus who died for our sins. Through the years, the gospel has been taken to many, many villages along the Mamore, and now there are believers in thirty-seven villages.
Another great part of the ministry has been the nutritional help that we have given to the people along the river. During flood season, the people who live along the river are displaced, devastated, and at times, destroyed by the raging waters of the river. The Arrington Riverboat has been an effective vehicle by which tons of rice, beans, oil, and flour have been distributed to the poor people who are found living in the trees above the waters of the river. Many of these people have been brought to Christ by the acts of love and compassion of the Arrington.
Near the mid-point of the cities of Trinidad and Guayara-Merin, we have built a Bible institute in the village of Belencito. About two years ago, Lifeword installed the very first Lifeword Community Radio station in this village. Plans are to install the second radio in the village of Coimbra. We have built church buildings in these and several other villages and have trained men who pastor and lead these congregations. BMA Missions and Lifeword are planning more work together with the spread of the gospel through church planting and radio ministries.
The boat has been remodeled, repainted and recommissioned to begin a new vision. There is a huge river, the Itenez, which flows into the Mamore from the interior of Brazil. Missionary Flores has been working in the villages along the Itenez and already has believers in several of them. The work goes on, the vision continues to grow and God continues to bring people to the knowledge of Christ. Please help us continue this vital ministry by praying for the Rivers of Blessing ministry and for God’s provision in all areas of the vast river system of South America.