By Renata Vicente
I consider myself an expert at finding “nowhere” everywhere. On my first international trip, I ended up at a youth conference in Bad Salzuflen—nowhere, Germany. Many years later, I decided to go to seminary in Johnson City, Tennessee—nowhere, America. So it was no surprise when I found myself in Jacarequara, in the middle of the Amazon River—nowhere with a north Brazilian accent.
The interesting thing about being a nowhere hunter, even though it happens to me unwittingly, is that normally I can see things that careless eyes cannot. Being so familiar with nowhere has trained my eyes to see things under the surface. It has opened my ears to unspoken words. And it has kept my heart amazed with every little new discovery.
In Bad Salzuflen, Germany, I saw peace when four thousand young Christians from different backgrounds shared the same space without incident for one week. In Johnson City, Tennessee, I saw love in the life of a retired man who volunteers his time to help desperate seminary students with all sorts of tasks. In Jacarequara, Brazil, I discovered that faithfulness is a person, and her name is Flavia.
To meet Flavia in the place she calls home, I had to travel in a boat for 26 hours. While traveling upstream on the Amazon River, I tried to understand what made a single woman like Flavia decide to move to the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, I was amazed but also petrified by its magnitude.
On one side, there is the river. On the other side, there is the rainforest. In between there is a fragile indigenous community trying to survive. And in the middle of this community is Flavia. It is not easy to live in a place where two of the biggest forces of nature coexist and collide constantly. I quickly realized that nature embraces but also suffocates.
Flavia lives in the middle. She lives on the margins. She lives in between. She lives a life that few would choose to live. And because of it, I can see faithfulness stamped in her life. She left behind a comfortable life as a children’s minister in the capital Brazil to be with those who live in nowhere. She decided to listen to God’s calling instead of the voices of those who called her crazy for her choice. In the middle of nowhere I found her faithfulness to a place, to a cause, and to God.
But faithfulness was not the only treasure I found in Jacarequara. I also found treasures hidden in a small house made by calloused hands, in the smile of a child bathing in the river, in the wrinkles of an old lady. These treasures are hidden by God for those who decide to open their eyes to see the beauties that only nowhere can offer—something that I, as a natural nowhere hunter, am glad to experience everywhere I go.
Renata Vicente is an MDiv student at Emmanuel Christian Seminary.