Oppressing heat was nothing new along Banana road. The rain every evening, then the fog in the mornings only made the dust muddy for most of the day. By late afternoon, the heat and humidity combined with a hundred human foot steps turned the red clay into a purple skating rink.
The letter from the church pressed against my sweating chest. “Sammy, get me Pepsi, here’s a Centavo.” I flipped a tarnished silver coin to my friend. Who knows why the Pepsi Cola company picked this part of the world to establish a business. Pepsi machines dotted the Amazon rain forest like beads on a sequin wedding gown.
“Senor, no electricity, they hot.”
“I don’t care Sammy, just something for my throat other than an Orange Nativa.” We were living on sparce rations and Nativa, a local soft drink.
Sammy laughed and slid his way up to the little store. I walked on.
The village was quiet. Most of the men were undoubtably in the fields. The younger men were probably somewhere in the jungle preparing the latest kidnapping or take over. From past experience I found their interest in me was only cursory. I paused and waited for my guide and escort. Seconds later he caught up with me.
“One hot Pepsi.” Sammy took a swig out the bottle then handed it to me.
I didn’t bother to wipe it, but chugged the warm soft drink, then belched heartily.
Sammy laughed. “You wake the dead around here.”
“Wouldn’t that be something, I hope I can keep a congregation awake. God will for sure.”
“Why you come here anyway? The Priest come though here once every other month.” Sammy picked up a stick and poked at the mud on his boot. “You and God, huh. Yeah. Okay.”
I shaded my eyes with one hand. “God’s plan my friend.”
“The Holy Father never talked to me about no plan.”
“Maybe you never listened.”
Sammy inadvertently bumped me. “So, what He said to you?”
“He told me to bring His word to His people.”
“So, who people you preach to here?”
“Whoever comes.” I spoke with confidence, but as I looked around the village, I saw not a single movement.
“They come with machete and AK. You stay?”
I took a deep breath. “God didn’t tell me to leave. He said to deliver His word.”
Sammy laughed. “You and God. Yeah, okay.”
We walked through the village and to the edge of town. Banana warehouses lined the railroad track. “Which one Sammy?”
“That old one down on the end.”
“The church sent a tent down here. Maybe we ought to find it and set it up.”
Sammy shook his head. “You and God. Yeah, okay.”
We got to the warehouse and Sammy helped me climb the slippery hill. Although the building had no windows I could see a candle or lantern light coming from the inside.
I pushed open one of the large double doors. Musty cool air greeted me, but my eyes focused on the interior of the warehouse.
A hundred or more people were polishing wooden benches. Young men were hanging lanterns around the edges of the building. And, up front was a carved lectern. When the people saw me walk in they all stopped working and stood in their place.
Sammy reached into my back pack and pulled out my bound Bible and shoved it into my hand. “Okay, mon, You and God. Yeah. Okay.”