Getting to Know Al Raber
Al is planning to begin his assignment in the Amazon River Basin of Brazil in 2015. Right now he is putting together his Missionary Support Team (MST), raising funds, training, and preparing to go. If you’d like to partner with Al in God’s work in this unreached area of the world, please visit donate.rmmweb.org.
Can you tell us a little about your growing up years?I was born into a large Amish family in Holmes County, Ohio. I am the second to youngest of twelve children. I attended elementary school thru the 8th grade and then began to work in my father’s sawmill at the age of fifteen. Growing up we were never farmers but always had various animals on our property, like horses, steers, dogs, and chickens. We always kept a large garden which we tended to religiously every morning during the summer months. We were never rich nor poor as dad, mom and all of us worked hard to keep food on our table.
How did you come to know Jesus?Early in my life, I was introduced to God and his Word in the Amish church we attended, but I rejected God for a ten year period of my life. During that time, I went through the “rumspringa” (a rebellious adolescent) phase in my life. As alcohol and other worldly pleasures left me empty inside, I began to seek a deeper purpose for my life. Through several influential people, I came to give my life to Christ in the summer of 1999.
Where are you currently living?I still live on the property near Berlin, Ohio, where I spent most of my adolescent years.
What is your home/sending church?Berean Community Church, near Winesburg, is my home and sending church.
How did you get interested in this part of the world? What is the need there?Shortly after my baptism in 1999 Pastor Dave Clemens asked me if I would be interested in going on a short term missions trip to the Amazon to do some construction. I was fairly miserable on that trip and wanted nothing more than to leave and never go back. But, I went back the following year and grew attached to the Amazon and its people.
Could you tell us some fascinating facts about the Amazon River Basin?
The Amazon is the world’s largest river system per volume of water and the second longest river in the world, possibly being the longest as nobody has been able to determine the exact source of the Amazon. Twenty-five percent of the world’s fresh water flows down the Amazon. The Amazon has the largest contiguous tropical rainforest in the world. It spans five different countries with the bulk lying in northern Brazil. The river rises and falls as much as 43 feet every year during the rainy and dry seasons. It is home to an extreme variety of fish, birds, reptiles and other animals. Some of the more familiar are: anacondas, piranha, caimen alligator, howler monkeys, toucans, macaws, capybara, tapir and the freshwater pink dolphin. On top of all of this are countless species of insects, chief among them, the pesky mosquito.
What is your biggest challenge in getting ready to go?So far, I think my biggest challenge has been planning and preparing for my eventual departure. Having to decide what to keep and what to sell (think rifles, shotguns and fishing gear) has been difficult. Do I keep my bed? Do I sell it? Do I store my car or sell it? But then I think of Elisha who burned his plow and slaughtered his oxen to serve God.
What is the heart of what you’ll be doing in country?The missions organization (SEARA) will be giving primary oversight to my assignment. SEARA exists to evangelize and aid the river people of the Amazon. There are approximately 33,000 river communities in the amazon with only about 3,000 of those having the evangelical gospel. I will be working with SEARA to make evangelical and humanitarian trips by boat to these communities. Currently, SEARA is working in approximately 140 villages. I will also be making trips to help SEARA’s missionaries who live and work in these communities, with my long-term goal being to eventually live and work, evangelizing and discipling the river people in the interior.
Do you have a projected departure date?I am hoping to leave around May of 2015.
What is the most different aspect of the culture that you’ve experienced in past trips?
Hmm… this is a difficult question as there are many very different aspects to the ribeirinho (river people) culture. But, I think the biggest thing is simply the difficulty of living in the Amazon with a hunter/gatherer subsistence lifestyle. Hunting and fishing (both of which I currently do just for fun) are a daily part of simply staying alive.
What is something that the culture has taught you and that you want to internalize?The village mentality, where everything is basically communal and pretty much all items are shared for the common good. If one family has a net full of fish, it is shared. If one family’s net breaks, a net is borrowed from someone else, and so on.
What is the typical way you get around?
In the interior there are no roads so all transportation is by canoe or a motorized canoe called a rabeta. In the bigger towns there are taxis, buses and motorcycle taxis. Large passenger boats run between the bigger towns and villages.
What is your favorite local food?I love several fruits such as cupuacu, acai, tucuma and mangoes.
What is the most recent prayer that God has answered in your life?I was looking for someone to live with my Mom when I leave. Shortly after making this known to the RMM prayer warriors, God provided someone to do so.
Anything else you’d like to share?I look forward to representing RMM in the Amazon. I will do so to the best of my abilities. I want to thank everyone involved with RMM for first believing in me and second for sharing my vision. I deeply appreciate it. Also, I want to thank everyone at Berean, especially Pastor Steve and the mission board, for their support and financial backing. And I want to thank Pastor Dave and Erma Clemens for the years of mentoring and tutoring. Without them none of this would ever have been possible. I covet prayer like nothing else; please, please pray for me!! Thank you and God bless.
Thank you, Al! We are so thankful for the way you have heard and been obedient to God’s call in your life. We are excited to see what he will do through you!