Sep 15, 2011

Swimming with Snakes

I was in South America with a team doing ministry in Guyana and we had some free time on our hands, so we decided to go swimming in a river that had “black water”. We had taken a boat ride down the Corentyne River (between the countries of Guyana and Suriname) to Orealla, Guyana. A few days before I had swam in the Atlantic Ocean, which was my first time in any ocean, and so I was looking forward to another new swimming experience. 

Blackwater rivers are considerd some of the cleanest natural waters in the world and have a unique color. On the immediate surface the color is clear. A few inches below the surface, the water color is amber (like Betadine). At about three feet below the surface, the water is bright red (like blood). At around four feet below the surface, the water is the color black (like ink). The water was cool and refreshing. When I tasted the water, I found it to be sweet, almost like sugar water.

We were told that piranhas live in the waters which kind of killed the desire to immediately jump in. Piranhas are a South American freshwater fish that typically live in schools and have very sharp teeth that are used to tear flesh from prey. They have a reputation as fearsome predators.

After our host from Guyana assured us that the piranhas that live in the water would leave us alone; we decided to take this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity and take a swim (what were we thinking?). 

A couple of guys had jumped in the water and swam back telling us how great the water was compared to the HOT waters of the ocean we had swam in the day before. So I jumped off a log as a friend of mine stood waiting for his turn to dive in after me. I swam for a short time when at once I felt my friend’s body swim alongside me. I need to tell you that when we had swam in the ocean the day before, several of us would swim under the water and come alongside an unsuspecting victim. I thought that this is what my friend was doing so I came to the surface to catch my breath just in case he wanted to wrestle me under water.  

When I came to the surface, I saw that he was still standing on the log; I was the only person in the water. And I freaked out! I freaked out because I knew that also living in these waters were anaconda snakes.   

An anaconda is a large, non-venomous snake found in tropical South America and is one of the largest snakes in the world. It can reach a length of 30 feet (9 meters) and weigh up to 550 pounds.  Constrictors are not venomous snakes, but instead wrap their bodies around their prey and squeeze until it stops breathing. It then maneuvers its prey into its mouth and powerful muscles contract in waves to crush the meal and push it down to its stomach. The green anaconda can stay underwater for as long as ten minutes without coming to the surface to breathe.

Something was lurking in those waters seeking whom he may devour.

If it wasn’t an anaconda that brushed against my leg than, I was told, it might have been a crocodile. Or, it might have be an “arowana” fish which is a large, elongated, eel-like fish that is carnivorous and can grow to be three feet long. Either way, I was out of the water in record time! I prompted my friend to jump in BEFORE I told him what I found in the water. I had enough and left the water and sat on a log.

When there were five others in the water, I decided that my chances of getting “attacked” were greatly diminished and we all proceeded to go back to taking turns having a contest to see who could make the biggest splash.

I may have been a little frightened, but I can say that I went through it. I was brave enough (in my mind) to have gone into the waters (covered with bug bites) knowing that there were piranhas in the water. In the future, I will take a closer look to see what is below the surface waiting to devour me.

The Apostle Peter wrote in the Bible; "Be sober, be vigilant; because  your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1Peter5:8). We all need to take a closer look as we step out in our day to see what is lurking, waiting to devour us.

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