Sunday, March 27, 2011

Puraquequara - PQQ


My wife and I were eating at La Hacienda, a Mexican restaurant in Orange City, Florida when she asked me how to pronounce an entrĂ©e that had too many L's and R's for my fat tongue to roll through. She was disappointed that the smartest man in the world couldn't say it. (I’m affectionately known as the smartest man in the world at home, but that’s another story.)

I said, "Oh yeah, pronounce this," as I wrote on my napkin, "PURAQUEQUARA."

"Purr - a - key..... I don't know." She stuttered.

I said, "In Brazil the R's are like D's in this word and it's pronounced, Puda - Kay - Qua - Da.”

I repeated it and she was amused… for a moment.

When the waiter asked for our orders I said, “She would like Number 7, please.” (Smartest man in the world strikes again!)

After we finished eating, one of the four people across from us got up and asked me, "Excuse me, did you say 'Puraquequara'?"

"WOW!" I said, "You must be with New Tribes Mission."

He was, but now he is a pilot for Wycliffe Associates.

He said, “The man sitting next to me is Dave Sharp. His dad built and named Puraquequara; it's the only place in the world with that name."  PQQ, as the students call it, is a New Tribes Mission’s boarding school for missionary kids. It’s about a thousand miles up the Amazon River, near Manaus.

I said, “Yes, I heard his name when I was in training with New Tribes in Pennsylvania.”

The pilot, Dave Byron said, “My wife grew up at New Tribes in Pennsylvania.”

She was Becky Sanford, daughter of Dick and Lucille Sanford. Her Dad was the northeast representative for New Tribes. Becky was in high school when I was in training there.

Dave Byron said that although he is a pilot, he's been tasked with writing the Crisis Response Plan for the missionaries in Peru.... and he doesn't have a clue where to begin.

Amazing how God used the word ‘Puraquequara’ to bring us together, isn’t it.

I told him that I might know something about that, I'm been a Risk Manager for 17 years and write disaster and crises response plans. I also know an organization of risk managers that are responsible for their faculty and students traveling abroad. I was a member of the University Risk Management and Insurance Association for eight years.

A few weeks later, I met Dave for breakfast in Sanford. We went over a lot of plans I wrote or stole from the Internet and then I hooked him up with Vincent Morris, Risk Manager of Wheaton College. And wouldn’t you know it, Vince was at the annual URMIA conference when I called and was being honored as Risk Manager of the Year. God always sends His best, doesn’t he!

Dave’s experience on the field was the greatest starting point. He just needed help in getting the creative juices flowing. I was just thrilled to see God take the smartest man in the world and allow him to be a servant again for a cause so dear to his heart.

God sure has a great sense of humor, doesn't he!

Puraquequara indeed!


  1. Hi George, I attended PQQ for 4 years in 7th thru 10th grade; it was a great experience then, except for the ticking bomb of abandonment issues from being sent to boarding schools since age 6....

  2. Hey!I'm a brasilian student at pqq. it's really awesome seeing how people actually know about this place! Please keep praying for us and our ministry here! Thank you! Freshie at PQQ

  3. To Anonymous (Brasilian Student), I live across the river from the NTM headquarters in Sanford, which is my hometown.

    I promise, you are remembered daily by the folks here. Would love to hear more from there and some updated pictures would be awesome. You can send them to me at

    Thanks, George

  4. Hello,
    I don't know if anyone will get this but I spent the summer of 1979 at the school with Teen Missions, adding on to a dorm and guest house. I would love to visit someday and see the changes since my visit. God bless all those who have served there.

    1. Just stumbled across this post - I was on that Teen Missions team that same year! - who is this?

    2. I am Michael Horne, Houston. I was on that mission trip. Swimming with the pirranas, visiting a leper colony, making gravel. It was in the summer after 8th grade, I was one of the youngest kids on it. Life changing.

  5. Thank you for serving, and I too trust you can return. God bless you - George