By Bryan Webb
These people groups have compelled me to visit Peru. I want to look into the faces of those who have yet to hear the gospel. I hope to relate Steve’s heartfelt passion for these remote peoples and his plans for planting churches among them.
Steve meets us at the Tarapoto airport and leads us to a waiting taxi. The taxi driver quickly navigates the busy traffic and slips out of the sweltering city, along the way, Steve relates the basics of his ministry. He and his wife, Terry, arrived as missionaries to Peru in 1992. Initially they focused on planting churches among the mestizo communities surrounding the river port city of Iquitos. Over the years they have trained hundreds of pastors and assisted in starting 100 churches. Seven years ago, the Holy Spirit led them into their current ministry of planting churches among the least reached tribes scattered over Peru’s portion of the Amazon River Basin.
At this point our journey has taken us to the riverside city of Yurimaguas, we trade our taxi for a cart pulled by a three-wheeled motorcycle and head to the port. Upriver, two tribes — the Chawi and the Candoshi — live in a complex maze of tributaries. Steve and a team of national pastors he trained are seeking to establish churches among them.
Early the next morning, we head upstream. Our boat, a long canoe-shaped craft of plank construction, comes equipped with a pikipiki — a lawnmower engine welded to an 8-foot shaft tipped with a small propeller. During our eight-hour trip, I feel as if I’m sitting on a riding lawnmower that has no muffler.
In spite of the noise and vibration, the scenery mesmerizes me. Verdant green jungle and quaint villages line the banks. Brilliant blue kingfishers skim the water and effortlessly pluck fish from the surface.
On the flight from Houston, someone stole my boots from my backpack. Once in Peru, I replaced them with a pair of tennis shoes. As Steve listed the litany of dangers in the jungle, I asked about the presence of snakes.
“Of course there are snakes,” he answered. “That’s why I wear boots.”
At that moment, my replacement shoes seemed woefully inadequate. Reaching these remote villages will incur risk and require commitment. Making a difference here can’t be accomplished over a long weekend or on a short-term trip. It will exact a price. Yet telling them is our responsibility. Christ gave the Church one overarching mandate: to go and keep going until every nation, tribe, language and kindred has heard the gospel. Steve and his team are doing all they can to reach these remote Amazon people. But for every village they contact, there are many more that remain untouched by the gospel.
The next morning we head to a Candoshi village. Our boat navigates through a narrow canal into a circular lagoon ringed by bare, trench-filled dirt hills. As we disembark, a cluster of children stare at us from beneath the shade of a mango tree. The village smells of rotting food, human waste, and wood smoke. Women prepare the staple food by fermenting large vats of tapioca and sweet potatoes. Smoke from cooking fires wafts upward from beneath thatch-roofed huts. Expressionless faces greet us. No smiles. No friendly welcoming voices. I am not surprised. Steve had told Gaylon and me repeatedly to be cautious and exercise discernment because the Candoshi are very suspicious and prone to violence.
Suddenly the silence is broken as the village chief’s wife approaches and urges us to go to the home of a desperately ill young woman. We enter the humble hut, a thatch-roofed structure with no floor or walls. There I find myself standing at the bedside of the suffering woman while her desperate family helplessly watches.
Steve looks at me and says, “Pray with everything you’ve got. If Jesus doesn’t help her, no one can.”
Before we pray, I glance around at the stoic little girl, the crying baby, the grieving father, the frantic grandmother, and the moaning mother.
O Lord, help us tell them about You, I plead silently. Help them understand that You love them and sent Your Son to die so they could have abundant life.
Together, Steve, Gaylon and I join in praying for the young mother.
“Lord, I know You hear me,” I pray. “But so that they may know that You are the God who created them and loves them and seeks after them, please heal this woman.”
The next morning the young mother, miraculously healed after being bedridden for two months, made her way to the church for the 5 a.m. prayer meeting.
Watching the scene, I thought again of other villages along the Amazon where the message of Christ is unknown.
O Lord, I plead again, help us tell them.
For more information please contact Pastor Jason 203-261-2728 email@example.com
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