Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Burden and Need of Missions in Peru

After returning to Cusco after our last trip to the jungle and mountains, I have had a burden to share the need of missions in Peru.  The needs are tremendous here.  Pastors need training and accountability.  We are spread way to thin and cannot effectively disciple, mentor, and train pastors when we are so far away.  What we are doing now is similar to living in Montana and trying help a church plants in Seattle, WA and Casper, WY.  The pastors that we are working with want help and simple training like how a biblical church functions, the roles of men and women, basic doctrine, and countless other things.  Often we walk into a church and see many problems and we know the solutions but we are unable to help effectively because we are so far away.  We really believe that we must invest in these pastors by pouring everything into them; from teaching doctrine to modeling Christ-like behavior to demonstrating how a family should function.  These things cannot be done effectively by showing up for a week, four times a year.  We live here and find ourselves overwhelmed in trying to balance everything and be effective in our work.
We have found accountability problems when a national pastor is working by himself.  We have found that you really can't get to know someone without fully investing in a relationship with him.  Misconceptions and misunderstood expectations begin to develop.  A few mishandled problems or errors in teaching can cause a tremendous amount of problems very fast.  It is often misunderstood in the United States that you can just send money to support a national pastor, who can do the work for a lot less money.  This is a good idea if you can find a qualified, trained, pastor that you know very well and can trust but there are not as many as you would hope.  We need missionaries to live here and work together, on a daily basis, with the national pastors.  We need missionaries who can teach and model Christ as they work side by side with national brothers.
We need qualified missionaries in Peru who are willing to uproot and surrender to a lifetime, not five years, of extremely hard work for the sake of the gospel.  It is very important that the missionary is qualified because an unqualified missionary will cause more problems than they could ever do good. We need missionaries that will take the time to be qualified.  This does not mean that they need to go to seminary.  They must sit under the eldership in their church in order to learn and mature in the faith in order to present themselves to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (1 Timothy 2:15).
It does not matter from what country the missionaries come from.  I know some very good Peruvian brothers who are qualified and willing to do this work but it takes money to support them.  These guys are able to do the work far better than we can because the language and culture are not a barrier.  The problem is that there are so few of these men. 
We need qualified missionaries that are willing to give up the many comforts of their home country, their family, friends, money, insurance, safety, and security in exchange for a life of hard work, little comforts, separation from friends and family, frequent sickness, and unstable security and safety.  The missionary must also take years of his time to do the very hard work of learning a second and sometimes a third language.  He must be able to manage all these new stresses and hold a family together at the same time.  He must be able to learn and adapt to multiple cultures. 
Not asking for much?  Jesus himself said, "Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." To make things harder, even if this missionary exists and he commits to make this move today, he won't be able to start the work for 3 years and we needed him yesterday.  Even more rare is it to find someone who is willing and able to live with the tribal people and spend his life in the jungle.  But how useful would this be?  Training the tribal people, who are starving for the word of God, for a few weeks a year makes for a slow process in developing a biblical, self-replicating church.  But when you have people living, training, and bearing the burdens with them on a daily basis, this process rapidly increases. 
This is the need.  I could employ 20 families tomorrow if they exist.  The harvest is plentiful but the laborers truly are few.  What has world missions cost you?  Is Jesus worth it?  The labor is hard but the reward is sweet.  Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life."

We need qualified missionaries in Peru that have Christ-like character, who are able to teach, and are willing to persevere through hard work, frustrations, and many trials.  Are you that person?  Life is short, don't wait.

Monday, September 16, 2013

...And Then we were Poisoned

Joe was the first one awake at 2:30 with sharp stomach pains and then shortly after he was running through the pitch black jungle to find relief.  Miguel followed an hour later and then it hit me an hour after Miguel.  We were all extremely sick with a high fever, diarrhea, and sharp stomach pains.  We were up all night in pain and begged for daylight to come.  We got food poisoning from the bad meat we ate.  Everyone who ate at Wilder's house last night was sick.  Flashlights were seen throughout the village all night.  We struggled through the night and when daylight finally came we were exhausted and still very sick.  I had brought some antibiotics in my first aid kit and we took one right away. 
Joe was feeling good enough to teach a few lessons but Miguel an I could not leave our beds.  The teachings went very well again and they asked good questions.  They asked if it was alright to have two wives and if not, should they divorce one wife and keep the other.  They asked if they could drink alcohol and other similar questions.
We were in very rough shape and we had to walk out the 12 miles today to make it home.  We had no choice.  It took all our strength to pack up our camp and even when we stood up we were light headed and dizzy.  We had not slept, ate, or drank anything.  We knew that it was impossible to walk 12 miles through the jungle in our condition but we could only try and depend on God.  We prayed and begged for the Lord to give us His strength.  We started the painful hike out at 12:30 in the heat of the day.  Wilder's 15 year old kid was our guide.  He carried one of our big packs and Miguel, Joe, and I took turns packing out the other.  The first hour was uphill and it was brutal.  We were so weak and dehydrated. 
No strength of our own remained and we prayed for strength.  As I went down the trail I thought of Psalms that I had memorized and as I meditated on these, I felt my body strengthened to walk another mile. 

Our guide, the 15 year old kid, was always way ahead of us and out of sight.  We had no idea where he was but he apparently knew where we were at all times.  At times, the trail split and we had to make a decision.  To a jungle man it is common sense what trail to take.  He may see a leaf turned over or some other vague sign and know which trail is correct.  We on the other hand, are not jungle men and there are not tracks so it is hard to tell.  We guessed correct each time and found him waiting.  If we would have taken the wrong trail, we would have never got out alive.  We made the hike out in 4 hours, only on the Lord's strength.  We stumbled into Mayapo in rough shape.  I still could not eat anything, we were overheated and dehydrated.  A sister in Christ in the village took us in and took care of us.  Glory to God for the body of Christ.  The little kids did not know what to think of us and were very curious.  We crashed at 7 pm.

They had a generator in the village so they blared loud, annoying music until late and then the roosters started up at about 4 am.  Not much sleep again.  In the morning I still couldn't eat.  We heard a whistle blow and the lady told us the boats were coming up river.  We ran through the village to the shore so that we could flag down the cargo boats coming up river and hitch a ride.  Before we got in the boat, the vice president of the village took it upon himself to try to bribe us 100 soles but we wouldn't pay him.  We took the cargo boat five hours upriver to Puerto Ocupa and then hired a taxi to take us the last 2 hours by dirt road to Satipo. 

Every Peruvian has home remedies for anything that ales you.  I don't know if any of them work but they do what they have to.  Miguel and his wife insisted we eat a special soup to help our stomachs.  Joe ate his fast but I could not get much down.  I looked over at their son's bowl and saw chicken feet.  Now I suppose there is nothing wrong with a chicken foot in your soup, and I have certainly ate much worse, but while a person is still suffering from food poisoning, it does not help the appetite.  We finally arrived at the hotel, showered, changed, and got something cold to drink.  We returned to Miguel's to work out some logistics for the December trip and Miguel informed us of his evening church service and asked if one of us could teach.  This is so common in Peru so you have to be prepared to preach at the drop of a hat.  I taught at the church that night and finally at about 10 pm we crashed in exhaustion.  Another day of travel found us back in the mountain town of Jauja where we preached at a church for 2 days.  On Saturday we made it back to Cusco and we were glad to be home. 

Though this trip was difficult, my burden for reaching these people with the gospel has risen to new heights.  I'm so burdened to train these simple people so they can teach others even deeper in the jungle.  I will write a blog about this burden and need of missions in Peru in the next few days.  Also, I should have a video posted of this trip soon.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A New Village - Nazaret

Joe Martinez and I left our houses in Cusco at 6:30 am to find that our flight was canceled. After a long wait, we got on another flight to Lima in time to make our flight to Jauja.  We made it to Jauja without problems and prepared for the next leg of our trip to Satipo in the morning. 
We left from Jauja by taxi at 7:30 and traveled to Tarma.  Outside Jauja on the high plateaus, we saw many Vicuna, which are wild llama like animals that live in the high Andes.  The have a long neck like a llama or alpaca and are related to them.  The are protected in Peru. 
We switched cars in Tarma and descended to La Merced.  As we descended, the Quechua culture and way of life changes to the jungle people and their way of life.  The music, climate and way of life changes with each drop in elevation to the jungle.  We made it to Satipo at 1:30 and met up with Miguel, the pastor we are helping and supporting to start a church in Satipo.  Joe preached at Miguel's church for the evening service, which went well.  We prepared for the 3rd leg of the trip tomorrow and crashed.
On Sunday, we were up early in order to take a car two hours by dirt road to Puerto Ocupa.  At the port, we bought tickets on a passenger boat to go down river 4 hours to the village of Mayapo.  We thought we would be hiking to Nazaret today but found out from Miguel that we can't make it in time and it is too dangerous to hike in the jungle at night.  The village of Nazaret is 4 days from Cusco.  We found Wilder, the jefe of Nazaret, waiting in Mayapo for us.  We did our usual round of having to meet all the high ranking people of the village, present our ID's, and explain our purpose of being there.  Miguel handles these guys well and says, "We are hear to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, which God commands us to do."  The organizational structure of a village is as follows:  The Jefe is the first and most important, followed by the president, vice-president, and several other lower positions.  We had to meet them all.  They accepted us, but like usual, they ask for financial support, which we never gave them.  The unbelievers always want money.  They invited us to their village anniversary on the 18th but we were not going to be there.  We returned to Wilder's "house" after dark.  He showed us a leopard skull and we talked into the night.   It is funny how isolated these guys are.  Words like Facebook, Twitter, and social networking are not in their vocabulary and they have never heard of them.   Joe and I set up camp and Wilder stretched out on a piece of steel roofing with a few towels and no mosquito net.  The people were amused at my tent and how it is set up, almost if they have never seen one, which is possible.  I fell asleep listening to the sounds of the jungle.
We were up well before light.  Wilder and his family were up at 3am to prepare breakfast for our hike.  We ate and were on the trail at 6am.  Wilder is 41 and has lived his whole life in the jungle.  It is amazing to see him work and travel in the jungle.  There are countless sounds of birds, frogs, and who knows what else. Wilder will seemingly not pay attention to any of them except when he hears a particular sound of something he wants to hunt, he stops.  He will look back at us and say, "monkey" or some other animal.  When we started walking on the trail, we were cautious of what branches or other things were hitting us in the face but after an hour of walking we didn't really care.  We just plowed through and tried to keep up with Wilder, who was carrying a 60 pound bag of food on his shoulders and walking in rubber boots.  He walked fast and never stopped, except to clear brush with his machete.  We hiked at a very fast pace, which was difficult with our big packs and the heat and humidity.  Wilder stopped once to try and shoot a type of jungle turkey but couldn't get a shot.  I have no idea how people hunt in the jungle.  It is so thick that you can't see more than a few feet and it is almost impossible to walk in most places without clearing a trail. 
We met Wilder's wife and a 16 year old pregnant girl at a burned clearing.  They cut down all the trees in an area and then after the sun dries things out this time of year, they burn it.   Before the rainy season they plant their crops, like Yuka and other fruits and vegetables.  We still had 45 minutes to get to the village and we were tired.  The girls packed part of the food that Wilder was carrying in their woven baskets.  They pack their baskets with a strap around their forehead.  The girls walked in flip flops and they walk very fast.  We passed by enormous trees as we tried to keep up.  We were tired and at one point Joe expressed this fact.  I told him that the 16 year old, pregnant girl with the flip flops and heavy load on her head was doing pretty good.  We made the village in four hours.  We hiked 12 miles in the four hours and we were very hot and tired.  We immediately sat down and they fed us some kind of jungle animal, yuka, and hot, lemon flavored, river water. 
We set up camp and went to the river to bathe and filter water.  The river was hot and a breeding ground for parasites and just about anything else.  The village people drink right out of it.  There were fish jumping in the little river and we could see some swimming.  As I was standing in the river, a whole bunch of little fish came up an started pecking at my legs.  We went to the little church and started teaching.  The teaching went very well and the people participated and had a lot of questions.  It went much better than what we taught last trip in the village of Chembo. 
After we taught we sat down for dinner and ate some kind of jungle animal.  All was going well....but then we were poisoned.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Jungle trip departure

Tomorrow we leave on another trip into the jungle.  I'm so excited to get to the village and start teaching the people, who are so hungry for the Word of God.  We are going into a new village this time and by far it is the most remote we have been to.  I'm not excited for the three days of travel from Cusco just to get into the village.  After three days travel by two planes, a car, a truck which is nicknamed a shark, a boat, and finally a 20k hike through the jungle, we will arrive.  We are very excited to start the new teaching plan which will go through the whole Bible in 40 lessons to show the gospel throughout the whole Bible.  It is designed for indigenous, oral learners.  Please pray for us from the 6th to the 14th. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Another example of Catholic syncretism and idolatry in Peru

Eighty years ago, an image of Santa Rosa arrived in the indigenous community of El Wayku. Since then, the saint has become the patron of this traditional Chanca town, where the primary language is Quechua.
El Wayku is located in northeastern Peru, in Lamas province, 20 kilometers away from the city of Tarapoto. Every year, in the last days of August, El Wayku prepares itself for a festival to honor the local patron saint.
However, according the people of Wayku, the religious veneration of Santa Rosa hides an ancient tradition: the cult to a plant (now called Santa Rosa) that blooms this time of year, especially in higher altitudes where the temperatures are lower. It’s a lilac colored bush that the women of El Wayku wear as part of their celebratory clothing.
In festive garb
Aug. 27 is the most important day of them all. On that day, more than 3,000 indigenous people from different communities along the river Huallaga, Altomayo, and Bajo Huallaga. Everyone comes to the spacious plaza of el Wayku dressed in festive clothing, as Werlin Guerra Amaringo, the 24-year-old mayor of el Wayku told us.
The procession in honor of the saint takes place until Aug. 29 The image is adorned with special clothing and is accompanied by traditional bands, dancers, and groups that visit the houses of community leaders.
The Baptism
On Aug. 30, a mass is held and the children of the town are baptized into Catholicism. The next morning, the young men go to the mountains adorned with plantain leaves to offer the dance of karachupa. The townspeople say that the young men must perform this dance on this day for 12 years in a row; if they do not, they will be cursed.
The “test marriages”
On Aug. 31, the last day of the celebration, the town is in a frenzy. In the afternoon they perform a ritual sacrifice of a duck, a bloody ceremony accompanied by dancing. Then, the young men of El Wayku “kidnap” the marriageable maidens of the village, for a “test marriage,” which the young couple will have to fulfill the next year if they still want to go through with it.
By Peruska Chambi Echegaray for El Comercio
Translated and adapted by Rachel Chase