Descending into the jungles of Peru in August to the Amazon basin required three flights, followed by a 7-hour boat ride down the Ucayali River to our destination – Contamana, Peru!
Our journey actually began, however, many months prior with a phone conversation from Pastor Bill Courtnay, who has been active in Peru for many years with Amazon Outreach Ministry. Bill called to request a supply of Shepherd’s Staffs for a conference later that year.
I was quickened in my spirit as we talked. I learned that in recent years, there has been a great evangelistic movement and many churches have been planted throughout this jungle region.
After several more conversations with Bill about how to serve these new pastors, he graciously invited me to come and minister at their annual conference, as well as to conduct a seminar for the pastors who would gather from the region. I knew in my heart that this was a divine assignment, and readily agreed.
Terrifying History Redeemed
The history of this northeastern Peruvian region includes war-like tribalism, even head-hunting. It was a violent and brutal life, including child-intermarrying, human sacrifice and demon worship.
The local witch doctor was highly influential, providing “cures” and connecting people to the demonic realm. The native religions even today are still animistic, as people worship and pray to nature and animals like the jaguar and boa snake.
Historically, the most dominant and fierce tribe was the Shapras. In the 1950s, Wycliffe missionaries – determined to bring the hope and truth of Jesus to this area – courageously stepped into Shapra territory.
Their bold labors resulted in the light of the Gospel shining into a region filled with darkness. Today, of the 104 indigenous people groups living in the jungles of Peru, only 14 remain unevangelized! And plans are in motion to reach these final lost tribes.
THE RIVER OF GOD
With no large cities near Contamana, and without interconnecting roads, it was amazing to see 1,100 people gather for the conference. Most live in small villages along the Ucayali River, and still do not have electricity or running water. Many of them traveled for up to two days in rustic, open boats just to participate.
Our theme for the conference was, “The River of God.” A total power blackout threatened the opening event, but as the attendees began to worship, power was restored! I opened the conference by teaching about the Holy Spirit, and God’s open invitation to all believers to step deeper into His spiritual “river” (Ezekiel chapter 47).
It was humbling to witness these simple, precious saints and their pure desire for more of God. As we waited on the Lord, His Spirit was sweetly poured out – because He always responds to hunger for more of Him! Every open heart was met powerfully that night, and many good works of the Holy Spirit were released.
As the main conference continued, I gathered with the pastors and leaders for the next two days at a church down the road. This opportunity for them to be set apart to receive is vital, as the teachings require their full attention and energy.
We worked hard studying the Scriptures, and these hungry brothers and sisters fully received the teachings presented. For most, it was a first-time experience to gather with other pastors for training geared just for them.
In their excitement, the pastors would stay during the session breaks, asking questions and discussing what had been taught. It was such a pleasure and joy to be with them, to encourage each one in God’s Kingdom purposes and in making disciples.
And, of course, following the seminar, they each received their very own copy of The Shepherd’s Staff in Spanish – with years’ worth of material for both personal growth and training others.
The pastors’ seminar and conference concluded Sunday evening with an evangelistic crusade in the town square. To build excitement prior to the event, the conference attendees marched in a two-hour parade through town – one-thousand strong! A band led the way, while the marchers held banners, gave out balloons and sang worship songs.
The curiosity of the villagers drew them into the streets, while others opened their windows and doors to hear what was being said. Unashamed and full of joy, the procession of believers proclaimed the name of Jesus throughout the streets as the sun began to set.
That evening, Pastor Bill preached a beautiful message about the forgiveness of God, a topic not often presented or easily accepted in the Hispanic culture. Many stood in silent awe at the power and simplicity of the truth being shared.
At the conclusion, many came forward for prayer and to receive Christ. The local pastors were assigned to minister, pray for the sick and lead people to Jesus. But when that time came, these brave and committed leaders were hesitant and unsure of what to do.
These pastors lacked confidence due to a lack of simple, practical teaching and training – may the Lord hear our prayer to multiply the efforts of World MAP and others who will help meet their need!
LIVING WATER, FRESH WATER
In our remaining days in Peru, we traveled by boat to various villages and met with local pastors in their own areas.
Part of the ministry of Amazon Outreach is drilling wells to provide fresh water for the many people living along the Ucayali River – a river carrying dangerous micro-
organisms and disease. These wells are such a blessing, raising physical health and providing an open door to serve and evangelize the villages.
At our first village, we stayed longer than anticipated as we were enlisted to help replace a broken well pump. It was a fun adventure, and great to see how happy the villagers were to have fresh water again!
HEROES OF FAITH
As we went from village to village, it became obvious the very important role local churches play in the life of each community. The humble pastors provide spiritual leadership, wise counsel, nurture and comfort to those in need.
Their commitment and sacrifice to fulfill Christ’s call to serve Him and His Body in the more primitive jungles of Peru is truly inspiring – placing them squarely in the Hebrews 11 Heroes of Faith.
We thank the Lord for the opportunity to serve these new pastors, and are looking forward to the ways World MAP can further serve the burgeoning churches in northern Peru!