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.