I recently participated in my first Discovery Trip leaving Toronto on a Friday at 5:30pm. There was a layover in Lima and we finally made it to Pucallpa at around 6:30am Saturday. After travelling all night, and not sleeping on the plane, I was glad I could grab breakfast and rest.
It was exciting to finally be there after months of planning. At the same time, I was very curious about what was to come over the next few days. What I did not know at the time was just how much this trip would mean to me. My prayer in preparation for the trip, was for God to open my eyes so I could see things through His eyes.
The first thing that I remember from when we landed in Pucallpa was the smell of burning wood. I enjoy that smell. The air was humid and sticky. On our way to the hotel, I saw many houses made of wood. I also saw stray cats and dogs enjoying the sunshine without a care in the world.
The purpose of our trip was to get to know the people from The Amazon Mission to the Indigenous Peoples of Peru (MINAP). This grassroots ministry is made up of indigenous people who aim to provide holistic development to the native people in the Amazon. Living in inaccessible locations, and often forgotten, indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon face many difficulties.
Most indigenous people live in remote communities where they live off the land. They hunt, fish and grow plantain and cassava for their own consumption. There is no access to clean water, which causes many illnesses, especially in young children. Most of their illnesses can be treated with over the counter medicines. Unfortunately, because of where they live, there is limited contact with the outside world. Another obstacle is they do not operate in a cash-based economy and are not able to afford or pay for medicine or medical care. With so many “problems” you would think that the people we met would be miserable. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. they are some of the happiest people I have ever met!
Raul Castillo is one of our National Leaders. He is married to Aida and they belong to the Hunikuin* people group. Raul likes to sing and play his charango (a small stringed instrument, similar to a guitar). He wears glasses and has a contagious smile. You will find him busy working in the MINAP compound, counselling the students from the transcultural university or visiting indigenous patients at a public hostel, providing them with medicine. You would not be able to tell that he lost his dad at 3 years of age and when his mother remarried, he became a neglected child. That he was repeatedly abused by his alcoholic stepfather, who even attempted to kill him. That he carries the disillusionment of not being able to have a child of his own after 20 years of marriage. That he worries about his wife’s ongoing health issues. No, the person who you would meet is a natural encourager, filled with the love of Jesus.
Eduardo Torres is a National Leader who was recently appointed to a new role as Director of MINAP. He has a quiet manner and he too is always smiling. Despite the intense heat and 98% humidity, he dresses formally, always wearing long pants and a buttoned-up shirt. You see him running around the MINAP compound, from one project to the next. If he is not on his cell phone coordinating details or talking to the leaders in the field, he is procuring materials or looking after the administration of the ministry. As a new leader, he realized he needed better tools to work in the ministry, and with the support of Partners International Canada, he began studies for Business Administration at a local college. Eduardo and his wife Cecilia have three children: Sergia, Karina and Romer. Sergia is in her last semester of Nursing. But, by looking at Eduardo, you would never guess that he is worried about how he will pay for Sergia’s graduation license and fees, which totals approximately $1,200 CAD, a small fortune for a ministry worker who earns a modest salary.
What I saw, was their love for the indigenous people whom they serve. These servants of God bend over backwards to help their native brothers and sisters. I saw them working so diligently, producing wonders with the insufficient resources they had at that moment. I asked Cecilia (Eduardo’s wife) what was the most difficult part of their work? These are her words “Many people come to us for help. They do not have anyone in town, we are their only friends. But often we cannot help them because we have no resources. It’s very difficult to turn them away when we cannot do anything for them”.
In our last meeting together, I wanted to give them a word of encouragement. I commended them for the great work that they do. I said ”Although you may not have a nice building, or enough chairs for meetings, or audio equipment sufficient for the needs etc; you do have what is most important, the presence of Jesus Christ. I have been to very nice churches, with beautiful buildings that have great furniture and sound systems, but Jesus was nowhere to be found”. These words of reassurance brought tears to Raul. They felt recognized and touched by the realization, that although they lack material things, they have what is most important. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
God opened my eyes to see a thriving, locally led church filled with people from the remotest areas of the Amazon in Peru. I invite you to pray for our National Leaders. There are so many more National Leaders on the ground preaching the Gospel and accomplishing holistic development in the most difficult of conditions. When you support a National Leader, you activate them to serve least-reached people’s spiritual and material needs. I would ask you to consider committing to a monthly gift that provides the resources for many more Raul’s and Eduardo’s to accelerate MINAP’s vision, to facilitate the holistic development of Native people in the Amazon basin.
*The estimated population of the Hunikuin is 1,500 people. 0.20% are Evangelicals. https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/11106/PE