One Good Colombian Story
My cousin Lisa Tresch lives in Tulsa and has a wonderful blog she calls One Good Story. Last week I was in Colombia, South America and had a one good story kind of week. I traveled to Colombia with our mission Pastor, Scott Ward, to meet and see the work of our IMB missionaries to the indigenous people of the Amazon River basin. The was one of the more physically challenging mission experiences I have ever had. While Bogota (where we landed and entered the country) is a metropolitan city, our destination city was another two-hour flight to the extreme southern tip of the southern panhandle of Colombia, a town called Leticia. It is very close to a third world experience. HOT, HUMID, no air conditioning, no hot water, and you can’t flush your toilet paper. We spent the night Monday in Leticia, which is where our three missionary families live. It was our launching point on the Amazon River and three days of jungle fun (pun intended).
We got up early on Tuesday and hit the vegetable and fish market to get our food stores for the trip to visit two tribes. We wanted to see the Gospel work going on here and evaluate how our church can assist our missionaries in the future. We hired a water taxi to ferry us two hours up the Amazon into rebel FARC territory and past two cocaine fields. After the water taxi we switched boats to the much more primitive “peki-peki” (not even sure if that is how you spell it).
A series of these boats took us deeper into the Amazon basin off the beaten path of the Amazon river up a tributary. These waters are teaming with the planet’s most diverse ecosystem including piranha, tiger fish, caiman, anaconda, etc. Finally we arrived in our first village and were met with warm welcomes. It was obvious that our host missionary (who I will call “T”) has made major inroads into this village. We were given the upper level of a home to make our beds in and fed local fair. We were given the royal tour of this village of 200 and I watched in amazement T interacted with skill with these people. There is no church in this village and only one believer. T is known as the story teller in this village. He tells them stories from the Bible in chronological order and then discusses their meaning for life. The people love it!
That evening as the sun set and we gathered under a tree next to the river, T told them in Spanish the story of Cain and Able and then they talked about jealousy. Apparently jealousy is a problem among these people and they were intrigued at what God had to say about the subject. They firmly believe that the Bible is God’s Word, they just do not know what it says and they are eager to hear from T. The next morning something truly amazing happened. There is another village about half a mile down the river. This village has been very isolated for as long as anyone can tell. They do not like outsiders. They were originally a hunting tribe but about 14 years ago, the hunting in the jungle went away and this tribe migrated to the river. They have been struggling to become a fishing tribe and to remake their identity. There has been limited contact between T’s tribe and this other tribe. But by the providence of God, some leaders from T’s tribe convinced the people of this other tribe to allow T, Scott and myself to come visit and to hear with T had to say. We were pumped. This was a true “first contact” moment for the Gospel and us as missionaries. Over 40 people came to a traditional thatched hut in the center of the village on Wednesday morning last week to meet us. Here is a picture of the hut and the meeting.
One of the members of T’s tribe introduced us and began by saying, “I know that you have heard the rumors that the white men have come to steal our children and cut their heads off, but that is not true.” WOW. We had no idea this kind of rumor was pervasive. It rammed home in a fresh way that Satan is a liar and a deceiver and seeking to destroy anything related to the Gospel. T then took over and they listened as he introduced us, and himself. Then he shared the Gospel with them. Then…they invited him back. It was a GREAT meeting!
We said our goodbyes, hiked back to T’s village, said our goodbyes to them, then headed out again on the peki-peki. Our next stop was lunch in Peru which included a grueling half mile hike from the river down a jungle path to town and then a tricycle mud ride back to a water taxi (long story here that I won’t share!). We continued on, arriving at another river town called Porta Narino where we met our other missionary (called “J”) and where we transferred to another boat and traveled another two hours arriving at dusk in missionary J’s village. Once again we were warmly welcomed and shown a home where we could hang our hammocks and mosquito nets. This village actually has a church and a group of Christians. We took time to take a bath in the river, ate dinner in our host home, played with the family monkey, and then went to church! It was awesome. After a tough night’s sleep, we loaded up the next morning and began the long journey back to Leticia.
While our journey to the Amazon was a great experience and a great story of the Gospel expansion among the indigenous people of that part of our world, just like the Amazon itself, there were tributaries and numerous side stories that came from my time in the jungle last week. Packed into the words above are more stories and side stories than I have time to write and you have time to read.
So I will leave you with this one thought. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has made its way around the world. But 2,000 years after the founding of the church, there are still over 6,000 unreached people groups on the planet. I visited three of these groups last week. These people are unreached because they are HARD to reach. Literally. The church has made it to all the easy places to go. And so it falls on our generation to go to the hard places. The last places. It falls on us to finish the story that Jesus began with his life, death, and resurrection.
“This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.” — Jesus