As we enter the month of May, I find myself missing springtime back home in Cameron County, Pennsylvania. It is such a special time of year with the rebirth of plant and animal life after winter’s dormancy. There is freshness during the peak of spring that is unmatched any other time of the year. Here in the tropics there is no springtime, yet spring is part of the natural cycle of seasons back home.
As Christians, we also experience a spring-like rebirth in Jesus Christ. We are offered a new life in him, free of the burden of sin. In a way, we live in a never-ending, eternal season of spring when we live our lives for him.
Two weeks ago I spent eight days visiting four of the indigenous communities where we are working near Via Auca, south of the city of Coca in the Amazon region of Ecuador. First on my stop was the small Kichwa farming community of 12 de Febrero. On Sunday, April 14, after a 2 hour bus ride from Huaticocha to Coca and another 2 hour bus ride from Coca to Santa Rosa, I had an hour hike into 12 de Febrero. 12 de Febrero is located on the north side of the Rio Tiputini. On the other side of the river is the Yasuni Reserve, the largest tract of rainforest in Ecuador.
My visit was short, but I was encouraged by the believers, Alfredo Cerda and his family. Despite the trials of the past year—Alfredo’s back injury, Violeta’s uterine tumor, and the hunting accident death of their son, Ronal—Alfredo, Violeta, and their family have a hunger to draw closer to God and are growing in their knowledge of his word. God has brought physical and emotional healing to their lives, and they are a light to the community in which they live. The transformation from a life of alcoholism and darkness to rebirth in Christ is evident in Alfredo and his family.
The following day on Monday I left on foot to catch the ten o’clock bus leaving Santa Rosa. Mid day I arrived in the Shuar community of Saraentsa, km 51 of Via Auca. I visited with Jose Tiwiram, his wife Yolanda, and his adult sons and their wives. Jose and his family are believers and attend a church in Coca. I visited with them and encouraged them from Galatians. Jose really desires to plant a church in Saraentsa to be a light to those still living in darkness.
On Tuesday I left early to travel farther south to km 92 of Via Auca, to the Shiripuno River to enter the Shuar community of Peas. There is a military control point where Via Auca crosses the Shiripuno River to control illegal logging and protect the uncontacted Waoroni clans. Controls were a little tighter when I visited, and I had to sign in at the check point. In March there were a series of revenge killings between the uncontacted Tagaeri and Taromenane clans and more civilized Waoronis. Such revenge killings between Waoroni clans have been a never-ending cycle in the Waoroni lifestyle, broken only in recent generations as the gospel of Christ has cast away darkness.
Peas is a two hour walk in from the road. The remoteness causes economic difficulties for the families, but it is also a blessing, because the river is full of fish and the forest surrounding the community is full of wild game.
Most of the people in Peas are believers, but new in Christ. Their lives have been transformed, but transformation is a process. Between Ulises, Mark, and I, at best we are able to visit the community once every month or every two months. During this visit I had my eyes opened to the spiritual need. Most of the believers are not growing in Christ. It is difficult for them to understand when they try to study the Bible. The Bibles they have are in Spanish, their second language. Although the Bible has been translated to Shuar, it is difficult to find copies. This lack of understanding, discourages them in their personal studies. Also, Rafael Jua, the father and grandfather of many in the community, passed away in March. Many were still hurting from his loss.
Sometimes darker traditions from the past are also slow to die in places like Peas. A Kichwa shaman had been asked to heal Bernaldita, a lady in Peas who has been suffering from headaches and dizziness. The use of a natural hallucinogenic drug ayahuasca to call on snake spirit for healing is very much a darker side of Shuar culture. When I was there, I taught the believers from Colossians that Christ is supreme. He is above all beings. He is our creator, savior, and healer. He is God. They didn’t have to go to any other spirit for healing. We anointed and prayed in Jesus name for Bernaldita’s healing.
From Peas, I was also able to visit the nearby Shuar community of Jua. There I visited with the Christians of the community. While speaking with one elderly lady Theresa, I was again reminded about how difficult it is not being able to study the bible and attend church services in Shuar. She shared how she travels to Coca almost weekly to attend church, but she understands very little of what the pastor says in Spanish. In general in Jua, I was encouraged. The believers were growing in God’s word and understanding. There was a hunger among them to know God more.
A week after I had set out, on Sunday, April 21, I began traveling back to Huaticocha. It had been a tiring week, but I felt blessed by being able to visit the four communities and to be a part of what God is doing in the lives of the people there. Besides the communities I visited, God also placed other people in my path during the week who invited me to visit their communities.
The more we visit these places, the more we learn of other communities that need to hear the gospel message. Pray for the mission school we are building in Huaticocha. We praise God that the construction work is advancing in a timely manner. Pray that God raises up youth to answer his call to study at the mission school and carry the good news of Christ into communities like those along Via Auca. Pray for the communities that I visited, that God works in the hearts of the people and opens doors.
Thank you for your prayers and support,
Jim Zoschg, Jr.