One of my colleagues in South America sent me the following. Please take time to read it and to pray for the Asheninka along this part of the Amazon Jungle. Unfortunately, the photos would not transfer into the article. You may see a number of them here.
The Río Negro flows beneath the misty hills of Sira.
March 2, 2008
The river at the base of the 7,000 ft. Reserva Comunal de Sira (Comunal Reserve of Sira) is a mysterious place. There's gold there. The cold waters of the river run with the glistening dust that has drawn men to is banks for eons of time. Their presence still hangs in the air and their wares in the ground. The evidence of the inhabitants of centuries is as easy to step on as it is to imagine. In the yard of our dwelling on a high bank the sandy soil was strewn with potsherds and no great effort brought up for us ancient clay pots that had been resisting the torrential rains of the ages. Stone implements, axes, lay on the ground nearby for the taking. Locals say these things appear regularly in their fields or upon clearing to raise a new house. These same locals make their way to the river early in the morning and return in the afternoon with a gram or two of gold dust, selling at about $20 per gram to local buyers.
This is the Río Negro (Black River). It's mysteries abound, but in the darkness of mystery also abounds a spiritual darkness that the glitter of gold cannot illumine. Here I spent the last two weeks with a team of Asheninka believers sharing the light of Christ with Asheninka people who have lived in the shadow of the Sira, just existing, panning gold, spending their lives with no aim but to simply get through another day; another year. In the midst of this, however, there is a tiny community of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who have now come back to Him after some years of spiritual wandering.
In the community of Pueblo Libre (Free Town) seven Asheninka adults recommitted their lives to Christ with a renewed passion to serve Him. Hyony, Alejandro, Justiniano, Luzmila, Ema, and myself called the people back to Christ and appealed to still others to turn to Him for eternal life. While others did not respond to the careful explanation of the gospel, those who reconciled with Christ came to life with a lot of excitement to know and experience more of Him. Santiago is middle-aged. He's also Ema's brother. He loves Jesus, sings to Him with passion, and wants to serve Him. He will be trained in May in the leadership of a new church as well as receive deeper teaching on the Christian life. Helping him will be Ubaldo, also middle-aged, Spanish-speaking Peruvian in charge of the school. What Ubaldo lacks of knowledge of God is more than made up for in passion. Both of these men have been invited to our May leadership training event at Yarina Isla on the Apurucayali River. Nights at Pueblo Libre brought large gatherings of the locals, filling the school building to hear biblical messages.
After a week of intensive teaching and evangelism at Pueblo Libre, our team moved back down the very shallow and difficult river to Tahuantinsuyo (Tah-Wan-tin-SU-yo) to offer the same grace of God that had impacted the Pueblo Libre believers. This community has very few believers and we encountered a resistance to the things of God. Most of those who said they would participate in our sessions failed to attend; others arrived late each time and missed much of the message. Yet three adults and two young people renewed their commitment to follow Christ. Alejandro's brother, Grimaldo, is a resident of Tahuantinsuyo and a believer. He rallied the people to attend the meetings and proved himself a faithful servant. Grimaldo is also invited to leadership training because he desires to spearhead the formation of an outreach group in view of forming a church.
At the end of two weeks our crew navigated the river back to its mouth, pushing and pulling the boat in numerous rushing shallows. The peque motor barely got us into the port at Yuyapichis (YOU-yuh-PEE-chees). The next morning at 3 AM I returned over the muddy road to Pucallpa while my team remained to fight the swelling current of the Pachitea, Pichis, and Apurucayali Rivers. Last night I received a call from Hyony at their final stop, a small village with a phone. They had waited three days on the swollen river until they had to leave. He reported that they almost lost the motor in huge swirl of current at a place called Guacamayo (a macaw parrot). Praise the Lord all were safe, among them our preciouis twelve year old Berta returning home to Yarina Isla with the team after a month-long visit to our home in Pucallpa.
What a blessing to see believers who have been unshepherded for a long time return to Christ with glowing faces. Most of the faithful at Pueblo Libre followed our team by 2-hour trail in nearly knee-deep mud to Tahuantinsuyo to soak up more of God's Word. And that they did! You are urged to pray for these precious people on the Río Negro so that they will grow in their faith. They need to begin to meet together and read the Bible and talk about it and pray. They need to express their faith unashamedly to other Asheninkas in their communities. They need to grow into a deeper commitment to serving the risen Lord no matter what kind of opposition they face, and there is a lot of it out there in the darkness. In the darkness of an Asheninka night the frequent sound of the "lechusa" (owl) holds dark meaning for those who fear and who hold the traditions of the local people. But there are devils in the night to be feared above a sleepy owl as the evil one roams seeking whom to devour; and if not devour, to mislead and to hold trapped in misunderstanding and supersticion. As the locals dig and wash their gold in the flowing river, how they need to come to understand that the Lord wants to wash the dirt from their lives until they glitter with a brilliance beyond gold. And to learn that His Truth is of infinitely greater value.
Pray for believers on the Río Negro and for Santiago, Ubaldo, and Grimaldo who have the potential to lead them in a growing faith in Christ.
It is time for the Lord to act; for they have broken your law. therefore I love your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold. Psalm 119:126-7
The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts. Proverbs 17:3
Asheninka People Group, Peru
International Mission Board, SBC
If you wish to contact Marty, do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.