During the week of April 21-25, a Reaching & Teaching team trained pastors and church leaders in Chazuta, Peru. Chazuta is a small town nestled along the Huallaga River in the heart of Peru. As Dr. Sills has mentioned in previous posts, this location has been called the ‘eyebrow of the jungle.’ On this particular trip, Dr. Sills led a team of five, comprised of four men from Kentucky in “Gringo-Landia” (a classic Sills-ism) and one brother from the Dominican Republic. Besides Dr. Sills, the Kentuckians were Chris Holmes, Luke Barnhard, and Jon Deedrick. Enrique Crespo joined us from Santo Domingo, D.R., and along with Dr. Sills, helped translate for us gringos. It was an honor to minister with these brothers! Their teaching was effective, their joy infectious, and their love for God evident. Since this was the third of nine training modules in Chazuta, we taught systematic theology throughout the week. We also had the opportunity to preach in the evening to women, men, and youth on separate nights. The Lord seemed to be at work among us, and we pray that our ministry in Peru will bear lasting spiritual fruit.
Guest Post by Jon Deedrick:
Chazuta sits in a uniquely beautiful part of the world. It’s a tropical, mountain-jungle setting. Green mountain peaks form the backdrop for the town, and the Huallaga winds its way through the jungle at the edge of the Amazon basin. Lush, colorful scenery is available at every turn – flora produced by the river and the ample rainfall in that region. In fact, it rained every day that we were there! Even though there were chunks of the day that were bright and sunny, at some point the rain would move in. This constant moisture turned the town’s roads and walkways into a muddy bog. Yet, as Dr. Sills reminded us, the conditions gave us better understanding of the “rhythm of life” in that part of the world. When the clouds parted, the sun would bake intensely, and combined with the thick humidity, it created quite a ‘basting’ experience. However, I never heard any of the team members complain, and I truly believe that each one of us enjoyed living for a week in that beautiful, sunny, and wet part of our Father’s world.
All of the training modules in Chazuta are held at the Iglesia Evangelica Central de Chazuta. The pastor there is Jairo Sangama, a man with a gregarious personality and a voice built for preaching or radio…or both! Pastor Jairo has a radio ministry in which he broadcasts Christian programming in several languages throughout the jungle. All of us grew to admire Jairo’s character and dedication, as he rises at 3:30 AM each morning in order to conduct the broadcast. It seems that Jairo is clearly the indigenous evangelical leader of that part of the Peruvian jungle. In addition to the Reaching & Teaching modules, Jairo hosts other regular pastoral training sessions at the church. He also leads services for churches from several villages that gather at a central location in the jungle. On our last night in Chazuta, I asked Jairo how we could pray for him. He said that his greatest desire is that the Lord would continue to unify and strengthen his church so that they can be more effective in their evangelism and discipleship efforts throughout the jungle. According to Jairo, God is doing quite a work in that region! The gospel is bringing peace and harmony to tribes that have hated each other for generations. Jairo’s vision for his ministry is large, and it was a privilege to plug into that vision for a week and be a part of what God is doing in Chazuta.
The pastors who attended the training module came from both near and far. Some were pastors near Chazuta, while others traveled up to five days by boat just to sit under God’s Word for a week. Their evident hunger to learn the Scripture was at the same time both invigorating and convicting. It was easy to get up in the morning to teach these men, while at the same time I often asked myself if I am as passionate as they to know God and his Word. As Enrique mentioned to me, we may have learned more from these men than they did from us. We in the modern West have a glut of biblical and theological resources that these men simply do not have. I wish you could have been there to see certain pastors beaming with a sense of accomplishment when they were presented a Holman Bible Dictionary for their attendance of all three training modules. Whereas resources like this are a point and click away for us, they are a luxury to these men. I praise God for their deep desire to learn God’s Word and to grow in their ability to communicate it.
It also became evident throughout the week that the type of training that we are doing at Reaching & Teaching fills a great need in the lives of the pastors and the churches that they shepherd. While the biblical knowledge of the participants varied, certain aspects of what we taught seemed entirely new to them. Also, the majority of the questions they asked us were based on pastoral predicaments that they are facing in the life of their church. Not only does a right understanding of the truth provide the solution to these pastoral situations, it also would have prevented many of them in the first place. I had a profound sense of privilege and joy to watch these men ‘connect biblical dots’ and start to piece together aspects of the Scripture that had previously eluded them. Pray with us that the things we taught would stick for years to come!
I praise God for the opportunity that we had to minister in Chazuta, Peru. This was my first Reaching & Teaching trip, but I do not expect it to be my last. Pray with us that the training attendees will continue to faithfully preach the gospel and equip the saints for the work of ministry in the jungle region of Peru. Consider, also, joining a trip this summer. There are still some slots open and need for teachers. Don't miss the opportunity to meet some incredibly faithful servants and be used by God to deepen their knowledge of Him!