We recently conducted the first of nine weeks of pastoral training that we will provide in Macas on the edge of Ecuador’s eastern jungle. The students in this training site are primarily Shuar indigenous peoples, although some are lowland Quichuas. Those of you who are familiar with the books recounting the martyrdom of Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian at the hands of Huaorani indigenous tribesmen in January 1956 will remember these two groups. Most of the martyrs and their wives were ministering to the lowland Quichuas but Roger Youderian worked with Frank Drown on a station reaching and teaching the Jivaro (who are now called Shuar for much the same reason that the Aucas are now called by their proper name, Huaorani). The Shuar were the fierce tribesmen of headshrinker fame.
Because of the ministry of the Drowns, Youderians, and many other missionaries in Macuma, both before and since the martyrdom, there are a number of believers among the Shuar and even a number of churches. Unfortunately there are very few New Testament qualified pastors with sufficient training to lead their people and train up still more pastors after them.
One of the men told me that missionaries came and went through the years following the martyrdom, but that he estimated over 90% of the mission stations established by missionaries in the Shuar region of the eastern jungles are abandoned now, and the Shuar people are returning to their traditional ways.
Because of the great need to train pastors in culturally appropriate contextualized ways, so that they can be the trainers for others, Reaching & Teaching has launched a new training site just outside of Macas for Shuar leaders. We heard countless testimonies regarding the great need for this kind of thorough pastoral and leadership training. Let me share two brief testimonies and allow these pastors to share their heart in their words.
Interview with Pastor Waou Luis
“I was born in Taisha about 25 minutes from here flying time, or you must walk two days. There are no Christians there, no church. Further out there are some Shuar churches but they are not pastored by anyone. Missionaries simply go, preach, and leave.
Beyond us are the Achuar, going out from what is considered Shell. For example, you come to Taisha, Iwampu, Maqui, and then all the way to the frontier with Peru. In those communities there are no pastors. Preachers enter, preach, and get decisions to make Christians, but no one is pastoring out there. The people live like that. What we need is to have pastors with good preparation. In that way men can pastor their churches and also prepare others. Then we won’t need the short-term evangelism type events. Rather, we would have solid teaching like you are giving here. We are Shuar with two languages, Shuar and Spanish. We also have interactions with Achuar, which is yet another dialect. My name is Waou Luis, from the community of Tariña.”
Interview with Pastor Gonzalo Marzo
“My name is Gonzalo Marzo. I was born here in Macas in the province of Morona Santiago. In truth, what you all are doing is great. I don’t have words to express. For my part, I am very thankful. Truthfully, I have learned a lot from you. I hope this training will serve us to be able to teach other people who also need teaching. They are always pleading for spiritual testimonies and guidance, our help, and our support.
We know that God wants everyone to be saved and that no one should go to hell. This was also the plan of God, that your team should come. Brother, I repeat myself, but I want to say from my heart that I am very content to have you here. And for me, the short time that you have had to give us these Bible teachings makes me feel like family with you. When you leave and fly home I’m going to miss you all. My family and I will be praying for you that you will be able to return in a few months so that you can continue teaching because it is very good what you have been teaching. And later we can take this instruction to other communities. In order to go and rescue souls for God.
So for my part I ask that you continue coming to help teach us. You are like a spur to push us so that we may be trained and go and train in other communities so more will be saved.”
Evangelicals have worked among these people for decades. We have won them for Christ, and in some cases we have formed them into churches. What we have not done is to do ALL of the task that Jesus gave us “Make disciples…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:18-20). Nor have we followed Paul’s admonition, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). Perhaps if we had made it a priority to disciple disciplers, teach teachers, and train trainers, we would be moving on to other areas with sound churches and leaders behind us. As it is, we must return and strengthen what remains.
The beautiful thing is that we do not have to gain an entrance, convince them that they are in error and try to gain a hearing. They are pleading with us to come and teach them what the Bible says. Will you come with us?
Editor’s Note: To participate on a short-term trip, go to reachingandteaching.org/short-term-missions.