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Beacon Senior News

Bringing light to the Amazon

Mar 25, 2020 02:42PM ● By Beacon Senior News

Local pastor uplifts villagers in Peru with God’s Word

Juan, the tribal pastor, wouldn’t look me in the eye. He was uncomfortable, and in cultural deference, he didn’t want to seem too bold.

The midday heat made it difficult to stay awake as I squatted on a small bamboo bench in the dirt-floor, thatch-roofed home of the local pastor. I was told they hadn’t had a visitor in many years, and now that this giant gringo was sitting in his house, he was probably wondering what I was doing there.

An Alaskan in Peru

Jim Hale on Peru Mission

I didn’t speak the language well and had no idea how to begin. The Amazonian atmosphere was oppressive, the environment totally foreign to an Alaskan boy turned Coloradan. Praying for wisdom and guidance, the thought came to me to simply ask how he came to know Jesus.

His face came up, his eyes brightened and he began to recount his story of being an imprisoned, violent drunk having it out with God in his cell. He and God both won as Juan finally surrendered his life to his creator. He experienced a new life as he came to know he was on this earth for a reason.

After he was released, he began to serve others in the community, becoming a pastor soon after. By then, he was shepherding a small church in a backwater town far from anything resembling civilization. As he shared, we found common meaning, purpose and hope. He began to call me his “hermanito” or little brother, though my 6-foot, 5-inch frame dwarfed his just over 5 feet stature.

I asked Juan what he wanted to do with his life. What was his vision? All he wanted was a boat and a case of Bibles to share the life of God with the villagers along the rivers. A boat would cost money and Bibles would need to be purchased. Because he lived in a subsistence economy with few resources, he would need help. At that moment, I felt that one of the highest and best purposes for my life would be to help Juan fulfill his dream.

20 years later...

In the last 20 years since that fateful day, Juan and his wife Rosa have evangelized, preached, taught, pastored and built churches. As one of over 200 pastors, the Peruvian mission Juan works with is now hundreds of churches and two Bible schools which create a life-changing force for good in not just the Peruvian Amazon, but also in Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay. At 66, I’m still returning to equip ministers for the work in the jungle. That’s why my grandson Jason and I returned this time.

The people of the jungle receive the good news of forgiveness and reconciliation through Christ with great openness and joy. Life and light come in new ways, hope becomes tangible as lives change, marriages and families are healed and whole villages restored. God’s love, truth and influence are spreading so quickly that many leaders need to be trained.

We came to train pastors and leaders in what is called a mobile school. Gathering leaders from the surrounding villages, we paid their way in and back, fed them and housed them for two weeks while they received training from myself and the Peruvian-run mission Bible school leaders. Experiencing God through worship, fellowship, teaching and prayer, the students received training in identity, integrity, love, truth, communication and purpose. 

Amazon Outreach

Jim Hale on Peru Mission

Amazon Outreach, a US-based support organization, sends teams each year to further the work. Churches are being established in some of the most remote places imaginable. Church buildings are being built, clean-water wells are being drilled and Bibles given to hungry hearts. Kids and adults receive school supplies and reading glasses with thankfulness and joy.

Medical teams minister to the physical needs of the people. Winning the trust of the people through love in action allows tribal leaders to open their hearts and villages to the message of salvation. Many donate land to build churches and encourage their people to receive and serve the Lord. Drunkenness and violence are defeated, and peace comes to marriages and families, affecting the whole society. To visit these redeemed villages is to experience the beauty of righteousness, peace and joy.

The best part of all this is the life of Christ, the love of God and the light that shines in the darkness. Without the hope that Jesus brings, many are trapped in drunkenness, drugs, darkness and despondency. But, like my hermanito, when the love of God fills their hearts, the big questions of life are answered and deep, abundant life begins to flow.

Why would anyone want to step into a foreign and sometimes threatening environment with a case of Bibles and a message of hope? Because every man, woman and child on this planet deserves to know that they are loved, that their life has meaning, that there is a purpose for their lives and a place in Heaven for them when this life is over. You do, too.

Anyone wanting to be a part of this continuing effort can contact Jim Hale at [email protected].