It was 8 p.m and we could hear the brethren singing in the chapel. Ian and I must have been a pitiful sight to behold as we walked in with muddy boots, sweat-drenched shirts and 35 pound backpacks draped over our shoulders. We had traveled by car and then by boat and finally, for the last leg of the journey, we walked 15 miles. Our backs were aching, our calves were tight, we had blistered feet and sunburned arms but our hearts were full of joy as we met with the brethren in the village of Leche. Normally we would have cleaned up before going to church but on this occasion it seemed OK and no one complained :) After a lot of hugs and backslapping I went to the makeshift pulpit and preached a short 2 hour sermon on the life of Elijah.
On the following day we had to continue on in our journey and when we arrived in the next village we were greeted with many cries of "Arrepientanse" or "Repent" (the word that I repeated about 100 times when I open-air preached there last month). It was encouraging to me that they remembered my message but it was even more encouraging that there were five people that had been wrestling with the gospel that whole month and on this trip they gave their lives to Christ! Please pray for them!
During the course of the week I preached every night and then during the day we did many pastoral visits from hut to hut. We even went to some of the outlying homesteads that are scattered around the jungle within an hours walk of the village. We were able to give out new testaments, share the gospel, give out medicine and pray for people. What a joy! No greater work exists on the planet then to share Christ's love with lost sinners. It was a very profitable time with many opportunities to make Christ's name great.
To add to our adventure we made an exploratory trip into the tribal territory of the Cacataybo. This is an unreached people group that lives in the uncharted virgin jungles northeast of "my" farthest out village. We didn't find any sign of them but it was extremely interesting to hear about these natives from our guide (a brother who works as a national park ranger in this area). The Cacataybo speak an unknown language, are nomadic and naked. They paint their faces, scavenge for food and have only been spotted a few times from low-flying aircrafts. The most staggering thing to think about is that they are dead in their sins and know absolutely nothing of Christ and His saving power. Who will reach them?
On Saturday I started the long journey back to Tarapoto. I left Ian (our short-term visitor from Vancouver Washington) in one of the villages to fend for himself. He will be trying to practice his spanish with the people, learning the "jungle way" and helping the brethren in whatever way he can. He spent the last two and a half months preparing for this and now it was time to "throw him" into the village life (part of our discipleship process). It should be an exciting time for him as he will be there all by himself for the next month. The night before I left he almost stepped on a poisonous viper so please pray for him as he tries to survive :)
Missionary quote for the day by Hudson Taylor: "God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him."
Micah for the Tuttles
My team was made up of 16 believers who all effectively played different roles on this trip. We had a nurse who was constantly ministering to the sick with prayer and medicine. Another one of the sisters gave a sunday-school teacher training course. Three of the believers dedicated themselves to a VBS event with children (about 70 kids came out each day). Several brothers split up into evangelism pairs and went hut-to-hut sharing the gospel with each family in the village. One brother faithfully filmed and photographed the different events. I preached a devotional every morning, taught the bible institute students for 6 hours each day and preached open air every night. One afternoon we even did some back-breaking work, carrying heavy sacks of sand for about 300 meters from the beach over to the main square to fill in some mud holes for which the villagers were very grateful.
The work was arduous but we had a spectacular menu to keep us going! Each day was different but here's the short list of our quality cuisine: we ate turtle, monkey, jungle pheasant, jungle rat, wild boar, peanut soup, peanut mazato, armadillo, lots of rice and hot chocolate made right from the coa-coa tree. Wow! Makes me hungry just writing about it! Yes, just about everyone on the team got sick at one point or another but nothing was real serious and all recovered quite quickly.
On Saturday morning as we prepared to leave we gathered with the believers on the beach for one last word of exhortation and prayer. It had been a great week of ministry and everyone had been greatly challenged and encouraged! Our trip back to town ended up being quite a sobering experience. After two days of travel (and many obstacles faced) we finally made it back to Chazuta where we docked the boat and loaded the van. Just as we were getting ready to leave a screaming woman covered in mud and blood arrived from the Tarapoto highway. She had just lost her four year-old grandson in a huge landslide that had swept him out of her arms and into the river. Others that narrowly escaped were able to pull the woman out of the mud and save her life. If we had been a half an hour ahead of schedule we would have been in that landslide too. It was a sober reminder that life is fragile.... Don't waste it! You never know when you might be called home.
Missions quote of the day by Elizabeth Elliot: God's command 'Go ye, and preach the gospel to every creature' was the categorical imperative. The question of personal safety was wholly irrelevant."
Micah for the Tuttle's
While it was still dark this morning, at 4:45am, the team, sardined into the van with LOTS of packs, headed for the river.
They left almost a day later than planned because one of the team members' bus had been delayed because of bad road conditions. The roads were pretty bad, rather dangerous even. There had been some significant landslides recently. But most of the delay was due to the fact the workers (big machine drivers, flaggers, etc) had the holiday weekend off.
In order to make all the boat connections, they were thinking they may have to leave her behind. Thankfully, the cell phone signal finally got through. Just in time, too, as the van was burdened with stuff and the team was only bathroom breaks away from loading up. But, she was still nine hours away!
We decided to wait.
At 7am this morning, Micah called. I could hear a roaring motor in the background. Forgetting that I could hear him just fine, he shouted, 'We're in the boat! We made it. There were some landslides on the way, but it wasn't too bad. We're just about to pass out of cell phone range, so I wanted to let you know, they're saying that the rains from yesterday might have been just enough to raise the Chipporana enough that we won't have to do the LONG walk."
I smiled and said, "Of course. Because God IS good like that."
It could be that the delay was just what God wanted to bless them with. It hadn't rained for more than a week and the extra fourteen hours may have been enough to fill that little river. Let's pray that they remain sensitive to the Lord's leading and that everything continues to go well with them.
You may have heard me mention mazato. I had to drink some the other day. Mazato is the famous fermented yucca spit juice that many of the jungle peoples of Peru drink. The villagers may be quite offended if you refuse their prized beverage. So I recommend taking at least a small swig.
Yucca, manioc in English, is a root grown and eaten all over Peru. Its texture is somewhat like a big potato. Most people boil it but we prefer it fried. In the jungle villages, the preferred yucca preparation is chewing it up and spitting it into a batán (a wooden canoe-shaped trough). There it sits for a few days and ferments into a powerful mash of manioc madness. When it's good and frothy, just add a little water and then guzzle it down.
Many of the villagers drink it as if it was Red Bull or some kind of energy drink. You don't have to get drunk on this stuff, but sadly, many do. Drunkenness has destroyed many, many lives in the villages along the Huallaga river. I often quote Proverbs 23:29-30, "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has redness of eyes? ...He who drinks [mazato in excess]". (MTT-Micah Tuttle Translation).
Here is a video of a woman preparing the mazato mash. Notice how she chews it and spits quite nicely. Only minimal saliva. It's not so bad. :)
Missions quote of the day by Robert C. Shannon:
"Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the action is — where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge."
Micah for the Tuttles
We are enjoying a five month visit from short-term missionary, Ian Posey from Vancouver Washington. When he finishes his time with us he is planning on studying at Moody Bible institute and preparing for a future in missions. He is trying to learn spanish and get a taste of the mission field here in Peru. Last week Ian put in a lot of good language practice as we went together to a bible capacitation course in the nearby jungle town of Yurimaguas. Several of the students took it upon themselves to be his Spanish teachers. It was fun for everyone involved.
The week in Yurimaguas was an exciting yet exhausting one for me. Each day involved preaching, teaching, evangelizing, counseling and generally investing in the students from about 6am to 11 pm. By the end of the week my throat was sore and my head ached but it was a good pain :) I preached almost every night in different churches and it was great to see a genuine excitement and interest in God's word.
Walter, one of the brothers that studied at the capacitation course is from an indigenous group called the "Shauwi". All week long Walter was begging me to go with him and visit one of the Shauwi villages where he has planted an assembly so when our week of studies was over Walter, Ian, Eber and I set out for Shauwi-land with the desire of making Christ's name great among the natives. Missions work has already been done with this tribe in other areas and they even have the bible in their own language so a major goal of ours was to just encourage Walter in the work that the Lord is doing through him.
Most of the natives could understand Spanish but prefered Shauwi so in the meetings I preached in Spanish and then Walter got up and basically preached my sermon all over again in Shauwi. It worked pretty good... kinda like a double-whamy :) It was very interesting and encouraging to hear Walter (normally very shy and quiet) preaching with great passion in his mother tongue! We were only able to be there for a day and a night but we tried to make the most of our time. Both times that I preached there were people that made professions of faith in Christ. Walter will be following up with these new believers. Please pray for them.
Missions quote of the day by Leonard Ravenhill: "Are the things you're living for worth Christ's dying for?"
Micah for the Tuttle's
God provides! The other day I made the last payment on our property here in Tarapoto! We now own 5 city lots (17,000 sq ft of land and a 5,400 square ft partially finished building. The good hand of our great God has been with us as we have trusted in Him to provide the finances. No fund-raisers. No begging. God did it without us even advertising the project. Praises to Him!
A few years ago we "stumbled upon" this great deal and signed a contract promising to pay $50,000 in 5 years with no interest charged..... Less than three years have gone by and God has enabled us to pay the full amount! Not only have we been able to pay off the said price we have also been able to invest a considerable amount of money into the construction itself. Hudson Taylor once said: "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply." It's true! Maybe it's presumptuous to assume that we are doing God's work in God's way.... But that's our goal and we can testify that we have not lacked God's supply!
We have been praying about using this property to start a one year Bible institute/discipleship program and it seems that God is starting to put the pieces into place. Jesse and Janel Mattix (veteran missionaries to Bolivia) just spent two weeks here with us thinking about the possibilities and are praying seriously about coming to help. There is still a lot of money needed, a lot of construction to do and a team to form before we can get the institute off the ground but it is exciting to see that things are beginning to take shape!
About ten years ago we helped to start a missionary bible training institute (IBEM) on the coast of Peru. Since then we have been helping with a network of brethren here in the country that have done a great job establishing this mobile training center. Until now IBEM has been functioning in Trujillo, Lima and Cajamarca with month long modules, night classes, and intensive weekends. Our hope is that those activities would continue and that we could become a jungle branch of IBEM with a longer term focus. There is a great foundation of people and experience in place and now with our property and a local team coming together (maybe) things are beginning to get exciting.
Missions quote for the day by Samuel Zwemer: "The history of missions is the history of answered prayer."
Micah for the Tuttle's
We have just finished up with a two and half week visit to the coast of Peru (Trujillo) where I have been preaching and teaching at a training course for leaders. I taught through Nehemiah, Genesis, Jonah, the life of Samson, the life of Elijah and the theme "Why does God allow pain and suffering in the world?" Each day involved six hours of teaching and then about four more hours of class preparation and paper correcting. It was exhausting but at the same time extremely exciting. We pray that the students would put what they have learned into practice and that more Bible preachers would be raised up from among them.
Our whole family has really enjoyed our time here visiting with old friends and making new ones. The kids have had to balance their studies with all their extra activities and Amy has been a blessing to everyone as she makes our family work in spite of the pandemonium. Now we are preparing to take the next couple of days to make the long drive back up over the Andes mountains and through the jungle to our town of Tarapoto. Please pray for us as we travel.
Missions quote of the day by Henry Martin (missionary to India and Persia 1781-1812) "The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him the more intensely missionary we become."
Micah for the Tuttle's
After a good time of preaching the word in Lima we made it back to our jungle town of Tarapoto. It has been a bit difficult adjusting to the heat and to some of the cultural things but we are settling in now. We had a great Christmas and New years with the church here. There has been a lot of excitement as we catch up with everyone. Please pray for us as pandemonium is just about to break loose with our upcoming schedule. I'll have to write about how it all goes later on this month.
The following is a article that I wrote (with Amy's help) for CMML's missions magazine. I suggest you subscribe, it's a great magazine! This article should come out in the March issue. So you get a sneak preview :) It should give you a good idea of the context in which we are doing missions here in the jungle. Hope it's not too long for you. Enjoy.
Deep in the jungle of Peru there are countless villages that have never heard the gospel. Hundreds upon hundreds of “pueblos” along the shores of remote jungle rivers, are without churches, without a gospel witness, and without Bibles. Legends, animism and witchcraft have a tight hold on many who live in this area. These people are not half naked natives who speak an unknown dialect, but normal Spanish speaking civilized Peruvians. Very few missionaries, if any are focused on reaching them with the gospel. Larger missions organizations have done a tremendous job with the initial contact of and bible translation for the majority of tribal groups in South America, but by far the largest percentage of jungle people are not tribal, they are normal Peruvian mestizos and no one is going to them with the gospel.
Six years ago, my wife and I became aware of this pressing need. With the encouragement of the Bert and Colleen Elliot, who formerly worked in the area, we moved our family to the northeastern jungles of Peru. We felt a burning desire to make Christ's name great in this neglected part of the country. We have seen both success and setbacks, encountering many unique obstacles along the way. We recognize our need of the Lord's strength in the midst of this great spiritual battle. One of the barriers to the gospel has been that of superstition. It is often very difficult for the jungle people to look past their ancestral beliefs to see the light of Christ's love that offers freedom from the dark side of the jungle. In this article, I will outline several long held superstitious beliefs which are the cause of crippling fear and confusion, alongside the Biblical truth I use to combat them.
You may be of the opinion that mermaids are mythological creatures, but in many parts of the jungle their existence is undisputed. They are considered real and dangerous. Cities, even huge empires of mermaids, are thought to exist in the deepest parts of the rivers. I have a good friend who is convinced that, as a child, he saw a mermaid caught by a fisherman who put her on display in the main square of his village. He is well respected and known to be an honest man. Was he imagining things? Could it have been one of those childhood dreams that one comes to think of as real?
Another man claimed to have seen a mermaid sitting on the beach combing her hair. He couldn't resist the temptation of a closer look. He claims she grabbed him and took him to the underwater mermaid kingdom and imprisoned him for 100 years. When he finally escaped, he returned to his own village where he was told a year had past since they had seen him last. There are many others villagers with similar seemingly outlandish experiences.
Contrary to the popular opinion around here, I don't believe that these stories are true. But one thing is sure; they serve as illustrations of the warnings found in Proverbs 7:21-26: “With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, With her flattering lips she seduced him. Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter... Till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, He did not know it would cost his life... Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, Do not stray into her paths... all who were slain by her were strong men.”
Pink fresh water river dolphins called “bujeos colorados” are common in the Amazon river basin (Inia geoffrensis). The dark side of the jungle is reflected in the belief that these creatures are demon possessed, at times transforming into white people that ravage the villages.
In one village I visit, the people told me that at every worldly party several white men would show up out of nowhere to steal, rape and murder. The villagers decided to plant a trap. At the next party, they would catch them to figure out who they were. Reportedly, at midnight , everything well underway, the men appeared. As planned, the villagers tried to grab the men. Those caught, turned into “bujeos colorados” in their arms and those that escaped, dove into the river and swiftly swam away. I wanted to laugh at the incredibility of it all. The villagers that related this story to me simply replied, “You wouldn't laugh if you understood our jungle.” I responded with Jesus' words: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Another deep-rooted belief has to do with an apparition called by many, “El Chuyachaqui” (choo-yah-chalk-ee), is said to be an embodied demon that appears when one is walking alone on the jungle trail. Supposed eyewitnesses claim that he always appears in the form of a friend, loved one or family member to deceive whomever he might. He calls to follow him and, if obeyed, will lead one to imminent death. The only way to know with certainty, that he is not who he appears to be, is to look at his feet. If you see that one foot is a wild boar hoof, you'll know it is “Chuyachaqui”... and you must run for your life! This superstition is a tremendous illustration of the truth of 2 Cor 11:14 which says: “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.”
Almost everyone in the jungle believes in the existence of something called "El Tunchi”. Many have stories of their run-ins with him and he is greatly feared by all. The “Tunchi” is said to be the wandering spirit of a person who has died, roaming about the countryside haunting whoever he can. It makes a distinct whistling sound, which if one were to try to imitate it, will draw it closer and closer to terrorize and to kill. The Devil himself, whom they call “El Maligno”, is believed to fly close behind the “Tunchi” in order to catch and carry him to hell. According to the belief, under no circumstances should you come into contact with the “Maligno” being much worse than the “Tunchi”.
I am constantly reminding the brothers that we who know the True and Living God have nothing to fear because we are to “ be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God” (Eph 6:10-13)
We know that Satan's schemes look different in different cultures. In western culture perhaps he is more effective by convincing people of the non-existence of God, the devil, even the whole spiritual realm. Here in the jungles of Peru his schemes are likely more compelling by working openly and using a fear of the spirit world to shackle the tormented. Some of what they believe is legend or fairy-tale. Some are perceptions of personal experience. But Satan himself will use it all to keep people in bondage to sin and separated from God. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can free people from the heavy chains inflicted by the dark side of the jungle.
There are obstacles on every mission field, some very unique. It seems to me as though the Devil must have worked tediously weaving these animistic beliefs into the very fabric of Peruvian jungle culture in preparation for an immediate rejection of the gospel. I have spoken with individuals on several occasions after preaching open air. I hear something like the following: “I want what your talking about. You say that the chains can fall off in Christ. He died for me and rose again! You speak of grace, forgiveness, mercy, love! Eternal life! I want that! But, if I trust Christ, I know that will upset the 'chuyachaqui', 'el tunchi', the mermaids and the 'bujeos colorados'. They'll be after me... I'm so afraid, I cannot...” As they sadly walk away, I imagine the sound of chains clanking as if draped over their backs, dragging on the ground behind them.... If only I could convince them...
Some professed Christians would have us looking for fallen angels under every rock and behind every tree. I don't. Neither do I think that the demon world should be overemphasized. The gospel and a Christ centered message ought to be the focus of our preaching.
We also recognize that reality is unfolding on two levels. In the physical realm, we as humans have the leading roles (at least apparently) while the reality of spiritual things occurs just as assuredly, yet unseen. The two realities are interwoven. What happens in the spirit world affects what happens in the physical world and vice versa (2 Cron 18:18-22).
Unbelieving people everywhere have become victims of “this present darkness” (Eph 6:12). In Hosea we read that these will be “destroyed for lack of knowledge”, unbelievers whose minds are darkened by the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4). But as Christians, we are called to see beyond the demons' schemes of sin and rebellion. They may be permitted for a season to wreak havoc, but we are reminded to stand with God and bear witness to His truth against the darkness. We are confident in the Scriptures that teach, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1John 4:4).
We look for the day when Christ will defeat all his enemies and “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14). Until then, we are to be on the alert! (1Peter 5:8-9) Let us not be ignorant of any of Satan's devices. We must learn to "resist him, firm in our faith." And may we never forget, "They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death." Until either death or the second coming of Christ, it is our responsibility to go into all the world, to make disciples by presenting a biblical gospel that will transform captives of the Devil into conquerers with Christ!
Micah for the Tuttle's
We have arrived safely in Peru! Thank you everyone that was praying for us. God has answered your prayers and helped us along in our journeys. Our flights and connections went smoothly and without difficulties. All of our luggage made it and nothing was broken. The most difficult thing to deal with is that winter has changed to summer in just a few hours. When we flew out of Newark NJ at 1:00 p.m it was snowing and when we arrived in Lima at 2:00 a.m it was hot and humid. It will be even worse when we get to Tarapoto!
We will be in Lima for about a week as we spend time with one of the assemblies here to do an evangelistic campaign. Please pray that the Lord would be exalted as I will be preaching four times in the next three days. There are so many opportunities and so many lost souls. We must make the most of our time. We have hit the ground running!
Missionary quote of the day by David Livingstone: “God, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. And sever any tie in my heart except the tie that binds my heart to Yours.”
Micah for the Tuttle's