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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.

Mermaids
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.”

Bujeos colorados
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).

El Chuyachaqui
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.”

El Tunchi
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)

Spiritual Battle
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


1 comments:

At January 1, 2015 at 8:46 PM lynmeryl said...

So glad you are home safely!! Thanks for the sneak peek of the article, it will be enjoyable to read as we shiver up here in PA!! Prayers for a blessed 2015, as you do the Lord's work Peru!!

 

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