Until now we’ve related to you our experiences as we have visited Brazil, but it sure doesn’t seems to be related to evangelical mission work. That is, the teaching and preaching of God’s saving love and redemption of lives through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to the unsaved masses of a remote group of people.
I want to challenge your view of mission work. What does it mean to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations?” (Matt 28:19) It has been said many times that the mission field begins right outside your front door. How we live our lives with the people we spend all our time is the greatest witness.
Reaching the indigenous Amerindians in the Amazon can be a delicate undertaking. By federal protection laws, direct, unsolicited evangelism of the Amerindian is strictly forbidden. So how can we reach them? To talk with these people, you MUST be invited to speak to them BY them. One avenue that Tom Padley and his team have found came from learning more about their quality of life. The tribes that live along the Amazon river depend on that river for just about everything. After a short time of observing a daily ritual, a pattern emerged. A resident of the village will come to the waters edge with a load of cookware to be washed. After rinsing it out and setting it on the bank to dry, the person would wade farther in and continue to wash themselves. A little downstream, there may be an ditch that drained some of the waste from the village into the river. Of course, they are careful to drawn water from UP-river for village use. But what about the next village DOWN-river? Or how about what has been done at the next village UP river? The tribal people are not ignorant of this, and know that the river water may cause sickness, so they find clean water sources elsewhere. Sometimes this source is over an hour’s walk away, deep into the jungle. Imagine scheduling two hours in your day just to retrieve the water you will need that day for cooking and drinking? Yet this is exactly what these people do.
So Tom learned what was involved in drilling fresh water wells. Through churches he has been partly responsible for raising up in the more metropolis areas, he raised the funds to purchase the drilling equipment. The word was spread that there was a “gringo” willing to assist the Amerindian in establishing a fresh water well at their village. Soon he was invited to do just this in a village a couple days boat ride into the jungle. Tom took a team upriver and over the course of several days was able to drill a well and provide a village with a safe, close water source. The chief asked Tom why he was willing to do this, and Tom told the chief that it was the overwhelming love of God that compelled him. This made the chief curious, because the gods he knew of were usually angry and vengeful types. He asked Tom to tell him more of this compassionate God. And just like that, a door was opened for Tom to witness, in love, to this village chief of the redeeming love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all the wrongs he had ever done. In time, the chief was converted and had Tom and other members of the team teaching the men and women of the village.
This is why we work to provide a quality of life service to the Amerindian. Meeting a physical need now allows their hearts to be open to hearing about the REAL need they have spiritually for the grace and love of our God. Just as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. He first addressed her physical needs and quality of life, then introduced her to the Water of Life.
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