ANCIENT CELEBRATIONS IN THE RAINFOREST
It is raining …in the rainforest. There must be something to that name. The problem is it’s supposed to be dry season. In the last two months we’ve only gone one 48-hour period without significant rain. That’s fine for your average modern work-a-day man, but not so good for an agricultural society depending on ancient slash-and-burn technology for their staples. The slash part has gone just peachy but the burn is not working out so well this year. The jungle is winning. The constant heavy rains this year, besides raising challenges for the Asas pilots whose flights we depend on, has people worried that there may be a food shortage next year. But I digress. The one advantage to rainy days is that the indoor projects begin to get done. At the top of that list is getting some recent good news out to you all.
Many of you were praying with us during the holiday season for a shaman named Pedro*, and his family group, that live a 30-minute hike downriver from the main village of Benti* here. (I’m sure they think we live 30 minutes upriver from the main village…) I’m happy to report that the Christmas outreach went well and was very well attended. There were games and prizes and food for the community, but the day started off early with a Christmas service first. I was impressed that no one was in a hurry to get to the games and food. At noon the meeting was still going. There had been singing, dancing, and readings from the gospel of Luke and the book of Revelation. Kaleb* was giving the talk and we all were praying. He was giving an interesting message tying in passages from Revelation with the Christmas story from Luke. But as is typical, it appeared few were paying close attention. Everyone nonchalantly lounged around the large round house as Kaleb calmly addressed the crowd in a voice that I had to strain to hear over the din. My heart was sinking. But then he wound up his talk by saying there were several who had been thinking about these things for a while and knew that they were true. “Come tell us what you are thinking.” Cléo* stood up first. “I am a Christian”, he said, “but I have not been living like one. I want to repent from my foolishness and come back into Christian fellowship.” (His two younger brothers are apprentices to Pedro). Then a young woman stood, and another. Then Tereza*, wife of the third apprentice, stood and said she wanted to be a Christian and be baptized. Whispers and comments went rippling through the crowd -“a shaman’s wife too?” André* then stood making a profession of faith. He’s an intelligent young man who can read well, but has also been dabbling in spiritism. I’d been having conversations with him since we arrived here 5 years ago that I thought hadn’t gotten anywhere. I was already praising God for the incredible way he was moving hearts, but then Diego*, the shaman’s own son, stood up. He wanted to make his decision for Christ public too! By the end 15 people had stood to make professions of faith.
In the midst of all this I could see Pedro across the way. I could see his wheels turning. I went and sat next to him and, after a bit, I asked him if he was thinking about all these things too. He said “I have already talked with Carlos* (our Brazilian coworker) about this. We agreed that he would get to God’s house on that path and I would get to our heaven on my own different path.” I only said to keep thinking about it – “You already know there is only one right path.” Pedro continues to be friendly and we continue to make visits to his group downriver. He was not yet ready that day but I still press on. Keep praying with me.
Those new believers who gave their testimonies on Christmas Day have asked to be baptized. The church community has decided that a good time might be after the Easter holiday. The plans are for the baptismal service and celebration to happen this next week. I guess I don’t mind the rain or the lack of flights so much if the Son is shining.
From Asas Ministry Partners in the Rainforest – via jungle satellite uplink. Used by permission.
* Names changed to protect privacy