As our family stepped out of Asas de Socorro’s small plane, with all our supplies, we could see the people were elated at our return. They were glad to know we all were alive and well. Despite having heard the reasons behind all our travels and travails, nothing is like seeing and believing. In our absence there was much anxiety. Like all of us the world over, the initial news of the pandemic was traumatic. Their situation, however, was compounded by a total lack of reliable information… Just like the rest of us I guess. Like Moses’ delay on Mount Sinai the long delay in our missionaries’ return trips after the field conference months ago was very disconcerting to the village here and had much the same effect. We are now beginning to see the evidence of an epic battle with syncretism during our forced hiatus. Syncretism is an attempt to blend two conflicting “truths” into one “truth”. It always fails because the real truth by definition cannot conflict with itself. Combining truth with falsehood can never make the falsehood true, but it does often make a more believable lie. Our enemy loves to tell as much truth as he can without actually being honest. Three pages of perfect mathematical calculations starting with only one decimal out of place to the left or right gives, without exception, an error in the end. Often the error can be dramatic.
Just a few days before the first of us returned on the Asas plane, H’s eight-month-old granddaughter passed away. From what we can glean it was the same sad story we have seen many times over. A simple head cold progressed into a chest cold, and then started to turn into pneumonia. The child began to respond well to antibiotics but the parents, in fear, succumbed to family pressure and left the clinic and medical treatment to try the shaman’s crafts (which often include sleep deprivation, denial of food and liquids, and lots of smoke around an open fire)… the story’s end was sad yet one more time. H is one of our regulars in church and possibly a true believer. His son, the father of the child, is a shaman apprentice. The family was shattered by the loss of the child and still in deep mourning when we arrived two weeks later. We mourn with them.
An untimely and avoidable death of a child is one of the saddest things, but there is something worse. Physical death is not the biggest foe mankind faces; it is the second death that is the true enemy. Watching a family – and really a whole village – vacillate between death and life, between light and darkness, really gives one pause. The pencil is in the hand, and the erroneous decimal point at the beginning of the equation is being contemplated. Is God just one more of the spirits to manipulate or is He the creator of all things including the entire unseen world? Did He create time itself and the very laws of physics, or is He subject to the same laws of nature as us and therefore destined to the same corruption and decay? Is He prisoner, like us, inside this fallen universe, or is He outside with the keys to life and death in his hand? Was it this system that always was and always will be or is it God that always was and always will be? The conclusion of these deliberations is always dramatic no matter the tribe or nation. On Christ the solid Rock we stand. ALL other ground is sinking sand.
We suspect that most of the village was involved in questionable revelries and shamanism during our forced absence caused by the pandemic, but a few days after our arrival M came to me while I was doing some major maintenance on our tractor mower. He said, “I really want to talk with you but not while you are frustrated and preoccupied with this machine.” I put down the wrenches and sat and talked a while, but I could not coax him into broaching the real subject. I knew it must be serious. The next day before starting any afternoon projects I went to his house in fear and trepidation as to what he might be about to ask or demand. He had been thinking he said. He wanted to know if he and I could start each day with prayer and a Bible reading. I tried not to look too surprised or over eager as I asked what time he’d like to do that… “5 am while it’s still dark… and maybe a few others might come.” So, for the last week I’ve hardly slept. With the recent full moon, I keep waking up thinking I’ve slept through my alarm. One cloudy night I went to sleep early forgetting I had set my watch to 10:30 to remind myself not to stay up too late. For 10 minutes I was stumbling around in the dark like a drunken sailor crashing into walls while trying to make my morning coffee. Finally, I realized what time it was. On Saturday I debated sleeping in but hauled myself out of bed anyway to find that about 25 men had showed up. That’s almost 1/4 of the total population. More than half were young adults. Who needs sleep? I’ll sleep when I’m dead. We are aware that there may be more than a few mixed motives, but the Word of God is being heard and men, young and old, are praying. Praise God.
From Asas Ministry Partners in the Rainforest – from a satellite uplink.
Used by permission – names withheld to preserve privacy.