Our planes come and go, year after year, to the little grass fields in the “road-free” jungle. As pilots, so often our minds are necessarily absorbed with all the technical details of loads, limits, range, reserves, and what-ifs to safely transport our precious cargo, God’s VIPs who partner with us. This makes it gratifying to hear occasionally from those partners – the news from those who live and serve in that jungle – and we asked for their permission to share this story with you.
“If we are honest, we all find challenges to our integrity along the dusty way in this complicated world. When it rains the dust is a sticky mud. Jonatas* was facing serious challenges as he hitched a ride up the river in the same boat (literally and figuratively) with the others coming to the meeting just before Christmas. Jonatas was the teacher from Paraiso, also struggling along in the dust and mud. I do understand the desperation of their situations. I’ve paddled a canoe around these rivers long enough and far enough to know the true value of a gallon of gasoline. One gallon in the right engine will take your canoe farther in an hour than you can go paddling all day long. Once you’ve smelled the sweet aroma of power that is the internal combustion engine, it is almost inconceivable to go back. My colleague says, “An engine is a time machine.” And Time is… no, not money! It’s meat in your pot, thatch on your roof, crops in a field beyond the reach of thieves, and influence over your neighbors. With a time machine, you move straight to the top. Yes, the Yimeni of the rainforest have discovered the secret of time travel and they are not willing to give it up. Would you? It’s nothing new. A hundred years or more ago a man held the first steel ax in Yimeni-land. A field cleared – almost yesterday alone – shone in his eyes. …and the instant death of his enemies lurked in the shadows of his mind.
Jonatas is a skilled teacher and, for many years, he had a paid government contract to teach in the Paraiso school. …He had time machines for everything. The last time I went on an extended hunting trip with him, it was in his boat with his motor and mostly his gasoline. He was good-naturedly teasing me throughout. Is THAT the puny tarp you brought? You only have 6 fish hooks on your trotline? It works better if it goes all the way across the river like this one. That’s your flashlight? No, No, let ME take a picture of YOU. By the end of the week, I was quite sure I’d been left far behind in the dust of the rat race …that race I thought I had gotten out of long ago.
Happily, Jonatas did not let his affluence go too much to his head, and he did not walk away from his faith. He used his skills and affluence as tools for the kingdom. He used that newfound spare time to study God’s word and teach in the Yimeni church. By the end of our years there in Paraiso, I had no qualms admitting that a good portion of my spiritual sustenance was coming from Sunday mornings when Jonatas was in the pulpit of that Yimeni church. But then came the proverbial rainy-day. There was no more contract, then the conflict with outsiders brought an end to free travel on the river and easy access to gasoline. The boat and outboard motor were stolen. The other little time machines began to wear out and sputter to a halt too. I wondered if Jonatas could hold firm.
He had come with the rest of a crew to discuss another outsider research proposal that promised cash. Was he now a fan of outsider big-money solutions? On the first days I saw some proof to the contrary. Yimeni visitors have lots of rights when they arrive in a distant village, but Jonatas was not exercising all of them. He made few demands of his Yimeni hosts or of us. He hunted and fished to help supplement the pot. He asked for work instead of a handout. Enthusiastically, he took up a pick and shovel when he saw an opportunity to earn some cash. …not just to replace his own aging gear, but to also buy goods for his wife and children! This was not typical Yimeni visitor behavior. The teacher spent 10 days digging ditches and excavating a hillside by hand. He was exemplary in his actions and conversations with the people of Badu despite being unaccompanied by wife or relative. I already knew the answers before we asked what he thought of the meetings -most of which he had missed. He said, “I don’t think I’m going to get involved with the research grant. There are too many falsehoods being mixed in with what they are trying to say and want to hear.” He said he would continue to farm his land, and he would be involved working and organizing the community cocoa project, but he did not want to be a part of the movements to go back to the old ways or mixing the old into the new. We all were amazed at his ability, due to his time spent in God’s Word, to see through all the spin. Truth cannot be mixed with falsehood and remain true. The lie only becomes more sinister and effective. *Given a choice between A, B, C, and D (none of the above), Jonatas had made a choice from off the script. He chose God’s truth.
When Sunday morning came, Jonatas stepped to the front of our little Badu church body and spoke. His message – to some – a politically incorrect nightmare. I, however, know the group Jonatas was talking to and how it was in this village just a few years ago. I was there when the old man with his hooked bush ax set out in search of his teenage wife hiding in the jungle…”
…God’s story in Jonatas’ life is still being written! If you feel led to invest in changed lives, like that of Jonatas, please consider giving to help fuel the flights that support these brothers and sisters in Christ.
*All names changed to protect privacy