Peru: How apostolic courage transforms jungle villages | 14Set2011 13:04:21


Peruvian schoolteacher Jaime Gomez and his wife, Telma, gave their hearts to Jesus in 1969 through the influence of Baptist missionaries who came from the United States to the Amazon town of Yurimaguas. After Jaime's conversion, he felt a strong call to ministry, yet he knew he did not have the power to be a witness. A few days later, after seeing a vision of God touching his mouth, Jaime was overcome by heavenly power and spoke in tongues for six straight days.

Today, the Smyrna of Peru Christian Mission Association has 160 churches, many in hard-to-reach villages in Peru's Amazon jungle. The Gomezes, now in their 60s, offer an example of authentic apostolic courage. Jaime, a slight, almost frail-looking man with a tender smile, doesn't brag about any of the hardships he has faced in ministry, including two arrests by Marxist terrorists in the 1980s. Guerrillas held a gun to his head both times, but decided not to kill him. After those close calls with death, he and his wife began to systematically disciple believers in Tarapoto because they realized that most evangelicals had shallow faith and weren't fulfilling the Great Commission.

After they built one strong church they began to reach out to nearby cities. They often faced demonic opposition because of the entrenched witchcraft in mountain areas. They also had to overcome insurmountable obstacles in reaching Indian villages that have no roads. To reach the indigenous town of Santa Sofia, for example, the Gomezes and their team had to take a difficult two-day boat ride through the jungle. When they arrived the residents were totally open to the gospel and embraced the faith. Today the whole town is Christian.

Another distant Indian settlement was led by a patriarchal chief who had seven wives. Like many other Peruvian villages in that area, Parinari was dominated by an alcoholic drink called masato. It is made by women who chew chunks of yucca root, spit the juice into bowls and then ferment the liquid for days. When the missionaries came, they were expected to drink the masato. It is considered rude if you don't. But it paid off: today the town's entire population of 383 attends church, and the local pastor Jaime and Telma trained has broken the cycle of polygamy by modeling Christian marriage to one wife.

Source: Jaime and Telma Gomez, Lee Grady

Joel News International 749  |  14 October 2010
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