30 June 2012

Peruvians give their all to reach Amazon region for Christ

IQUITOS, Peru (BP) -- Just three days after his wife died, 72-year-old Edison Romero climbed into a cramped wooden boat for a journey down the Amazon. He could have stayed home to mourn, but he took a 12-hour trip from his village to Iquitos, Peru, to attend missions training.

"I just couldn't miss it," Romero said.
The School of Cross-cultural Missions that Romero attends near the city of Iquitos is one of three training centers launched by Peru a las Naciones (Peru to the Nations), a Peruvian Baptist organization. 

Every two months, Romero and about 30 other participants and family members -- ranging from elderly adults to toddlers -- convene outside Bethany Evangelical Baptist Church in Iquitos. They pile into two crude metal buses with their luggage and a half-dozen live chickens for a jarring hour-long ride over a muddy road full of potholes.

When the road ends, the travelers -- loaded down with young children and luggage -- hike barefoot through a swampy mud pit. At the bank of the Nanay River, which flows into the Amazon, they cram into a narrow wooden boat. There's barely breathing room; the air is stifling. Then it's another 45-minute trip downriver to the jungle camp.

After they reach the shore by the camp, they haul their belongings down a dirt path to the wooden cabins -- covered with dried banana leaves and mosquito netting -- that will be home for three days. There's no electricity or hot water. And since there's no refrigeration, the live chickens will provide fresh food each day. The small children must occupy themselves without the help of modern conveniences, toys or physical comforts.

But no one complains.

Leaders of the group are Tommy and Beth Larner, International Mission Board missionaries from Texas. Tommy, who works with Peru a las Naciones, helped to start the training camp. He and Beth lead a team that teaches Bible storying, evangelism techniques, church-planting methods and other missions principles.

Training national believers in missions is crucial to reaching Peru with the Gospel, Tommy said.

"We can't [reach the world] by ourselves. There's just too much to be done," he said. "We could go to an unreached people group. But if I can send a bunch more Peruvians and invest my life in them, I can be more effective sending than I can going."

Cross-cultural missions often implies taking the Gospel to other countries. But the school near Iquitos teaches believers in the Amazon how to effectively share Christ in the many jungle villages throughout Peru.

"These [believers] live in cross-cultural missions," Tommy said. "Their passion is to go deeper and farther into the jungle where the Gospel has not been preached." Read More

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