In the inky darkness, chirping crickets can be heard. Nearby, a river flows between muddy banks, many days’ journey from the sea. The Peruvian Amazon basin makes up 60 percent of the country and contains only 5 percent of its inhabitants. There are few roads. Here, in some of the most remote places on earth, members of indigenous tribes may travel hours by canoe to reach the next village.
Christian missionaries have visited some, but not all, of the tribes in the region. Sometimes they stay to disciple new converts. But often, they can only introduce Jesus and then move on, leaving the rest to God.
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
Most Amazonian tribes have inherited some form of traditional religion from their ancestors. Evangelical missionaries have brought the gospel to some of them, but in the more remote communities, there are still no churches and no pastors.
These communities, often a few dozen houses on stilts in a clearing, have no church building and no local fellowship to join. Those who believe the gospel are the first to depart from the old ways and embrace the light of truth, and there’s nowhere for them to go when they set out on the Christian life. They’re surrounded by the ancient tribal religious ways, with nothing to nurture their newfound faith.
That’s what happened to Arnaldo and Raul, members of the Capanahua tribe. A team of missionaries brought the gospel to their village about a year ago. Arnaldo and Raul believed and received new life in Christ.
“I was overjoyed,” Raul says. “God touched my heart.”
“There’s nowhere for them to go when they set out on the Christian life. They’re surrounded by the ancient tribal religious ways, with nothing to nurture their newfound faith.”
Arnaldo and Raul accepted Christ as their Savior several years ago when missionaries passed through their village. "I was overjoyed," Raul says.
Arnaldo wanted to remember the wonderful event that changed their lives forever. The missionaries were gone. But there’s a sweet sense of family in everyone who carries the indwelling Christ, drawing us to each other through love. In a model reminiscent of the earliest Christian gatherings, he began inviting the other new believers to his home. They spoke of what they had learned, fellowshipped, and rejoiced in the Lord. We would call this a house church. The body of Christ blossomed, bonded together in love, “the perfect bond of unity” (Col. 3:14).
This bond of love is what holds any church together, from a few people to a megachurch 20,000 strong. But in a house church, togetherness takes on a special meaning. To enter someone’s home is to be received in a circle of family and shared trust.
Arnaldo’s meetings expressed the biblical notion of hospitality, with everything that requires: brotherly love, service, generosity. But they had no Bible and no study materials. “Nada, nada,” says Arnaldo. The Word of God exhorts us all to grow in Christ, but this church was bereft of Scripture. Deep in the thick jungle, they kept their faith strong by memory and the Spirit within.
Marcos Costa knows many Christians in this plight. As director of the Aurora Training Center, a ministry facility in the heart of the Peruvian rainforest, he has made it his mission to equip local believers with tools they need to mature in their faith. “How are people going to change if they don’t have the Word of God?” he says. “We need these tools.” And tragically, believers without a Bible are deprived of the deep love and joy that reading Scripture engenders as it brings us closer to the Lord.
Finding a Way
In Touch Ministries is working with Marcos and others like him to distribute devices from the Messenger Lab. Together in “the church that is in their house” (Romans 16:5), even the most isolated recipients can listen to the entire Bible and dozens of sermons. It’s like a pastor, says Marcos. “The Torch functions as preacher, discipler, and comforter … It feeds and edifies. The Lord uses it for everything. It’s the missionary I don’t have.” The Torch currently offers Scripture in six tribal languages of this Amazonian region, and Dr. Stanley’s messages in Spanish. And with its solar-powered lantern, it will even light up those dark jungle nights so the group can pass the evenings together.
Arnaldo pastored his church for a year, always longing for the Word of God. Finally, he and Raul made the journey to Aurora, eight days by motorized canoe, for a church planting seminar. In Touch Ministries would be giving out Torches and micro SD cards in Capanahuan, the heart language of their tribe.
“This is the first time we’ve been given any Christian materials,” Raul said. “Now we finally have a Bible. I feel really good. Very happy.”
At the Aurora Training Center, Christians from regional tribes receive In Touch Torches with the Bible in their own native language and sermons from Dr. Charles Stanley in Spanish.
Around the Amazon basin, small fellowships like Arnaldo’s are appearing, and the Torch helps them flourish. Aurora attendees, many of whom already pastor a church in their own home, were taught how to plant another—just the way Jesus instructed His disciples. “Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it” (Matthew 10:11-13 NIV).
The visiting pastor leaves the Torch with the “man of peace” he has identified. This man takes up the mantle of hospitality and invites the believers for weekly meetings. They listen, learn, and pray as a body, breaking bread and remembering the instruction: “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:25 NIV).
“The Torch functions as preacher, discipler, and comforter … It feeds and edifies. The Lord uses it for everything. It’s the missionary I don’t have.”
—Marcos Costa, Director of the Aurora Training Center
As Marcos tells people like Arnaldo and Raul, wherever two or three are gathered, there is a church. With the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, they can grow strong in their faith and continue to bear fruit for the kingdom. But they need Scripture, “so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17 NIV).
For this, Arnaldo and Raul traveled far on the winding rivers to find the Word of God and bring it home. Now, their little church can rejoice in its life-giving power as they listen together in the Torch’s glow.
Your donations to the In Touch Messenger Lab are helping Christians in remote jungle communities grow in their faith. We may be separated by oceans and continents, but we all serve the same King, Jesus. Let’s help each other stay strong in Him while we await His return.