- Written by Tom Miles Tom Miles
- Created: August 04 2014 August 04 2014
Today was a work day. We've each found our place on the construction team and are busy on our respective projects. The walls and floors are coming along nicely now that everyone knows what they're doing. Tim doesn't feel like he has to be on top of every project quite as much to be sure that things are being done properly.
It's a day of work and worship. After dinner, we went back to the church to worship again with the congregation of Nueva Palestina. The church's worship leader spoke words of blessing and encouragement to us and the congregation in Spanish. Occasionally we had a translator to clue us in on what was going on. Often, it was just a matter of trying to keep up with the “Amens” and joining in on the song verses with “alleluias” in them. And, of course, joining the congregation for a round (no pun intended) of dancing before leaving the church.
A shocking eighty percent of the people of Nueva Palestina are Christians. They have no more alcohol or tobacco sales in the village because of it. This congregation and others in even more remote regions of Peru, up the Ucayali River, owe much of their continued existence to the ministry of Ricardo Hidalgo and the outreach of the El Evangelista. These people have been serving the “forgotten people of Peru” for many years. Ricardo seeks to deepen their conviction as Christians while spreading the gospel into ever-more remote areas. They use their boat to deliver pastors, like Roger, from place to place, bring special cargo, like water filters or floorboards, and carry mission team, like us, to work at and interact with the villages.
One of Ricardo's mission crew members, Betsi, shared with us a little bit about how this works while she made bracelets with us on Sunday. The Shipibo people, like many other American indigenous people, have a strong oral tradition. They learn the stories of their past, the stories that tell them who they are and who they should be, through drama—recitation and repetition. To reach them with the gospel, the missionary doesn't bring Bibles, she or he brings the words and an ability to share them in an engaging manner. She told us the first chapter of Job, word-for-word, in Spanish. She says that the most important thing is to "be part of the story"—which is pretty good advice, whether you're sharing the gospel or living it.
We are helping them accomplish this project by our work on the 100' × 30' training and community center. Ricardo and the village of Nueva Palestina will use it to bring in thirty to forty people four times a year to learn how to spread the gospel up the Ucayali River.
El Evangelista comfortably (sort-of) sleeps forty or so people and the crew. We have been eating all of our meals in the kitchen area of the boat, which is on the upper level. Chicken and rice, which seems to be the food that fuels mission teams around the world, was on the menu nearly every day, but we have also had fried fish, egg casserole sandwiches and pancakes. Every evening we have a little time to hang out in the kitchen area for cards or conversation or up on the roof to enjoy some quiet and an amazing view of the Southern-Hemisphere stars.
“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness”, “mercy”, “loyalty”, “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself”, active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?