Those who haven’t heard – in the Amazon

As an introduction to the second survey in this series, I presented a hypothetical situation of an Indian village and a young girl named Ayanna. However, this blog is about a present, real-life situation deep in the Amazon jungle.

Yesterday, my dad forwarded an email update from a missionary that very directly touches on the question, “What about those who haven’t heard?” And because of its timeliness and relevance to the issue, I have decided to post it (below) before addressing this question in light of Romans 10 in the next few days.

Michael Guerink , is a missionary in the Amazon river basin with ABWE. He and his family are giving everything to reach “a large concentration of completely uncontacted Indian tribes and others who have been minimally contacted”  in an area that is “entirely off-limits to outsiders.”

The ABI surveys showed that roughly 25% of the respondents were not persuaded that those who haven’t heard the gospel are certainly lost. If they are correct, this means that there is really no need for the Guerinks or any of the other missionaries to be there, except for humanitarian purposes (which is certainly no small thing itself). In fact, if someone can be saved apart from explicitly trusting in Christ, then these missionaries are doing far more harm than good.

Almost everyone sincerely embraces the religious beliefs of their parents – and by far, most people are relatively good when judged by the norms of their society. However, we also know from the Bible and from experience, that a very small percentage of those who do hear the gospel accept it as true – and even fewer actually receive Christ as Savior. The vast majority of those who hear the gospel, reject it – and virtually everyone except the most liberal among us would suggest that someone can consciously reject Christ and still be saved. So, in very practical terms, if the possibility of salvation exists apart from Christ, then given the percentages, it would be far better to make every effort to make sure that these unreached peoples never hear the gospel.

Michael Guerink’s February Email Update

So, yesterday (Sunday) I stumbled about our hosts’ house at oh dark thirty again, thankfully unmolested by water creatures (see funny story at the end), to read in Proverbs 31:

Raise your voice in favor of those who cannot defend themselves;

Be the defender of all the helpless.

Lift up your voice and judge with justice;

Defend the rights of the poor and the needy.

(my translation from Portuguese)

It just so happened that I was on my way to a meeting to do exactly that. One of the river valleys here in the Amazon is home to a large concentration of completely uncontacted Indian tribes and others who have been minimally contacted, and that river is entirely off limits to outsiders; even anthropologists and researchers have a very hard time getting in there.

The problem is that hundreds of Indians from that river are dying from malaria and hepatitis. Tribes are being absolutely decimated. Five tribes sent representatives out to the border and on Sunday several mission organizations met with them to hear first-hand about the problem (hardly anyone knows about these many deaths – it is kept very quiet). Unfortunately, for whatever reason, (let me word this carefully) government organizations have not succeeded in getting them the health care they need to prevent these deaths.

The tribes know that we mission organizations are ready and willing to go in and help them, and they want to know why we’re not allowed. What was accomplished Sunday was an official invitation from the tribes to us as missionaries and humanitarian aid organizations to enter their territory! This is a huge, very important step!  It does not mean the government will now automatically let us in there, but it’s the first thing that needs to happen towards that goal. This is the best news on that front in a long time.

Raul, the Mayoruna tribe chief who called the meeting, was specifically asking that aviation support be restarted in that area. I told him we’re trying as hard as we can as quickly as funds come in to provide the help needed to keep his people from dying. See his picture attached to this email, and pray for him when you look at it.  He lives 8-9 days away by canoe, a very difficult journey. An airplane would reduce medical emergency evacuation time to a matter of hours.

Raul said in the meeting that he does not know God but he suspects God has forgotten about the Mayoruna and other tribes in that area, and he’s wondering if God thinks enough about them to care for their health in the same way he cares about white people. Wow!!  Doesn’t that just make you want to go in there RIGHT NOW?!  Especially when solutions for water purification to prevent hepatitis are easily obtainable ( and lists of doctors are waiting for the chance to be flown in there to help with malaria treatment.  One thing that’s lacking is an airplane and the funds to run it.

As you know we’re ramping up to meet that need and to do it in a much more economical way than is presently available (our current mission airplane costs about US$250 per hour just in fuel, so $1,000 doesn’t even buy us a round trip in to the Mayoruna!). The first step is the ultralight that we just had to send back to the USA ($$$!!) due to customs problems.  It hurt to do it, but I had to tell Raul that it’s realistically still going to be several years before we can get medical flights going in there even if the authorities do give permission soon.

You can help Raul’s Mayoruna tribe, the Matis, Marubo, Korubo and other as yet uncontacted tribes by praying that this crack in the door would widen significantly, that the funding would come in, that bureaucratic red tape and political opposition would be overcome.  This struggle REALLY is not against flesh and blood!  Pray that our adversary would be defeated as we work to defend the rights of the helpless, as we work to meet their physical health needs which as you can see above is a VERY important first step toward being able to enter with spiritual life and health. (emphasis mine)

OK, here’s the funny story I promised – at least it’s funny later: ever get impaled by a fish in your house?

While I’m galavanting with two of the kids in the Upper Amazon teaching seminary to minimally contacted Indian tribe members who aren’t allowed to have the Word of God taught in their villages (the Iron Curtain fell – maybe it’s the Jungle Wall or something like that) and Katrina is covering the home front downriver in Manaus, Ian and Vivi and I are staying at another missionary family’s house literally about a 30yd swim across the creek from Peru.  They have cats.  I know some of you just cringed, but really I don’t usually have a problem with the cats – it’s what they hunt and bring in the house that I have to subsequently dispose of that’s usually the dealbreaker.

The eastern horizon here usually starts to turn from black to gray around 6:15am, so I’ve been stumbling around in the dark substantially before that to be able to get some quality time with the LORD before the rest of life can build too much momentum.

A couple days ago as I was blindly walking my normal track from the bedroom to the coffeepot, a stabbing pain shot into my foot!  I hobbled over to a light switch feeling something dangling and painfully swinging right from the tender, ticklish part. There’s a kind of fish here in the Amazon that has a big spike sticking out either side of its head and another one straight out the top.  And that’s what the cat had dragged in.

As much pain as I was in pulling a fish out of my foot, the fish was still alive, very wriggledy and loudly complaining – yes, some fish here squeal and growl at you.  And all the time the cat was looking on with pride, wondering if I was happy with his special present. So starts another day in the Amazon.

Oh, one more thing – very exciting!  At this meeting with the tribal chiefs from the restricted area I sat next to a very non-Ticuna looking Colombian lady.  It was a huge surprise to hear her ask another lady for water in quite passable Ticuna! I asked in my not-quite-passable Spanish (Portunhol as we call it here) how she learned Ticuna.  Turns out she (Danilba) and her husband Jhon and little 4-year-old Sara-Sofia are Colombian New Tribes missionaries to the Ticuna and are in the middle of language training. I thought we were the only ones! Pray for them!  They don’t have electricity or potable water.  I’d love to get them set up with at least a water purification system run by a solar panel.  That’s about a US$2,000 project.  It would also provide clean water for their entire community (emphasis mine), Guanabara 3, about an hour canoe-ride downriver from where we will be living to learn Ticuna. It will be so nice to have neighbors going through the same things for love of God and the Ticuna!  In about a month we’ll be back in this area; we’ll visit them and let you know how you can help.



Perhaps some of our readers would be interested in being part of the Guerink’s ministry in meeting the physical and spiritual needs of these unreached people.

And I hope that you will continue to follow this important blog series.

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