Worthy Christian News » Christian » Indian Tribes Form Alliance To Evangelize All the Tribes of the Amazon Basin
By Dan Wooding
April 20, 2001
FILADELFIA, AMAZONAS, BRAZIL (ANS) - Ticuna missionary Eli Leao, executive head of OMITTAS, the Ticuna tribal missionary organization, announced the formation of an agreement between OMITTAS and the Matses pastors of Peru, to launch a joint effort to evangelize all the "wild" Indians of the Javary Rover valley, the divide between Brazil and Peru in the remotest part of the Amazon jungles.
This news was announced by Dr. Dale Kietzman, founder and president of Latin American Indian Ministries (L.A.I.M.), a group which is committed to encourage, strengthen and support the indigenous communities of Latin American in their efforts to evangelize and disciple their own people.
Dr. Kietzman, who is also a founding board member of ASSIST Ministries, said that fifty years ago, the Matses of Peru were one of those "wild" tribes, known as the unapproachable Mourns, or Cat people (they implanted black sticks around their mouths, making them look like whiskered cats), who resisted all outside contacts.
"It took the brave efforts of some single ladies from Wycliffe Bible Translators, who simply sat up camp in the area and then waited months for the Indians to approach them. This led to the breakthrough for the Gospel and the eventual translation of the New Testament in Matses. Now there are organized churches in five villages, led by their own pastors.
"This new agreement is the unexpected result of the Spirit-inspired goal of the Ticuna believers in Brazil to reach every tribal group in the Amazon with the Gospel. They formed their own mission agency, OMITTAS, in 1990, and have since been strategizing on how to accomplish that goal. After some initial attempts to train their young people, they came in contact with Marius Peyre, the L.A.I.M. representative in South America, who relayed their need for a permanent location.
"Actually, there was a missionary-owned property abandoned by a Korean missionary organization, that left the area partially because of the opposition of the Brazilian government's Indian program which allows no evangelizing activities in Indian areas."
Dr. Kietzman then made contact with the Korean organization and the Brazilian Presbyterian Church, which resulted in the transfer of this property to OMITTAS in December 1990.
"At the first session of their missionary training program in January, 2000, they had 80 students," said Dr. Kietzman. "But they had so many health and logistic problems with that first session, they had to close after one month, because they had run out of food and were having health problems, mostly because of the run-down facilities they were using. They are now in the process of rebuilding the whole complex.
"In the meantime, a group of the Ticuna leaders made a missionary trip up the Javary River. They checked in at the government Indian service control point, but encountered no problem because they were Indians. For them, the Javary was really unevangelized territory, and they made successful contact with eight small tribal groups. They had a good reception in each encounter, and were able to communicate the Gospel."
Dr. Kietzman, who was previously the U.S. Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators, went on to say that the chief in one place even got on board in order to be able to introduce the missionaries to the next group upstream!
"OMITTAS had another month-long training session in January this year," he said. "Attendance was nearly doubled from a year ago, with 130 students from five different tribes. Since the students also came from Peru and Colombia, where the national language is Spanish, and from Brazil, which speaks Portuguese, the classes had to be broken down among three language groups -- including instruction in Ticuna, the mother tongue of the largest group of students and teachers.
"Most interesting to me was the attendance of six Matses church leaders from the Peruvian side of the Javary River. These are the men that have now joined in the vision of the Ticuna leaders to reach out with the Gospel to the smaller tribes with whom they are in contact.
"Over the past couple of years, Marius Peyre's efforts have focused on the Ticuna Indians, an ethnic group found in the Amazon jungles, just where the countries of Brazil, Colombia and Peru come together. There are probably 45,000 Ticunas in the three countries, with the largest group in Brazil."
Dr. Kietzman said that Marius has been the key person in getting the Ticunas land for the Institute, helping them set up a computer (with E-mail connections) at the tribal office in the town of Benjamin Constant, rebuilding the classrooms and dormitories for the school, and in a variety of smaller projects.
"Now he has tackled a more complex project: He wants to give all the 136 Ticuna villages a clean water source as a primary step in improving their general health situation," he said. "This involves drilling wells, for which he needed a drilling rig. He secured the loan of Lifewater's portable well drilling rig located in Ecuador. It was flown directly to Brazil on an MAF plane. Lifewater sent well drilling specialists from Ecuador and the United States to train a Ticuna crew to operate the rig. If the first wells are successful, Lifewater International has promised to give the Ticunas a well drilling rig of their own."
Dr. Kietzman said that Eli Leao has already incorporated this possibility into his strategy for the Javary valley. "The Brazilian government does allow humanitarian work among the Indian communities, so they will be there to drill water wells -- while they also present the source of Living Water," he said.
For further information, you can contact Dr. Dale Kietzman or Rev. Marius Peyre at L.A.I.M., Box 41179, Pasadena, CA, 91114, or by phone at (626) 398-2105 or on their website at www.LAIM.org.