Monday, August 11, 2014

The struggles of a Christian in the jungle

Copataza as it sits on the Pastaza River
Recently I had the opportunity to bring a caravan into the community of Copataza.  I'd been in Copataza about a year and a half ago and had related how a small church was thriving there and how the church leader, Pedro, was from Copataza and had a calling to serve his people up and down the Pastaza River.  Since that time I'd communicated with him from time to time but hadn't spoken to Pedro since we'd left on furlough.  Needless to say I was excited to see him again and hear how the Lord had been using him.

Heading to Copataza from Achuar

On the day that we were to fly in I learned that he'd moved to another community so I didn't think that I'd get to see him.  It would still be a few days before we arrived in Copataza as we were going to spend a few days in Achuar first.  When we did finally arrive in Copataza and as we were unloading our gear from the plane one of Pedro's daughter came up to me to greet me. I told her how excited I was to get to see her, as I'd heard that she and her family had moved to another community.  What she said floored me.  Pedro had apparently left his wife and daughters for another woman and moved to another community.  Pedro's estranged wife was not in Copataza but was in the hospital in Puyo with complications from her current pregnancy.  Pedro's brother, Pablo, and his wife were taking care of Pedro's girls while their mother was in Puyo, all eight of them.

Examining a 'patient' in Achuar - a little wild pig that was 'rescued' by an Achuar family.

In the Achuar culture it's not uncommon for men to have more than one wife and Pedro badly wanted a son.  Frustrated that he was the father of eight girls, with another one on the way, it was too much for him and he left.  What he left behind was a family in shatters and a very real testimony to the community of what sin can do in our lives.  How do you tell his disillusioned children that this is all part of God's plan for them?  How do you tell a community that is already skeptical about Christians that He is in control?  These were things going through my mind as I tried to take it all in.

Pedro's daughter and I, taken during a happier time several years ago.
I'd like to say that I had all of the right things to say and was able to bring them all closer to God, but I didn't.  All I could think to do was spend some time with them and pray with them.  Kids in the jungle are very stoic and don't share their feelings often so I never could hear what they were really thinking.  I did try to remind them of God's perfect plan for each of us and that He was never far, especially when we're faced with the realities of life.  I also reminded them that we would be praying for them and their family (especially their father, Pedro).

I did get to spend a lot of time talking to Pedro's brother, Pablo, who was tasked with trying to provide for his small family in addition to helping out Pedro's wife and daughters.  What was worrisome to me was seeing how burdened Pablo was and hearing some of the struggles that he was facing.  Pablo has two young daughters but had lost a son a few years back from a drowning in the Conambo river.  The boy had been his first and only son and Pablo was still definitely grieving.  My fear was that he might follow his older brother's footsteps and leave his current family, as having sons in the Achuar culture is very important.  Being a somewhat new Christian I was worried that he didn't have a strong body of believers to fall back on.  I reminded him that we would keep him in our prayers but left Copataza with a heavy heart.

Reach Beyond missionary nurse Linda McFarland taking the temperature of a young Achuar girl with a severe kidney infection in the community of Achuar

A week after we left Copataza, Pablo and his wife came to Shell and were able to share a meal together in our home.  We gave them some of Sebastiao and Bella's clothes and I took Pablo to Puyo to buy him a new fishing net so he could have an easier time feeding his family.  They were grateful and vowed to stop by again the next time that they were in Shell.  They left the next day and we're eager to hear how they're doing.

Please pray for Pablo and his family and that the Lord may provide for them and fill them with his grace to get them through this difficult time.  Please pray for Pedro and his estranged family and especially for his daughters as they try to understand all of this.  And especially pray for the community of Copataza as it tries to reconcile Pedro's struggles with what they've heard about Christ.  Some have mentioned that they didn't want to be a Christian if Christians lived the way Pedro did.  Ouch!

Recently I've heard rumors that Pedro has left this other woman and is trying to reconcile with his family in Copataza.  I hope that this is the case but I've also heard that this other woman had already given birth to a child fathered by Pedro.  No one could tell me what sex the baby was but I wouldn't be surprised if it was another girl.


  1. Thank you for sharing your journey and we will also pray for this family.

  2. How about minding your own business. Many thousands of people have been murdered and raped in the America's in the name of Christianity. Stop it. Just, stop it. Do your charitable medical work. That's great. Don't colonize minds.