When Churches and Pastors Reject Mission

shuarA man leaves a small village and starts his journey to Quito, Ecuador.  He has to walk for 8 hours, catch a small plane for a two-hour flight, and then get on a bus for 10 hours.  He arrives at the big city and begins searching for someone to take up the work he’s been doing with a couple of Shuar Indian Tribes in the Jungle.  His name is José and he has high hopes that he will find someone with a heart for mission, someone who’s willing to “go the extra mile” to bring the good news, and someone who can continue the work of making disciples.  He spends a few days in Quito visiting various churches and speaking with many Pastors, but finds no one who is even disposed to entertain the idea.

Jose is half Venezuelan and half Columbian.  Through an unfortunate set of circumstances, he has to leave his work with the Shuar.  But, he is being a faithful steward of those whom God has placed under his care by trying to find someone to carry on.  In all, there are 32 newly baptized believers in two tribes who will be without leadership at a critical time in their spiritual development.  José explained that the Shuar are deeply religious and faithful to their Shamans.  To receive Christ and be baptized is considered a great break from tradition and without a constant and an able christian presence, most will return to their Shamans (Witch Doctors) within 3 months.
José leaves the big city of Quito having been rejected by every church and every pastor.  They send him to “The Camp.”  The Camp is the area where we work.  The camp is very rural, peppered with poverty, and often inconvenient for daily living.  José gets on another bus and heads to Los Bancos.  Los Bancos is a fairly large and mostly modern town about 20 minutes by car from where we live.  Again, José begins searching for someone to take over his work in the Jungle.  After a half day there, and culminating with the pastor of a very vibrant church, José continues to be rejected and finds no one who will even entertain the possibility of carrying on his mission.
The people in Los Bancos direct him to Mindo, the town in which we live.  He finds a pastor and asks him if he would consider visiting the two tribes and taking over the work, but this particular pastor begins to interrogate him and assumes a posture of hostility.  Unsatisfied with José’s answers the pastor rejects the proposition and sends him to yet another pastor here in Mindo. 
Jose has been traveling for 5 days and has found no one who has the slightest interest in this mission opportunity.  Oh! and José is not a man with many resources.  He left his village with just enough funds for a one way trip and a bit of food.  He’s been sleeping where he can and depending on the Lord for provision. This other pastor receives José with kindness and as a brother in Christ, but also rejects his proposition and won’t even entertain the idea. 
This pastor sends him to yet another pastor, a pastor who works with us.  It’s now Sunday, and José finds himself congregating with our local fellowship.  He senses something different and finds a group of highly motivated missional people.  They embrace José, pray with him, eat with him, worship together, and take up an offering to send José back to his village.  This time José and his mission aren’t rejected, but accepted as an opportunity to demonstrate faithfulness.  No firm commitments have been made other than we will seek the Lord’s will and present ourselves as available to act.  Several of our tribe have expressed a great interest in visiting soon the tribes with whom José has been working.
José also shared with us that the Shuar people in his region are very protective of the land and their people.  One of the ways they “test” visitors is by preparing a completely indigenous meal which may include an assortment of things considered difficult to eat.  If you eat what is set before you, then you are welcomed into the community.  If you don’t, or can’t, then you will be given a certain amount of hours to leave the area or be under the threat of death.
I have worked with the Shuar people before and other than suffering a  chigger infestation, I found them to be a humble and receptive people.  It was a blessed endeavor and a privilege.  I’m hoping to be able to participate in some fashion with José and these tribes. 
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    1. Wow… Just wow…

      Of course my first reaction is profound admiration for Jose’ and equally profound disdain for those “prideful, selfish, religious, un-Christlike” pastors that he encountered before arriving in Mindo.

      But then I think about what I would have done… As “missional” as I presume myself to be, how far out of the way is “too far?” How much of an imposition on limited time and resources is “too much?” When is it healthy and appropriate to say “no” and when is “no” a cop-out? And if God doesn’t answer the questions I pray in a distinct “James Earl Jones” voice, will I recognize the difference between His voice and the voice of my will and my agenda?

    2. Wow. How awesome to see the Lord at work and to see His servants respond

      I pray for wisdom and protection and discernment. May God guide you all and provide the right pastor for these people.

    3. Miguel, good friends of mine, Jim and Debbie Shoberg, served with Avant among the Shuar for a number of years, somewhere near the town of Shell. My impression is that they left as a healthy Shuar church network was in place. They are now church planting in a suburb of Paris. Jim’s email is: [email protected]. Perhaps the Shobergs can direct you to some other contacts among the Shuar.

    4. Miguel, I love you two so much for going where others won’t. People don’t hang with me in the camps of the homeless, so I do understand somewhat. But there is no comparison to the isolation and effort you two make every day. Keep laying it out there. I’m working on containers for your neighborhood, the financing first. Hopefully before Christmas. Big money in my neighborhood with worldwide influence, but has to be approached with care. Hopefully I can get someone to help get some of my inventions off the shelf, and into the market, for temporary financing. You two have a wonderful ministry that inspires so many to get off the fence and into the game, by discipling as Jesus did. Oh, and for water systems, Rotary International distributes many. My design is going to the Gold Coast. Everything can be made from industrial waste, and discarded tin or whatever. Hopefully someone there can help these people. The superstition in Central and South America is discouraging. The Lord has blessed you with a real big job, as he has blessed us all. You guys amaze me. Love you both.

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