Getting to Charapillo was an adventure. We flew to Lima, then took a flight to Tarapoto. From there, we took a two-hour van ride to Alianza and an hour ride on motocars (a cross between a motorcycle, a rickshaw and a tricycle) to Alfonso Ugarte, where we served for two days. Then, the trip to Charapillo began with another 45 minute motorcar ride to the trailhead, and then two and a half hours hiking through mud and multiple river crossings. We had our camping gear to bring as well as our medical supplies. Thankfully, many of the villagers helped, and we arrived in Charapillo. We were truly near the ends of the earth. We had a team spend a few hours there last fall, but we were the first to stay there. We spent the day serving there. The next day, we went to another village we had heard about, Nueva San Martin, the travel included another two-hour hike through the swamps.
It was clear that this was a different place. Very few people knew Spanish. We talked to most through two translators: English to Spanish, then Spanish to Shawi. When we tried to provide some medical care, they were very wary. No one had ever provided medical care in their village and most of them never took the long journey to the closest clinic, at least a 4-hour walk away. It’s as if no one had ever asked them questions about their health before. At the end of each encounter, we would offer to pray for them and quickly discovered that they didn’t really know what prayer was. Sharing Christ was difficult because the whole concept was new to them. They had truly never heard the good news of Jesus.
We were able to treat about one hundred people in our time there. I was content that we had loved them as Jesus commanded and planted some seeds that someday would bear spiritual fruit. As it began to get late, my thoughts turned to the hike back to Charpillo, the rain storm that had come through earlier that afternoon, and the desire not to have to take that trail through the mud and rivers in the dark.
However, the Lord had something more in store before we left. We gathered the community to thank them for their hospitality to us, to say good-bye, and pray for them. They were very grateful and open to us. Our partner, Wilkinson, took the opportunity to briefly share the gospel. To our delight, about 20 young people responded to the call to give their lives to Christ! I know this is just a beginning and that much more work needs to be done to develop disciples in this community, but it has begun. As we work with pastor Wilkinson to train and send a church planter back there soon, we know that the Lord is at work and that one day there will be worshipers of the one true God in Nueva San Martin.
This experience reminds me that the Great Commission is still not finished. There truly are entire people groups who have never heard of the God who loves them and gave himself for them. There are many places we can go in missions and plenty of needs around the world, but we need to have special urgency to take they message to those who have never heard. The good news is that we know it will happen. Matthew 24:14 says “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, then the end will come.” The question is, will we be a part of it?