Recently I had lunch with a friend who has been working for years to launch an aviation ministry in the Amazon.
“In my observation the church is working hard at bringing the gospel to the river people of the Amazon Basin who live within one day’s boat ride of the major cities here. And then it kind of stops.”
I opened Google Earth, and drew a circle that has a 100 mile radius / 160 km radius around each major city, thinking that an average river boat might get that far in one day. Outside of these circles my friend says there is significantly less knowledge of the gospel.
These places are hard to get to, hard to live in, and you might wonder if it is worth it.
“How small do you think a community is before the people no longer matter? What if there are 2 or 3 families living way up a creek? Do they count?”
I remember flying over the jungle with Luke Huber, in his ultra-light. We lifted off the river, flew over a stretch of jungle. Hidden in the jungle was a creek with a few stilt houses. Luke yelled at me over the roar of the engine,“I didn’t know people were living out here. We need to get out here with the gospel.”
I thought, “Really? You just get a boat and show up at somebody’s place with the gospel?” Since I was new to Brazil I filed my thoughts away on a back shelf. As time went on I realized we actually can do this. Many people receive us and our message gratefully. The bottle-neck for us became how to train the workers. With great effort we got to some remote locations to start a church with a key family and developed a support network for that little group. The key family learns from the teacher who lives in the city, and the others learn from the key family.
Two challenges we encounter are:
1. How to maintain a sufficient support links to a city church.
2. If the key family moves to another location the church often ceases to exist.
This is where Discovery Bible Studies may really shine.
In a Discovery Group (1) everyone changes something in their lives each week because of the gospel, and (2) everyone has a spiritual conversation in a natural way each week with an acquaintance. Weekly the Discoverers (disciples) share their experiences with each other. Imagine the potential. These people get to experience the joy of a daily, personal walk with God. This is different than hearing someone teach and trying to obey that person’s council about how it works. This is more about everyone connecting with God and interacting with what they are learning.
Jesus says the bottle-neck is laborers. In my experience laborers don’t usually have all the finances and the big picture figured out. They are the disciplined people who get up early, put their work boots on, make their lunch, and go do what they can all day long.
When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38).
We know that in God’s economy spreading the gospel to everyone in the Amazon is within reach. I suspect God has many people willing to give their lives to a career that is deeply satisfying. Imagine the books and stories that will come from the group that reaches into these remote locations.
So for you, if you are interested . . . are you willing to bring your loaves and sardines to Jesus?
Imagine if this was true, if it really was this simple. What if, in a act of obedience, we brought our little selves to Jesus, believing that He could do amazingly impossible things?
1. What would be your next step? And if the Lord encouraged you on, what would be your next step after that? What would you have to actually do?
2. What is the risk? What would it cost you?
3. What is the potential gain, in this world and in the next?
4. Are you willing to take your next step?