This is part two of a series we are doing on our most recent trip to the jungle. If you haven't seen part one yet, please feel free to click here in order to read it.
In January of 2012 I had the blessing of a seven hour journey to Calleria, one of the many Shipibo communities scattered throughout Peru. So when our boat glided into the inlet of Junin Pablo, I already had a small expectation of what might come. I could see the thatched roofs peeking at me over the hilltop. I could see the little children running down to see who or what might be on the boat.
It all felt very familiar, which was surreal.
I, Shaun Wissmann, am used to gliding into village inlets deep in the jungle of Peru… weird.
As we unloaded the boat, Rafael and Marcial began shaking the hands of several men. This was their native home, their birthplace. More than likely, more than half the community was in some manner, a relative of theirs.
The church leaders of “Iglesia Evangelica Misionera Esmirna Junin Pablo” welcomed us one by one, and then shouldered our bags for us, as we walked together to where we would be staying. It was good to see familiar faces, from people I have known for almost two years.
We had arrived extremely early, as in we woke the roosters up early, so breakfast was yet to be prepared. We would feast on a purple potato.
How would I describe eating a purple potato?
Do you remember when Heinz decided that it would be cool to make green, purple, blue, or mystery colored Ketchup? Did you ever try that? It brings about a weird stirring in your stomach. “I know this is ketchup buuutttttt…….”
It is the same thing with the potato.
Around 11, when the sun was shining with a personal vendetta against us, our team of 18 broke up into groups. Led around by at least one member of the church from Junin Pablo, they would try to get in touch with 800+ people that lived in the community. Meanwhile Mark and I would be sitting under a tree talking with the various pastors and leaders of the church. Trust me, the scorching heat was the better alternative. In Junin Pablo the mosquitos aren’t that bad. Nope, the people of Junin Pablo actually fight something worse- nasty horsefly looking things which would probably scare a vampire. And to them, we were imported meat. A man-sized, living, breathing, never before seen delicacy.
As we talked to the leaders and became a late morning snack for the devil bugs, the teams were making headway in sharing Love.
Of the many stories I could share from that day, I wanted to focus on two that impacted me:
1.) There is a corner of Junin Pablo, which is known throughout the community to be a “very dark place.” It is a tucked away place in the shadows, which most people only visit for very specific purposes- witch purposes. Rafael and his group were in an unavoidable collision course with this dark corner, and he knew it. So much so, that he tried everything possible to find an excuse not to go. Yet, Javier, spurred them on.
“Let’s go guys.”
So, although the sun shone overhead, heating their backs, they walked into this bleak place.
Ironically, as they crossed the threshold of darkness, Mark had just received his “nombre prestado,” or given name, in Shipibo. He would be known as Biritsoma (Bee-writ-soh-ma). It translates to mean, “a brilliant light that is received and given.”
Anyway, the team walked and went to various homes. One of those homes happened to be a relative of Raphael- his grandfather.
Yes, you read that correctly- Raphael’s grandfather was a witch.
Hence the hesitation of Raphael. He was about to share Jesus with his witch grandfather. Fortunately Raphael was obedient to God, even though he had expectations of resistance, or some sort of explosive spiritual collision.
After a short conversation with Raphael, his grandfather, the witch, accepted Jesus.
Just like that.
This new man was now another “Birtisoma.”
2.) This second story is a little bit more personal.
Visit after visit, the groups found that the residents of Junin Pablo were discouraged.
People felt alone and forgotten.
As Mark and I talked with the leaders, they echoed the sentiments of the community. “We feel alone.” “We feel discouraged.” “We feel forgotten.”
My natural question was, “WHY???”
Why does this community feel so alone?
The leaders were upfront with us. In 20 years the only time people come to “encourage” them is if “Iglesia Evangelica Misionera Esmirna Junin Pablo” pays the way of the person. And rather than stay with them for any amount of time, to get to know them or help disciple them, “the person preaches and then leaves.”
No wonder everyone feels discouraged and forgotten.
That day, just like Mark, I received my nombre prestado. It is Semensoi, (Say-men-sew-e)or “smooth and complete.” It is a name in reference to a work completed through labor, sweat, and toil.
As they described my name to me, I looked at the faces of the leaders. I looked at the eyes. The wrinkles. How they held their children. I saw me, and my family in the faces of those people. I saw me, as I watched a father playing with his daughter.
I guess they too saw something in me that day when they gave me my name. Maybe they looked into my eyes. Maybe they saw my heart that aches when I hear of people that feel alone. I can’t stand that feeling.
As those stupid devil bugs bit me raw, and the leaders spoke, I was reminded time and time again why a finished work is so important. I was reminded of why those that feel forgotten, can not be forgotten anymore.
“WE can’t allow our brothers and sisters, entire communities, to feel forgotten and alone. We can’t just come here once,” I thought to myself.
Even as I write this reflection, I realize, something must be done.
I want them to feel loved and supported, as I feel loved and supported.
It is true- I am Semensoi, and I want to see this work completed.