Entries in discipleship (24)


Deep, Deep in the Jungle: Part Two

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.


Junin Pablo

 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.

 Moving on.

 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.”

Cool right? 

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.  







A Testimony from the Chaney Family

The Chaney family came down with the Soma team, led by our friend Christi.  Here is a quick, transparent, testimony, from Cynthia and Jacob's perspective of how God impacted their family through their time here in Peru:

"Peru 2013 had life changing impacts at the ChaneyHouse! Since starting a family 7 years ago we have been supporters of missions, but have not gone on any trips. First we had to come to a different understanding about short term trips being self serving. We had a great conversation with the missionaries about this while there. "Would it be more beneficial for your mission for us to come here or to send the money it costs us to do it?" , we asked. Mark Burgess is a direct kinda guy so we knew he would answer us honestly. He explained that there are a lot of different currencies: monetary, relational, intellectual, spiritual, emotional. Short term teams can offer these things depending on the team and God's plan. This was a point of view we had not considered.

We knew we were going to be working outside of the ministries God called us to. As health care providers this produced questions concerning the efficient use of Gods funds and our time. But God showed us plainly that He will not be boxed in to our plans. Go figure...:)

After the first day, Jacob was discouraged. Day 2 his heart was heavily contemplative as we went to the port at Pucalpa and he met Larry, a homeless guy. He called out to Jacob and came up to speak to him. He was struck by something Larry said and perceived it as a spiritual message for him. "Thank you for coming to Peru" probably the only English Larry knew:). Jacob says this "woke him up and gave him peace" concerning the decision to come to Peru. This set the tone for the rest of the trip. He and Shaun prayed for Larry and many more Peruvians gathered to see and Receive prayer. Amazing!

Jacob really connected with JD,another guy on our team, while working together doing building projects "Peruvian style." Caleb, our 7 year old son, got some insight into how spoiled he is and hopefully that will stick! He trooped through WITHOUT whining and complaining. I was very proud of him.

Many times I could see seeds being planted in his sweet little heart. He made great friends with the Burgess boys too. Our team planted 180 fruit bearing trees, taught a first aid class to the students at the discipleship school, did various building and maintenance projects including building a shelter for the children's church in the slum.

Now home were so inspired by the "missional communities" that we started hosting a Life Group. We are also learning Spanish at dinner every night preparing for our return in 2014.

Missions: GO or GIVE but do something. You'll be a blessing and be blessed too."


Welcome to Rehab

Last week was an especially difficult week. Judah was sick which means Amanda and I slept less than our norm of “poco.” I have also been working a lot, and even though I try to work from a place of rest, I often end up feeling burnt out. Such is life with a baby.

So when last Friday came about I was pretty worn out. In a normal job I probably would have used a vacation or sick day to regroup.  Instead I had to teach.  

Before starting the teaching session I thought it would be worthwhile for everyone to say one thing that they were grateful for. In some ways, that was more for me.  I knew I needed to remind myself why I should have some joy. After all, Judah had just finished screaming in my face for 10 minutes because he couldn’t pass some wind.  

So I put on this song and then opened the floor.  

“Talk to me people. Talk to me.”

 To a soft backdrop of “your blood speaks a better word” I heard testimony after testimony of what God was doing in everyone’s life.  The first person spoke for a bit, and  my weariness began to lift.  Then the second.  Then the third, fourth, and fifth.

 By this point my eyeballs were sweating like crazy, and I was humbled over and over again by the words of the students. 

The theme: rehabilitation.


Let me backtrack a few years.

 After graduating from drug treatment in 2001, and accepting Jesus the same year, I was on some sort of journey.  It wasn’t as glorious as “Lord of the Rings,” but at times it felt like I was walking through Mordor instead of to it.  

 Things were pretty rough.  

 However, in the midst of the growing pains of a new birth and life in Jesus, abundant hope started to spring forth.  When you don’t know if you want to live past 21, and then you do because of Jesus, hope happens.  Suddenly, that hope brings about desires, and a want for the will of God.  

 I must confess, a life of laid down obedience to God’s will is not what seems to naturally come out of my heart- even though that is my new nature.  Yet, every once and a while, I let go of me and say “yes,” again.

 So, in my perceived obedience, I began to study psychology.  Through several states, universities, student loans, and full time jobs I dedicated seven years of my life to my studies.  (Sometimes more successfully than other times.)  

 My goal? 

 To one day open a drug treatment center like I went to.  I desired people to be set free like I am today.  I stayed the course year after year, with that goal in the back of my mind.

 Then, I went to Peru on a short term trip.  Then I went back to Peru with Amanda.  Then we moved down there for “one year.”

 It is now nearly four years later, and we are still here.

 I still have the school loans, and a lot of knowledge, but I lack a degree in psychology.  In fact, I am further than I have ever have been from my goal.  

 That is until last Friday when student after student talked about how they felt like God had brought them to a place to heal and set them free.  A “hospital” or “rehab” center just for them.  Years of pain, identity, and family issues wiped away with the blood of Jesus.  

 They were so appreciative to the school and what God was doing in their lives through it.  

 Then, unexpectedly, they stood me up, and one by one they laid hands on me and prayed for me.  Over and over again they thanked God, who they now call “Papito,” (Daddy), for my life.  All the while the music played, and our hearts worshiped in unison, honoring what God had done in all of our lives.

 I think the wood floors are still stained with my salty tears.

 I never imagined this was the “rehab” center I would lead out.  Yet, when I look back through all those years and growing pains, I now see this is exactly what God was planning for me, for this time in my life.


The Mountain and the Valley: An update on Jose

 Last week I posted a testimony about a guy named Jose.  We are so encouraged by the quantity of people that read the story, shared the story, told us their thoughts, and committed themselves in prayer for this young man.  You guys are amazing.

 To keep it real, I never really thought that I might do a play by play of Jose and what God might do with him and his family.  I simply wanted to share a testimony of how God met me where I was at in life; Jose just happened to be one of the real-life main characters in the story.  

 You see, to this day, whenever I share a story, I always get a little worried about telling the internet world about what God is doing with a certain person.  I always worry that I will share their story and then they friend me on Facebook.  

 I tend to shy away from that awkwardness.  Especially because my hope is we will grow to be way more than just Facebook friends.

 Yet, as I have processed all of your responses, I realized that I have dangled the testimony carrot.  You guys want to know what has happened since I last wrote the update.  Many people have made it clear that they want to know what has happened.  They want to see God do something else.

 Well, I wish I could report that I met with him and his wife on Sunday.  I wish I could report that we had the most amazing conversation ever in the history of mankind.  (I prayed that we would, but maybe not in those exact words.)

 But I can’t.  

They weren’t at home like they said they would be.  I tried calling them as Ronald and I stood at their door.  I texted too.  I even just tried calling them- the phone is off.  Nothing.

 That is my report. Nothing.

 But please, keep reading.  The story doesn’t stop there.  

 As is often the case with spiritual mountaintops, there are also very low valleys.  


Welcome to the valley.


God reminded me of this all week in preparation for my visit.  For example:

 I watched a short video of a Pastor giving his testimony.  He talked about the short, nerdy white kid that would constantly and persistently pursue him on the basketball court; just so the now Pastor might hear the Gospel.  

 Persistence. Patience. Trusting that Perfect Love will always win.

 I read in 1 Samuel about David walking into a valley, surrounded by two mountains filled with soldiers.  There stood Goliath, in the morning sun, at probably just the right angle for him and the mountain of the Philistine army to cast quite a long shadow.  Yet David confidently walked to a brook and picked up some stones.  We know the rest.  The shadows were still there in that valley, but a giant no longer stood.

 Over and over again God reminded, before my visit, that discipleship is a process.  He reminded me that it is a process of leveling out the mountains and the deep valleys.  

 He showed me that discipleship is holding their hands in the mountaintop experiences where very often we might feel as though we can barely breath because of His thick, tangible presence.  He showed me that discipleship is spurring ourselves forward in the dark valleys where we become so fearful to breath lest some giant in the shadows might hear us, and do us harm.

 God lovingly showed me that discipleship is all about helping people to see that He is not only in mountain and the valleys, but He is also in the green pasture, ready to plant us in solid ground, water us, grow us, prune us, and help us to bear fruit.

 To do all of that takes time.  His perfect time.

 So, as Ronald and I walked to Jose’s house and waited, we prayed.  As we walked the beach where I first met Jose, we talked about life.  As we walked home to prepare for a meeting, we drank a cold soda together.  We lived our lives together, in the “loss,” as well as in the triumph.

 It was then, in that moment of life with Ronald that I think I realized the date.  It was March 10th.  

 Thirteen years ago to the day I was admitted into a long-term drug treatment center.  Eight years ago to the day I became engaged to Amanda.  Five or six years to the day I asked God to speak through me in my first official “sermon.”


Just because I didn’t see Jose, didn’t mean God decided to stop talking to me.  In fact, I think his voice was even louder.




photo credit for featured image "Mountains near Monterrey" (jeffk)



Oikos School of Ministry

As a ministry we strongly believe that the best and most natural form of discipleship is life-on-life.  As we have personally learned with our son Judah, imitation is the most natural form of learning.  This is also very true of spiritual growth.  Imitation in discipleship is critical. 

As we have come to observe our disciples in their various contexts we began to realize that although imitation is happening, there is still a great need for formal equipping.  God was calling certain people around us to start taking over what our team had started.  Unfortunately they were not ready to do so.

So we continued to ask God what we should do.

And, He gave us various answers.  

One answer was a completely different Bible study for people in Pacifico.  Another was having us put even more time and effort into as much face-to-face interaction with our team in the Jungle.  However, probably the most surprising, but obvious answer He gave us was to start a school.  Specifically a school for future leaders of the shanty towns, emerging middle class communities, and the Jungle.  

So 2013 marks the first year of the Oikos Discipleship School.

Yup.  Pretty cool stuff right there. 

So, part of the reason why I, Shaun, can not leave for the next two years is because, for eight months, I will be helping to lead out the school.  (Gulp.)

I’m kidding.

I couldn't be happier.  For real.  If you know me, I can’t even talk about ice cream without somehow teaching something.  So this is right up my "avenida."

God has provided us with such a variety of students. I am amazed at what He is stirring up.  For each area of Peru that God has called us to as a team, there is at least one student represented.  In the coming weeks I will be sharing more about them.

The school will start on April 4th of this year.  So we expect the students to move into our homes and the school apartment sometime at the end of March.  We know the direction God is taking things, but we have no idea what God will do.  For Amanda and I there is such an awesome sense inside that God is going to blow up our box and show us things we never could have imagined.

(In a couple of weeks I hope to send out a newsletter with the profiles of each of the students, along with a couple of ministry opportunties that you can participate in.  How exciting right??)
We can't wait to share more!