Peru (MNN) — A 20-hour bus ride from Peru's capital city, followed by a canoe trip to the edge of a jungle region known as Pucallpa, will bring you to a location recently visited by Oscar Tello, a partner of Bright Hope International. Tello reaches out to the "hidden" people of Peru, a mission calling for extreme care and caution; his "arrow-proof" vest is worn for protection. But for Tello, the benefits outweigh all costs.
"It will be worth it if the people learn about Jesus and the Bible," Tello says. "You have to be willing to give your life if necessary."
A long experience with war and terrorists, as well as fear and suspicion planted by witch doctors, has created a fear of outsiders among the Shipibo people. Bright Hope President Craig Dyer says that villagers "will do anything to protect their families." Before he embarked on his trip to Pucallpa, Tello met a man from within the tribe who granted the team safe passage into the village.
"Villagers are wary of people they do not know," Dyer states. This is where Tello's arrow-proof vest could come in handy.
Tello's plan starts by slowly walking up to the village's outskirts and placing a gift of food, cooking tools, or other useful items, on the ground. If an arrow isn't aimed at Tello as he leaves, the missionary plans to leave another gift in a day or so. When villagers determine that he meant no harm, Tello might be allowed into the village to speak with them. Tello's ultimate goal in this process is to gain villagers' trust so he can share the truth and love of Jesus.
"After our initial visit, we spend time with the people, showing them unconditional love and acceptance," said Tello. "Once they get used to seeing us, they begin to ask us why we are there, which leads to our talking about the love of Jesus Christ and His gift of eternal life."
Through believers like Tello, Christ's love is reaching isolated people groups. Local churches are too intimidated to pursue friendly relations with tribal people, so these isolated groups desperately need adequate nutrition, medical and dental care, and clean drinking water.
Bright Hope's Segadores project trains local church leaders for ministry within their communities and nearby jungle tribes, demonstrating God's command to "love your neighbor." Segadores has been training church leaders for over 30 years, implementing the love of Christ through literacy programs, nutritional relief and training, medical and dental care, clean water initiatives, and leadership training. So far, twelve tribal villages are reaching out with the Gospel to nearly 6,000 people, helping with basic physical and educational needs.
"Lost tribes are finding hope as they see God's love in action," said Dyer.
Oscar Tello, his wife, and their six month old daughter plan to spend even more time living among the "hidden" people of Peru and sharing the Gospel with them. You could help him serve these people.
"There are many tribes and villages here in Peru who need someone to come and serve them," Tello said. "We all have something to give to God while we are alive. God has given us only a short time here on this earth, and we need to be willing to share greater levels of love and sacrifice toward others in the days we are given."
If you'd like to help support Tello's work in Peru, or learn more about the Segadores project, click here.