Chile (MNN) — A heated dispute is burning a path for the Gospel in Chile.
The Chilean government is accusing the Mapuche tribe of setting numerous forest fires, and tensions are still high after an arson attack killed an elderly couple.
But it's not stopping the Gospel, says Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions. Slowly, the Mapuche are turning to Christ with their pain instead of drugs and alcohol.
"It's not like winning thousands in a big crusade," says Rosa, the spokesperson for Chile Evangelical Mission (CEM). It's a group helped by Christian Aid that sends indigenous missionaries to poor, rural Mapuche communities.
"They are not so numbers-oriented, but rather they focus on one-on-one relationships and discipleship, which is appropriate to their culture. The people turn to Christ slowly but surely."
CEM missionaries take practical action to share Christ's love with the Mapuche. They take food, clothing, and medical supplies to the poorest tribal people and children.
So far, seven churches comprising over 500 believers have been planted in Mapuche tribal communities.
Planting a witness for Christ among the Mapuche is no easy task, however. The Mapuche's territorial claims have never been recognized by the Chilean government, and since the 19th century, the tribe has lost 95% of their ancestral land.
Forced into isolated, rural communities, the Mapuche endure living standards far below South American norms: no electricity or running water, no access to medical care, and unheated homes in frigid mountain climates. Many turn to alcohol or drugs to find relief.
But the missionaries' consistent teachings and presence is speaking mightily to the Mapuche. Missionaries share their own testimony of how the power of Christ has transformed their lives. This living change, noticeable and unexplainable by any other way, has a powerful effect.
"I shared the Gospel with Hugo, a man who used to be a drug addict," says Marcelo, who serves as a CEM missionary. "He received Jesus as Savior, and the Lord delivered him from addiction.
"Now he is an enthusiastic believer."
When a Mapuche experiences freedom from addiction, entire families turn from their idols and believe.
"I shared the Gospel with a man who used to worship idols and Catholic saints," another CEM missionary says. "He received Jesus as His Savior, and the Lord transformed his life and family. He is helping me to evangelize."
Pray that more Mapuche would come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. Pray that communities would change as the Gospel spreads.