(MNN) — The Candoshi people of Peru
live in deep spiritual darkness. Many of
their communities are so steeped in violence that no one will go to their part
of the Chapuri River.
The Candoshi practice revenge killing: Every time someone is murdered, the person's
family and village must avenge the death. They look for the killer until he surrenders, and then they go to the
killer's home village and kill someone there.
"It just goes back and forth like that; one killing can
spur months of turmoil," said Melanie Dewveall of Living Water
Nevertheless, there is hope for these lost people. LWI missionaries have drilled several wells
for them so they can have clean water, and a few have come to know the
But now LWI in Peru faces a new challenge: Tommy Head, its country director, died in a motorcycle accident at the end of
"Tommy and Angela Head were our country directors down there.
They've been in the country for eleven
years, working with LWI for seven years, I believe. They really are the ones that have made a
huge investment in the people there," Dewveall said.
The couple worked with approximately nine tribes in the tributaries
of the Amazon River. Angela Head plans to stay in Peru and
continue the ministry.
"We would ask for prayer and for guidance to determine how the
program is going to move forward. We want to honor Tommy with the work,"
The work of drilling wells for jungle communities will
continue. A gifted administrator, Head
was proud of the fact that his two well-drilling teams could easily operate
"I know every single one of his team members is dedicated to
bringing clean water to the people of the Amazon," Dewveall said. "I don't think that they're going to let this
stop them at all; they're going to carry on the passion that Tommy had and the
passion that Angela has."
The Heads had been working with the Candoshi for over a
year. This ministry had been especially difficult:
at one point Head had considered taking a break from it for a while. However, another trip to visit Candoshi villages had
encouraged Head and renewed his passion for the ministry.
"It was so difficult and extremely expensive to reach the Candoshi
because they're so far out there, and you have to deal with the
violence and stuff. Tommy himself had been threatened on a few occasions,"
The LWI group had traveled into Candoshi
territory shortly after a man had murdered his wife. They tried to avoid the area where the people
involved in this killing lived but found themselves in the village of the
"We were a little on pins and needles," Dewveall sad. "On the way [to the village], there some
canoes that were full of people who were searching for this guy."
The murderer's father was the chief of the village and a Christian. He said that he didn't know where his son
was, but he knew what he would do if he found his son. In order to stop the killing, he would turn his
son over to the avengers.
"The chief said that's the only way the killing will stop — to hand over my son," Dewveall said.
Dewveall's group also spoke with a Candoshi missionary. Like most of the Candoshi, the missionary has
a fatal case of Hepatitis B.
"He and most of the Candoshi have Hepatitis B, which is
pretty much a death sentence for all of them," Dewveall explained. "So he kind of smiled and said, 'At best I have two
years to live. But I'm going to do what I can with the two years that I have
and try to keep reaching people.'"
The Gospel is only just beginning to gain a foothold in
these Candoshi villages, and LWI hopes that the ministry will continue despite
Head's death. "I'd say God is definitely
moving there," Dewveall said. "I think it
would be kind of sad if we gave up now."
Many remote Candoshi villages need sources of clean
water. This need opens a door for LWI to
go into communities feared for their violence and share the love of Christ in
a very practical manner.
"The act of going out there, living with the people in
their community for the few days that it takes to drill the well: you're living
the Gospel in front of their eyes…getting down kind of in the muck and the mire
with them, eating with them, drinking with them, bathing with them," Dewveall
LWI teams dedicate each well with a service in which the whole
community participates. They read
Scripture and pray for the well and the community. National missionaries visit the villages and
follow up with ministry and witnessing.
Prayerfully consider reaching lost and needy people by helping to build a