In a town on the Amazon River accessible only by boat, tribal villagers enjoying alcohol-drenched parties and the favor of their gods saw no reason to put up any longer with the native Christian who had moved there to tell them about Christ.
Like them he was an ethnic Ticuna, the largest tribal group in Brazil, but his talk of sin and God’s Son did not fit with their idea of a fun life. The village shaman achieved altered states to intercede with the spirits and gods for them, the sorcerer told villagers, assuring them that the deities were encouraging everyone to partake in all pleasures aided by strong drink.
The village chief and other key community leaders told the native missionary to leave.
It takes seven days by boat to reach the village from the nearest town, or nearly two days on a fast boat. The leader of a ministry based in Brazil said that by the time other native missionaries visited the village months later, nearly every inhabitant was addicted to alcohol. Their intoxicated celebrations came with chronic depression.
“The community was taken over by the power of darkness; most of them were alcoholics, and they held worldly parties where children, adults and young people participated freely, which meant that no one else later had the authority to avoid bad behavior and practices,” the ministry leader said. “The spirit of suicide took over the young and old.”
Each week, someone in the village committed suicide by hanging, he said.
Local missionaries began developing relationships there just as villagers were beginning to realize they had a problem that needed a solution.
“It was then that the chief and the families opened their hearts to receive the gospel,” the leader said. “Today in the village, there is a congregation growing with the power of the gospel. The power of darkness has been removed from families, young children and adults, and today they seek God. Peace has taken over the village.”
The Ticuna in such remote, hard-to-reach areas are the remaining unreached inhabitants of a tribe that largely identifies as Christian.
The degree to which the tribe has fully left shamanism is disputed. Estimates of Ticuna in Brazil, Colombia and Peru practicing their tribal religion range from 30 to 90 percent, even as the Joshua Project states that 100 percent of the 39,000 Ticuna in Brazil identify as Christian, though only 15 percent evangelical.
Alcoholism is common. João*, an inhabitant of another Ticuna jungle village in Brazil, drank heavily as a way to overcome the sadness and worries of what the ministry leader said was a very troubled life. Intense, chronic pain in his knee as a result of an undetermined disease further drove him to drink.
A local missionary going hut to hut spoke into João’s pain with the good news that Christ had conquered sin, disease and death by taking punishment on the cross for all sinners, doing away with all such evil by the power of His resurrection.
“João opened his heart to Jesus,” the leader said. “Our missionary dedicated himself to teaching the Bible and to discipling João in his new faith. Today, brother João is a man free from the use of alcoholic beverages and has also experienced the cure of his illness.”
A local missionary couple working with Brazilian Ticuna in another village on the banks of a tributary found inhabitants fighting members of their own families.
Fear of evil spells cast by the village shaman fed their conflicts, along with fears of a host of malevolent jungle spirits, he said.
“But, by the grace of God, all the villagers embraced the work of evangelization carried out by our missionaries, and thus another congregation was born,” the leader said. “Our missionaries, in addition to dedicating time to the discipleship of new converts, are also investing in evangelism and teaching the Bible to children.”
A Ticuna mother in another village had resisted the gospel message for years, he said.
“She lived a life of total disorder – in her youth she did what she pleased, a life of debauchery, immorality and sleeping with several men,” the ministry leader said. “This type of life disturbed her a lot. She did not have peace, because she felt full of many sins.”
The Lord drew her to Christ, he said, through a local missionary’s timely proclamation of the love and grace of God.
“She decided to surrender at Jesus’ feet, making a total surrender of her life,” he said. “It was the day that she experienced all the weight of her sin being lifted from her, and she felt forgiven by Jesus Christ. After receiving Him as her friend, Lord and Savior, she also decided to go through water baptism, and today she is firm and growing in her faith in Jesus Christ.”
Local missionaries are bringing the hope and healing of Christ to such people throughout the country. Please consider a donation today to fuel the evangelism and discipleship needed to advance God’s kingdom.
*Name changed for security reasons