In April 1952, a single engine float plane landed at the mouth of the Timpia River in southeastern Peru. A small group of Matsigenka men who were working at the Timpia, had heard its approach and gone running to join Wayne Snell on the rocky beach. Their wives and children, equally curious but much less courageous, peeked out from hiding places among the bushes at the top of the river’s high bank.
With the engine cut and the plane secured, the pilot helped Wayne’s wife Betty down onto the pontoon on the passenger side. Next came eight-months-old Ronny, followed by twenty-two-months-old Terry. They were the first blond blue-eyed little boys their spellbound audience had ever seen.
No one present that day would ever be the same.
Fun loving, curious, shy, given to flight rather than fight, most Matsigenkas lived as highly skilled hunters and gatherers scattered throughout the jungle—a jungle they were convinced was inhabited by an untold number of malicious spirits. Their lives were dominated by fear and an ongoing struggle to utilize the forest’s benefits while avoiding its risks. Efforts to take the Good News of an all powerful loving God had been sporadic, partly due to their inaccessibility. The Aeronca securely tied up to the Timpia´s shore had finally provided a breakthrough.
That was 65 years ago. Over the decades, significant numbers of Matsigenka men and women have had their lives drastically changed through spiritual transformation, education and influences from Peru´s majority cultures. Now, however, one of the most significant changes to take place in the history of the Bajo Urubamba, home to 8,000 registered Matsigenka adults living in fourteen communities, is only months away. An election is currently scheduled for January 2018 to choose a mayor to oversee the new political district including not only Matsigenkas but three other ethnic groups as well. Historically, discrimination and domination have characterized encounters between the majority culture and members of ethnic groups.
It’s time for a fundamental new breakthrough, one that is just as vital today as an Aeronca float plane was in the ‘50s. In the pages related to this site, you will read about Román, Armando and Fermín, experienced men committed to minister to their people in their own culture. They are not in need of airplanes, but they are often in need of gasoline to put in the engines that power their boats, of medical care for sick wives or children, of notebooks and pencils for their kids in school, of sandals and shirts and caps for the sun. They are committed but they can´t do it alone any more than the expats could who were sent generations ago. It has always taken a team. It always will!
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