Field Update – Colombia, Bolivia, Panama

Ongoing armed conflict and extreme geography make for a very difficult missionary field among Colombia’s indigenous tribes. Today, of 105+ tribes in Colombia, only nine are considered “reached” with the Gospel to the extent that there are any mature churches among them. At least 14 tribes, mostly in Colombia’s Amazon jungle region, are TOTALLY UNREACHED — meaning no believers at all. Some of these are nomadic tribes living in complete isolation. Over 60 tribes in Colombia are unreached in a more general sense, in that there might be handfuls of believers among them who may or may not be meeting together.  Our research so far validates a huge need for missionaries as we… Continue reading

A Survey of Colombia’s Tribes

For three weeks in February, we worked an intense schedule with our team in Colombia to complete the first phase of a nation-wide survey of that country’s tribal groups. About twice the size of the state of Texas, Colombia is divided into six distinct geographic regions. Of these, in February alone, we traveled into the Andes Mountains, the eastern Orinoco Plains (or Llano), and along the northern fringe of the Amazon jungle. Depending on the source, there are between 100-105 tribes in Colombia. So far, we have interviewed key leaders from 12 of these tribes. In the process we have gained valuable insights into the presence and effectiveness of the local church, access to Biblical resources… Continue reading

Ashéninka or Asháninka?

The Amazon jungle region of Peru is home to tribes that still have no contact with the outside world. This isolation is believed to be largely voluntary on the part of certain small, nomadic tribes as they flee encroachment by extractive industries, drug traffickers, and other outside entities pushing their way further into the remote areas where these people groups have traditionally sought refuge. Such isolation, and its underlying causes add difficult dimensions to an already difficult cross-cultural missionary task. And while remoteness and voluntary isolation may affect the bringing of the Gospel to tribal people groups, other factors can certainly… Continue reading

Equipping the tribal church of Colombia!

As written in Ephesians 4:12, we are called “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”. Empowerment is central to our work, and that includes equipping indigenous missionaries to do their own field research. Last month, Drake traveled to Bogota, Colombia, where he was invited by the tribal-led missionary movement of Colombia, RELIEC (Red de Lideres Indigenas Evangelicos de Colombia – Network of Evangelical Indigenous Leaders of Colombia), to train their missionaries through an intensive, two-day workshop. Following the training, he was also invited along with the rest of the ALTECO team to participate in a historic gathering of Colombia’s… Continue reading

Mapping Linguistic Diversity

Mexico’s indigenous ethnolinguistic landscape is rich in diversity and complexity. While conducting research into the geography of ethnic people groups in southern Mexico from 2011-2013, we visited many indigenous communities. Amazingly, in Oaxaca state, by far Mexico’s most ethnically diverse, about 180 indigenous languages are still in use today. While many of these languages are disappearing, you will still encounter tribal communities where Spanish is hardly if at all spoken. Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas (National Indigenous Languages Institute, or INALI) released its most recent Catalogue of Indigenous Mexican Languages in 2008, listing each known indigenous language and dialect with… Continue reading

AC-14 reveals an ever evolving movement

In May I participated in the 2014 Amazon Consultation (AC-14) in Quito, Ecuador. Prepared and hosted by ALTECO every year since 2004, this annual event draws together hundreds of individuals from ministries and organizations with a common focus on empowering Amazon tribes to complete the Great Commission in that region and beyond. For Megan and I, these gatherings have for years been a source of encouragement, and an opportunity develop friendships and working relationships with many people we might have never otherwise met. AC-14 was exceptional. It signaled a huge shift in momentum of Amazon missions work from the foreigners towards national… Continue reading

A hidden tribe emerges

Alto Rio Envira, Acre - FUNAI

Last week, video footage was released by FUNAI (Brazil’s National Indian Foundation) of a tribe living in voluntary isolation, possibly since the Amazon rubber boom of the late 1800’s, perhaps much longer, emerging recently from the jungle near the Peruvian border. Speaking a language from the Panoan linguistic family, interpreters brought in by FUNAI were able to communicate with the group of three young men. Transcripts of the reported conversation are chilling. Many from their tribe, including most, if not all of their leaders, were killed recently by drug traffickers and loggers intruding in their traditional (and supposedly protected) land just… Continue reading

2014 Amazon Consultation – Ecuador

Etnias del Ecuador

Every year since 2004, ALTECO has hosted an extraordinary event, the annual Amazon Consultation – the world’s only meeting that consistently brings together so many key participants from the “Three Waves” mission movement – expatriate, national and tribal – in a single venue. It is an incredibly strategic week where enduring partnerships that transcend culture and language are formed. And it is an encouragement for all of us working together to see that the remaining 200-250 unreached Amazon tribes may gain access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that they can truly understand, and that leads to… Continue reading

Strategic meetings with tribal leaders in Bolivia – please pray!

Tribal Christians across the Amazon and lowlands of South America face unique challenges. Radically changing social and political environments means that the need to organize and work together is greater than ever. Much of today was spent with key tribal leaders from several countries working out the realities and practicalities of creating an internationally-recognized, entirely-indigenous led network across 11 countries through which tribal Christians can effectively mobilize and complete the Great Commission in this region. These meetings will intensify over the days ahead as we move to a new location and as more tribal leaders join in. Please be in… Continue reading

Big event in Bolivia!‏

While most of the world fixates on the Winter Olympics and its many controversies, there’s another event about to quietly take place just outside of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It will not make international news. Yet the significance is enormous in terms of the Great Commission in the Amazon Rainforest. I am right now on my way there (writing this from the airport in Panama) where I have the privilege of joining some of today’s most active and strategic leaders in Christian missions across the Amazon. A very diverse group reflecting the evolving and future face of world missions, I will… Continue reading