Into the Jungle and Off the Beaten Path
A few months ago, I got a call from my good friend and CEO of Living Water International, Mike Mantel. We had been talking about a possible trip to Peru to visit some villages and to plan future water projects in some of the far reaches of South America.
I love the work LWI does around the world and it is always a privilege to dream of new ways for God’s work to advance to “the ends of the earth.” So when my friend called and said the trip had come together, it was an easy “yes” from me. As we planned out the details, it became clear to me that this was going to be a different kind of trip.
Our team would be traveling far into the jungle of the Amazonian basin to remote villages—some of which had never received outside visitors. You’ve heard of being off the beaten path? I’m pretty sure that’s where we were headed.
Sounded like an adventure, so count me in. We made the travel plans (as best we could), packed our backpacks, and brought along a Spanish-speaking videographer.
You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8
The three of us landed in Lima and then flew across the Andes to a town called Pucallpa. It was here that we connected with the LWI country director of Peru, Jorge. He was there to be the translator to our translator.
You see, Jorge was fluent in all the various tribal dialects, but his English was less so. Thus, Jorge would translate the dialects to Spanish and our videographer, Jeremy, would translate the Spanish to English. Sounds complicated, but it actually became a beautiful thing—each of us finding a rhythm and building a trust with one another along the way.
This was just one of many examples of how God would use each moving piece to make this trip work.
But Jorge was so much more than a translator– he was our guide and, frankly, our teacher, our protector, and the only reason we would be allowed into some of these off-the-grid, off-the-beaten path, off-the-edge-of-your-imagination areas.
From Pucallpa, we flew hours north on a small plane to a remote river village that felt like a frontier town. Surely this was now the edge what I could imagine… From there, a high speed boat took us hours deeper into the jungle— up the river, skimming and twisting through the water, the jungle growing denser until there was only the occasional village along the shore.
Eventually we turned off onto unmarked tributaries, slowing now as men and boys in dugout canoes would watch suspiciously and then wave cautiously once they noticed a familiar face in our boat. What I didn’t mention was that Jorge spends most of his time traveling to these remote villages. And while the stories of these people’s distrust of outsiders is well-documented (and sometimes well-founded), they know Jorge. They respect him. They trust him.
Us? We were outsiders—unknown and unwelcomed.
But with our friend and guide, we were cautiously accepted into these communities. In some cases, we were warmly welcomed. But none of it would’ve happened without Jorge.
The good work that he has been able to supervise in these villages has included clean water projects and education about hygiene and sanitation—all of which has contributed to a decrease in disease. It’s also led to an increase in Jorge’s credibility in this region, for he has delivered on his promises.
But here’s what’s really interesting about that: Jorge said he couldn’t do the work he’s allowed to do without the leadership of LWI and the churches that support its ministry.
Did you catch that?
He needed help in reaching and serving those people. In tangible, practical ways, people were being loved and served in the name of our great God. And yes, the good news of the gospel was spreading off the beaten path. But that’s another story for another post.
Let’s leave it at one obvious, glorious point of the story: each moving piece simply had to work together—relying on the other— or the whole thing would fall apart. That’s not a new thought. It’s just one we keep forgetting and God keeps graciously reminding us of, both in his word and his world.