By Gerry Gutierrez
Capturing the story of Jesus
For the last 65 years, intrepid recordists from Gospel Recordings traveled from coast to coast in the South American continent. They captured the story of Jesus in many of the Quechua, Aymara, Bari, Bora, Cayubaba and Paez languages. Over 600 recordings have been made. To do this they hiked to the top of the towering Andean peaks, flew in small planes over trackless jungles, rode and paddled dozens of rivers, and huddled in thatched roofed huts with Indians, pastors and missionaries, patiently telling God's story in unwritten languages.
There remain more than 300 oral languages in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela that need a way to hear about Jesus in the words they speak. Making this possible is no small task!
Why is it taking so long?
There are many barriers. Geographically, many unreached people groups are far away from highways and towns, in the 15,000-foot high valleys of the Andes, or a day's walk from the end of an uncharted river. Many of the tribes are nomads with no fixed location, and they make it a point to avoid contact with outsiders.
Politically, many of the Latin American governments do not want strangers to enter the Indian territories. Spiritually these tribes are in darkness, held captive by animistic beliefs that distort the loving God we know. Linguistically there are dozens of variations of Quechua and hundreds of small groups that don't have a written language and therefore must be given the good news orally.
Climbing still higher!
Elda Arguello and Veronica Martinez are recordists from Argentina and Mexico and have worked in Peru for six years. Between them they have recorded over 70 languages under very arduous conditions.
Many times they, loaded with supplies, have had to catch a ride on a cargo truck, clinging precariously to the top as the truck climbed into the clouds and back down. The buses are overloaded all the time, and very often tumble off the narrow winding roads into the precipices below. After reaching the end of the road, they have to climb yet higher for a day or two to reach the isolated hamlets where the good news has not yet been heard. At that altitude nosebleeds are a problem, as is coldness and dehydration.
Tea and crackers
On one of their recording trips they were in the Madre de Dios river system, traveling three days down river in a small outboard motor boat. When they arrived at the village, the Indians did not want them to record their language and refused to feed them. After several days of having only tea and crackers, and praying fervently, the recordists convinced the tribe to make the recordings, and to give them some bananas! When it was time to go, nobody would tell them when the boats came down the river, so they had to sit on the banks for hours hoping to catch a ride out. By the time they got home, they had lost 10 lbs each, were sunburned, and had hundreds of bites all over their bodies.
Sending more workers and resources
Elda and Vero are part of a growing Americas Project team that God is raising up to deliver the oral gospel to the small tribes of South America. While Christianity is thriving over much of the continent, many tribes have been bypassed. But God sees the hearts of every one of the tribal people isolated in the jungles and high valleys and He yearns for them to hear of His love.
Pray for us as we prepare more recordists, train them with the latest equipment, give them wheels, wings and boats to move quickly, surround them with prayer and send them to the last remaining unrecorded tribes.
Gerry Gutierrez and husband Dave (GRN Mexico director) are developing the work in Latin America.