We had a short-term team of 5 people arrive here on December 27. Dec 29 at around 6:30 in the morning, we headed out to go board a small boat that took us 2.5 hours up the river to a small Shipibo village called Santa Luisa. In our group was the team of 5 Americans, Israel (Pastor Victor’s son) and I who were the leaders of this team, a Brazilian missionary who happens to be here right now, and 4 Peruvian young men who helped with hauling everything and just for safety purposes. Shipibo are one of the larger tribes/people groups that live in the Amazon jungle and a lot around here off of the Ucayali River. Thanks to Wyclife Bible Translators, they do have the Bible in their language.
We arrived around 9:30 am and set up our tents, etc. first inside the small, one room, school building. The town has no running water or electricity, so we wanted to make sure we got everything situated before the weather changed or the afternoon when it gets dark. Afterwards we walked around the entire village seeing it all and inviting all the kids to come out for VBS in the afternoon. It is not a very large village, but is stretched out among about 20ish “houses.” An interesting fact that became quite the topic of conversation among the team was “where are all the teenagers?” It appeared that the entire village was mostly women, a few men who were out working all day, and lots of young children under the age of 12ish. As Israel pointed out, a lot of the mothers were actually the teenagers and that there aren’t exactly “family units.” When you live in a small tribe, survival of the tribe would take precedence apparently, so monogamy might not be the norm…. We were told that this village had never heard the Gospel before, but I did see Christian material hanging on the wall in the school room. One thing was for sure – the children at least hadn’t seen many, if any, white people. We returned to the school room to eat lunch and prepare for VBS.
It took a little encouraging to get the kids to play with us at first, but once you bring out a soccer ball and show them how face-painting works, they were all in! After singing some Christian songs with some very-inventive choreography, we shared the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den the first day and The Prodigal Son the second day, complete with drama. I was soo proud of how the team really got involved and into teaching the lessons! After each lesson, there was a craft that we helped all the kids do.
It was interesting chatting with the kids – the older kids spoke their native Shipibo and had learned some Spanish, but the poor little kids had absolutely no idea what I was saying in Spanish. They speak mostly Shipibo in their homes. That made some of them a little more afraid of us, but with the older kids’ help, everyone participated.
Our boat ride back took 5ish hours because of the amount of tree debris we had to carefully go over...with it being rainy season now, more banks are eroding due to higher river levels, etc. It was definitely a new experience for all of us, and after returning to Refugio and showering off the LAYERS of bug spray we had doused ourselves with, we agreed it was an experience we wouldn’t forget and wouldn’t mind repeating.