In the midst of the heart of the Amazon that we call our mission post and home we have been challenged as well as very blessed to have been led to an extraordinary weekly ministry. A ministry that at first, I felt we were incapable of, and unfit to handle, and needless to say, it is not at all a ministry I would have chosen on my own. However as a family we prayed and decided we could not turn down this opportunity that the Holy Spirit had led us to. It is an evangelization project that comes with doubt, great fear, a sense of inadequacy, and a need to totally surrendered to Gods will.
The Holy Spirit indeed led us to one of the darkest homes within our mission field. A home that has been tangled into a strong dark deep web, of lies, lack of faith, lack of love and riddled with the lies of the devil, you see the home we have been led to visit each week is the home of a well-known witchdoctor.
The home sits atop of a hill, and below it are little homes made of bamboo and tin roofs. Despite the lush and grand river which runs along the edge of the community, where in, on the other side of it has fruitful and fertile soil in which grows crops of rice, plantations of mangos and other native fruits, the land where the home sits and reigns is barren like a desert; There is an uneasy feeling among the little community in which the home reigns upon.
We applaud and honor the great concern from the locals who gave many warnings and expressed their fear for us not to minister to those who live in the home, as they voiced their many unsuccessful attempts with the family over the years. Reiterating to us, the family’s grave sin, of practicing witchcraft and the likelihood of them never wanting to convert to the true teaching of our Lord. Despite their efforts, we felt a call not to heed their warnings, instead we felt a strong urge to befriend those who live in the home.
Leaning fully into the words of Saint Pope John Paul II, as he stated that the “Missionary endeavor requires patience. It begins with the proclamation of the Gospel to peoples and groups who do not yet believe in Christ”. As a result, we embraced and embarked the ministry of the New Evangelization of the witch doctor and his family, who live atop of the barren hilltop because we felt, we could not let this hour of grace slip by.
As Lay missionaries, our hearts were filled with the desire to reach the people whom were “baptized but have lost their sense of faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live far from Christ.” Which Pope John Paul spoke about in His Encyclical on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate, Redemptoris Missio.
We as a family have especially felt called to the people that feel they have no place in church, who feel abandon and detached from the Church due to their life of sin or their ignorance and lack of understanding of God’s unconditional love for all of man. So with that said this family was no different and we being to feel an urgency to reach this family and to bring them to Christ.
Over the years of living here in Peru we have come to learn and see with our own eyes that many of those here in the Amazon Jungle were at one time evangelized by transient priest or religious sisters over the years, just as the witchdoctor’s family was. However, the lack of discipleship and the lack of journeying with those they introduced to the gospel, only allowed the seeds to drop on rocky soil or was devoured by birds. (Matthew 13:4) The work done was minimum at best which in return did not allow “the Church to take root” or take proper form. (Redemptoris Missio §34)
Thus, provoking my families call to befriend and disciple the outcasted, publicly feared and certainly misunderstood witch doctor and his family. Our main goal was to befriend the family and to establish an intimate relationship with them that was Christ centered. We knew, for our desires to be successful, we had to truly focus on building authentic friendships and from that point we could than discern and determine the needs of the family as a whole and as individuals; to discover where each family member was in their life with Christ. It would only be than that we could make the effort to speak the “Truth” of God’s love and mercy to them.
It has been close to a year and a half that we have journeying with the witch doctor and his family, of course our ministry is still on going. Over this time, we have been made aware, to be effective missionary disciples, the need to be aware of our weakness, and sloth in our own relationship with the Lord. Together as a family we have been reminded of the advice found in the book Co- workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, that prayer is the “vital source needed to bear lasting fruit within our ministry.”
In no way could we ever disciple this beautiful family nor fight the attacks of the devil that we have come against, if we are not grounded in prayer and living in a true authentic relationship with the Lord. So, in addition to our regular prayer time each day, we now vigorously pray for guidance and pray for protection from the evil spirits who lurked within the home and surrounds the area, as we walk the twenty minutes to their home.
It is not easy, we as a family have had to overcome the urge to be forceful and refrain from going about turning and knocking over tables. As we sit in our weekly visits and bible readings with the family, many times, the witch doctor excuses himself to attend to a patient that has walked up desiring a cure for an illness. Knowing that the small animal carried in the clutches of the visitor’s hands is not meant for a payment of service, but a sacrifice to the Gods and Spirits in which the witch doctor will provoke in his ceremony. As we witness the family intertwine Catholic prayers and traditions with those of the underworld, I have personally had to learn to have more patience in my discipleship in hopes to gain the perfect opportunity from God to allow the family to experience the beauty of Christ and His Church, so they may see the goodness, and hear the truth. (Eph 4:15)
|Please pray for these little ones. |
They have such curiosity about Jesus and with their softened hearts may the seed continue to grow.
We have not yet made it to the truth with all the members. Each member of the family is in their own stage and relationship with Christ, some have a softer heart than others. However, it has made us more aware of Christ’s presence among us and His holy work he is allowing to take place among this beautiful family. We have been blessed to see the fruits of our labor by gaining permission from the witch doctor and his wife to pick up three of their four children so they can accompany us to Mass. The oldest girl of the family has expressed a deep desire to learn more about the Catholic faith, so we now have started Catechism classes with her and her two younger siblings as well as three of her cousins who live in the same house.
I would have to say that the most noticeable and delightful change that has come from this ministry is the ability for us to love with the eyes of Christ. “We learn to love the Church by looking at her with the eyes of Jesus, who loved the Church and gave himself up for her”. (Eph 5:25) I believe and I am confident that we had this love for those whom we found easy to love, for those we found in need of food or home. However, embarrassed as I am to say, I must admit I was not sure I was capable of loving this misunderstood and feared family because at first, I saw the witch doctor and his family as a threat, as evil. After all I am only human, and I fall into the blindness and ways of this world, and to be real honest it is a bit scary to think that they believe in spirits of other worlds and the ability to cure people with sacrifices of animals and the shedding of their blood.
A typical store in the market that sells all kinds of supplies, oils, teas, candles, potions,
dead animals etc.. Often we will stumble across one that even sell rosaries and crosses.
We had to let go of our fears and we had to fully embrace the essential teaching of the Church; that as the body of the Church, as a lay missionary, that it is essential to understand and love the whole mystical body of Christ even if it means loving the witch doctor and his family. It is this act of sacrifice through our ministry and witness that allows the souls of the separated and loss to know the Beauty, Goodness, and the Truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I encourage everyone to love with the same eyes of Christ. We must not be quick to judge, and we must understand and respond to the urgent need of the New Evangelization. We must be open minded and see that not everyone has had the chance to be truly rooted in Christianity much less in the Catholic Faith.
Yes, there are still many indigent people who live a life intertwined in the beliefs and customs of their ancestors, calling upon their many Spirits and Gods, and in the same breath, they call to the One Triune God.
If one can shutter and gasp at this notion, and wonder in disbelief how could they?; Or better yet call them “savages” or “demons” for doing so; than one must at the same time realize that their salvation and their faith rest in the hands of all the baptized members of the Church.
We should not ignore the yearning within us to journey and disciple with these less fortunate beautiful creations of God. We should recognize the duty we have to bring them to the transforming “Beauty” of our God, the “Goodness” of our Lord, and the “Truth” whispered through the Holy Spirit. We have been commanded to go forth and preach the Good News to all Nations. ( Mt 28:19) In addition, we must realize the need to do so is urgent, we must go out to all peoples to communicate to them, and share the gift of our encounter with Christ, giving testimony of His “truth and love, joy and hope!”.
Truth be told, once we embrace our identity as missionaries, we cannot help but proclaim the Good News to all those we encounter. It is only when we take on the same heart and words of St Paul, as he said “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9: 16) , that we can than truly partake in the New Evangelization and win souls for Christ.
Thank you so much for your generosity and support, both through your prayers and donations to make it possible for my family to live and serve among Jesus's beloved poor as full time Catholic Lay Missionaries.