They come from villages throughout the region. Pastors, young and old, along with their wives, canoe for days in order to learn and grow their ministry. These are some of the most incredibly kind and committed men and women I have ever met. And, their stories are amazing! They love Jesus so much, and they serve in one of the most challenging places in the world – the Amazon!
Pastors like Diegou. This pastor’s village is located on the Amazon near Peru and Columbia. He heard about the conference and he has always wanted training to help him lead his church and family. He has 6 children and 2 grandchildren. He ministers in a village where he has about 50 adults in his church and over 60 kids. When Sarah, our National Director for Justice & Mercy Amazon, contacted him, he responded that he wanted to come, but didn’t have the money. She told him that we would cover his cost if he could just get to Manaus. He prayed because he did not have the money for the boat ride to Manaus. It is 170 heias (about $65) for a boat from his village to Manuas (it takes about 3 days to arrive and 5 days for the return trip, since it is going against the current). The boat stops at different villages and carries over 800 people. He prayed about what to do, and he heard God say, “Go fishing.” So, he took his brother and went fishing. That day they caught enough fish to put in baggies and sell in the market. They had 20 baggies of fish which they sold for 10 heias each. He said, “God gave me to the money for the boat and 30 heias more!” He was so excited! I marveled at his faith and commitment. I asked him at the end of the week if it was worth it, and he responded, “More than worth it. It is the best I have ever experienced. I can’t wait to take all God has taught me this week back to my family, church and village. My cup is full.” Then, I asked him, “How are you getting home?” He responded, “I don’t know. But, I believe God will provide!” God did provide, through the generosity of others.
Pastors like Lazaro. This pastor grew up with his dad as a tribal witch doctor. As a young boy he would cut himself and perform demonic rituals. His dad ultimately died, and four women in his community began inviting him to church. He was a young teenager and his life was filled with drugs and satanic ceremonies. But, these women keep praying and inviting. He went to church one week, but he grew so physically sick when he walked in that he had to leave. He threatened to burn the church down, but the women kept praying. One day, God broke into his life. He went to the church, and his eyes were opened to the Truth. He committed his life to Christ and told God he would do whatever he called him to do. A couple of years later, he felt God calling him into the ministry and he started to pray more and more fervently. God would place people in his village on this heart, and he would go tell them about Jesus. At 11:45 am one day he was praying, and God told him to go to this man’s house. He was known to be a harsh man, but Lazaro went. The man opened the door and yelled at Lazaro to leave. The next day, at the same time, God said again, “Go to this man’s house.” He went, and this time the man opened the door and put a gun in his face and told him to leave. The next day, at the exact same time, God told Lazaro to go again. This time, the man grabbed Lazaro and pulled him inside. He said he would cut him up in little pieces if he ever came back again. Lazaro said, “Okay. But, before I leave, let me ask you – God, keeps telling me to come to you every day at this time. Can you tell me why?” The man looks at Lazaro, and then breaks down crying. He said, “For the last 3 days, I have been trying to kill myself at this time and you keep showing up. I guess God really does care.” The man gave his life to Christ. And, Lazaro, is the pastor in this village.
Pastors like Gutenburg. Gutenburg had a terrible life growing up. No father. Drugs, gangs and life on the street. He was arrested multiple times. Finally, he found himself in the hardest prison of Brazil. In prison, he heard about Jesus, but he harden his heart to Christ. One day in prison, there was a knife fight between him and another guy. He remembers the knife fight, and the next thing he remembers is waking up in the morge. The mortician screamed when Gutenburg sat up and looked at him. He had been dead for a few days. He was transferred to a medical center and subsequently released from prison. He committed his life to Jesus, and is now pastoring in very poor and difficult area of the jungle – an area known for drugs and sex trafficking. Because of his background, God is using him to impact many of the hardest criminals for Christ.
These pastors, along with many other pastors and wives, assembled at the John Pac Center in the middle of the Amazon for a time of teaching, learning, prayer and renewal. The John Pac Center is owned by Justice & Mercy Amazon (a ministry of Justice & Mercy International) and is used to service the needs of pastors and villages in the Amazon. Along with 15 schools, two boats and an indigenous staff team, our God is using JMA to impact this part of the world for His glory.
We were blessed with an incredible team to teach and serve these awesome men and women of God. People like Kelly Minter (author of “Wherever the River Runs” and Women’s Bible Teacher), George Mhondero (Worship Leader from the UK), Mary Katharine Hunt (Executive Director of Operations for JMI), Rachel Trammel (JMI Sponsorship Director), Francie (Chairman of the JMA Board), Mike & Kay Minter, Mike Weagle, Mike & Patricia Myers (Reston Bible Church in Washington D.C.), Leo Alhstrom, Chase Baker, Harold Pinto and myself (Rolling Hills); Julie Dewee (Videographer & fellow supporter of the ministry), Winston (a great pastor from Manaus), Alex (a Brazilian evangelist), and our Justice & Mercy Amazon Staff Team.
The Conference runs from Monday evening through Friday morning. We teach sessions throughout the entire day. From theology sessions – this year, “Grace vs. Works” – to practical leadership – this year, “Developing and Multiplying Leaders,” to break-out sessions on worship and preaching. The conference really is top-notch. We try to make it as good as any conference here in the States. The days are completely full and everyone gives their all teaching as well as learning. The nights are powerful, inspirational and filled with encouragement for these pastors and wives.
As Pastor Mike Minter says, “We go to teach them theology, doctrine and how to do church. They teach us about Jesus.” These men and women have little to no money. They sacrifice everything for the calling of Christ. They truly love Jesus and the people in their village with all their heart.
One pastor’s wife thanked us so much for the bar of soap we gave out. She said that they do not have soap in their village. One wife told us that she borrowed the nicest clothes from all our neighbors in order to look her best for the conference. Many talked about when the Amazon floods (5 months out to the year) and how this impacts their church and community. They talked about the water coming into the church, the problem with snakes and having to take canoes around because the roads are covered. Then, they told us about the clean-up from the receding waters and the erosion of the church buildings, and even their own homes.
Yet, through all the struggles, they never complain. They continually say what a joy it is to serve the Lord. They talk about the people who are coming to know Christ and the difference they are seeing in their village. They pray with passion and thanksgiving.
Impacting one pastor ultimately transforms hundreds in a village and thousands through the generations. These pastors are the gateway to the villages and to the entire Amazon region. They let us know about special needs children in their area. They share with us who needs food bags. They meet the physical and spiritual needs of so many.
The Human Chain
One of my personal highlights from this year was the human chain. Feeding 80+ people 3 meals a day in the middle of the jungle for the week is not an easy task. So much food has to be brought in by boat. The other challenge is that the John Pac Center sits on top of a hill about 100 feet. There are close to a 100 steps to the center at a 45-degree angle. It is steep!
Our team arrived before the pastors and their wives in order to set up the center. We brought up the sound system, established the office, registration center, kitchen and more. When the pastor and wives arrived, we went down to welcome them and to begin the long haul of bringing up the food, water and supplies. The task was overwhelming. There was so much, and it was steaming hot out in the jungle.
However, what happened was amazing! A human chain began to form. The pastors and their wives saw what was happening, and they wanted to help. From the boat on the Amazon River to the top of the 100 steps, we formed a human chain. Those of us from the States and the UK intermingled with jungle pastors and wives as well as more well-off volunteers from churches in the city of Manuas. We started passing up cans of food from one person to the next. Bottles of water, chairs, tables, fruits, vegetables and even a grill all came up the human chain. It was hot and the boxes were heavy. Yet, through the sweat, there were smiles. For over an hour, we worked and it set the tone for the week. We are all in this together. All loving Jesus and called to a ministry of service. Learning from one another. Everyone is important and needed. This is the Body of Christ!
The last night we had an awesome experience. We had an amazing worship time followed by Alex sharing an encouraging word from Luke 10. After this, I read from John 13 about Jesus showing His disciples the full extent of His love by washing the disciples feet. We told the pastors, and their wives, that we wanted to wash their feet. This was one of the most powerful times we had all ever seen. These pastors could not believe it. The men, of our team, washed the pastor’s feet while the women, of our team, washed the pastor’s wives feet. They wept. No one had ever served them like this. They sobbed. It was transformational and honoring all at the same time. God overwhelmed us with His Presence, and none of us will ever be the same.
How you can help:
- Pray for these pastors and their wives. They are on the front lines of ministry. God is using them in an incredible way, and lives throughout the Amazon region are being impacted for Christ. Pray as they return to their families, churches and villages to love and serve those in the Name of Jesus.
- Sponsor a pastor or a child in the Amazon through JMI. Your donation will make a huge difference! This Pastor’s Conference is not cheap, and it happens because of generous people like you. You can go to www.justiceandmercy.org to find out more.
- Go on a mission trip to the Amazon. The region is beautiful, and the people even more. As you share the love of Christ with others, your life will be changed. Come experience what only God can do! Our God is at work in the Amazon – thank you for joining Him!