We arrived there at the small place where Marcos does his discipleship program. I was apart from the group from Manaus so I headed down as they asked Eli a few questions. I was humbled by what happened next. Indians are very quiet, non-emotional (outwardly) people. As I approached the thatch roof hut where they meet for church, Shapu and Tumi Matis ( 2 young men I had spent time with over the past several trips) came out with a BIG smile on their face and gave me a big hug as I walked up to them. They had previously taught me some of their language so we had a brief exchange in Matis. As I walked in to the “Maloca”, I realized there was something bigger going on. There were about 35 Matis men and women and children sitting in there with Marcos. In this crowd included 3 top witch doctors within their culture. One, Tumi’s father, is mentioned is a previous post here. The pastor and his family came in and took their seat, I always seek to blend with the Indians (although not much “blending” actually happens, they appreciate the attempt) so I stood in corner with my new found posse.
I knew the following conversation would be interesting as the Pastor was there to see what he could do for these people. I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time around Indians and I have learned and been taught that you always ask how to handle things and how certain questions may be perceived. The problem with us as outsiders is we may have the best of intentions but without the correct knowledge of how to handle certain topics and situations we can ruin opportunities to build relationships with these people. Unfortunately, that is what happened next. The Pastor began a monologue with about 35 people that are VERY primitive and are just now beginning to think about knowing more about Christ (by the way, the reason they want to know more about Christ is because of Marcos and his ministry but that is for later).
The Pastor explained who he was (through Tumi as the translator) and what he did. He explained that he was there to help and wanted to know what he could do to help them. He then moved into telling them that the most important thing they could ever do is accept Christ into their heart as their Savior and only trust in Him. That life is only available in Him and that He is the most important decision in their life. He said all this was clearly written in the Bible and they could see it for themselves. I want to take a minute and say that everything he said was 100% true. It is the message that gives me hope and a reason for life. It is why I was in this place. My heart burns for these people to have their eyes opened to who He is. BUT, and this is a big one, these people literally have NO idea who Jesus is. All they know is, once again, a “Branco” (literally means “White person” but is the favored term by Indians for any non-indian) was telling them how to live their life and what they needed to do. What happened next took the color out of the Brazilian Pastors face and literally made him a “Branco”. He asked if there were any questions, the lead Pajé (witchdoctor) spoke up. He looked squarely at the Pastor and said, “Have you ever seen your God?”. The answer was in the negative. That was all the Pajé needed to hear. He said, “How are you going to come to me and tell me about this God of yours when you have not even seen Him?” “All you “broncos” have is a book to read about Him but you never see Him”. His next words left us all thinking a bit, “I have seen your God, I spoke with Him, I see many gods and talk to them frequently – and all you have is a book. Don’t tell me what I need to do when you can’t even see Him.”
I was expecting some sort of response from the Pastor – something….but he was truly speechless. He had just offended a Pajé by insinuating (not intentionally) that he had all the answers and could fix everything for them. When the Pajé returned with a difficult answer, there was nowhere else to go. That is when Marcos stepped in and asked them to let the Pastor know what they needed physically. They began to speak about wanting to have a fence built around Marcos’ property to keep their young men protected. They loved Marcos and what he was doing for their children but they felt like the boys were unsafe without any type of fence. The Pastor said, “Ok, we will see what we can do”. Now, I was homeschooled and I was once told that you can tell if someone was homeschooled by the way they run from awkward confrontation. I don’t know if that is true in a general sense but it is for me. I don’t really know what happened after that because Pastor Eli and I both left the Maloca. I used it as a chance to speak with Eli more about what he needed and the needs of the seminary. We talked about that for a little while. We then brought up the elephant in the room. He said they were great people and had helped financially in the past. He said he understood their heart but that they didn’t understand they were doing more harm than good with attempts to make a convert. You have to remember, we grew up in a world surrounded by Christianity (and still so few actually “get it”) and here we are trying to give the Gospel with ZERO background, explanation and absolutely no life examples for them to see (as far as Brancos are concerned).
They soon finished up the meeting and they were on their way. I went back into the Maloca once the awkwardness had cleared and began talking with some friends. Very quickly, about 15 of the Matis came and surrounded me. They wanted to know about me, how I knew their boys, etc. I used it as a time to talk about how much I love their culture (no smoke here, I have always had a special place in my heart for the Matis over all the other tribes). I talked about how I had met one of the Pajés (who was there) in 2010 and what a privilege it was for me to be there with them. We had some fun as they taught me some Matis words. Essentially, I didn’t come in and try to convert them. I did speak the Gospel in words they didn’t understand. I did everything I could to live it out and love them. I wanted them to see that there was something different about this Branco. I want them to see that their young men respect me and that I respect them and that even though I am an outsider, I don’t want anything for myself – I want to love them, unconditionally and let them know that they are of utmost important in my life. After all, that is what Christ did. You may argue that He also said to PREACH the Gospel. That is very true, but He also had certain people go to the Jews and other to the Gentiles because He knew how to best reach them. It is my firm conviction that these people will be reached by their own! They will not need the Gospel from a foreigner because God is raising up young men RIGHT NOW to be able to adequately convey the Gospel message in their own language and in a way that incorporates their culture, a culture God created to Glorify Himself.
Soon they all left, I swear that these people have to be ninjas because literally one minute there were 35 of them and the next there were 4….I have no idea where they went and how they did it so fast!
I began to talk with Marcos about the project that I wanted to develop to bring funds into his ministry. He is training 11 young men in their language. He is one of them, they trust him, he cares for them. And they are getting the Gospel through him. He is feeding them, giving them a place to live and teaching them the Gospel. He is also supporting a wife and a 2 year old on $250US a month! You read that right…..it is disgusting to me the amount of money that we waste as the Church when there are SO many that are scraping by with nothing. We think we do well because we give the magical 10%….most of them don’t even have that 10% to eat with….once again, that is for another blog. He was very excited to hear that there were already 17 people who had committed to giving and other than me, none of them had ever met him……