The Forgotten People of the Amazon

We arrive at the first small fishing village just as the sun sets behind the dense jungle along the banks of the Itaquaí River. We are soon met by villagers who bring us our first patient. A woman holding her crudely bandaged arm asks for medicine to ease the pain from a severe knife wound leveled upon her by her machete wielding husband. A domestic dispute that potentially could have resulted in a fatality has become an opportunity to share the life giving message of Christ. After attending to the pressing physical need, we have an entire village ready and receptive to hear God's Word.

Days later we are excited to learn of another village deeper within the bush. After confirming the reports, we begin to mobilize our mission team in their direction. Soon we find ourselves walking through the virgin jungle of Brazil's westernmost Amazon Basin. Woolly monkeys chatter somewhere in the distance, their banter punctuated by the occasional zing of a machete and the shrill cries of screaming piha birds high in the canopy overhead. Our column of fourteen men proceeds in silence, strung out single file far back into the forest. Our group is soon swallowed from view by a spray of overhanging branches and vines as thick as anacondas dangling a hundred feet from the treetops to the forest floor. Just ahead of me, our guide strides double-time across a stretch of level ground, a welcome break from the steep riverbanks we've been scrambling over for days. As we enter a clearing we see smoke spiraling from fires in the distance. This indicates a village ahead. Soon our efforts pay off as we see the tops of the thatched roofed houses and villagers working in their gardens. "You're probably the only outsiders who have ever walked here," the guide tells me.

After days of river travel and bushwhacking, the guide has led us into the doorway of one of the most remote and uncharted places left on the planet, near the headwaters of two adjacent rivers, the Itaquaí and the Javarí. This is the Vale do Javari Indigenous Area, the land of the mysterious Korubos or Club People. They are a rarely glimpsed Indian tribe known principally as feared warriors disposed to unleashing a blow from their long bamboo clubs in order to defend their territory against intruders. Then they melt away into the forest. In one of the fishing villages, they tell us stories of the rare experiences they have had with the Korubos. On one occasion it resulted in the death of two family members.

The Korubos are among 17 so-called uncontacted tribes living in the far recesses of the Brazilian Amazon. In this part of the rain forest, there may be as many as 1,350 uncontacted indigenous people—thought to be the largest such concentration anywhere in the world. Most are descendants of the survivors of massacres perpetrated by white intruders over the centuries. The tribes scattered into the rugged folds of the region's headwaters and continue to shun contact with the outside world. But violent clashes account for only a fraction of the deaths suffered by native communities at the hands of outsiders. Many died from epidemic diseases, including the common cold, for which they had no biological defenses. It is for this reason that the Brazilian government has sought to keep the door closed to this region so long left isolated from the modern world.

The provision of medical care is the key that unlocks the door into these areas long closed to the Gospel message. Through mobile medical clinics we are allowed access by taking teams of Christian doctors and evangelists to virgin areas untouched by our modern world and the Gospel. We have seen God use these clinics as a catalyst to establish churches among fishing villages (known as ribeirinhos) in otherwise inaccessible areas. These small fishing villages provide a bridge between the civilized world and the uncontacted tribes. As word spreads of the clinic, the people come from distances within the bush bringing their sick. We attend to many needs, such as malaria, snake bites, skin rashes, even leprosy, but all with one great need, the Lord Jesus Christ. Every clinic is followed by a service where the Gospel is clearly presented and every patient receives a portion of God's Word to take home. Our national workers later continue follow-up with the new converts, much like the circuit riding preachers of American heritage, making possible a church plant.

All along the way while navigating through river tributaries and jungle trails, in village after village we are met with the same receptive hearts waiting and ready to receive the Gospel message. God in His providence has given us this open door into the Vale do Javari. Why then should we not risk life and expense to reach those isolated from Him? Oswald J. Smith once said: "No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice, while there remains those who have not heard it once." Pray for the Amazon Outreach Team as we continue the mission of the Great Physician to take the Gospel to unreached people groups long isolated from God and the modern world!


Special Project

The Forgotten People of the Amazon Project
Read more about this Project.

Brazil Director

Sean & Stephanie Lunday
Read more about Sean & Stephanie Lunday. He can be contacted through the BIMI office (423) 344-5050.

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The Forgotten People of the Amazon (Brazil)
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• Most remote and uncharted places on earth, yet inhabited by 67 different people groups
• Mobile medical clinics opening doors in areas otherwise inaccessible