You won't find Pucallpa, Peru—a jungle town on the Ucayali River—on the jet set's list of top-ten tourist attractions. Yet Pucallpa is the hub of evangelical missionary activity in the Peruvian Amazon. It is a jungle base for such major agencies as the Wycliffe Bible Translators—related Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), the South American Mission, and the Swiss Indian Mission.
What they do in Pucallpa is coordinate jungle missions. Hearing those words, most Americans visualize deadly snakes, lurking dangers, and a fair-skinned missionary neck-deep in boiling water. Yet, while there are still snakes and dangers, jungle missions have become a lot more complicated since the pith-helmet days. I traveled there to update our stereotypes: what are jungle missions really like?
My host was a long-time friend, Roger Marquez, a native from the Peruvian Shipibo tribe, and a jungle missionary. Roger and his wife, Rebeca, serve as missionaries to the Shipibo church under a Christian and Missionary Alliance congregation in Lima. After the 50-minute flight from Lima to Pucallpa, photographer Samuel Nieva and I spotted Roger just outside the airport terminal. He greeted us, apologizing that he needed to hurry back to the annual assembly of the Association of Shipibo-Conibo Evangelical Churches. Roger quickly loaded us into a "motokar," a three-wheeled motorcycle pulling a canopied carrier with room to seat three (thin) adults. "Motokars are a lot cooler than a car this time of year," Roger said, as the hot tropical air whipped in our faces in the rutted street from the airport.
The Shipibo-Conibo church association assembly was in full swing. About 80 church leaders from up and down the Ucayali ...1
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