August 29, 2014
Loading
   
   
Jungle training camp teaches missionaries coping skills
PREV
Students at IMB's jungle training camp, helped by some locals, pile into a canoe to head upriver.  Photo by Rebecca Springer.
Photo Terms of Use | Download Photo
The remote region of the Amazon Basin where IMB missionaries learn about life in the wild is accessible only by small planes or a long trip in a narrow canoe.  Photo by Rebecca Springer.
Photo Terms of Use | Download Photo
Participants in IMB's new jungle training program wash clothes by hand in a river during their month-long stay in the Amazon. Learning to adapt to rustic living conditions is one emphasis of the experience.  Photo by Rebecca Springer.
Photo Terms of Use | Download Photo
Seen on approach, a small clearing in the Amazon rain forest is the access point for where training participants spend a month learning how to live in remote areas.  Photo by Rebecca Springer.
Photo Terms of Use | Download Photo
An IMB missionary kid (MK) -- whose family serves among an Amazonian tribe -- swings across a jungle river in search of a good landing spot. Despite the lack of electricity and modern conveniences, MKs found many opportunities for fun at IMB's jungle training camp in the Amazon Basin.  Photo by Rebecca Springer.
Photo Terms of Use | Download Photo
Missionaries at IMB's jungle training camp document the features of a caiman, a species of small alligator indigenous to the Amazon Basin. While living in the jungle, participants learn to identify poisonous frogs and snakes, tarantulas, scorpions and carnivorous fish.  Photo by Rebecca Springer.
Photo Terms of Use | Download Photo
Children of IMB missionaries play games with local children in the Amazon.  Photo by Rebecca Springer.
Photo Terms of Use | Download Photo
A missionary kid swings out over a river on a rope suspended from a tree in the Amazon jungle.  Photo by Rebecca Springer.
Photo Terms of Use | Download Photo
Missionary families lug their baggage through a village and down a long path from the airstrip to a new IMB jungle training camp.  Photo by Rebecca Springer.
Photo Terms of Use | Download Photo
A missionary (left) attending IMB's jungle training program greets a local believer during an open-air church service.  Photo by Rebecca Springer.
Photo Terms of Use | Download Photo
At IMB's new jungle training camp, missionaries discuss subjects ranging from language acquisition to basic first aid.  Photo by Rebecca Springer.
Photo Terms of Use | Download Photo
NEXT
Posted on Jul 9, 2013 | by Emily Pearson

Email this Story

My Name*:
My Email*:
Comment:
  Enter list of email recipients, one address per box
Recipient 1*
Recipient 2
Recipient 3
Recipient 4
Recipient 5
To fight spam-bots, we need to verify you're a real human user.
Please enter your answer below:
What is the first month of the year?
Answer*:
  * = Required Fields Close
AMAZON BASIN (BP) -- Eighteen International Mission Board workers and their children watched with mixed emotions as the twin-prop plane took off from the jungle airstrip, headed back to the city.

As they stood surrounded by wide rivers and miles of dense Amazon rain forest on all sides, reality began to sink in. They were on their own.

The group trudged through mud and stifling heat, loaded down with children, suitcases and boxes of supplies, before arriving at the camp -- a row of simple wooden cabins beside a river -- that would be home for the next month.

The missionaries -- some new, some veterans -- were the first group to arrive at IMB's new jungle training center, designed to help missionaries learn to live and work in tough rural places.

Donny Barger, an IMB missionary and trainer who helped start the camp, said the program will better prepare missionaries going to work among the nearly 230 unengaged, unreached people groups living in isolated places throughout the Americas. That's 230 people groups that are less than 2 percent evangelical Christian and who have no one seeking to reach them with the Gospel.

"One of the things we hear most often from missionaries after they complete their first term is, 'I really wish someone would have helped me understand what it was really going to be like going into an indigenous area,'" said Barger, from Alabama. "And sometimes [lack of preparation] causes you to make big mistakes with your people group that takes you a long time to get out of."

As the older kids set off to explore their new surroundings, the confused adults began learning how to set up a home in the jungle, asking basic questions such as "Where will we sleep?" "Is the river safe to swim in?" "What is for dinner?"

The learning process had begun.

Going in blind

Before arriving, the trainees had been given very limited information about the upcoming experience. They didn't know what they'd eat or what they'd live in. Cooking options, bathroom facilities, sleeping arrangements and clean water sources were all mysteries.

One trainee, Lisa Williams*, had an even more pressing concern as she gazed warily at the river flowing directly beside her cabin. With four children between the ages of 1 and 6, such proximity to fast-moving water made her uneasy.

"I didn't come in with a lot of expectations, because I didn't know what to expect," she said. "I didn't know what our housing would be. I just had to be flexible and lower my expectations."

Barger said going in unprepared was a planned part of the experience.

"If you tell them everything, it really isn't as good a learning experience," he explained. "Sometimes it's good to not have all the answers and to think through how you're going to respond. It's good to let people discover that on their own."

The tough stuff

For the next month, trainees lived in a closely packed community with few modern luxuries. There was no Internet or phone access. Generator-powered electricity was available only for a couple hours -- most evenings. Food selection was limited to a hodge-podge of non-refrigerated goods from a small local store, accessible only by canoe every few days. Indoor running water was precious, and the nearby river served as the community bathtub, washing machine, food disposal and transportation route.

Despite the challenges, trainers emphasized that the goal was to teach, not torture.

For more than a decade, IMB missionary Jake Johnson* has lived in the Amazonian community where the camp was built. He and his wife Tanya* now use their expertise in jungle living to teach other missionaries how to thrive in difficult places.

"This is not about roughing it," Johnson told the trainees when they arrived. "This is to help you and your family figure out what needs you're going to have to live comfortably in a remote setting. It's about figuring out what you're going to do in this situation. All the things we do out here, we want you to be able to reproduce that where you go, and give you ideas on how to build things and do things that are going to make it easier on you."

The trainees soon learned how to collect rainwater in barrels and pump it into their homes. They -- and their children -- quickly discovered how to avoid the huge thorn trees that lurked beneath the muddy river water, waiting for a bare misplaced foot.

Meat was scarce and a friendly competition soon arose over who could catch the biggest piranha or wolf fish for dinner. Killing scorpions and tarantulas became routine, and it was understood that privacy and silence didn't exist during waking hours.

Learning what's important

While braving the environment, the missionaries attended sessions on sharing the Gospel with indigenous peoples. They also studied some of the most common obstacles missionaries face in rural cultures steeped in animism and witchcraft. Experienced missionaries gave tips on being a strong, godly family in isolated places.

The group practiced learning difficult, non-written languages. Participants learned to tell simple Bible stories to those who can't read, and each family developed evangelism plans for their specific people group.

Each day's schedule also included times for personal devotion, reflection and prayer.

"We're spending a lot of time focusing on personal devotions," Barger said. "While we have people in a close community with no electricity, no Internet or phone, no television or anything, we're able to disconnect them and give them some solitude."

Amidst the chaos of parenting four small children in the jungle, Williams was able to break away for some one-on-one time with God. She said this habit strengthened her spiritual life throughout the training.

"Probably my biggest takeaway from the [training] has been in my prayer life," she said. "I think that's probably the biggest thing -- knowing that as we're leaving here and going to our people group, we need to be right with God. We need to be walking in the Spirit."

Over the course of four weeks, the trainees fell into a practiced, if not necessarily comfortable, jungle routine. While the first day saw a group of nervous newbies, the group that sat by the airstrip a month later, laughing and joking about their unforgettable experience as they waited for their ride home, was dramatically different.

They were more creative cooks, better fishermen and semi-professional bug-killers. They were experts in navigating muddy terrain by touch and flashlight. More importantly, they were better Bible-storytellers, language learners and prayer warriors with established plans for reaching their people group with the Gospel.

At this same remote location in the Amazon Basin, IMB leaders in the Americas will hold training sessions several times a year to prepare more missionaries for work among unreached people groups.
--30--
*Name changed. Emily Pearson served as an IMB writer in the Americas. To find out how you can be involved in reaching the lost in the Americas and throughout the world, visit going.imb.org. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Latest Stories
  • LABOR DAY: R.G. Lee steeled by Panama Canal 'rugged toil'
  • Platt looks ahead to mission challenges
  • FIRST-PERSON: 10 things we owe David Platt
  • Transcript: David Platt press conference
  • TRUSTEES: Rainer on 'headwinds of change'; LifeWay downtown property studied; 2% revenue gain projected
  • Fire survivors thankful for Baptist relief
  • Afghan family longs for hope and peace
  • 2nd VIEW: TRUSTEES: Funding for short-term workers, Mideast refugee crisis accompany Platt vote
  • CALL TO PRAYER: Keep asking in prayer
  • FIRST-PERSON: The increase of narcissism
  • FIRST-PERSON: 'Don't Labor in Vain Day'
  • EDITORIAL: Por tres pecados, y por el cuarto
  • Add Baptist Press to
    your news reader


       
       


     © Copyright 2014 Baptist Press. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use.


    Southern Baptist Convention