Lush, green trees envelope a small riverboat crossing the brown Amazon. Fish jump from the river and splash back down, possibly Arowana. A river dolphin peaks its long beak out of the water and in the distance, Elmer can see a large bird that looks like a stork or heron walking.
But Elmer Terrazas isn’t looking for animals. He’s looking for souls to save in one of the most remote parts of the world.
In Isaiah 49:6, God declares that He desires His salvation to reach the ends of the earth. For Elmer, this is literal. He’s a Missions Door missionary who travels to the Amazon Jungle in Bolivia, reaching the native tribes he grew up among, cut off from civilization. On his boat are thirteen men and women, almost all Bolivian or South American. Some are pastors or doctors, but all with the same mission.
It’s been a fifteen-hour trip. Right now, food is available and being prepared on the boat. A gentleman uses a large, wooden grinder, almost as tall as he is sitting down, to mash green bananas. He’s making matoke and serving it with alligator nuggets. When the boat reaches its destination, Elmer is first to step off. These tribes are typically hostile, but they trust him. He always lets them know his crew is friendly. They’re hoping the tribe will be receptive to the gospel and willing to start a church.
There aren’t many doctors in this part of Bolivia. During a medical emergency, members of the tribe might travel three to seven hours to get to another community, and even then, they may not be able to find a doctor. The doctors on this mission trip may be the only doctors this tribe sees in a month. They do a little of everything – help the vision-impaired get glasses, prescribe medicine, assist with chronic pain issues, etc.
As the doctors bandage wounds and examine babies, the pastors preach the gospel and lead worship songs on guitars, ukuleles, and bongos. Silly boys wear the brand-new shorts they’ve received on their heads, and the girls are excited about the dresses made for them. Missionaries play soccer with the children. When the sun sets, they set up a projector and screen to play The Jesus Film. It may be the first time these natives have ever seen a movie about Jesus in their tribe’s dialect.
The mission trip is a success. “The opportunity for missions is large in this region. We have at least three areas where we are evangelizing,” says Elmer. While it was a difficult trip, it’s clear that the missionaries are taking a piece of the Amazon with them in their hearts as they depart. They won’t forget the children climbing trees to throw down fruit or paddling away on the Amazon. The corn husking machines and steam rising from big pots of stew. And most of all, the special and resilient people who live on the river.
If you would like to support Missions Door missionary Elmer Terrazas as he brings the gospel and plants churches in the Amazon Jungle of Bolivia, visit his page here. Pray for the remote tribes of Bolivia that they may be saved and discipled!