God’s Ongoing Work Among The Sataré-Maué Tribe In The Amazon
By Tom Padley
In this twenty-first century world where love is waxing cold and the fear of global warming amplifies the age-old friction between the church and the world, one thing stands true, God’s word! God always keeps his promises! God has given his word on global warming, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen.8:22). God’s word also says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt.24:14). I am often asked the question,”What happens to those who have died before receiving Christ as Lord and Savior? Where will they spend eternity?” While no one has a solid theological answer, we know that God in His infinite love and wisdom has provided supernatural methods to reach some remote people groups with the gospel. This is known as the “Melchizedek Factor” as noted by Don Richardson in his book “Eternity in Their Hearts” (see Heb.6:13-20). In his book are various accounts of God making contact with these people groups, supernaturally preparing them for the gospel.
Let me give you some background of the Sataré people, (pronounced Sah-teh-ray) as an example. In 1983 Kathy and I sat around the table one evening with our four children after dinner to read missionary stories and pray for the nations. We read an article from a Last Days newsletter, Nov./Dec. 1982 Vol.5 No.6 which was reprinted from a Wycliffe circular written by Karen Lewis. This is where our piece of God’s plan for the Sataré began.
In 1959 God kept His promise to the Sataré when He sent Wycliffe Bible translators Al and Sue Graham to the Amazon jungles in Maués, Brazil. The Sataré people are named after a gorgeous florescent insect that hovers above the canopy of the jungle but delivers a terrible sting when touched. Because of low self esteem that said [to them] “We’re beautiful but don’t get near us,” the Sataré were killing themselves off by suffocating their newborns. At that time in 1959, they only numbered 1,500. By 1982, after the Graham’s work, they had grown to over 5,000 with 9 flourishing churches. It was during their initial translation that the Graham’s had heard the legend of the Wasidii (an original ancestor of the Sataré). The Wasidii had arrived in their land as a prisoner of unknown captors. While hidden in a cave, a “god” gave him ten rules for living and Wasidii carved them on a canoe paddle; five positive and five negative. The paddle still exists today and anthropologists who have examined the paddle cannot identify the writing or the wood. These rules had then been passed down to each generation’s chief. The legend promised that someday someone would come and explain the writing to them. When Sue Graham showed interest in the writing of the Sataré language, they thought that she was Wasidii returned to earth. The legend of the magic paddle helped the Grahams in their translation work and especially when translating the Ten Commandments.
Our piece of the plan
Fast forward now to the year 2005, Kathy and I are in the Amazon with our missionaries Marquinhos and Paula who have been living and working in the region for years. Imagine my delight and surprise in first laying eyes on the beautiful Sataré people and recalling to mind the story of the legend that I had shared with my children years before. As Marquinhos and Paula begain to make disciples in the Amazon, the Sataré were also among them. By this time, in the Sataré tribe in the region of Maués, we have not encountered the nine flourishing churches. Instead, we have noticed an unusually low sense of self esteem once again with the Sataré people that we know. We began to pray once again for the Sataré people.
An open door, an answered prayer
During an interview at my house, Scott Pursley and I sat down with Marquinhos as he shared stories of his life and trials in Maués. In that conversation Marquinhos talked of a need to drill wells for fresh water among the Sataré and the “riberinhos” (river people). This began a two year preparation and a wonderful parnership between Lamb of God Church in NJ, ARC/Brazil and IAM, where we purchased the drilling rig, equipment and materials to drill our first well. After arriving on the site and drilling for six days, at thirty-three meters deep, the first Sataré village received the gift of clean, fresh, cool water from Jesus!
Later through the follow-up work of Marquinhos and our team, Tuchaua (chief) Vitor received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he and his whole household! As long as I live I will never forget an interview with the Tuchaua when he said, “Jesus doesn’t want anyone to die thirsty.” I then realized that the work of drilling for water and the revival work of preaching the gospel of the kingdom among the Sataré, were what brought to him that “Living Water” from John 4:13. We now seemed to be filling a niche, especially in pastoral care to the Sataré. Marquinhos is also extending pastoral care to the directors of the YWAM base in Manaus, Amazonas who have also partnered with us in this work by renting us their boat as we go out to drill the water wells.
The ongoing work
In August 2009 after drilling the second well, God put it on our hearts to visit the village of the first well and Tuchaua Vitor. Several of us boarded the motor-boat and set out to the first village. When we arrived, the Tuchaua came running to greet us and said,“We reunite in the strength of Tupana (God).” He went on to say that he had been praying that God would send us to repair the well which had been down for two weeks. After returning to get the tools we needed, no easy task since there isn’t a Home Depot in the Amazon, we arrived back later that evening and replaced a rubber seal/washer and got water flowing again.
Tuchaua Vitor came with us back to Maués where we spent hours over the next few days fellowshipping as brothers in Christ. My son James let him listen to his music on his I-pod. I remembered that a year before, those same ears were clogged with wasps and our missionaries had to remove them with tweezers (Now, I think we may have to get him his own I-pod!). What a joy to see Vitor worshipping the Lord with such a peaceful smile on his face. Vitor also told us that since we were there, they have not done the ritual of the “Tucandeira,” in which very large ants are made to bite the hands of the young men as a right of passage. These changes and the peaceful and godly ambience that we found in that community when we arrived, are glimpses into how the presence of God can change a nation. On a practical level, we realized that we needed to instruct the Indians to use the water from the new well to drink, bath and brush their teeth. By example we brushed our teeth at the new well and then we handed out new tooth brushes and toothpaste kits to each one as we showed them how to brush their teeth.
Please join us in praying as we continue the work; we pray with the Sataré in the words of the Psalmist…” Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love O Lord and grant us your salvation.” (Ps.85:6,7) I have seen a copy of the canoe paddle and I also cannot understand the meaning of the inscription on the paddle, but the Sataré still know as God’s laws have been written on their hearts (Ecc. 3:11), and we may very well be the interpretation of those words!
We rejoice with the Sataré, a beautiful people that God is reviving once again. After we finished the second well, this time in only three days of drilling and 58 meters deep, the Tuchaua of that village, Tuchaua Francisco began to crack a smile for the first time since we arrived. Pray that he will also come to find the Living Water. The Sataré elders asked us to paint these words on a wooden plaque over the handcrafted pump handle and pipe, “Tupana y’y Wakuat”, which means, “God is Good Water.“ I say God is good water indeed! Jesus is the living water and seeing Him flow into the hearts of those living in the remote areas of the Amazon jungle is part of what keeps us going back.
(If you would like to see a quality DVD of the first drill, please contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to obtain a copy)