Some things are just meant to go together. Salted caramel and chocolate. Peanut butter and jelly. Agriculture and church planting. Maybe you didn’t see the last one coming, but this episode may change your mind.
Some things are just meant to go together. Salted caramel and chocolate. Peanut butter and jelly. Agriculture and church planting. Maybe you didn’t see the last one coming, but this episode may change your mind. Dave has served in Peru for more than 15 years and seen the challenges of taking the gospel to remote areas where finding food and water is the equivalent of a full-time job. Now, he’s training local church planters to use sustainable agricultural practices to provide for their families and improve the lives of unreached people groups living in the jungle.
**BONUS Content** Rats with an apparent salt deficiency. Coffee filtered through a sock. Eating fish—bones and all. Dave tells the story of a three-day hike through the jungle to visit an unreached tribe.
Here are some examples of other Pioneers workers combining a passion for church planting with agriculture.
In part 4 of our Middle Ground video series, Rob visits an orchard in Central Asia, where agriculture provides livelihoods of local gospel workers.
Echo is a ministry that trains missionaries (and local believers around the world) to apply sustainable agriculture practices in the communities they serve.
I think when God calls us, he doesn't, we want to use our skills for the kingdom, but also God can use not only our skills, but God can use our weaknesses.
This is the Relentless Pursuit podcast where we hear stories from cross-cultural workers on what it's really like to be a missionary, the good, the bad, and the ugly. So our guest today is Dave, who's been with Pioneers for over 15 years serving in Peru. I had a chance to meet him 15 years ago when he was there on a two year assignment, just exploring what God might have from there, and also capturing some video to mobilize others, and it's just been amazing to see his story and how God has used him and directed him in the 15 years that he's been serving there.
Yeah, Dave often describes his ministry as planting plants to plant churches and growing grubs to grow the gospel and having chocolate for churches. And he's got a real fun way of describing how his ministry in permaculture and agriculture, and we're going to learn a lot more about that today, connects to his work in planting churches and the spread of the gospel. So we're going to start off with a little intro into just how he kind of got into the ministry world and how the Lord called him to missions.
Well, let's just start at the beginning then, Dave, and just tell us how you ended up in Peru.
Well, I'll tell you what, Matt. I had my life figured out. I knew exactly what I wanted. I was growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, and going to Georgia Tech and had my life scheduled and planned, and I was going to graduate in construction management and get my dream job of a superintendent and manage the building of commercial buildings and with the ability to do houses as well. And then over time, God broke those plans because it also involved some relational plans that fell apart, and I give God the glory for that because I would've never gone to Peru if things turned out I wanted them to turn out. And so God's way is always the best way, and he humbled me and kind of broke my heart, and I started crying out to him instead of telling God I know what I want with my life, bless my plans. Finally, I started asking God, what are your plans for my life? During that time, took the Perspectives on the World Christian movement class and had gone on a number of short-term mission trips, and God just broke my heart and confirmed that he didn't just want me to be a sender, but he wanted me to be a goer. I was convinced that we all need to be involved in God's global plan somehow.
Yeah, that's great. I know when I met you for the first time back in 2008, you were in the middle of the jungle and in Peru and you were working with a team there and just kind of exploring what opportunities might evolve from that. Is that really where your heart got captured for Peru and for the needs there?
So it was probably a multi-step process over two years on how God called me first to be just a goer missionary. I had a good job making good money in construction and God just, I remember hearing the call from the Lord and in multiple steps I was asking, well, who do I go with? And when I heard about this group, pioneers from the Perspectives class that they were telling me, man, these pioneers, these guys are crazy. They'll go into these closed countries and using these passports and figure out some way to take risks for the kingdom. And I was like, oh, I got to hear about this. And so I went to the Pioneer's website actually and started clicking on all the values and it was like the Holy Spirit just grabbed my heart and started squeezing. And I started weeping just reading the Pioneers website as I was reading about unreached people, groups, church planting, movements, all of these things that were dear to my heart.
And yeah, I knew God was calling me to Pioneers. And then as I started searching, I had a love for Latin America and the Spanish language, and I felt like my heart could connect best there. And so I was like, well, where are the needs? Where are the unreached in Latin American? And I was researching, and I found Peru had the most number of unreached people groups at the time and not including Brazil as they speak Portuguese. And so I started researching Peru and I called up Pioneers and I said, Pioneers, I feel like God's called me to the jungle of Peru with you guys. Can you guys, sorry I didn't say the jungle Peru. What I meant to say is I called up Pioneers and I said, I feel like God's called me to Pioneers to Peru. Can you send me all the information you guys have on the teams in Peru?
And so Pioneers, somebody there sent me a packet in the mail and I came home from work one day, opened up this packet. I was sitting on the couch of my friend who ended up being a pastor, and I was just flipping through after a long day of work, not planning on making any decisions, any commitments, and I was kind of going through my junk mail. I found this mail from Pioneers, okay, I'll flip through it real quick. And I started flipping reading the names of the teams and Pioneers, and all of a sudden I flipped the page and all of it said was Peru jungle team. And before I could read and analyze it, because an analytical person, I went to Georgia Tech, I like to compare and contrast. I couldn't analyze it. All of a sudden, the Holy Spirit once again grabs my heart and squeezes and I started weeping after reading those three words and it didn't stop, and I didn't know what was happening.
And I was like, what in the world? And I started drying my eyes from the tears. God literally blinded me with tears to prevent me from analyzing and making that decision. And I realized after about 15 minutes and I couldn't read, I just looked up and I said, God, I hear you. I hear you. And so that's how God called me to the Peru jungle team. And in fact, they weren't actually recruiting missionaries at the time. And so yeah, I offered to make a mobilization video just to mobilize more teams. That team at the time was full, and so we needed to have more teams. So I was like, okay. So I kind of got my foot in the door making a mobilization video and the rest is history.
Wow. So when you say that it stopped you from analyzing and stuff like that, I'm so curious if you had gone into sort of analyzing mode as you read that profile on the teams and such, do you think that that would've maybe stopped you or slowed you down?
The interesting thing is, later on, I ended up finding out, as I was able to analyze that, it probably would've confirmed it. But I think what God was telling me is that at different steps in my journey, he allowed me to make certain decisions on where I wanted to go, like Latin America, for example, but two parts when he called me to pioneers and when he called me to the Peru jungle team was very specifically the Holy Spirit. And it was like God's sovereignty and man's responsibility together. And I think that helped me in times of the difficult times when you doubt, what am I doing here? Why am I here? Did I make the wrong choice? And I look back at that, it's like, well, remember David, I didn't choose those two things. God called me there. And so it gives me that confidence in those difficult times that this is God's work, and unless he pulls me away, I'm there.
Right. That's so good. So just to back up in your story a little bit as well, I mean you went from having your plan out. You know exactly what you're going to do, where you're going to go, you know what you've studied. You went from there to crying over the Pioneers website, it seems like pretty quickly. And I'm sure there's a lot of different stuff that happened in your journey in between those two things. But I'm just kind of wondering when that first inkling like, oh, I might have a heart to be overseas, or I have some sort of heart for God's mission for missions work, whether that's as a goer or sender, when do you think you first started getting that little tug on your heart?
That's a good question. Yeah. For those of you who don't know me, I'm not a weepy emotional person. I'm pretty pragmatic and practical, and so that's not common for me. So yeah, taking that Perspectives course, because before then I was like, yeah, maybe when I retire and I've got a big nest egg and things are going well, I'll visit some countries and build some churches because I'm into construction. But then I realized actually building churches for others, it kind of takes the joy out of their hands. And that might not be strategic, as I went to the Perspectives course and be like, they need to build their own churches and we can just empower them to do the work that God's called them to do. And so taking Perspectives really showed me that there's a strategic part to missions in order for it to reach multiple generations and to reach all of the unreached. It's not this paternalistic view of we're the savior, we're the hero, and I'm here to save the day. No, we're just a small part in God's amazing to bring himself glory from all tongues and tribes. So yeah, I guess that was a big part is taking that Perspectives course and being convinced biblically. Yeah, this is God's call for all nations from Genesis to Revelation, God has a heart for the nations for his glory to be made manifest. And so yeah.
That's great. So what are some of the ministries that you've been involved with over the years? You've been in Peru a long time, I know that you've been in some different locations and done different types of ministry there, but how has that evolved over the years?
Yeah, good question. So I got my foot in the door making a mobilization video for Pioneers, kind of showing people the reality with some video of what does tribal work actually look like? So I started doing that and I made some videos for missionaries going home on their home assignment in order to show to their churches and stuff. And then, yeah, I got connected pretty quickly with a local Peruvian pastor that had a heart for the unchurched, and so helped him plant a traditional church there and kind of first experienced working with a national pastor under him. And so yeah, we started a church with him. And then I got connected to another local church as I had some challenges in that first thing that where I was trying to help him as a brother in the Lord to empower other leaders in the church. And we came to a point where I felt like God was leading me towards the next thing that he had for me, which was great because this next church that I started helping out with, that's where I met my wife, which was a Peruvian in the church. And so praise the Lord for his moving and guidance
But so with that second church helped, we kind of branched out and started another church, another traditional style church under that national church pastor. And through that, as we were doing that, we started a launch team, which is a team to train new missionaries on the field for the first year in the field, help them adapt to the culture and the language and help ease in that transition coming from suburbia to the Amazon jungles, a pretty harsh transition, so try to help with that. And so we started our launch team, so that was my next big thing. And as we were doing that launch team, God was really touching my heart towards multiplying churches and disciples. And so kind of started a house church movement with a third national pastor, which was actually him and his wife had discipled my wife. And so we had a relational connection there, and we started five house churches under his guidance.
And it was really exciting to see layman be empowered to lead small groups of inductive Bible studies. And it was really amazing because one of the guys in my wedding was actually a leader of one of those house churches. I remember him telling me, he's like, I can't believe that I am serving the Lord. Because unfortunately, with some of the influence of maybe Catholicism in Latin America, there's this idea of this glorification of the pastor coming from a priestly mentality, and some of the laypeople don't feel adequate to lead others to know Jesus more. And so it was really cool to see layman being empowered. So yeah, working with the house church movement there, that was another thing. And then as time went on, one of the guys, one of our team leader was actually working to help start a project with a Shapibo tribe.
So looking at a big picture of the Amazon jungle, God has called me there, there's dozens of tribes in the Peruvian Amazon that are still unreached with the gospel. Dozens of tribes are reached with the gospel. So we really want to come alongside those tribes that are reached and empower them to reach the unreached. And so with those tribes that are growing and maturing and want to serve the Lord, we want to come alongside them as partners, as they have lots of strengths that honestly, we don't have as foreign missionaries from the west. Traveling on the rivers, they don't get tired. We do, obviously, they speak the language that Spanish as well as the indigenous language is better than we do. They're culturally connected much more than us. So they have all these strengths, but we see it as they have one main weakness, and that's being able to financially support themselves in the mission field.
And so that's kind of been the challenge this last decade. I've been there for 15 years, and we've been praying for the Peruvian church to wake up to its own calling towards missions, and some churches are starting to wake up towards that call. And so now it's like, well, how do we provide for their needs? And so how does that work? And so we're looking for ways where they can, instead of maybe giving the metaphorical analogy of if you give someone a fish, you feed 'em for the day, but if you teach 'em how to fish, you can feed 'em for their life. And so we're trying to find ways as a community in the jungle how they can learn to fish for themselves, even though practically speaking, they teach us how to fish with a net and stuff because they're better at that than we are. But metaphorically speaking, how do they support their own ministries?
And that's what's led you to your latest venture with agriculture. And that's really what I'm interested in hearing about how that works. I do want to loop back a little bit. It really seems like a common thread in a lot of your stories and your journey has been a close relationship and partnership with local leaders in churches. Can you reflect on that a little bit? Because that seems like it's just a common theme is that you work with these local believers and then ultimately the ministry does not belong to you. It's something that you are contributing to at some level, but what would it be like without having these people to partner with?
Thank you for bringing that up. Yeah, that's the core, and that's what God's convinced me of as I have a couple boys. I want them to learn how to fend for themselves, how to be resilient and strong, and if I'm still spoonfeeding them, they're not going to grow for themselves. And the same with the Peruvian church. This is not about me, about my ministry, about my calling or my gifts. This is about the kingdom of God and his glory going forth, and he's given all of us responsibility. And so if I took that away from them, I would be doing them a disservice and maybe it would come from pride. And so having that balance in how much do I do, how much initiative do I take versus how much do I let them take? Because if I'm too hands off, maybe I'm not being too involved, but if I'm taking too much of the reins, then I am stealing from them the blessing of making disciples and earning eternal rewards.
And so yes, the relationship with national pastors is really a core strategy because when we have to come home for home assignment, we don't want the ministry to stop for a year. And so God's called me, I believe, to look for these pastors that have a similar heart and vision. And I prayed for a decade, and I remember when God, I had heard about this church where, oh man, there's this church in town. There's a new pastor and he's got a missions heart. And I remember I walked into that church and I had never, it was actually really traditional church and we were kind of looking for more house church multiplication, but I walked in and the first time I stepped in there, I heard the pastor talking about missions, and I was like, God, this is a big church in Pucalpa, one of the oldest in Pucalpa.
And I was like, I got to talk to this pastor. So I walked right up to him and I started talking to him, and for some reason I started, it was like God put on my heart to talk to him this first conversation about multiplying churches and disciples. And I remember him looking at me, and he's actually bilingual, and so he switched to English. He's like, I want to implement that in this church and it's going to be so hard. This is so traditional minded, and they're close to house churches. And it was like we had just met each other and we're sharing each other our hearts desire, and God bonded us together. Over the years, he ended up living in our house for six months, him and his whole family, and now thanks. Fast forward. It took multiple years to get the leaders on board with the vision.
Now there's 11 house churches out of that main church. One of 'em meets in our area. And so we help where some of the leaders now, which is totally in the hands of Peruvian nationals right now, continuing that house church in our absence as we're in home assignment. So anyways, yeah, that is a core thing to our heart is humbling ourselves under the Peruvians, under the indigenous, under the nationals. We're not here to take anything from them. We want to encourage and empower and when there are technical skills and biblical teaching, we want to do that too, but never in the way that exalts us.
Yeah. That's so fun. Just a picture of how you are empowering the locals. You said that word several times just as you were sharing a little bit about how you got into ministry amongst the people in Peru and how it really seems like you're sort of wanting to take a back seat to the local people, sort of work yourself out of a job almost as soon as possible so that you can really hand off the ministry to the local people so that they can minister to their own and all those things. And so I think that's just such a cool picture that you are painting. And I'm just so curious because you kind of said, even though local pastors said like, yeah, there are a lot of barriers and there's a lot of tradition and there's a lot of cultural things that make things like house churches difficult. So I'm just wondering if you have any specific stories of a particular person that you kind of saw that transformation happening of at first they didn't see themselves as able or worthy to be able to take on that leadership, and now they really have been empowered and have been equipped to be able to lead a house, church, or a small group or whatever it is.
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, we've got a number of friends because there it's ministry and friendship. It's all connected. It's not like you go to church one day and then you go see your work people the other day, it's all connected. So one of the guys in our first house church movement was, yeah, he became a friend of mine. He was a carpenter, and as my construction background, I was interested in getting to know him more. He actually builds furniture from raw pieces of wood. It's amazing. And so he's like a legitimate carpenter. And so I got to know him and saw him being trained by the national pastor as well as my help and to lead a house church. And then as things were transitioning from that house church movement that he continued and he was reaching out to the local kids on his street that are right next to his where he builds the furniture and just amazing to see him continue that ministry, reach out to those kids, and some of those kids help 'em in building furniture.
Now he takes 'em out to eat, and he just really, because they have some parents that are not very active in their lives, so he's kind of like an uncle that has taught them the gospel. And yeah, it's just really cool to see our friend grow in his faith and actually to see his marriage come under the lordship of Christ. They didn't start well, but they kind of transitioned their marriage to being onto the Lordship of Christ. And so yeah, really cool to see him come in that corner because he really didn't feel like he could serve at all, not much of an education, but yeah, now he's serving the Lord, and it's exciting to see that.
Yeah, it sounds like he's really just kind of blossomed under your guys' relationship and just kind of being poured into from you and this local pastor, and now he's able to do that to others as well.
That's right. That's right.
I think a lot of times there's kind of the impression that when missionaries go, they have to have all this knowledge to impart to the people that they're going to serve. But it's from my observation and the stories that I hear from people like yourself, in many ways, that's not really what happens. Yes, there are things that supernaturally happen that God guides you along the way, but a lot of times you're learning along the way alongside people, and we're all the body of Christ and we're all equals, and we might come from different backgrounds, but what are some of the things that you've learned along the way of working alongside some of these local believers?
Yeah. Well, yeah, I mean, I guess I've learned a lot along the way. I think when God calls us, he doesn't, we want to use our skills for the kingdom, but also God can use not only our skills, but God can use our weaknesses and sometimes he gets more glory that way in some ways, but I think God calls us to use both our skills and our weaknesses. And so when I came to make videos, I remember the first presentation I shared raising support, and I was like, yeah, I'm going to make a video. And the guy asked me afterwards, what software are you using? I was like, I don't know. It turns out this guy was a professional video editor and he trained me as a pro that does commercials for Coca-Cola and like he had a professional teaching me how to edit videos. And then as God was kind of leading us towards this agricultural and really more specific permaculture ministry, I barely knew anything about plants. My wife grew up in the jungle and knows a lot about plants, and so she was a huge help, but I was like, I don't know. But then the pandemic hit and I was kind of confined at home and had been wanting to take this permaculture course. And so I took this one year permaculture course and got my design certificate. So the pandemic was not a waste.
What exactly is permaculture?
Yeah, same question I was going to ask. Go ahead. What is permaculture?
Yes, thank you. Thank you. Basically, it's a system of design that can help provide for most of the needs of humanity. A design science applied to agriculture basically, and not just agriculture, but applied to whole systems like your water system, your food system, your animal raising system, your energy systems, your waste systems and stuff like aquaculture, like fish and the environment under the water. And so it sounds much like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, but it's basically using really good design to minimize the inputs that you need to grow plants and grow food and to maximize the abundance and maximize the outputs, which it's turning waste into resources. For example, in the Amazon, one of the biggest problems, and it's not just an ecological problem, but it's a person problem, which is the main focus is slash and burn. They cut down entire acres of forest and they just burn it all.
And when you go through permaculture and you learn all that stuff, they just cut down, can rot and turn into fertilizer for your plants, you're literally burning your fertilizer up in the thin air. And so we're teaching effective techniques to turn that around for the benefit of the kingdom where they can turn waste into resources. And designing your farm can help prevent and survive droughts and floods, pests in a natural way where you don't have to buy all these chemicals that really out in the remote jungle. You don't have access to buying bags of fertilizer and importing chemicals and pesticides and stuff. I mean, you need a natural way that's easy and sustainable in order to be a support. Because once again, going back to the main challenge with indigenous and national missionaries is their raising of their support. And so through permaculture, you can help provide for their water needs, their food needs, their medicine.
I mean, even energy. You know how they cook over fires using a simple rocket stove can cut the firewood they need in half, and you think, oh, there's tons of firewood, cuz it's the jungle. Well, that's true until you've been there years and years and they have to walk out kilometers to get firewood because now everything is gone. So if you can minimize that energy consumption through rocket stoves, it's great. Or with rain, right now, they're going through a major drought, which is crazy, cuz it's the rainforest, and there's a drought going on. But harvesting that water in the ground through dugout, hand dug ponds or something called a swale, which is basically a ditch dug on contour that harvest water passively like this is nothing, you don't turn on your hose and pump it from way underground. No, this is like you harvest it passively automatically. Once you dig that swale and you plant below the swale on the raised elevated berm, it's a tree growing system.
And so you can harvest the water as it's going down instead of having all of the massive, I mean, when it rains in the jungle, it rains hard and the drops are big and they smash the ground and it can cause compaction and it can erode the top soil. So this swale stops all that. It minimizes the erosion, all of the root zone around these plants and the trees that are planted on the berm that provide food for you, they're not compacted because yeah, it prevents that. And it also collects this organic material like all the leaves and fecal matter from the animals and all this stuff, all the grasses and stuff. Instead of that washing away, those are future fertilizer that when they rot down, this swale collects it and it minimizes the compaction. So simple techniques like that that all you need is a shovel and a pick. You don't need these fancy tractors and technology. These guys can do that in the jungle.
Basically all of these are examples of permaculture in which you're kind of helping people develop systems that are more efficient or more self sustaining and that's kind what permaculture is. It's not one specific type. It's almost like sort of this philosophy of seeing what your resources are, what the environment is, and kind of coming up with the best system within that environment. Am I understanding that properly?
Yes. That's great. Yeah, I mean, it's like compost toilets to fertilize trees. You've got all the shower water that comes from your shower goes to watering your banana plants, so you're reusing the water multiple times. Passive cooling. You don't have enough energy in the jungle to have air conditioning units and it's hot. So learning passive cooling techniques as well as what I like to call our gateway technique to get people interested in permaculture, which is almost a hundred percent success rate as far as getting people interested is the banana circle, because everyone lives off plantains in the jungle. They eat it sometimes three times a day. And so we've got this banana circle where it's a six foot diameter hole that you dig in the ground that's about a meter deep, two meters in diameter, and all of that dirt you dig out, you place around the outside of the hole as a raised berm, and you plant seven or eight banana plants or plantains in there, and you can actually do intercropping with yuca in between those, which is our two favorite things, yuca and bananas.
And so in the middle of that hole, remember the problem of slash and burn all that stuff, you cut down, you dump in that hole, all that organic junk that is in their way that they don't want in their way. They don't want snakes hiding in there. Well, you dump it in a hole out of the way. And so as it rains, that fills up and you can actually harvest the rain from uphill and have these holes fill up with water as they're overfilling with this organic material, branches, logs, anything that is organic you can put in this hole that rots down. And so with the water and with all this material organic material, it rots down and these seven or eight banana plants planted around them, the root system is harvesting that water is harvesting that fertilizer. You've taken care of slash and burn and you're multiplying your abundance because not only is that good to eliminate slash and burn, but the main thing is is you're providing better for the needs of humanity and you're harvesting water.
When that hole fills up, it waters that banana circle for weeks because there's a good amount of clay in our soil, so it doesn't filtrate through like in Florida where there's a bunch of sand, it stays there for weeks. So you're passively watering for a month at a time when it rains, maybe depending on the particular system. And with the banana circle, they've done studies, and there's a lady who converted her entire plantain plantation in Mexico, like hundreds, and she put in hundreds of these banana circles, and she found that she got every racimo of plantanos is twice the size of the normal ones that she was growing, and she got four times the total production and it actually saves space. Anyways, I'm trying to sell it because it is just so amazing because when people see this, everyone that has come. All right, so here's a couple stories.
We've had multiple indigenous missionaries come to our little demonstration farm, which the fact that we have a seven acre farm is just amazing. God literally just threw that in our laps. We didn't buy it. We didn't even look for it. God's like, do you want this farm for free? And we're like, sure. Well, thanks to my wife's connection and about getting squatted and taken and stolen, we just showed up in our laps and we're like, thanks, God, we didn't know we needed a seven acre farm, but I guess we got it. And so we got this seven acre farm. We've turned it into a model demonstration farm, and we've invited some indigenous missionaries over there, thanks to my teammate who's agricultural engineer, Scott. He's helped set up some of these little mini tours. And so yeah, we will give him a little tour of our farm.
And one of these guys that came is doing some amazing work for decades reaching some of the most unreached, and I wish I could explain more, but for security purposes, I can't explain too much, but doing some amazing work and where he's reaching this extremely unreached tribe that lives with no clothes. And where literally, even today, the guys just wear one string to hold up their member and the women just have one grass skirt and that's it. And I know that because seen videos recently last year of ... anyways. Yeah. So his concern was that his concern was that these guys, they need food. They're out in the jungle, they're trying to survive, and he wants to reach them with the, and so they're coming and taking his food, but then he doesn't have food. And so it was like, well, he saw these systems where he can multiply his abundance, and so he went back immediately and started installing these so that they can all have their food and he can have his food, and so that everyone he wants to share. And so it's awesome indigenous missionaries sharing with the unreached.
Yeah, that's great. I just love the combination of stewardship of God's creation in a way that honors and makes the most of all these blessings that he's given us in creation. And then combining that with some of these principles that we see in scripture of missionaries being self-supporting like Paul was as a tent maker, and the desire to be a blessing also to the people that you're reaching, because obviously some of these principles are beneficial to people in jungle settings. I know when I visited you in Peru at that point, some of the way that it worked is that these families would go out deep into the forest and have gardens, and then they would often spend a good portion of their season of the year out there and then have to bring that food back into the village. And so very time consuming and disruptive to their community life there. But because they didn't have those resources there in their village or that had been used up for one reason or another, they had to go so far out. It's just amazing to see how all these things could potentially come together in really blessing people and making it possible for the gospel to expand in a needy part of the world
And just that, remind me of a story with one of our teams. So we train and send out teams of missionaries to unreached tribes and one team that we helped train and send out. And yeah, this last couple years, there's been some crazy political instability. We had, what, three presidents in three weeks or something like that, and it was nationwide protest, and COVID then everything was all mixed together. And so some of these people were kind of stuck in their village and they couldn't come in. And thankfully because the tribe was trying to grow some of their own plants and their own food, this team decided to do that as well. And it came in handy because when they couldn't go, when they couldn't leave or food supplies were running out because the local little jungle town didn't have their import of food because of all this chaos, then they were able to harvest their yuca and their pineapples and their bananas and we're able to supplement and be a lot better than they would've been without that. And so there's a growing desire, even among foreign nationals like myself, I'm a foreigner there from the west. There's a growing desire even for them to use agriculture and permaculture for that. We've had a request to help design people's locations to maximize that. So yeah, it's not just for indigenous and nationals, it's for us gringos to.
And it made me remember that this team that went out there, one of the team leader there, he helped start this cacao project with a Shapibo tribe, and I think that's relevant because yeah, cacao is what you make chocolate for, and so it's basically growing chocolate to help the church. And they got a 20 acre, yeah, they's pretty cool. And they have a 20 acre cacao farm and spread in different locations throughout the jungle, and they're raising that cacao in order to support the Shapibo Bible Institute. So it is kind of unique in the fact that Shapibos, this indigenous tribe, they are reached with the gospel and now they want to reach others. The Shapibo tribe has a Shapibo Bible Institute in a Shapibo village where a lot of their training takes place in the language of Shapibo. So it's kind of like a unique thing, but it sounds great if they can multiply that or even just for their own tribe and for empowering the Shapibos.
They've already had multiple cycles of training there, and they're using the cacao that they harvest to sell to support that ministry. So yeah, that's another agricultural thing that's used by indigenous, and I'm not really connected anymore with that project very much. I've kind of delegated some of that to my teammate Scott. He's an agricultural engineer. He goes out there a lot more frequently and helps. But yeah, I mean, he's a consultant, but he also gets his hands dirty. Our missionaries have to use machetes, so we've got missionaries with machetes. We're growing chocolate for the church. We grow grub for the gospel. We're planting plants to plant churches. That's what it's all about.
Yeah. Yeah. That's exciting. Now also, I mean, you learned about this taking a course in during the pandemic, but it sounds like it's something that anyone could learn. So if you're looking for people to join your team or to start other teams in different parts of Peru or other parts of the world, yes, there's some expertise that you can draw on, but it's something that anybody could apply in context. It doesn't require people who have a PhD in agriculture to do this.
No, no, no. I did not come from an agricultural family. I didn't know anything about this as of a few years ago. And so this is all new to me. And even for those that want to learn on the field and if they're willing to grab a machete, willing to sweat in the hot sun, willing to dig a hole, and honestly, it's not like we do all the physical work. Some of that stuff, we get helpers to help us with some of the most hard stuff. But yeah, you got to be willing to get a little dirty and to do that. And a lot of it, honestly, a lot of it, a lot of these medicinal plants, so a big thing we can get from the jungle is medicine. A lot of the indigenous know about these medicinal trees. We've got trees like dragon's, blood where you use a machete and you cut the cortesa out. What is that in English? That is, is it?
Bark, thank you. Thinking in Spanish. Yeah. You cut the Cortes out and it literally bleeds red blood, which is not blood, but it's a red resin, and you use that to heal ulcers and stuff. There's Pinon Blanco, there's copaiba, which is my understanding that the strongest natural anti-inflammatory in the world that grows there, growing breadfruit, avocado cash crops like moringa, pineapple, mandarin, lime, lemon, orange. I mean, the list goes on and on. But yeah, I mean, I am still not an expert gardener. By no means my teammate's got more of a green thumb than me. He's got our nursery going strong. He's got dozens of plants ready to plant. But yeah, it's just anyone who's willing to learn and has a heart for empowering the nationals and for maybe teaching others what you learn. Yeah, you're invited. Come on down. I mean, when you ask people, do you want to come sweat and dig in the dirt? We don't have a lot of hands raised, so anyone who holds their hands up, hey, come on, bring it.
Yeah. Yeah. Love that. That's cool.
Yeah. Really. Are animals involved in this too? Is it raising chickens or rabbits or goats or things like that? That is also part of, this is not just about plants you're talking about, right?
Correct. Yeah. And permaculture is integrating all of these designs. So yeah, we've have ducks and rabbits that we're experimenting and multiplying, not on our farm, but on our tiny little house as we're learning about that. So dozens of rabbits have been born and dozens or maybe less than dozens of rabbits, but anyways, about 15 rabbits and about 15 or 20 ducks that we're learning. And so yes, integrating rabbits, ducks, chickens, as well as fish. So aquaculture as well, the indigenous love to eat fish. So we want to start with the plants that they know and love and kind of go from there as they're quicker to adopt those. And so yeah, using fish and everything that comes out of the animal is a resource. And so whether it's an egg or whether it's their excrement, it gets turned into a fertilizer. And so, well, the eggs are for food, of course, but you know what I mean? Nothing is wasted. And so there's intentional systems in place to harvest all of that and to compost it. And basically with the task of the simpler, the easier, the complicated, the more reproducible, the less expensive, the better.
There's a lot of parallels with church planting, isn't there? Right. Some of those same principles you said, easy, reproducible, simple. I mean, these are all things that any church planter would say, you have got to be in the DNA of a church for it to multiply.
Amen. Simple things multiply. So yeah, it's like we're looking for trees that don't have to be babied like moringa. There's a growing awareness of moringa around the world. Not only is it a complete protein, just its leaves, but it's said to help treat over 300 ailments. And so it's a medicinal, it's a food. You can feed it to chickens, to ducks, to rabbits, to fish to humans, everything but about dogs. So dogs don't eat veggies, but pretty much any animal. And we mix it with our eggs. And so yeah, you cut it and it grows back. And so it's super easy. We're looking for those high valuable crops that work in the climate that we don't have to baby too much and that are resilient.
Yeah. It's crazy just to hear you talk so casually about moringa and cacao and yuca and all these things are kind of a little bit exotic, but these are things that just grow in abundance that's easy to take care of. I mean, moringa, like you said, it's kind of one of those new super foods that you hear about, and yet you don't have to baby it. It just kind of does its thing as long as you give it a little bit of food and water. So I just love how unique the different projects that you have are to your environments. You couldn't pick up this tribe that's growing chocolate and stick it in Africa or in Asia or anything like that. It's very much kind of reflects the Lord's design and creativity in creating this one specific place. And it's just really cool how he's led you to be able to tap into that a little bit for these ministries and for the spread of the gospel. So that's just so cool to hear about.
To me, it's the classic Pioneer value of innovation and flexibility of finding opportunities, finding needs, and putting 'em together to take the gospel to where it's not being proclaimed. And this, I think really resonates too with people nowadays that care about environmental stewardship, that care about making the most of God's creation and not exploiting it and providing sustainable income and health and food for people that are in neglected parts of the world. So to me, it's just a beautiful combination of all these factors that I think are really in the future going to be important for how we as Christians get involved in the great commission globally, is we're not going to be able to ignore these aspects of ministry and service to people that are in need.
And yeah, it's a blessing with taking care of people, glorifying God and taking care of the world. And I mean, practically, I'm more of a pragmatist from my mindset who knows what the future holds, but if they start having these clamp downs, some people are anticipating for carbon credit sort of stuff, we're already in the green because we're on the positive side of that. And this is something that can continue in the midst of maybe pressure against the church future persecution. This is something that continues to spread the gospel even if other things get shut down.
That's great. So let me ask you one more question, just kind of if you were to look into the future, and you've been in Peru for 15 years and maybe 15 years from now, and obviously what you're doing now is very different than what you're doing 15 years ago, but what would your dream be of what the church would look like or what the people that you're serving alongside and are helping empower what their ministry would look like? What are you really praying and hoping to see in the future?
That's a good question. I don't know if I've thought that far in advance. I mean, right now, I guess what comes to mind is this new project that is, we're on the cusp of starting. There's a large mission out outside of Pucalpa called the Swiss Mission. They have a thousand acres, and they've been teaching for decades. They've been bringing the indigenous into town. And normally we go out to the villages, but it's another thing that has been going on. And so they have requested us as we're kind of doing our model farm and starting to connect with some of these individual indigenous missionaries. They asked us, they request us, well, hey, what are you guys doing? Can you show us what you're doing? So they wanted us to do a pilot project with them, and we installed seven or eight of these banana circles for them with that.
And we didn't do it, but we taught it. And yes, we helped we up. We grabbed a shovel and a pickax, but it was mostly the dozens of indigenous gospel workers that the Swiss mission is training for ministry. These are pastors and missionaries from different tribes all throughout the jungle that experienced some of this, our gateway permaculture technique, which is these banana circles. And so they all help install seven or eight. And I had this one guy come up, he's like, man, I can do this. He's like, I'm going to go back to my tribe and I'm going to install this. And he's a pastor of his tribe, and he can use that to help support his family and sell the excess for the other needs, such as buying gas for their pole, boat motors, and other things they need money for. They can sell the excess it provides for that.
And so, yeah, I bring up that project as now they've requested, because that pilot project seems to have gone well enough where they've requested us do training for their dozens of gospel workers that come in twice a year. They're there for about eight months out of the year, I believe. And so two chunks of four months or something like that. So during that time, they want me to run a permaculture course the entire time where it's kind of practical hands-on training, where we're digging, where I'm teaching the concepts behind it. And so they want to use that as one tool. They have other tools like carpentry, and they have another tool as small engine motors, but it's just one tool that these gospel workers can use to go back to their tribes and help sustain their families and sustain their ministry. So we're on the cusp of starting this. I haven't even officially accepted it because it's kind of a big thing. I'm wearing about seven hats right now. And that's one thing. It kind of goes back to taking a step back. I want to take it back seat, and partly because I have to, because limited in my time and my energy, and so I can't do everything. And so that's great. I have to delegate. I have to kind of pass the baton and lots of these things. So yeah, looking forward to these's guys to go forth and reach the rest of the tribes.
So in 15 years, you want to be doing less. You want to be seeing people that are kind of picking up the baton and involved in doing the things that you've trained them to do. That's cool. Well, thank you so much for your time with us, David. We have a few questions here. We do some quick fire questions at the end of the interview, and if these do not require a lot of thought, and just feel free to fire off an answer. And if you want to pass, feel free to say pass as well. So first one, coffee or tea?
Coffee. No problem.
Cold brew coffee.
Yeah. Oh, really? Is that the one butter in it? Is that what butter.
Butter, oil, yeah. You mix it all in cinnamon.
That's where you get your energy.
Is that the local style of drinking coffee with butter and oil?
No, it's my little, what's it called?
Imported it from here?
Yeah. Well, the matcha actually comes from Peru, but yeah.
Oh, okay. Yeah.
And the coffee.
So are you an early bird or a night owl?
I'm used to be an night owl, but I've been an early bird since my kids were born, so yeah. Since
Your kids were born? Yeah. We've heard that answer before. Yeah. If you're traveling winter or a window or aisle seat.
That's interesting. I used to say window, but now that I'm getting older aisle, so I'll leave it there.
Enough said. Yeah. How about in Peru? What is your favorite local dish there? There in Pucalpa where you live?
Lomo saltado. It's where you cut up a bunch of beef. Tomatoes. Onions. You cut it up with rice, and it's served over some french fries. And my wife makes it amazingly, and oh my goodness, I'm getting hungry talking about it.
Yeah, I'm too. Yeah. What's a must pack item if you're traveling somewhere that you got to have in your bag?
Well, I usually say my multi-tool, but if you're flying, sometimes you can't bring or a lighter, which you can still bring a lighter on. Not for smoking, but it's my thing.
Yeah, you always need fire at some point. Possibly.
Yeah. Part of that training we do is jungle survival stuff, so I don't know. It's nice to have.
Is there a talent you wish you had?
A talent I wish I had. Yeah, I guess I wish I could do better parkour. I think that would be fun.
So specific.Yeah. Yeah. Could you parkour through the jungle? I'm totally picturing Tarzan now. Yeah.
Oh, man. Well, yeah. I mean, there's vines. I mean, you can swing on vines, but if you grab the wrong one, you'll get spiked or you'll get something on you.
Right, right. Yeah. What's a go-to late night snack?
I would say, let's say, let's see, peanut butter with cacao and honey.
That sounds good.
And walnuts, just mix it all together.
Yeah. So the cacao would be like the whole cacao bean
Well, yeah. Usually I'm thinking the powder. That's what I usually have on hand.
Oh, okay. Okay.
Yeah, it makes a little honey in there, so a little protein.
What did you want to be when you grew up when you were a kid?
Let's see here. All right. The transitions. At one point I wanted to be a baseball player, and then I said, no, they travel too much or not with their family. And then it trained to, let's see here, I guess construction maybe was the next thing, building stuff.
Now you're a farmer.
Yeah. And it was funny. One thing I used to say is I said, I do not want to be a missionary because I do not want to go to Africa, because in the eighties, everyone was going to Africa, I guess. And I was like, I don't want to go there. God, please don't call me a missionary. And it's funny, God's called me to be a missionary. The one thing I didn't want to do, but it's not in Africa. Okay, thanks.
South America. That's great.
There was a song back in the eighties, please Lord, don't send me to Africa. I remember hearing that.
Yes, I was probably singing it if I would've known it, but yeah,
I think it was a joke song. I don't think it was a serious song, but I just remember hearing that years ago. Well, David, thanks so much for your time and for just hearing your passion for what God is doing in Peru. And I think it just, or I hope it stretches people's imaginations for what it can look like and how you can combine some of these values that I think are so important in empowering local believers and stewardship of creation and planting churches. Those three things just go so well together, and I think you've demonstrated that in your story. So thanks so much for taking the time to share with us today.
It's been my pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity.
So if you're listening to this, I want you to think about the longest, hardest, most miserable hike you've ever been on. And I'm betting that Dave has you beat. If you're not so sure about that, or if you just want to hear about the longest miserable, most hardest hike you've ever heard of, check out to our bonus material in the show notes below, and there's a link there.
I really hope that our conversation with Dave stimulates your imagination about the different ways in which you can integrate church planting with ways that benefit local believers, that provide income for church planters serving in the developing world, that are honoring to God's creation. And I think that's what really is a takeaway for me about Dave's story is how all these things come together. And amazingly, there are a lot of people in the Pioneers world that are doing stuff like this. It might not be exactly what Dave is doing, but they're finding ways to care for people, to provide a way for them to have an income, to provide for their families, and do this all in a way that also advances the gospel. If you go to our show notes, you'll find some links to a video about someone in Central Asia who has an orchard. We've got also some links to other articles and opportunities in the Pioneers world, not to mention a link to a few of our partners globally that help us train missionaries to do this kind of ministry like Dave is doing. So I hope you'll go to our show notes and check that out.
Thanks for following us on this episode of the Relentless Pursuit Podcast. Our goal is to make missions accessible to show that it's not just reserved for elite super Christians. If you want to be involved, just go to pioneers.org/start and answer a few questions. We have a team who would love to help you discern your calling and what your next steps might be.
At Pioneers, we love to partner with local churches and send teams to people groups with little or no access to the gospel. Keep up with what God is doing by following us on Instagram, Facebook, x, and YouTube, all at Pioneers usa, one word or visit pioneers.org. Thanks for listening.