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Relentless Pursuit

S3E3: What’s It Take to Live in the Amazon?

55 minutes

Aron served in church leadership for 13 years before God called him and his family to serve in Peru. In this episode, Aron tells us about their transition to life on the edge of the Amazon jungle, where they led a Launch team for missionaries learning language and culture before heading out to unreached people groups throughout Peru. Find out what the Launch team journey looks like, and the qualities that make it possible for someone to take the gospel to isolated tribes.

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Show Notes

Aron served in church leadership for 13 years before God called him and his family to serve in Peru. In this episode, Aron tells us about their transition to life on the edge of the Amazon jungle, where they led a Launch team for missionaries learning language and culture before heading out to unreached people groups throughout Peru. Find out what the Launch team journey looks like, and the qualities that make it possible for someone to take the gospel to isolated tribes.

** Bonus Content** Don’t miss Aron’s tips on how to make a tree grub taste like bacon.

Want more info on the weird foods missionaries sometimes eat? Here’s a list of possibilities: Would You Eat These 10 Foods for the Gospel?

See how a father and son team have taken more than 50,000 radios with audio Bibles into the rugged mountains of Bolivia in our Little Red Radios video series. Prefer photos? See the weathered faces and ancient traditions of the Quechua in our photo essay from the same trip.

Peru isn’t the only place with a Launch Team. Check out this article that explains how Pioneers Launch Teams prepare new missionaries for success in their new areas of ministry.

Ready to take the next step, but not sure what it looks like? Schedule a call with our team or chat today.

Bonus Content

Aron provides a valuable start-to-finish tutorial on how to cook tree grubs so they taste like bacon.

Bacon-Flavored Tree Grubs

Episode Transcription

Aron (00:01):

It takes a really, a certain type of person that can be a missionary in the Amazon. You've got to know that you're saying yes to living in a remote hard place. Everybody loves to visit the Amazon. Not many people want to live in the Amazon.

Matt (00:17):

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 Jess, do you remember much about your first few weeks and days and months on the field when you moved to Japan?

Jess (00:36):

Oh, absolutely. Oh my gosh. I mean, I just remember my first night going to sleep in my team leader's home and being like, what have I gotten myself into? And just, it's real now, freaking out a little bit. Yeah, it was so real. And I think that those first few months are just so pivotal and so impactful, even just on the rest of your ministry. So Yes, I absolutely do remember. And that's going to be a little bit of the theme for today's interview, isn't it?

Matt (01:04):

Yes, that's right. We have Aron joining us. Aron and his wife Sie and family moved to Peru at the beginning of their field service, and they had been in church ministry for years before that, before God called them to Peru. And so they share a lot about what it's like those first few weeks and days and months and some of the challenges you face and just some of the crazy things that happen. And then also they end up serving later on in Peru caring for other people as they're coming to the field and helping them debrief and understand what it's going to be like and what their priorities should be in terms of learning language and culture and spiritual formation in the early days and months and weeks and years of their ministry that can then prepare them for fruitful time. So we're looking forward to this conversation with Aron.

Jess (02:00):

Yeah, we're going to jump right into one of his early experiences soon after he arrived on the field.

Aron (02:06):

So my first introduction to cross-cultural ministry was our second week on the field. We were in language at language school in Arequipa, Peru. Our task was learning Spanish over the next six months, and we were there myself, my wife, my four children, 11 years old, down to four years old. We just kind of arrived. We got a really short orientation introduction to the city and to where our language class was. And we basically spent the first week or two just kind of living in our home and then going out for five minutes and then coming right back. And then we would have friends order pizza for us. We didn't know how to speak the language and talk on the phone. And so the pizza would show up one day. And so after a week of this or so, I was like, okay, we've got eaten through all of our groceries. I think it's my turn, my time to get out and to go get some real fast food and try it. And so it was in the evening, the sun was down. I had walked around our block a number of times to kind of get a lay of the land and I noticed there was a place called Mr. Like Mr. Chicken, and it was a chicken rotisserie place that does chicken and french fries and salad.


And so I was like, okay, tonight I'm going to go over there and I'm going to get a family sized chicken meal and I'm going to bring it home and I'm going to be the hero. And so bring it home. The bacon. Exactly. So I'm like, it got towards the end of the evening and it's like it was time to get some food. And so I walk in, walk down the street, walk around the corner, I go to Mr. Poeo and the whole process is a little bit to buy food in a foreign place in Peru, you have to do a lot of different steps. And so it's already confusing right away. You pay at this place and then you take that ticket to another place, they take your ticket and they look at it and they tell somebody else, and then they give you your ticket back and then you have to go to another place and wait, and then you pick your food up in another place.


And so for me, I'm like, I first went, I went to the wrong little place and she told me to go somewhere else. It was really just kind of disorienting. My first time out, I finally figured it all out, and then the guy's assembling my meal, it's all done. He's putting it in the plastic, got the little salad and the french fries and the chicken, and he puts it in a bag and he brings it over to the table that is between the kitchen and the outside seating area. And he sets it there and he leans over the counter and he puts his arm up on the counter in a arm wrestling position. And I'm like, what's this? I'm not seeing this. And he's like, beckons me over. He's like, come on, come on wrestle. I'm like, what you want me to, I think this guy wants me to arm wrestle him for this chicken.


What is going on? I know, maybe I missed something. I'm looking. Okay, did. I was like, okay, is this guy serious? He wants me to arm wrestle him to get my chicken. And so I'm like, okay, fine. So I grab his hand, I rest my elbow down across from his elbow. We're looking at each other, he's laughing and giggling. It's the funniest thing he's ever seen, and I'm just totally just not sure what's going on. 1, 2, 3. And we start, we go at it, he's pushing, I'm pushing, we're pushing. And I finally get it and I get him down After a minute or two of arm wrestling, I beat him and he leans back and he says some Spanish stuff to the other guys that were watching in the corner. And I was a little bit, I was still very confused and he was laughing, and then he grabs the bag and then he gives it to me. And so I'm just holding the bag. I'm looking at him, I'm looking around, what just happened so I can go, I beat you in the arm wrestle. So now I could go, what would've happened if I didn't beat him? What if he beat me?


What's going on? And so I walked back, I explained to my wife what happened, how confusing it was, and she was just as confused as I was. She had never heard of anything. My kids thought it was funny. And then I go to language class the next morning with our language helper and I asked her, I was like, Anna say what is going on in this country? I went to this place and I ordered chicken, and then this guy wanted to arm wrestle me for this chicken and I beat him. And so he gave it to me, is this normal? Are we supposed to arm wrestle for our chicken at these restaurants all the time? Is this a normal thing? And she just laughed and said, no, she didn't believe me. But she's like, no, that's not what we do. I think he was just happy to see a foreigner who obviously didn't know any English and he was just going to make fun and do make a joke and have a funny situation. And so you got to experience that. I have never, she said, I say, I have never had to arm wrestle or heard of anyone arm wrestling for chicken, but it sounds like you had a good experience. So I was like, well, I dunno if it was good, but it was unique. So that was our first baptism into cross-cultural world, learning about living in a new land and culture and how to order chicken.

Jess (07:43):

Yeah, nice. So I'm guessing you didn't have to arm wrestle this guy every single, you went to that place and ordered chicken.


Never again. That has never come up. Only that one time did I have to arm wrestle chicken for my chicken.



Aron (07:56):

It was.

Jess (07:57):

Man. Yeah. So what was daily life look like? I mean, I guess you just continuing to learn language and buy chicken and all of that.

Aron (08:09):

Yeah. Your first few years on the field, it's really those first six months, it's just like, what are the rhythms of life that are going to help us to be here long term? And so we were in that city for about six months and you hit, you get dropped off from the airplane and you have a few people that are helping you in the beginning, but then your first six months is just letting the weirdness and the confusion and the newness just kind of wash over you and you're just sort looking for rhythms and a schedule to try to live by. Okay, we have to get up at seven. We have to walk to language class. We have three hours of language class. We have to drop our children off at some point. Go pick our children up. You have to go to the grocery store. We have certain connections and meeting times with friends to practice our Spanish in our case. And so it's just kind of a bunch of fits. Your first six months was like fits and starts of trying to just find your grounding and where you are and get your family and your kids and everyone into a rhythm so that you can make sense of the world.

Jess (09:25):

Yeah. What did grounding look for y'all look like for y'all?

Aron (09:29):

Yeah, so we put our children in the local private school so that they could get some Spanish immersion. And so our mornings started real early and we would walk them to school and then on the way to school or after school, we'd drop them off and then we'd go to our language class and then basically by the time we finished language school, they would be released for the day and then we'd go pick them up and we would walk back. It was about a 45 minute walk in the morning and about a 45 minute walk back. There were some grocery stores and shops and stuff along the way. And so if we needed to get anything for that evening, we would try to take advantage of being out.


And then after a few months, our Spanish started getting better. We got more familiar with the bus lines. Our first time on a bus we got lost and we were two hours away and we're asking people for help, how to find our way back to our part of town. But after a while, we figured it out and got more comfortable and began to venture out more. And so we started having gatherings of other missionaries, cross-cultural workers at our home and at other people's homes. Then we started volunteering with our local church. We'd go up to the mountains where the Quechua and Aimara people were having church plants were being done up there. And so we would go on Saturdays our whole family, and in order to practice our Spanish, just go with them, accompany our local church and see what they're doing and get involved in some ministry.


Within a few months, they started asking me to preach at the local church with no Spanish. And so I'm getting my translator out. My very first sermon, it was like I had a 35 or 40 minute window and I had my language helper and I would go through all the process. I typed it all out in English, and then I went with my language helper slowly through every word and concept and phrase, and we translated it word for word concept by concept. And I had my chance. I got up and I did my Spanish, and my sermon was like nine and a half minutes long. And then I just sat down. They were expecting more than that. Oh yeah. They had 45 minutes. They were leaning in my sermon. My capacity for Spanish was nine minutes. So that's what they got. And then they sang some songs and we got let out of church early on Sunday.

Jess (11:58):

Nice, nice. I'm sure no one complained. I'm sure no one complained.

Aron (12:01):

So just a bunch of that, just failing forward, learning the ropes by messing up and just not giving up and living in this new land and the mystery that is there, but just we really did love it a lot. And it was very stressful. It was very, it was hard at some times, but man, God was so faithful in that. And just our hearts were always just kind of like, yes, this is where we're supposed to be. This is so fun to learn and we laugh at ourselves. We would make mistakes all the time, but it just was a beautiful, it was a really time that you really can't reproduce your first six months living. You can't reclaim that. You can't relive that anywhere at any other time in your life. Even if you move to a new country or a new place, those first six months of brand new living in a new place that you've never lived cross-culturally before is just, it's precious. It's hard, but it's so precious of an experience that, yeah, it's unique.

Matt (13:07):

So take us back a little bit to where you were, what you were doing even before you arrived in Peru, Aron.

Aron (13:14):

Yes. So my wife and I, we were called into full-time ministry when we were in our early twenties. I went to Bible school to become a youth pastor and pastoral ministry right out of high school. And so I went to Bible school my first four years. During those four years I met my wife. Those four years turned to six years because we started having children. And so I didn't graduate right away, but we got in ministry right away, and it was US ministry. We served in Florida, and then after about four or five years, we moved to North Carolina and did ministry there for a few years. And then finally a church in California asked us to serve with 'em. And so our life trajectory was full-time ministry, full-time American church, kind of the classic church working on staff at a church model. Two years into our stint in California, God really just began to stir something in our hearts for missions. And it's really, it was weird because we didn't really know anything about missions. We don't come from missions background. Neither of our families really were strongly involved in church in general, not only being on staff at church, that was different enough for both of our families. And so to hear this call missions, we always just thought missions was go on a two week mission trip and go to the inner city and make food and care packages for people. But that was the extent of missions. Maybe you would have missionaries come through your church and hear the stories, but this particular year, we would go through the rhythm in our family of just asking God for a theme verse or a theme for the year. In January one, we would begin to pray, Lord, what do you have for us?


This year? And this particular year, I think it was 2012 or 2013, I can't remember, but we both ssie and I both got, our hearts were given missions. The word missions, we couldn't, I just felt missions and I didn't really get more context except the word missions. And she heard the same exact thing in her own private time. She heard the word missions. And so we were like, wow, that's interesting that they line up. And so we're like, Lord, what is this? And so we went back to him together and was like, Lord, what does missions mean? What does that look like for this year? But we didn't get any answers about specifics. And so we just said, well, God's not really saying specifically, so we're just going to just kind of lean in. Whatever God brings our way for missions, we're going to just say yes. And so that year we took in an exchange student from China and lived in our home.


He went to local high school and we just housed him. He lived in our house. We made food and took him places and helped him get settled in America for his high school career. And then my wife felt a burden to fund a water well in someplace in Asia. And so we raised two grand and we did a water well in Asia. And then we started sharing with our friends and praying with some of our friends. One of our friends was from Mexico, and they had contacts with a unreached tribe in the mountains of Mexico. And so they invited us like, Hey, instead of going on vacation this year, why don't you go to have this experience and visit some of our friends in Mexico? So we said yes to that. We were among unreached the Mex deco people, the mountains of Mexico, and just all these things started opening our eyes to like, wow, there's something going on in the world.


There's this mission call, this opportunity that we weren't really aware of. And by October, I think of that year, it was very clear on our hearts, just God just kind of burdened us. He kind of broke us for missions. We couldn't think of anything else but following the Lord to unreached and unmarked places by the gospel to do the work. And we were so green and so totally, totally didn't know anything about what this was that we were like, well, is it even responsible for us? We have our four kids. We're going to TRAs them around the whole world. Do people even do that? Do missionaries even have large families on the mission field? And we find, yes, they have. Lots of them have large families on the mission field, but we just were so ignorant about all of that process, yet God was faithful to us through that.


We had a number of friends that spoken to that had been in missions speaking to our life, and one of 'em was a dear friend who had worked for a mission agency in Africa, and he told me, well, if you're not coming to Africa, then you've got to go with pioneers. We just fell in love with the culture, with the values and all that. And so we jumped in and joined pioneers, and that led us to Peru. And it was a surprise for us. We were thinking we were going to be in Spain. We wanted to work in the Spanish world, but because our kids' situation, there's four of 'em, they needed a lot of school help. There were real little, we really looked around at what pioneers offered, and though our thoughts and our heart was in Europe, we thought Europe was the place pioneers in Peru, and the Amazon specifically was the place that was the best fit for our whole family. And so we kind of moved our gaze from Europe and God put our hearts in the Amazon jungle in Peru. And so we raised our support, got on a plane about 18 months later and landed in apa, which is a city to learn Spanish. And then six months later we moved to the Amazon and began working on our team in the Amazon. So that's kind of a short,

Jess (19:37):

So yeah. When you say Amazon, I just picture a hut in the jungle with alligators and anacondas and jaguars growling in the distance and stuff like that. I mean, is that what it looked like? I mean, what did moving to the, what did your home look like? What did your area look like?

Aron (19:58):

Yes. We lived in Pucalpa, which is a small town in the jungle region. And so it was like the last frontier town, the old west. It's the last frontier town before it gets wild. And so we had running water, electricity, internet at our home. Our house was brick with a tin roof, no air conditioning, but it had modern conveniences. We had a refrigerator and a stove and things like that. But within five minutes, either way up and down the Amazon River, it got wild very quickly. And so we had a lot of birds and bugs that lived in and around our home and bats. The three bees really, birds, bugs and bats were a normal part of our life. Jaguars and and alligators were not actually seen very often hunting. There's not a lot of hunting regulations in Peru. And so those things, unless you were really deep into the jungle, very far in, you wouldn't really see a lot of wildlife except for the three bees, birds, bees or birds, bugs and bats would be very, very normal.

Jess (21:20):

So you're kind of on the fringe of the jungle, sort of like if you picture in the movies like Mowgli coming out of the jungle and he's peeking out of the trees and then all of a sudden there's a little village, something kind of like that.

Aron (21:31):

Correct, correct. And that village or town or whatever would be where we based out of, and our children had a missionary school there that they went to and my wife taught there. And then my job was to bring new missionaries who are coming to the field. So after about a year and a half or two years of us kind of getting settled, new missionaries started coming to our area, and my job was to help them in their orientation, to walk them through what we had just walked through and explaining things. Being a person that can help bring context to all of the crazy that happens your first two years on the field and walk them through a process of about a year learning language and culture, giving them some training and then accompanying them to one of our teams that was living out in more of the remote areas among the tribal people groups. And so our family never actually lived in a hutt down by the river, but my job was to go and hang my hammock and visit those and accompany people to those huts down by the river. And so I did a lot of that, but I never actually lived there for long periods. Maybe a month or so I could be out there, but not more than that.

Jess (22:52):

Right. But there are huts next to the river in the middle.

Aron (22:57):

What you envision is true. Just wasn't true about our story necessarily. But yes, most of our work that we do among the unreached people of the Amazon are in these very remote places. At the ends, you talk about ends of the earth ministry, it takes three days on a little five horsepower canoe run, five horsepower motor it's called, because that's the sound. It makes PE up a river system to a remote tribal village. And we have a team there that's doing church planting and gospel work in a tribal language, not in Spanish, but in a tribal language. And our role was to help them make that transition as smooth as we could so that they could live there for 10 or 15 years as they shared the gospel in that tribal language among those

Matt (23:52):

So what did your children think of this transition from living in California, being part of a church family there where you're on staff and now a completely different cultural context,

Jess (24:11):

Especially since your oldest was 11, you said? Right. So I mean, they're young, but they're not like a baby,

Aron (24:16):

Right, right. Yeah. And we were worried about that. We were very aware of that dynamic at play, and we knew we couldn't just kind of throw them to the wolves per se, but we needed to be intentional about caring for their hearts and knowing that they're included in this. We're a missionary family, not just just my dream. This is something we're having to take to go together in. And so part of us choosing the Amazon was because there were a few teams of veteran missionaries that have been on the field that had kids that they raised on the field, and then there was this option of sending our children to a missionary school that really helped us say yes to that because we knew the transition was going to be difficult. So there's a couple of good stories that just come out of that that just bless my heart when I remember them.


Our first few months, we put our boys and girls there, have two boys and two girls, and we sent them to this private Spanish school to kind of just be immersed. We didn't care about their grades, we weren't tracking any of that. We just wanted them to spend a whole day immersed in Spanish among peers and that they would learn what we're learning in language school. And the first week, everyone was very, we were all stressed out about it. We were going to class for the first time in language, we were dropping them off to this new place and we didn't know anybody. We were just trusting about the people who recommended them that they should go here. And so our first day, we just held each other and cried at the front gate of the school and then just sent our four year old and our 11 year old and nine year old and six year old into this school.


And the people were so kind and nice, but it just was so much. And as our Spanish got a little better over the months, we would go back and we just always would check in with the teacher and the principal, how are they doing? How are they doing? How are they doing? And she was, they're always, oh, they're doing fine. They're doing fine. As our Spanish got a little better though, we asked one day of how they were doing, and the principal said, yeah, their first few weeks here, I think it was very difficult for them. I would regularly find the boys in the bathroom at the same time just crying and holding each other as they were comforting one another because they were in different classes, but they would find each other in the bathroom and cry and hold each other as they're like, this is hard kind of thing.


But we always finished our week if we had a good week and everyone was like, yes, we had a good week. And we'd celebrate by going on the way home from school. We'd walk by a few markets and one of them was ice cream shop. And so we'd always on Friday stop by and kind of like, we made it through another week, boys and girls, we did it. Let's have ice cream and just kind of celebrate each week. And it really pulled our family together in a way that was, yeah, it was really beautiful. And God was so gracious in that to keep us knit together and to kind of pull on some of our healthy rhythms that we had practiced over the years, we really needed 'em then. So much so that about a year in, we were now living in Culpa in the jungle, and we had gone on a trip together as a family.


So all six of us went with our team three days on a big canoe type boat with a small engine, and we went basically to the ends of the earth and went and visited a tribal people group that our team was working with and was looking to develop and put a team there. And so we all went for this visit all we're going to do bible storying and stuff, but we knew that there was a chance for malaria. And so we took medicine and all these things because the Amazon has malaria. We got back, everything was a great trip. No one got hurt, nothing was bad. We got back and about three weeks later, our daughter comes down with a severe fever, like a super spike, like 104 degree fever, spoiling, hot, all this stuff, put her in the shower after a few hours of breaks and we're like, what the heck was that?


And then it happened the next day and it happened a third time. And then some of our friends are like, uhoh, though malaria is rare in our area. She's got it. And so we went through this whole thing, go into the hospital trying to get malaria medication. It was a big, long, maybe four day ordeal of trying to finally get her treated for malaria in that time. This was right at our one year anniversary of being on the field. At that time, we were just so kind of overwhelmed emotionally by all the things that were happening. I mean, a Peruvian hospital, the public Peruvian hospital can look more like a zombie ward in a video game where there's green stuff growing from the ceiling tiles, there's people laying on the floors that are moaning and crying and bleeding, and we're sitting in there with our daughter, she's got malaria.


We're like, this doesn't look good. And you're there for a few days and there's mosquitoes in the hospital. And so we're, what other things? So just so much we were out on stress. We couldn't do anything more. And then I had to switch off. So we would go to the hospital. We had three kids, so one would be in the hospital, one would be at home, and then we would, every four hours or six hours, we'd do a switcheroo, one of these switcheroo, our first switcheroo. I went home and my wife went to the hospital and I was kind of overwhelmed, and my 11 year old was there and he was wanting to know what was up. And I got home and I saw his face and we talked a little bit. I gave him an update, and I just kind of collapsed in his arms crying. And he grabbed me and he held me, and he said, dad, it's going to be okay. And we prayed


And hugged, and I said, I'm not worried either. I know Jesus is here. He is going to fix all this. But it was so special, and it was so such a deep thing that God did in that suffering and clarified so much that after she got out of the hospital and she was fine, and she responded to the medicine immediately that after that experience, we just said, we know we're supposed to be here. We could not imagine living anywhere else or doing anything else with our life. And at that point, our daughter was in the hospital, she had malaria. We were all that. Nobody would have blamed us if we came off the field at that moment. Nobody would've told us we were bad people or made an unwise decision and we shouldn't have. They would've just said, yeah, you're going home. Makes sense. Come on back. You gave it a good try. You did a year and it didn't work. No problem. But in that moment, God's grace and sovereignty was just showered on us and just said, no, you can do this and I have something for you here. And so we served another six and a half years in that context and walked with new missionaries to help them walk through their amazing mountain experiences and their deepest valleys. I think God was preparing us in that so that we could help others do the same.

Matt (31:51):

Yeah, that's amazing that it happened at the very time that you felt you were at the bottom or just that to have a situation like that be the determining factor to know that you're supposed to stay. I think some people would say, well, I knew I was supposed to stay because someone got saved, or we were able to get a really good deal on an apartment or something like that. But to have your child get malaria, that's a little unconventional, I think as the seal the deal for you to stay there. That's pretty cool. So when you think about the people that you worked with that came through and that you helped prepare for long-term service, what are some of the things that were kind of common denominators you wanted to build into their experience and allow them to experience? Obviously there's certain things that you'd prepare them for and other things you probably wanted them to experience. The full scope of the good and the bad suffering. Yeah, the suffering. Exactly. You don't want to shield them from that. So what are some of those things that were common threads that you really wanted people to experience in that launch experience as they were landing there in Peru?

Aron (33:10):

Yeah. Our main focus of the most of the hours of each week was around language and culture acquisition. When you move to the Amazon, you're saying yes to two languages because the Spanish speaking Peruvians are reached with the gospel, and they have churches that are self-sustaining and they're doing fine. I mean, they're doing great, but it's the tribal language and it's the tribal peoples that still have need of the gospel. There's still 33 unreached tribes there that don't have healthy churches. And so our goal was to send people to those places. And if Peruvians wanted to join us, great, but we were focused on those tribal people. So to say yes, first of all to two languages is a big commitment. It's not an easy thing to say, I'm going to take the next five to 10 years and learn two new languages so that I can be effective in church planning and gospel work. So within that, that was our biggest push was language culture, language culture, language culture. So we would give them about a year to do that, and we had a system that we took them through. Now, the system we took them through was also something that they could, with Spanish, they could then use that same system to learn a tribal language. So we taught them how to learn a tribal language by teaching them how to learn Spanish in this language. It's a language program that we did.


The secondary things that we did was we took them out into the jungle. We have weird foods, weird drinks, weird experiences that you can only get by getting out there and pitching your tent and hanging around being with tribal people and learning their ways. And so there's a certain level of how do you make a fire? How do you clean or kill and clean a chicken? How do you find grubs and food? What vegetables that are grown here are safe? What are not safe? How do you take a bath in the river? You learn to take a bath in the river, and the first time that you try to take a bath in the river and you lose your soap, the second or third time you lose your soap in the river, you realize, oh wait, I've got to suds up out of the river on the bank of the river.


After I get wet, I keep losing soap, I'm going to run out of soap. So you suds up on the outside, then you jump in to rinse off, and then you do that two or three times and then you're clean. But we would never have learned that except a tribal watching. A tribal friend of ours teach us how he washes in the river. And so those were some practical things. But ultimately, at the end of the day, it takes a really certain type of missionary, a certain type of person that can be a missionary in the Amazon. You got to know that that's what you're signing up for. You got to know that you're saying yes to living in a remote hard place and have that kind of long-term commitment. Everybody loves to visit the Amazon. Not many people want to live in the Amazon.


And so having that person who can see the long-term, 15 years down the road, all of the investment on the front end, that a church may be planted among the unreached tribal people group can actually be realized, requires a certain mindset, requires a certain heart. And so as we're teaching some of the practical skills of language and culture and survival techniques, the end of the day, we really invested a lot in personal growth. How do you connect with Jesus? How do you maintain that personal devotion life and spiritual vitality and heart that you can pull from others, that you can pull from your teammates, that you can pull from Jesus directly, that your prayer life is on point, that you may stay instead of return? And as we refined our process for orienting new people to the field, we really ended up spending a lot more time on character development and spiritual development, knowing that most people can figure out the tricks of how to survive long-term in the jungle. Once you know how to clean a chicken, it becomes second nature. Once you learn how to swallow a tree grub and how to cook it so that it's eatable or edible or edible, once you figure that out, you don't have to be trained on that again. But going back to the well, right, going back to the living water each day and keeping your heart encouraged and filled with the Lord, that was the thing that we ended up spending the most amount of prayer and time and focus on.

Jess (38:25):

Right. Yeah. You kind of said an interesting thing about how there's a certain kind of person who can really be a long-term, just stay on the field, be in the jungles of Peru. And you obviously said a couple of things, just having a really clear vision and calling from the Lord and just really having that strong walk with Jesus every day where you're going to the well, right? But how does the average person who grew up in urban America know if they are fit for life in the jungle when you have just zero context for it beforehand?

Aron (39:02):

And that was us, honestly. I mean, we lived in Florida and lived in these cities and worked in churches that were in cities, and it comes with just counting a person who can count the cost and see beyond the immediate worries or needs or whatever. So there is this kind of a self-awareness and kind of inner strength courage that you need, and that comes from the Lord. It's not self-generated, and it's having to deal with your fears and having to deal with just that character that God puts in us. So I come from Florida, from the suburbs without much context. We've had folks on the field whose parents were missionaries in the jungle and who thrived there. But we also have a single lady in a tribal location. She grew up in the Bronx, New York, and she left the Bronx, came to our team, we trained her, and she's still out there working on a team in a tribal context. And so I'm not saying it requires some Rambo person who lives off of has a knife and peanut butter and jumps out of an area, a helicopter in the middle of the jungle.


I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that there's a person there that has a grit, that has a long-term vision for gospel work that they're willing to and able to just withhold from what they think they need, hand it back to Jesus and say, Lord, whatever this requires, I'm willing to give and teach me how to live here, Lord. Right. Teach me how to do that. And that's what I mean when I say kind of person, because our friend Jenny that's in, that's from the Bronx man, she is a rockstar working with these tribal women and helping them and teaching them. She's teaching them Spanish, and she's teaching them how to live out the scriptures together in their context and loving on those folks. And she is a five foot two amazing missionary woman that just does it. And so, whereas some people who have been trained by some of the best mission agencies in the world, they make it one year or two years and they come off. And so you're like, what is it that keeps Jenny on the field and keeps her going every day and living in a hard place, but loving it? I want more of that. She has a lot to teach me.

Matt (41:53):

Right, right. Yeah. It shows us it's not about physical strength or even natural ability or naturally, maybe people who are interested in the outdoors or anything like that. Jungle living. It's like the people that last long-term and the people that are effective are sometimes the people that you wouldn't necessarily think of. And I think it's cool that that's really what your role was, was helping people identify, is this for me? Or even cultivating those things internally when maybe there wasn't a lot externally that would appear to be someone who would be successful in a context like that. That's really cool.

Aron (42:36):

And we had plenty who came through who didn't make it in the jungle, but they were a perfect fit somewhere else. And so we have a few guys and a few girls came in, come in through our team, we'd go through the year, they learned Spanish, they'd go out to the jungle, and they're just like, man, I didn't really, how do you know from your couch in Iowa what it's like to live in the jungle? You've got to go do it for a little bit and see if it works. And for some people it didn't. But we would not get discouraged by that. What we would do is we would point them into a direction where they could then take all of this experience and knowledge and the call that Lord put on people's heart and send them to a city or send them to another town that had some of the things that they needed in order to do it.


Because we always, from the beginning, were looking for long-term workers, not just somebody who's going to do something for a year, but where can you live for 10 or 15 years to bring the gospel? That's where we need you, because that's what it's going to take to plant a church here. And so whatever that looks like in the world, that's where you need to be. Even if it may not be your ideal or your first choice, we need long-term people that can stick it out in places that can bring the gospel over a long haul.

Jess (43:55):

Yeah. Love that example of Pioneers' flexibility and innovation at work. Yes, right there on the field. Very cool.

Matt (44:01):

Well, in Peru is a place where you can work in the mountains, you can work in the city, you can work in the jungle, you can work in the village. It's such amazing diversity in that country of where there are people, groups still in need of the gospel.

Jess (44:17):

I have just one question. I know you said cultural acquisition that you worked through with the teams, I guess in Pucalpa and Arequipa and in various villages, I'm sure. But how much of that transfers into a tribe? If you learn culture in one setting, does that translate into a jungle village out in the Amazon?

Aron (44:44):

Yes. So we teach people how to think about culture and what questions to ask when they enter into a culture. Now, the answers they're going to get back is going to depend a Quechua versus a Spanish versus a Sheninka. Let's say people group the information they receive back is going to be different, but it's being aware of what questions to ask in order to make those assessments. And so part of that practice was, okay, here are some questions in Spanish that you need to go to your neighbors and go to the local park, and while we're visiting this tribal location, and ask these questions so that you can find out some answers, and then ask these questions to other missionaries. Ask these questions to two or three different people, and then make some notes, whether in your head or on a paper, and then bring it back. And then let's unpack it a little bit and see where it takes us. And so that's the kind of thinking that we would encourage people to do.

Matt (45:50):

Aron, thanks so much for joining us today and just for sharing not only your own journey, but also just helping people envision what it looks like that first year or two as people do culture and language acquisition. And also just the sense that it's a process that maybe God will even use to redirect you from the place that you might've thought you were supposed to go, and that that's okay. That's how this works. That there's flexibility, there's opportunities to change course, and that ultimately what we're looking for is a place that fits with where God has you, where your gifts are, where your passions are, and where the need is. So thanks for sharing with that. Before we go, we have some quick fire questions. So these are pretty easy to answer. Help us get a sense of who you are as a person, so you can pass on any of them, but they should be pretty easy. So coffee or tea?

Aron (46:46):


Matt (46:48):

All right. Early bird or night owl?

Aron (46:52):

Both. You go to bed late and get up early. Oh, really? Okay. You

Matt (46:57):

Don't require a lot of sleep, huh?

Aron (46:59):

Oh, I do, but I don't have those options right now. Don't get now it.

Matt (47:03):

Yeah. So winter, spring, summer or fall.

Aron (47:08):

Fall, for sure.

Matt (47:09):

Yeah. Window or aisle seat.

Aron (47:13):

Aisle seat.

Matt (47:15):

Yeah. Dog or cat?

Aron (47:19):

Dog. But we have all animals. Have had all animals in our house.

Matt (47:26):

Any song you have on repeat on your iPod lately

Aron (47:30):

Or album repeat? Well, so there's this iTunes channel called Streetlights, and it's basically scripture that's put to hip hop music or to a beat. And so when I run or do exercise, I just will listen to Romans with this kind of street hip hop undertone behind it as the guy is reading scripture. And there's a rhythm to it that

Matt (48:00):

Just drives it into your heart.

Aron (48:02):

It helps me just appreciate the scriptures in a new way. It's called streetlights. And so if I do something and I put that on, and the whole Bible's on there, and so you pick a Bible and if you've got an hour, you can listen to 20 chapters basically of scripture while you're exercising or whatever. And I find that just allows me to think, and I love it.

Matt (48:28):

That's awesome. Yeah. What's the strangest tradition you've witnessed

Aron (48:34):

On the field? Strangest tradition? Well, one of our best ones, the ones that we loved the best was New Year's in Culpa, where they would ring in the new year by doing three things, burning couches and furniture in their front yards. So they'd drag their old furniture out to the yard and they would set it on fire. Then next to it, they would put a straw man in old clothes. And so the effigy of the old man, and they would burn him as well. Then we would climb up to our water tower that was on our, kind of in our house, and we'd climb their ladder three stories up to our water tower. And in every direction around our city, people would let off fireworks at midnight. And it was, I mean, you'd think Disney or one of these places, new Year's, things is big. These are all illegal fireworks. The whole country says you cannot and will not and should not buy fireworks. On New Year's, there are millions of fireworks being shot up simultaneously, 360 degrees in every direction, and it's beautiful. And so we would all go up as a family, sit on the water tower and just ring in the new year with the smells of burnt furniture, burning couches and couches and the beauty of every direction, seeing these wonderful lights. And so I love that about

Jess (50:15):

Our per. That sounds awesome. It's just

Aron (50:18):

So great.

Matt (50:19):

Yeah. How about a must pack item? If you're going somewhere

Aron (50:26):

Water filtration, some type of water filtration, and then a lighter, everyone thinks it's easy to make a fire with sticks, but the only stick you need if you do it right, is a match, is a match. If you come prepared, you won't be worried about it. That's good.

Jess (50:49):

I love the way you answer that question. Not going to be on a plane or going to go someplace with a hotel. Right. I'm thinking traveling in the jungle, I need water filtration and fire, light

Matt (51:00):

Water and fire. Yeah.

Aron (51:03):

That's what I have. Had to unpack that this weekend. I needed my water and fire. Yeah.

Matt (51:10):

How about one talent you wish you had?

Aron (51:14):

Geez, one talent probably being more organized like I am. I'm the talker in the dreamer, but I can get way far ahead and not have any plan to actually get there. So I'm just like, oh, let's do this. This would be fun, this would be great. But I don't have the skills really. I have to have other people around me to actually make any of that stuff happen.

Matt (51:38):

Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking the time and chatting with us, Aron. It's been great.

Aron (51:48):

Yeah, thank you guys so much. It's been an honor privilege to share our story and hope that God will use it to encourage others.

Jess (51:55):

Well, if you're like me, you just have one question in your head, how do you cook a grub to make it taste good? Well, if you're curious and you want to hear about that, then you can find that bonus material by clicking the link in the show notes below.

Matt (52:10):

So one of the takeaways for me, I think, was Aron talking about how it's not really a specific person from a physical standpoint that you would expect to be called to the jungle or to work well in a context like that. The girl he talked about from the Bronx who's doing so well there, who maybe nobody would expect to be the type of person you would think to find there, but then someone maybe who's all geared up and they've got their tactical gear and they've hiked mountains and things like that. They might not do well in an environment like that. So really what he was sharing was just the internal wiring that someone needs to have and the calling and the spiritual formation that makes someone be able to go the long haul in a difficult place like a jungle village. That was really, really cool to hear. And just to see how their team is discerning that and helping people figure that out. And if that's not where God has you and you're on a launch team, there's plenty of other places where he might be calling you where you can be just as fruitful. So that was an encouraging thing to hear from him.

Jess (53:15):

Yeah, I love that picture of Rambo that he gave. Right. Obviously, that's kind of, I think what a lot of us sort of picture when we're thinking someone who's going to go off into the jungle, but instead it is just little Jenny from the Bronx, but she's making relationships and eating grubs and hanging out with tribal people, and that's just such a beautiful picture of the grace of God at work in people's hearts and just giving them what they need and providing the strength they need to be able to survive in some of these really remote places, but to be able to share the love of Jesus there. And I just love what he shared about how he really just had such that deep conviction in one of their darkest and lowest moments on the field. So I really appreciated how honestly shared about those stories.

Matt (54:03):

Yeah. Well, if you want to find out more about what Pioneers is doing in South America, we've got in the show notes. In addition to the recipe or preparation guidance for Grubs, you can find a photo essay from Bolivia and also a video about a father and son team that have handed out over 50,000 radios with audio bibles there in Bolivia. And then there's several other articles and other pieces of content that you might find interesting. And also be sure to check out all the other content we have on our website and in our social channels.

Jess (54:41):

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 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.

Matt (55:00):

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 Thanks for listening.