Timoteo Turigi stares out from behind his makeshift pulpit, a metal desk from the village school, at the four faithful rows of his church. He tells them again how he once was an orphan, but today is a child of God.
Turigi was just a baby when one of the village elders lowered him into the earth, to bury him alive beside his father’s dead body. For a nomadic tribe like the Aché of Paraguay, a young child without parents was seen as a liability, a helpless thing to be transported and fed. Turigi was spared only because his grandmother reached into the ground and saved him.
Then in 1976 a missionary came seeking the Aché, drawing them from the darkness of the forest into the light of God’s love. Hearing him preach the gospel, the community began to change as one generation, and then another, came to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Today Turigi, now 50, is the pastor of his village, Puerto Barra. Seated there in the pews before him is a faith community composed of young families, Turigi’s peers, and the men who long ago stood by as his father’s grave was filled with dirt.
Like any pastor, he groans for the absent members of his flock—those who have drifted away. But here before him are the committed ones, actively investing in the future. They train up the tribe’s children, lead Bible studies, and have translated the Scriptures and Dr. Stanley’s sermons into the Aché language.
The result is the Spanish-Aché Messenger, which Turigi and members of his church use in ministering to the older generation as well as others spread across the region. Whereas their Christian faith once made them an object of ridicule, now the Puerto Barra Aché are welcomed for the good news they bring. But the work in their village is far from over.
On a warm spring day, a teacher from the local school is baptized. Nearly all of Turigi’s village has come to line the riverbank, and there are many visitors, too. It’s a celebration of testimony and song that lasts two hours. When it’s his turn to speak, Turigi looks at his flock and calls them to the water. He knows there is a greater loss than being orphaned as a child—to miss Christ’s invitation to come and inherit the kingdom of His heavenly Father.