Renew World Outreach Beginnings

The following is an excerpt from a newsletter sent out by Campus Crusade for Christ’s Jesus Film Project on October 10, 2009.  It helps to tell the story of how Renew got started and why we do what we do:

“Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:3-4, NASB). When the Lord acts for the sake of the gospel, there’s no mistaking it is Him!

You are knee-deep in a tributary of the Amazon River, pushing hard through the shallows. Your small boat just ran into a sand bar. Your only choice is to get out, lift and push.

It’s wretchedly hot and humid. The muddy waters lap around your laboring legs. In every direction are the eyes of alligators, their snouts poised just above the waterline. At any moment a hungry one could quickly advance to try to claim you as its evening meal.

And the mosquitoes–malaria-bearing mosquitoes–with thousands of black flies! You keep batting them all away. Then there are hidden dangers below. Concealed by the liquid murkiness are hundreds of stingrays and electric eels. This is not a place you want to be!

But at times this has been the remote world of engineer/missionary David Palusky. And he has done something remarkable, working with staff and engineers of The JESUS Film Project to greatly advance the number of people who can see JESUS. (I will explain more in a moment.)

But please read on. For you will find his wonderful story, how God acted for the sake of the gospel, so people might see JESUS.

David was working with Wycliffe missionaries Ron and Phyllis Manus, Bible translators who had labored for 50 years to give the Word of God to the Urarina people–speakers of an extremely difficult-to-translate language.

Ron was just completing the New Testament, but many Urarina people could not read. Because theirs was an oral society, one that learns through stories, listening, sights and sounds, David and Ron decided to let them experience JESUS. But the film wasn’t yet available in Urarina.

Coordinating with The JESUS Film Project, Ron prepared a recording studio in his home. They planned to bring about 10 language speakers to record their voices for JESUS, based on Ron’s translation of the Book of Luke.

But the people would have to come down the shallow tributary, then over the actual Amazon River, and to the city . . . at this time of year, a very difficult journey.

You see, the waters of the tributary were very low, and had been dropping for weeks. The villagers couldn’t make it through the treacherous waters, nor walk through the jungle. Believing that God wanted these people to understand JESUS, and knowing the rains were still many weeks in the future, the team began to fast and pray, seeking God’s intervention.

Then it happened!

Even though it was June, the driest month of the year, the waters began to rise as though it was the heavy rainy season–20 feet higher (the height of a two-story building). They even researched the phenomenon and found that a rise of this magnitude during the dry season was completely unprecedented. The only explanation was that God had acted.

With their prayers answered, they hired a speedboat, went up the tributary and picked up the people, bringing them to the temporary studio. Days later, JESUS was recorded in the Urarina language. New, advanced portable equipment refined the recordings and matched the voices. After much work, the team began showing JESUS in the villages.

David said the results were equally unprecedented. People could finally see, hear and understand the story of the gospel. In a showing at a village of 130 people, all the people became enamored with the story, understood in their own mother tongue. Afterward, the men of the village gathered together saying, “We must consider this.” One called out to David, “We’ve been waiting our whole lives to hear this!”

In a matter of days, they baptized 20 new believers. The church began to grow, and fast. Next, other remote Urarina villages needed to hear and understand the gospel through JESUS. But how to reach them?

Transporting the heavier, traditional 16 mm equipment film sets wasn’t practical in this environment. That’s when David, an engineer by training and trade, began to consult with engineers of The JESUS Film Project to develop a more portable tool to show people JESUS.

Using a solar-powered video player/projector, a new, innovative screen with compact speakers, they engineered the new Acclaimer Package (now the updated Vista 1000)–all the equipment needed to show JESUS to remote people. And it all fits in a backpack! You’ll be hearing more about the Acclaimer in the months ahead.

Now, the point of the story about how the Lord raised the water by 20 feet, is that God wants everyone to experience His Word, to hear and understand the gospel. He will not rest until every person on earth has received the good news, in their heart language. “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands” (Revelation 7:9 NASB).

Later, in a village where David was showing JESUS in the new Urarina language, some of the people summoned David. “There is an emergency. Come now!” They took him to the bedside of Artemio, the village chief. David said he found him writhing in agony, gasping for every breath.

A health worker with David advised that it was probably heart failure. The hours passed and it became apparent that death was imminent. When it seemed nothing could be done, David and the team joined with Artemio’s family, encircling the dying man for one last prayer.

David, who was an eyewitness, said that before they could say “amen,” Artemio startled everyone. He literally jumped to his feet, totally healed. He jumped around the home ecstatic, wildly dancing with joy. Artemio called out to the elders around him shouting, “Look! This Jesus healed me. He healed me. He came for our people too!”

Reports of the miracle spread like wildfire. Now people from other villages wanted to meet the Lord, to hear God speak, to see the film about Jesus, the Son of God who had acted so miraculously.

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