Renew traces its roots deep into the Amazon jungle. In 1998, David Palusky and a small team of missionaries piled into a boat and traveled several days through the rainforest of Peru up the Amazon river. They hoped to share the Gospel for the first time with members of the primitive Urarina tribe. Thankfully, the tribe welcomed them and soon after, friendships began to form. It wasn’t long before David began to notice the severe challenges that the people were facing: disease, malnutrition, and early death. So, naturally, he asked how he could help. The chief responded with his own challenge:
“Bring me God’s Word in my own language.”
In response, David and his wife, Stephanie, visited Ron Manus, a Wycliffe Bible Translator, who was in the process of translating the Bible into this Amazon language. They discussed the frustrations of trying to explain the Gospel story to a tribe so foreign to even the ancient Biblical culture, and Ron suggested partnering to record the JESUS Film into their language.
When the film was completed, David gathered another team and returned to Peru to show the translated film. A group of Urarina tribal members attended the first showing. As they watched the JESUS Film that evening, the Holy Spirit began to move in an astonishing way. These people, who had never even seen a film before, suddenly developed an understanding for Biblical culture. They understood what donkeys were, that it was an angel who spoke to Mary, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees – they even understood the cruel treatment of the Son of God by His own people. Deeply moved, the normally stoic and reserved Urarina wept at the crucifixion of Jesus. David and the team marveled at how this digital media tool spoke Truth more clearly and efficiently than any of their previous attempts.
Suddenly, the Urarina’s joy at seeing the Gospel in their own language was overshadowed when their chief became ill. Hours passed and the chief grew worse. David decided to try and find a doctor, even if this meant traveling 12 hours through the jungle.
Picking up the corners of the woven grass mat, the missionaries prepared to lower the chief into the boat. They decided to offer one last prayer. Members of the Urarina tribe circled their chief and joined in, just as they had seen in the JESUS Film. As they prayed, the dying man suddenly lept to his feet and began dancing with joy. In utter shock, some of those watching screamed and jumped back, but the chief continued to dance wildly. Then in a strong voice he proclaimed,
“this Jesus has come, not just for the Hispanic or the white man, but for our people as well!”
He kept dancing as he shouted,
“and this is how He wants us to worship Him!”
This miraculous healing sparked a movement in the tribe. Urarinas were choosing to follow Jesus and wanted to then take the Gospel to other villages. David and Stephanie helped get the Jesus Film, the visual Gospel, translated into the Urarina language, but then they ran into a dilemma. The only tools for Jesus Film showings at that time were reel-to-reel projectors and generators that weighed a ton. David was not about to attempt to load an enormous projector and generator into a dugout canoe. He knew there had to be a better solution.
The transformation witnessed among the Urarina tribe clearly demonstrated the need for new technological tools and strategies to share the Gospel to remote people groups. Drawing on his electrical engineering background, David developed a solar-powered audio/video system for presenting the Gospel to individuals and large groups without the need for electricity or internet. The impact of these tools inspired David and his brother to begin Renew World Outreach, with the goal to equip the body of Christ to take the Gospel to the hard to reach parts of the earth.
Not long after those first JESUS Film showings, Renew began distributing projection systems to the Urarinas so they could make Gospel presentations in the Amazon. But the Urarinas still needed a way to grow in the Word of God. They were mostly illiterate, and even those who could read and write preferred to learn orally. This need prompted the development of the Papyrus solar-powered audio Bible: a loud, rugged tool designed to facilitate audio Bible listening groups in each village.
Once audio Bible distribution began, and listening groups were established, the results spoke for themselves. Our Urarina friend, Segundo, was one of the first to provide feedback of how the audio Bibles were working. He explained that before he heard the Gospel, he often got drunk and fought with his neighbor; a lifestyle passed down for generations.
After receiving an audio Bible, he began to play it as suggested, every three or four days with a small listening group. About eight neighbors would regularly come over as they would sit and try to figure out what the words meant.
When asked what Segundo liked most, he replied without hesitation,
“Jesus! And Love! I never heard about love! I never knew love. Forgiveness? I never knew anything about forgiveness. I learned about love and forgiveness and my neighbor I used to fight with. We listen together in our listening group. Something has happened to me. God is changing my spirit. My heart aches for the others in my village that do not listen to God’s Word. I hurt for them. I want them to find the things that I have found. I want them to hear what I have heard.”
Since that time, our mission remains rooted in reaching the most remote: those that have no chance in receiving the Gospel in their heart language. Often when we think of those unreached, we might envision someone situated in the middle of nowhere or in some far corner of the earth. However, the unreached have many faces. For instance, while some are from the most remote places on the planet – decorated with feathers and piercings – others live their lives in modern cities where the government and religion might prevent them from hearing the Truth. All of them are considered unreached and need to receive the message of Jesus. The actual strategy changes for each location. Reaching the unreached in Central Asia looks a lot different than reaching those in the Amazon jungle.
Renew is here to help develop and distribute these strategies and equipment for those willing to go to the unreached. We produce the tools that will allow those in thick jungles, mountainous villages, and everywhere in between, to have access to the Truth, our King and Savior, Jesus.