Honduras: Reaching the last unreached tribal villages hidden for 500 years

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By Mark Ellis –

Distributing food, preaching in Rio Arriba

For the last six years, Final Frontiers Foundation has been ministering to the Tolupan Indians of Honduras, considered the last “unreached people group” in that country.

Several Christian organizations have been trying to reach them with the gospel, but the more remote villages in the mountains have been challenging. “No one has visited all 45+ villages that are high in the mountains, accessible only by footpaths and mule trails,” says John Nelms, founder of Final Frontiers.

Most have only visited the two accessible “capitals” of this friendly but divided tribe, he notes. The remote, mountainous villages are difficult for reasons that go beyond geography.

“They are largely unexposed to foreigners and believe us to be another wave of conquistadors, who like our supposed predecessors, have come to pillage, rape, murder…and enslave them.

“When a foreigner approaches, they set their village on fire and flee further up the mountains where they have hidden for 500 years.”

Final Frontiers is planning a major outreach to completely evangelize every Tolupan family in these villages within a 30-day period. “In a month they will go from being unreached to being saturated with the Gospel!” he says.

Because Final Frontiers has befriended the past and present chiefs of both branches of the tribe, they have been given exclusive permission to travel to each village to preach and distribute Christian materials to all the households in the tribe.

In addition, the chiefs are sending some of the men in the tribe that have converted to Christianity to accompany Final Frontiers as guides, translators, and protectors.

“Most Tolupan don’t speak Spanish well or at all. In the main “capitals” of San Juan and Ceiba they do, pretty much, but in the other villages they don’t,” Nelms says.

Traveling to the Tolupan for years, Nelms has passed through many villages and towns with little or no church presence, communities of unevangelized people with populations of 30 to 30,000.

Two weeks ago, God put it in on his heart to distribute food at one village, Rio Arriba. “As we pulled up I began honking my horn nonstop to attract their attention,” he recounts.

“As usual, my plan worked. We quickly made friends and it seemed the trail of families walking out of the forest was endless. Typically, God had provided that we had exactly the number of food bags that were needed.”

After a short visit Nelms told them he would return the following Wednesday.

On the next visit, he was accompanied by a group of teenagers from First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. “Pulling up, I unfettered my horn-honking talents and they came once again.”

The teenagers began to mix and mingle with the children. “Men began to come out to meet us, some up close, some keeping a distance while close enough to hear the preaching.

“At the close, a number indicated they wanted to follow Christ and several ladies spoke to the youth leader, Ricky Torres, and told him they wanted a church. Ricky called me over and they pointed to a small piece of ground nestled in the center of five tiny houses and said: ‘we will give you this land for a church.’

Nelms told them he preferred that a newly established church meet in a home until there is no more room. “Immediately, all three ladies offered their houses. It was a precious time for us all and a memory these teenagers will carry with them to the grave.”

After the team left Rio Arriba, Nelms talked with Torres while they were driving. “Many pastors in the States tell me, ‘Jon, I love your ministry…but when you talk about the number of churches your men start, well, to be honest, I just have a hard time believing it.’

Torres could barely contain his enthusiasm after their experience in Rio Arriba. “It’s easy,” he replied, “we just did it. I have felt the same way in the past but now I see it clearly.”

Later, Nelms reflected on the fruit of their mission trip. “Statistically, most missionaries will never plant a new church in their life but those 14 teenagers from the south side of Chicago on a one-week visionary trip did. And eternity will remember them for it.”

While Rio Arriba may not have a church building with a steeple, offering plates and choir robes, there is a “called out assembly of new believers who will meet with the pastor we send in a house or under a tree, for the purpose of praising their new-found Savior, learning His Words and singing His praises,” he notes.

While the people in the village didn’t ask for material sustenance, it was apparent to Nelms that they need food, clothing, machetes and hoes for farming, vitamins and medical supplies.

“We will do our best to wrap this new born church in swaddling clothes, then nature and nurse them to spiritual maturity as our men have done around the world for the past 32 years, starting over a quarter of a million other churches.”

“Believe or not, but you will see them in Heaven!”

 

To learn more about the work of Final Frontiers Foundation, go here