Juan Carlos (back row, far right) is shown here with the missionary group with which he ministered to the Satere, an aboriginal tribe living in Brazil's Amazon. When he was sixteen, Juan Carlos became the first Otavalan to train missionary leaders within another indigenous tribe.
Many indigenous people in Ecuador migrate from the high country to the country's major cities to look for economic security. They are often discriminated against and excluded by nonindigenous Ecuadorians. As a result, many tribes shun the customs and beliefs of others including Christianity. It's rare they receive biblical teaching from one of their own. Until now. The story of Juan Carols Tocagó an indigenous Otavalan who became a missionary to tribes like his own, is a prime example of how Compassion sponsorship helps spread the Word of God to the farthest reaches of the Earth.
From the time he was 10 years old, Juan Carlos Tocagó knew he was different. Juan Carlos is an indigenous Otavalan from the Otavalo tribe that lives in Ecuador's northern Sierra region.
Most inhabitants of the northern Sierra depend on agriculture to make a living. Because of the difficulty in finding work, many move to Ecuador's cities, leaving their children alone to care for the home. At the age of five, Juan's parents left him in the care of his sister who was barely twice his age.
A Child Converted
But God is aware of the "fatherless." At age six, Juan Carlos heard the Word of God while he was attending a Compassion-assisted project. The tutors and pastors at the project encouraged him to receive Jesus soon after his arrival. From the moment he received Christ, says Juan Carlos, "I knew I was not only special but chosen by God to serve Him!"
Ten years later, at age 16, Juan Carlos found his calling. He entered a missionary training school and was chosen to go on a missions trip to Brazil. Though he was excited, he couldn't afford to go and became discouraged.
Compassion agreed to cover part of his costs and with help from his friends and family, this indigenous Otavalan missionary was commissioned to go to Brazil to share the gospel with an aboriginal tribe.
Commissioned to train new missionary leaders among the Satere tribe, Juan, accompanied by a missionary couple, sailed for 24 hours down the Amazon River to reach the tribe.
Spreading God's Word
The Satere, who live in the depths of Brazil's Amazon jungle, are known to be unfriendly toward strangers but when they realized Juan Carlos was an Indian, they received him warmly. Juan learned their customs and way of life. He ate their food, hunted, collected fruit and served them at every opportunity.
In a short time, the teenager became part of the community and was allowed to share his faith in Christ with the tribe. For many, this was the first time they heard about Jesus Christ.
The Bible seemed more powerful and believable coming from someone who looked like them.
"I was a clear testimony to the tribe that Jesus' 'Great Commission', His gospel, is not only for the rich or Caucasian people," Juan Carlos said. "But it is for everyone who obeys His will and desires to extend the Kingdom of Heaven to the ends of the Earth."
Telling Every Nation
It's been two years now since the mission's trip to Brazil. Today, the 18-year-old works with his church youth group and is a worship leader. He lives with his parents, sells the produce that they cultivate and attends classes regularly.
Juan says his future is in missions outreach to indigenous communities. He believes his calling is a privilege since he knows few people who understand the racism and exclusion tribal people endure.
"I believe God has chosen me to be a testimony to young Indian men and women, to make a difference and impact entire nations. But I first want to evangelize my people, to help them see that they are also special," he adds. "Being different isn't easy but I want to live a holy life so that others will see God in me and change their lives."
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