The Achuar are an indigenous people of an area between Peru and Ecuador, belonging to the Jivaroana family, as the Shuar, the Shiwiar, the Awajunt and the Wampis. They live on the banks of rivers Pastaza and Huasaga. The word “Achuar” originates from the name of the great palm trees of that region; the natives translate the word as “man of the swamp”.
It is there that Salesian Fr. Luigi Bolla commenced a missionary adventure of 50 years, moved by his passion for announcing the Word of God. I bring the Word of God to 4 tribes: Shapra, Kandozi, Shawi and Awajun. He visits each one of them only once a year and remains there for 3-4 weeks. I usually travel in a boat called ‘pequepeque’, after the noise it makes when it sails.
The missionary goes into the forest to bring the Word of God, to celebrate the sacraments and the Eucharist, to read the Bible and pray the rosary. To children he teaches catechism and to play football. When he arrives at one place, he is offered a drink called “masato”, made with manioc, which has a different taste in each tribe and is served by the women. In indigenous families, the tasks of men and women are very well defined and distinct. The population grows manioc, maize and rice.
Those who visit the missionary, in the midst of all that vegetation, wonder: “Where does this person draw the strength from to announce the Good News in such a place?” “When I sail in my canoe for six to seven hours, I pray the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. This gives me strength. Without the contact with God, I cannot do anything. Because of this, prayer, and prayer, and prayer again is essential for a missionary. In my journeys, I also read books and always remember that a missionary must sow. Jesus never deceives us and knows how to draw us out of the greatest problems ”.
Fr. Joseph Kamsa SDB
Polish Missionary in Peru