Cover image of Friends In Action, Intl., January 2021 publication of

Covid In The Amazon Jungle

Jan 1, 2020

Healing through Pastor Iver’s Outreaches

He awoke in his mud hut staring at the leaf roof wondering if his nightmare was real or imagined. Something didn’t feel right. He had no energy, his back ached terribly, and he felt very cold even in the thick, humid Amazon jungle air. It was hard to breathe. His chest was tight. He coughed repeatedly, trying to pull in more air.

The cough rattled through his body to the point of nearly convulsing. Too cold. Too hot. More pain. His headache was the worst of his life. He was scared to cough for fear the pressure would explode through his eyes.

Although he could see the fish his wife cooked for him, he couldn’t smell or taste it. He went two days without eating, hoping he could starve out whatever was wrong. He was becoming terribly dehydrated by day three, but what help was there? His tiny village was a 5-day walk from the next village.

The way of his people had not changed much in hundreds of years. They collected and carried water by hand with no electricity, surviving on meager portions from their subsistence gardens or pulled from the waters of the Amazon.

More than 90% of our national partners in northern Bolivia contracted COVID-19 last summer. Hundreds of villagers just like this man were in desperate need of help when Pastor Iver and his team arrived.

From Soccer to Seminary

Iver Suarez became a Christian at age 13 through an outreach hosted by a Baptist church near his home. Although he was the only believer in his family, he committed himself to attending the small church and Jesus’s teachings. At age 15, Iver entered a soccer academy and was selected to play on the city’s University Team of Cobija at 17. Displaying extraordinary skill, Iver became a professional soccer player for a Bolivian league.

Despite his success, Iver felt God calling him to a life of ministry. He saw physical and spiritual needs of his fellow Bolivians everywhere and had a deep desire to help. He left his position of prestige and attended seminary to prepare to serve in Christ’s Name. While at seminary, Iver joined the Central National Church of Guayaramerin. Friends In Action has partnered with this coalition of churches to reach indigenous people groups who have never heard the Good News.

Iver met Pastor Saul Peralta, who heads up the Indigenous Training Center that enables new believers who lack a high-school education or live in very remote regions to evangelize their own and neighboring villages.

Iver also was introduced to Rafael Rivero who leads Inspiracion, the 24/7 Christian radio ministry that FIA partners with to reach over 200,000 villagers from isolated areas in Bolivia and Brazil.
Finally, Iver crossed paths with Manuel Bravo, the head of the medical riverboat ministry that travels deep into unreached villages along the Amazon River offering life-saving treatments and the Gospel to hundreds of people each year.

The twelve churches and senior pastors represented by the coalition recognized that the grace of the Lord was strongly at work in Iver’s life. They began to mentor Iver to become the head of the Ministry of Missions for the region. As the men prayed, studied, and ministered together, Iver grew in responsibility.

Ministry During the COVID-19 Pandemic

When Manuel Bravo contracted COVID-19 and ultimately died from the virus, Manuel had already trained his replacement through the countless hours he invested into mentoring Iver. Iver stepped forward to continue the Riverboat Ministry so critical to those in desperate need of physical and spiritual healing.

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