As I walk steadily upwards through the fields and forests of Coihueco in the Ninth Region of Chile, I am reminded of the strong work ethic of the Mapuche people and their innate relationship with the land. After a long hike up the heavily forested hill, I begin to
hear the shouts and whistles of the workers harvesting the trees. The shouts are a mix of Spanish and Mapundungun, the indigenous language of the Mapuche people. Upon coming to a clearing in the trees, I witness the group of eight Mapuche men harvesting the fallen trees. Two pairs of oxen accompany them dragging bunches of tree trunks up and down the mountainside seemingly without effort. They take these clumps of trees, three to five trunks at a time, ranging from ten to twelve meters in length and sometimes more than a meter in diameter, to their masters in order to prepare them for shipment to the market.
Each pair of oxen is led by a Mapuche farmer up and down the steep hillside with a picana, a simple long pole made of coligüe.1 The farmer leads the oxen by a gentle tap on the yoke instructing the animal to go the direction of his owners bidding. At the end of
the day the Mapuche climbs aboard his wagon filled with the logs and the oxen take the harvest in, led by their master with the gentle nudge of the picana.
This common sight of campesino living in the region surrounding Lautaro has been an inspiration for the team of church planters from La Iglesia de Cristo Iberoamericana seeking to fulfill the calling God has given it to establish the church among the Mapuche people. 2 As the team plants the church there, it is bringing about individual and community transformation among this beautiful people and the society within which they live. It is a picture of God the Father, represented by the farmer, leading His people to join Him in His work. God the Spirit, represented in the picana, leading with gentle guidance and a still voice rather than the whip. God the Son, represented by the yoke, having given His life for all mankind, now binds His people together to work as one and fulfill His purposes. The result at the end of the day is to see the harvest brought in, just as the Church is called to bring God’s harvest in (Luke 10:2-3). That harvest is one of souls that need to find freedom and transformation in Christ.
In the countryside of Southern Chile, the most valuable tool for the Mapuche farmer is a pair of oxen. These majestic creatures are powerful yet meek in their disposition. They are powerful enough to drag freshly cut trees up steep mountainsides, through mud, snow, and brush, yet sufficiently meek to wait patiently for their owners to tap them with their picana and guide them in the work they have been directed to do.
While these animals are valuable to the campesino, it is only so when there is a pair. Every farmer knows that even with the strength of the ox, in order to do the necessary work, two oxen need to be yoked together so that they might fulfill their purpose. The farmer knows that the strength of two oxen yoked together is not just double the strength of a single ox. The combined strength of two oxen working yoked together is increased by tenfold.
This simple truth illustrated by the efforts of the Mapuche farmer is a concept that King Solomon spoke of over 2500 years ago as he penned the words in Ecclesiastes. “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). The return of labor for a campesino working with a pair of oxen enyugados is much better than if he were to work with a single ox. 3 It multiplies the fruit of his labor.
The team in Lautaro has learned from God’s Word, and from the Mapuche people, in their church planting efforts in the south of Chile. They have adopted the concept of being enyugados in order to extend the Kingdom of God throughout the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Regions of Chile. These committed disciples of Jesus work yoked with others in order to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ among the Mapuche people of southern Chile. There is recognition of the need to work in partnership with others in order to be a blessing to the communities of Lautaro and beyond. These partnerships and networks are characterized by working hand in hand with other churches, community organizations, community leaders, business leaders, and individuals, both nationally and internationally.
Working together in partnership with others under the gentle yet powerful yoke of Jesus, La Iglesia de Cristo Iberoamericana in conjunction with Iberoamerican Ministries are ministering among the Mapuche of Southern Chile to bring liberating transformation to a people confronted daily with a society in change and upheaval around them. It is their belief that the Body of Christ is the agent that will bring true freedom and peace among the Mapuche community. It is the Body of Christ that has the responsibility to bring the Gospel to the Mapuche in a culturally relevant way in order that their culture and way of life are not destroyed. The goal is that the Mapuches may be a people through whom Christ’s love is reflected in a hurting and broken world.
1 A coligüe is a plant native to Chile; it is similar to a bamboo plant but is not hollow and grows to between three and five meters in length.
2 Campesino refers to people and or lifestyle of people that live in the rural areas Chile and other
parts of Latin America.
3 The translation for enyugados is to be yoked together.
First Name: Douglas E.
Last Name: Kallestad
Year Graduated: 2008