ASIEL Church Planting
Laying a Foundation Where No Man Has Built
Rotten fruit. Dead rats. Used sanitary napkins. All of these came flying at the platform. Pastor Israel was interrupted as he preached. “You get out of here!” Angry voices shouted. “We demand you leave! You are not welcome in these parts!”
Pastor Israel looked compassionately towards his persecutors. They were hiding in the darkness. They wouldn’t show their faces.
“I will respect your wishes.” He called out to them. “I will be on my way. But are you speaking on your own? I know this was not your idea. Your priest sent you, didn’t he? I know that deep down in your heart, you are hungry for the Word of God. Jesus loves you, just the way you are. He also loves the one that sent you!”
This was twelve years ago. In an area of the Amazon Jungle called Alto Marañon. Pastor Israel moved on to another area of the town and kept preaching. Again, he was sought out and targeted with malodorous missiles. Again, he responded in love. It happened three times total on that particular trip.
Later, some local children pointed out to him his persecutor. His name was Tiago. The leader of the gang. Pastor Israel sought him out. He pretended not to know Tiago’s identity as the one behind the attacks. He extended the hand of friendship to Tiago.
Tiago opened up. He listened as Pastor Israel told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. “I am like the loving man in the story,” Pastor Israel said. “And you are like the man left for dead. You are full of wounds. You are hurting inside. God sent me here to help bind up your heart. He wants to pour on His healing balm. Would you like to have Jesus come into your life? He will heal all that hurts inside your soul.”
That day, Tiago received Jesus as his Savior and Lord. Healing began as love broke through hatred. Evil was overcome with good. A seed was planted that is still growing today. A seed that has grown up into dozens of new church plants in a region that previously seemed impenetrable by the gospel.
Fast forward to the present. Alto Marañon is now blessed with 45 churches that are part of our network. Thirty-five of them have been planted in the last six years. In 2006, we sent our first two Pastors’ School graduates to work in that province of the jungle. Since then, we have sent eight more workers to join them. Four more will be graduating and joining them over the next two years. Our team out there has been traveling throughout that territory—preaching the gospel. Winning souls. Birthing churches. Ministering healing to hurting families.
Jesus said the Kingdom starts as the smallest of seeds (Mar. 4:31). And its growth is immense and unstoppable. The devil could not keep Alto Marañon. God’s Word penetrated there. The darkness couldn’t do anything about it. NOTHING can hold back the gospel.
The History of ASIEL, our Church Network
Twenty-one-year-old José Arimborgo gazed at his hands. In one of them was the Bible that he was newly coming to love. In the other was the key to his truck. The truck represented the livelihood that was already bringing him significant prosperity at such a young age. The Holy Spirit was calling him--just as Jesus called the fishermen of old to leave their nets and follow after Him.
The Bible represented the burning in his heart, to leave behind everything familiar and comfortable and preach the gospel. The truck key also had its own compelling demand on his soul. Comfort. Money. Security. After a moment of contemplation, José lay down the key and embraced the Bible to his chest. Joyful tears filled his eyes as he gave his “yes” to the One who had died for him.
From that day on, he began his travels. Following the Spirit’s lead, he travelled all over the nation of Peru, sowing precious seed as he went. He laughs as he recalls the early days, when he only had two sermons in his repertoire. He once literally slipped away secretly from a church where had had been invited to preach, because they had asked him to speak for the third night in a row--and he had completely run out of things to say!
That was nearly five decades ago. The Holy Spirit equipped José to become a powerful and yet humble apostle during these many years of training and obedience. Wherever he goes, all over Peru, faces light up when they see him. “My spiritual father!” each one of them exclaims. He has sons and daughters in the Kingdom in the most remote places, where it would be a stretch of your imagination to even come up with a mental picture of families living in such faraway abodes.
In 1979, God called José and his wife Carmen to again leave everything they had and move to the jungles of Peru. They obeyed. Just months after their move to the city of Iquitos with their four small children, their mentor and spiritual covering died in a helicopter crash. They were completely on their own, penniless.
Those early years were extremely difficult ones. They had no support base, whatsoever, other than the Lord Himself. There was no network of believers to strengthen them in their darkest moments. Finding the next meal was an exercise of faith, each and every day. It was a season of profound formation and development in complete dependence on God as their source, comfort, provision, and strength.
During those foundational years, opposition to the gospel in Peru was still ruthless. José and Carmen were continually persecuted for their faith. Whenever they did evangelistic campaigns, they had to deal with rotten vegetables and even rocks thrown at them, and with government officials coming to shut down what they were doing. Hatred was spewed at them continually. They were kicked out of the only place they had to live. Men and women that had pretended to be their friends betrayed them time and time again.
José was thrown in jail countless times for preaching the message of Jesus. On more occasions than is comfortable to remember, he nearly died. He continually paid a harsh physical price for getting the gospel to such isolated locations, weeks travel by boat away from any kind of medical care or modern amenities.
In the midst of it all, the Arimborgos pressed forward. They travelled extensively throughout the vast Amazon Jungle, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Wherever they went, they planted churches. Although in their humility they never kept track of how many new congregations they started, a census was done in our area of the country a few years ago . Over 800 churches out in distant jungle towns and villages reported that they have been founded by José and Carmen or one of their spiritual kids, over all these years.
Today, José has become probably the most influential evangelical leader in the whole of the Peruvian Amazon. Signs and wonders follow him wherever he goes. He has seen dying patients completely healed of cancer, AIDS, and many incurable tropical diseases. He has a reputation throughout these parts of being able to get the even most severely demonized souls delivered and in their right minds. “You got one of those impossible cases? Send ‘em to José,” his pastor friends remark to each other. Every single day, pastors and leaders seek him out, looking for counsel and encouragement.
We are standing on the shoulders of José and Carmen Arimborgo. Church planting is our spiritual DNA. The name of the church association that they founded is ASIEL. Until the Lord returns, ASIEL will be here, training up leaders and pastors to go into the remaining regions of the jungle where the love of Jesus is not yet known.