"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Gus, Apostle to the Andes

Update: For up-to-date information and the latest of Gus' great exploits in Bolivia, please visit his ministry website.

This is a brief, but remarkable story of a friend of mine whom God used and is using in a most amazing way. Gus does not call himself an apostle, it is a title of respect bestowed upon him by South Americans.

La Paz, Bolivia
Gus Schlamp, was born in Swift Current Saskatchewan in November of 1941, but was raised in the small logging town of Vanderhoof, in central British Columbia, Canada. He remained in Vanderhoof and worked in the forest industry for twenty five years, and another two years in Edson, Alberta. From that humble beginning, Gus could never have imagined that he would one day be responsible, in partnership with God, for delivering the Gospel to 7,000,000 people.

Life was good for Gus. He met and married a beautiful woman named Martha, and they soon began having children.

One Saturday Gus was in town where he bumped into an acquaintance who was a night watchman at a sawmill. They weren't that acquainted with each other, but they knew each other somewhat and had a casual chat.

Monday morning, while Gus was working in the bush, word came from town that the mill where this man was a watchman burned down. And the night watchman died of a heart attack. He was somewhere in his 50s, but he dropped dead.

Gus Schlamp and some schoolchildren
This really shook Gus up as he began to question the meaning of life and the meaning of death. His questions soon led him to the Bible where he found the answers and committed his life to Jesus Christ. Gus was 31 when received the assurance of salvation; he had been married about ten years.

Meanwhile, God had already brought Gus's neighbour into his wife's life. She was an on-fire Christian and soon led Mrs Schlamp to Jesus, and then to church. Gus had attended church as a youth but it was not an evangelical church and Gus found little real relevance in what he learned there. So with both Gus and his wife becoming new Christians, they decided to find a church, but not the one Gus attended as a child. They went to the church their on-fire neighbour attended and they got lit-up.

They started a Sunday evening sing along with the young people from his former church, which eventually developed into an Evangelical church. Gus's good life got even better than he could have imagined. It wasn’t long before he decided to go to Bible College. He graduated from Prairie Bible Institute in beautiful, downtown Three Hills, Alberta, in 1980. He then returned to his first occupation – logging. Soon, child number six was born.

Alas, life is never one filled with long periods of great joy and happiness. Times of testing come upon us bringing great difficulties into our lives, sometimes they come from the most unlikely source.

Gus's wife bought a really nice skirt, one day; it fit her beautiful figure very flatteringly. Gus loved it. It had a slit up one side that revealed a little leg. She looked fantastic in it. Unfortunately, her neighbour's husband thought so too and complained to his wife that he was being tempted by her appearance in that skirt with the slit.

The neighbour, the very one who led her to the Lord, rebuked Martha for tempting her husband. Where I come from, this is often called mis-placed anger - she probably should have rebuked her husband for not looking away. Or, perhaps she was jealous that her husband admired her neighbour so much. Or, perhaps she was jealous that she didn't look as good as the woman who had 6 kids.

Vanderhoof, British Columbia
A gentle word, I'm sure, and Martha might have made sure to not where the skirt around the neighbour's husband. Nevertheless, Martha disposed of the skirt, never wearing it again. That unfortunate incident began to erode her enthusiasm toward church.

One day, Gus and Martha found a bottle raspberry juice that had fermented, and they drank it. That was so much fun that they began buying wine and drinking it. Over time the drinking increased. As the drinking increased, the fun decreased, and Gus would often find his wife staying up late rather than praying together and going to bed with him. If he had only gone out to her and encouraged her to come to bed, things might have worked out very differently; but he didn't, and since they no longer prayed together the two grew farther and farther apart.

Okanagan Lake at Summerland
Gus’ marital relationship deteriorated over the years to the point of an official divorce in the year 2000, after which he retired. But divorce and retirement left Gus experiencing a very lonely and empty life. He moved to Summerland, in southern British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, but just continued to spiral downhill. He began to contemplate suicide. Then he began to plan his suicide.

There was a large sign on the side of the highway not far from where Gus lived. He decided that if he hit that sign on his motorcycle at about 100 mph, it would decapitate him instantly and he would hardly feel a thing.

Before Gus could exercise his plan, the Lord opened his eyes and heart through Job 2:9. Then he understood what Job’s wife meant when she said to Job: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” What he understood her to say was, “Why don’t you do yourself in”? At that point Gus understood that if he was to take his life into his own hands he would be cursing God. Gus had enough fear of the Lord that he did not want to curse God. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..." Prov 9:10.

(In the Bible, the word translated “fear” can mean several things. It can refer to the terror one feels in a frightening situation (Deuteronomy 2:25). It can mean “respect” in the way a servant fears his master and serves him faithfully (Joshua 24:14). Fear can also denote the reverence or awe a person feels in the presence of greatness (Isaiah 6:5). The fear of the Lord is a combination of all of these.)

Gus abandoned his suicide plan and decided to start over and build a new life. He didn’t feel that he had a right to start another relationship, so he looked at other options. He thought about moving away, but as his relationship with the Lord was improving, Gus struggled with his motives for wanting to leave, but then God pointed him to Isaiah 49:13 and on:

"Sing, O heavens!
Be joyful, O earth!
And break out in singing, O mountains!
For the Lord has comforted His people,
And will have mercy on His afflicted."

Isa 49:14  But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me." 

Isa 49:15  "Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. 

Isa 49:16  Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. 

Isa 49:17  Your builders make haste; your destroyers and those who laid you waste go out from you. 

Isa 49:18  Lift up your eyes around and see; they all gather, they come to you. As I live, declares the LORD, you shall put them all on as an ornament; you shall bind them on as a bride does. 

Isa 49:19  "Surely your waste and your desolate places and your devastated land-- surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away. 

Isa 49:20  The children of your bereavement will yet say in your ears: 'The place is too narrow for me; make room for me to dwell in.' 

Isa 49:21  Then you will say in your heart: 'Who has borne me these? I was bereaved and barren, exiled and put away, but who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; from where have these come?'" 

Isa 49:22  Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.

This seemed to be loaded with purpose and promises to Gus.

With the Lord now directing his path, Gus didn’t move down the road, or to another part of B.C., He decided that he was going to start over in another country, Gus investigated Costa Rica but found no opportunities. So, he ended up moving to Bolivia where he bought ‘farm’ land consisting of 247 acres of heavy jungle, with a river bordering the north end, and a lake on the south end. He then bought a bulldozer and built seven kms of road to the property.

The first year he lived in a tent under a straw roof in the yard of the people from whom he bought the land. After the road was built and some clearing done, Gus built his house, shop and garage all under one large metal roof. He then started clearing the jungle and planting rice. He also had some pasture with cattle.

Mud is a problem on the mostly dirt
roads, especially in rainy season
During his time on the farm, Gus attended a Spanish church in a village called Santa Maria, 20 kms away. But to get there he had to reach the main highway, which meant crossing the river by ferry for the first 2 1⁄2 years before a nice bridge was built.

For about six years, Gus developed his farm quite successfully, but during this time he became rather concerned about the salvation of the many children throughout Bolivia. When he would see children the question that would always come to mind was this: “What opportunity will these children ever have to come to know God and His eternal salvation?”

The Lord developed that question to a very specific call and led Gus into His ministry to bring the Word of God to all the public schools throughout Bolivia.

During those six years, Gus found that he had some of the Lord’s funds on hand, tithe money that he hadn't yet disbursed, and he did not know where to designate it. Then it came to mind that he should purchase some children’s Bible story books and give one to each family in his church. He did.

After that, he felt like the Lord was saying, (that’s fine but there are more children). So he thought maybe he should do this to other churches as well. But then the question came to mind saying, “Gus, why do you only think of the children in church?”

That question hit fairly hard because Gus felt that the Lord wanted him to do this over all of Bolivia, and that was a much bigger project than he could even imagine. There were so many questions like; where would the material come from, where would the funds come from to purchase the material, how would it get distributed, what material should be distributed?

Gus went around this tree while road-making
While thinking on all this the Lord gave him the Bible verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:24 “Faithful is He who calls you who also will do it”. By now you have probably figured out that Gus doesn’t do anything half-way; perhaps that’s why God chose him for this great challenge. So, Gus sold his farm and all that he had and bought a vehicle to transport the material. He also purchased two apartments for rental purposes to generate some income, and he rented a room together with a secure car garage in the city of Santa Cruz.

Then he ordered 500 children’s Bible Story Books from Ohio, USA for $700.  Gus distributed these to schoolchildren and teachers in a town north of Santa Cruz called Rurenabaque where he had done a survey to get an idea of the number of students in schools. Gus was very excited to have received such a holy calling, and determined to not give God a divided heart which meant sell everything and go into this full time.

After some time, a friend came from Paraguay with some Scripture material and asked Gus if he could store it in his garage for a while. Two weeks later, the friend asked if Gus had looked at the material yet which he had not, but as he looked at it he knew immediately this was exactly what he needed, and it just happened to be in his garage.

This was enough to give him a really good start. Montero was a smaller town North of Santa Cruz where he knew a pastor who was very excited about this mission. He would provide him with a bed for the night and also arrange for either himself or another pastor to go with him for the day as he distributed the booklets. During this process he met up with many pastors, and this is where he met with Rene Estevez Ordonez who worked on the project until 2011.

Following up on where the material came from, Gus found that David Klassen from Canada was instrumental in directing the material to Paraguay from World Missionary Press and was more than willing to arrange for them to receive this material as well.

Gus soon realized that his funds would run out and that funds would have to come in from outside sources. Therefore, he felt the need to make himself accountable somehow and, so, developed a board of directors consisting of some Canadians and some Bolivianos.

He also realized that support would likely come from Canada and, so, he also formed a board in Canada consisting of persons who have been in Bolivia and have seen the work first hand. Since then they have become a charitable organization known as Next Generation Ministries Inc. (NGM).

NGM is committed to the following ministries in Bolivia:

Bolivian Board
1. Presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every school, student and teacher.

2. Work together with evangelical pastors to bring this about.

3. Supply each student with the Word of God.

4. Supply each teacher with Bible study booklets.

5. Encourage these helping pastors to follow up on all these students and teachers.

The country's schools only go to grade six. This means that every six years they will all be new students. So it would be good to cover Bolivia every three to six years.

What do the materials consist of and how are they produced?

The material is in booklet form and it is mostly Scripture. Actually it is the Bible in condensed form with all the major doctrines of the Gospel. They are printed and shipped for free from WMP (World Missions Press).
This is the cover and second page of the booklet.

NGM’s access to Bibles has been very limited, but when they have Bibles or New Testaments they try to leave at least one with each school and, if possible, one with each teacher. Their next shipment is going to have 1,250,000 Scripture Booklets.

What has happened as a result of this mission in Bolivia?

Since this mission started in 2005 the gospel has been presented to more than 7,000,000 teachers and students, and may soon exceed 10,000,000. Every schoolchild in Bolivia and every teacher has received the booklet. Today NGM has workers in the cities of Cobija, Trinidad, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, La Paz and Sucre.

Recently the door has opened to Peru, but with the existing mission, they are not able to use funds that are given to NGM for the work in Peru.

NGM has contacted WMP who are prepared to ship a small container to Lima, Peru, if Gus can coordinate the work there to unload and distribute the material. As of this writing, WMP is contemplating the shipment of a container to Lima.

This container of Scripture booklets is to be placed into the hands of the Assemblies of God, which is a very large organization in Peru. Gus spoke to a leading pastor in Lima who told him that he has the oversight of 6,000 pastors in Peru. So, it appears that they have all their workers in place and will make good use of the material, with God’s blessing.

It is just amazing how God can use one humble but determined man to begin and run a work whereby the Gospel reaches 10,000,000 people – perhaps an entire generation of an entire country have the opportunity to receive the assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Is it any wonder that they call him the Apostle to the Andes.

But Gus would want to make sure you know that this is not a story about him; it’s a story of what God can do, and he would give Him all the glory which is right. But I would like to point out that for God to glorify Himself He needs servants who listen, are willing, have faith, and are courageous. Gus is such a man. God bless him.

If you would like to be a part of this incredible ministry, please visit NGM’s website: http://nexgenerationbolivia.org

 You also have the opportunity to support NGM’s Supplier: www.wmpress.org