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To Patagonia and Back Again


This last month I had an opportunity to travel to a Chile and visit my friend Will Hughes. Will is a legend who has followed Jesus to Romania, Haiti, and the Middle East.  Years ago Will took time out from writing thesis papers for seminary to answer my existential questions about life. I deeply respect him and am grateful for the ways he has helped to form me into who I am today. This trip had been on my dream list for years. 

Will and his wife Eva work with local pastors in the remote regions of Patagonia. They have a mobile library of books and DVDs. Their travel takes them by truck, by ferry, and by foot. Some ferries take fourteen hours. Some roads become impassable. 




While I was there, Will and I went on a trip to the island of Chiloe. Eva is six months pregnant and decided against the long walks in harsh conditions on the island. 

Chiloe lies off the pacific coast. From this island are scattered an archipelago of dozens of smaller islands. In two weeks, we visited four of them. The beaches were scattered with agates and purple seaweed.  Jellyfish sift in from the open ocean; they are the size of dogs.  People plant potatoes and corn and spin wool into sweaters. They send their children to boarding schools on the main island.

The people of the island live simply. They work hard in the salmon hatcheries or on their small fishing boats. They split firewood to keep the stove going through the cold and rainy winters. 

Every house has a woodstove. Families gather around to cook, eat, share stories, and drink mate. Everywhere we went we were welcomed into homes and treated as family. 



Encouraging the encouragers

It can take weeks of travel to get to some of the pastors on Will’s list. These pastors are often forgotten by their sending churches far away and receive few visitors. A visit to these pastors is twofold, to bring them study materials and to be a listening ear.

Study resources are rare. Many pastors have been obedient to God’s call but have received little or no training. Some cannot even read. Will and Eva sift through an incredible amount of books and video teachings. They select the courses and resources that correlate to the questions the pastors have been asking.

But they don’t just show up, drop the books and leave. These pastors are enduring difficult circumstances and have no one to talk to. They need a listening ear. They need someone who will understand them and pray for them. They need a safe place to open up and share the burdens of being the only pastor in a small village at the edge of the world.

Most nights we stayed up till one in the morning talking about fishing, the economy, theology, and stories of yesteryear. For most of the pastors this was not Will’s first visit. They are quickly growing deeper friendships. Will is humbled and privileged to be able to serve these great men at the world’s edge. At each house we left I could tell by the lingering embrace and heart spoken thanks that Will’s visit meant a lot to them. 



Harvesting Seaweed

Many pastors are bi-vocational. They need to be in order to make ends meet. So we join them in the daily labor, talking along the way. There is something very bonding about working alongside other men. On our trip to chiloe we helped install a gutter, hoed potatoes out of the ground,  hacked down brush with a machete, and even harvested seaweed from the ocean. Apparently the Japanese buy it for cosmetics and diapers. Who knew?

Working hard alongside these men was humbling. They are heroes. They don’t receive enough support from their sending churches far away, yet they tirelessly press on for years. They are following Jesus and making him known in solitary places.

In the future, the local church of Chile will discover these men and celebrate them. Will is constantly connnecting with missional churches in Chile to raise interest in aiding these pastors. Each trip he encounters new pastors who are more and more remote. As the list of contacts continues, the need grows for local Chileans to acompany him on his trips. 


How to Help

There are many ways to be able to support Will and Eva in the work God is doing in Patagonia. First, maybe consider signing up for their updates. You can visit their website here

Before we went out to the islands of Chiloe for two weeks we went to a book store to buy materials for pastors. A huge section of Will’s budget goes towards buying books.  Supporting Will financially is directly training and equipping pastors who are doing kingdom work in southern Chile.

Lastly, maybe consider volunteering with Will in patagonia. Do you have a working knowledge of Spanish and a desire to reach the unreached? Do you want to study theology? Do you love mate? 

You can get more information on how to support Will and Eva and the work in Chile by visiting their facebook page