TWR’s newest partnership is an unusual and inspiring collaboration that draws together the international media ministry, a former missionary kid and indigenous tribes in South America.
Steve Shantz, TWR vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, signed a partnership agreement with the Triana Foundation in early April. Making up the Triana board are elders of the Wayana and Trio tribes in Suriname along with Tom Schoen. Tom Schoen grew up among the Wayana Indians and served more than two decades as a pastor in the United States.
Schoen, the son of missionaries Ivan and Doris Schoen, has maintained strong relationships with Wayana and Trio people and with their tribal chiefs. The government of Suriname, a small country on the Caribbean coast of South America with a long historical connection to the Netherlands, has given assurances that Triana will be able to obtain an FM license.
“We hope to broadcast sermons, worship, prayer and local news,” Schoen said. “In addition, we would like to add a time slot with educational programs for children (kindergarten and elementary school) because many villages don’t have schools for the children.”
Schoen approached TWR in 2018 proposing a collaboration to establish a radio ministry in Suriname. Wayana and Trio church leaders are eager reach out to people who have moved out of the tribes’ main villages because of food shortages and now live along rivers in the country’s interior.
Visiting and discipling believers is increasingly costly and challenging because it largely must be done by canoe through difficult terrain. The church leaders will select the indigenous believers who will run the radio ministry. The radio ministry is seen as a way not only to reach these dispersed members but also to evangelize others in this remote region.
Shantz said he is excited about the new partnership, to which TWR will provide training and technical and programming help.
“We tend to think the unreached is the responsibility of the Christians in the West,” he said. “But it will have way more impact when these indigenous people, who are now being reached, bring the gospel to their neighbors. … These tribes who used to travel the across the jungle to war against their neighbors are now seeking out others in order to take them the good news of Jesus.”