Cornerstone spreading faith on the Amazon

Published 1:26 pm Friday, January 18, 2013

From Left: Chad Carlson, Aaron Broberg, Ben Bunnell, Cory Goetz, Kevin Kestner (Nathan Neitzell not pictured) of Cornerstone Church are traveling to Peru on Saturday to spend a week in the Amazon building a church for villagers. -- Photo provided

Six members of Cornerstone Church in Austin are packing their bags for a trip that will change them forever.

The group will board a plane and begin its journey to Peru this Saturday, Jan. 19. Deep in the Amazon jungle, the volunteers will join more servants of their Assembly of God Church of Minnesota in constructing a worship center for remote villagers. As one missionary puts it, they’re going to get way out of their comfort zone to serve God.

Cornerstone pastors Cory Goetz and Aaron Broberg have done plenty of mission work. Goetz has been to Mexico, Thailand, Romania, Uganda and other places. Broberg has done extensive missions work and even spent eight months in Kyrgyzstan when he was 21.

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Despite those experiences, both pastors admit it’s a little bit unnerving going to a place they’ve never been: deep in the jungle. Furthermore, they’re not even sure what exact village they are serving. They just know there are no roads to it, and the only access is by boat or airplane.

But their faith weighs much stronger than their worries, and both pastors couldn’t have more of a similar focus.

“Part of taking a mission trip is saying, ‘Hey, God, I trust you with my life,’” Brogerg said.

Goetz added, “As we’re going, we just believe that God’s going to take care of us, and his will will be done. And if something were to happen, so be it. I just place my trust in God.”

The whole idea to serve a village in Peru came from River Valley Church in Apple Valley. That church works with a missionary in remote Peru to find projects. The church has also been joining with other Assembly of God churches around Minnesota, and those at Cornerstone discovered the opportunity.

“They were just putting together another trip, and we heard about it and connected with them and jumped in,” Goetz said.

So on Saturday, Cornerstone members will fly to Lima, Peru, and from there fly into the remote city of Iquotos, Peru, a city of several hundred thousand people yet only accessible by boat or plane once past certain rural areas.

Then they will make their way into the thick of the Amazon where they are going to build a church for remote villagers out of the materials at hand. Logging, sawmilling and carpentry will all be done right where the trees are available.

“When we come in, we hire a chainsaw logger who comes in,” Goetz added. “He’s kind of his own one-man lumber mill.”

The missionaries will build the walls and install wooden floors, offering the local people advice and physical labor to construct their worship center.

“Typically, all the structures they have in their village are made of remnants that may have come floating down the river,” Goetz said, who added this will be the nicest building in their settlement. During their stay, the missionaries will have no electricity and will stay in tents. Broberg said these types of experiences only change his perspective for the better.

Despite the perceived barriers that may stand between the locals and U.S. missionaries, members look forward to building relationships through faith. Goetz and Broberg both noted the relationships they’ve built while on missions are stronger than any physical structures they’ve constructed. Furthermore, they know, like before, this mission will be a humbling experience, perhaps affecting themselves more than the villagers.

“I think the mission experience really kind of changes your life,” Goetz said. “… Often times I think it has a bigger impact on you as a person than the people that you are working with.”

The Austin group will stay in Peru for one week. But even after they return, work will continue on their project. And work will continue in Peru through the Assembly of God on more projects to come.