Total Years of Service with NTM
Marge Day served with New Tribes Mission in Bolivia for 55 years.
How were you challenged into missionary service?
“I grew up in the Minneapolis, MN area and became a Christian when I was a senior in High School. One night, Paul Fleming, the founder of NTM, came to speak at my church. My heart was challenged to become a missionary to those who had never had a chance to hear the Gospel. I also had a friend that was in training with NTM in Chicago, so I knew about NTM. I took three years of training with the Cadet Nursing Corp at the University of Minnesota and become an RN and was headed into the service, but then WW2 ended. In the fall of 1949 I went on to Mendocino, CA to begin missionary training with New Tribes Mission. I finished my training at Fouts Springs, CA, 9 months later. While there, I met Jean Dye, who was on furlough from Bolivia. Her husband, Bob, and brother-in-law, Cecil Dye, had lost their lives by the Ayores, a Bolivian jungle tribe then hostile to outsiders. Little did we know that one day we would become partners on the mission field.”
Getting set up in ministry.
“In March of 1950, I flew to Robore, Bolivia on the DC3 named The Tribesman, which NTM had acquired to help transport it’s missionaries to South America.” At the time, NTM was only working with the Ayore tribe, but surveys had been done revealing a number of unreached tribes (Yuracare, Chimani, Trinitario and others) and plans were made to transport the newly arrived missionaries, two by two, to the towns nearest these tribes. Mel and Connie Wyma met the new missionaries and helped them get acclimated the first couple of weeks. Marge and her first partner Wanda Banman, were designated to a small town and Mel flew them there in his little single engine plane…they were allowed 75# of luggage each which included everything to set up housekeeping. They rented a room and began language study. They made friends with the nationals and soon had a small group of believers meeting nightly. Their hearts burned with the desire to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the tribal people who came into town from the river and peered at them through the open windows.
The following year, at the annual NTM field meeting , Marge again met Jean Dye, who was beginning a new work with the Yuracare tribe but didn’t have a partner. They decided to work together in this new venture to reach the Yuras. During her first term, Jean, who had trained in SIL, had been part of the Ayore contact and had written the Ayore language. Now she had heard of a bilingual (Spanish–Yura) speaker whose help would greatly facilitate learning the Yura language and grammar.
Tell us a bit about the tribal people you worked with.
The Yura people settle along seven main rivers and many tributaries. They live in small widely scattered family groups, in a hot and humid tropical setting at the eastern foot of the Andes Mountains. They hunt and fish for their daily food and raise small plots of yuca, corn and bananas. In the past they were able to sell jaguar, ocelot and crocodile hides to river launches. They had no written language, no medical care and a high infant mortality rate. Years ago they had no contact with civilization and men, women and children dressed in tree bark cloth. They were not hostile and welcomed visits from the missionaries.
The bilingual speaker Jean had heard about lived in the headwaters of the Isiboro River which necessitated a long trip…several days by river launch and then 11 days by dugout canoe, paddled and poled by six sturdy Yura Indians. Since this was the era before airstrips and radio contact, the girls took supplies calculated to last one year. Upon arrival the surprised Yuras offered them a thatch-roofed, pole-walled hut to live in. They worked for 10 months with their language helper (under mosquito netting…the bugs were fierce!) writing the Yura language and grammar. After the rains came and the rivers rose, they were able to get back to civilization, where they prepared literacy materials before returning to their center on the Chapare River. Over the next several years they visited 30-40 Yura communities evangelizing and teaching literacy, but it soon became obvious it would be impossible to spend enough time in each one. They believed the Lord was leading them to begin a boarding school where many children from scattered ports could be brought together and taught for several months at a time. Just before her first furlough in 1955, Marge was able to purchase a small plantation an hour downriver from town for $400.
Our School begins.
1956…Jean Dye had married Larry Johnson and Marge’s new partner became Florencia Ferrel, a dedicated national missionary who worked with Marge for 45 years, until her death from cancer in 2001. Marge and Florencia traveled back and forth from town to the new property New Life. They ministered in the local church weekends (Florencia spoke Quechua as well as Spanish) and during the week they prepared to open the school downriver. Only four children came for the first two-month term, but as the parents lost their fear and began to see how their children were benefitting by the education, the enrollment rose slowly over the next 20-30 years until a record 180 studied in grades 1 thru Junior High with classes in both Yura and Spanish. Over the years, jungle was cleared and 15 buildings and an airstrip were built, including classrooms, a dining room, girl’s and boy’s dorms and lastly a worship hall seating 300. Some students went on to High School or Bible School and returned to teach in their home ports. One, Inocencio and his family are full-time missionaries to their own people in a remote village.
Other families who helped for a time in New Life over the years were Bob and Joyce Wilhelmson, Bob and Shirley Smith, Bill and Jeannie Cutforth, Art and Toni Barkley, Roger and Eva Jean Dockum and Howard and Karla Moss. Many national teachers helped including Judith Mendez who is currently leading the Yura work.
In the 1980’s, NTM had to pull out the missionaries, leaving several national missionaries to carry on the entire project. Marge had already moved out to Cochabamba to complete the translation of the Yura New Testament. She continued translating the Old Testament passages relating to the chronological teaching. Seeds of God’s Word have been planted in the hearts of at least 1000 Yura children and many adults over the years. His Word shall never return void!
“When I went to Bolivia the Yura didn’t exist for me, but since then they have been my entire life. Now as I step aside, I can see what God has done through the work.”